Releases > May 2013 Releases

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Christ Church Cathedral: CD and DVD
Arc Music EUCD 2441 EUDVD0015,
19 Tracks, 74 Minutes
There are not many groups that can boast a forty year longevity in the business yet the picturesque village of Gweedore, nestled in the wilds of the beautiful Donegal, can lay claim to having produced a longstanding and unique sound that has captivated the ears of the listening audience worldwide. Okay, Clannad did take a break for a number of years at the turn of the millennium but if the music is an inherent part of your soul, it can never diminish and they have proved this with the release of a CD and DVD they recorded in the magnificent venue of Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin to celebrate their 40 year anniversary of enchanting music and song.
The closeness of the Clannad clan has always been of benefit to the exquisite blend of ethereal voices that have been an iconic part of the Irish tradition with Moya’s distinctive vocal guiding the stirring strings of Crann Úll with an amalgam of symphonic sound creating a full bodied yet gentle ambience in the background. A hypnotic version of Buachaill on Eirne showcases the strength of Moya in a solo capacity and the haunting rendition of the Eleanor Plunkett air confirms that the instrumental expertise plays as much a part in the Clannad sound as the vivid lyricism of the song.
The latter half of this special release highlights the chapter of creativity that brought Clannad into the global mainstream of music. With the undoubtedly recognizable Robin of Sherwood and the Theme from Harry’s Game strong contenders for track highlights, it’s the Bono collaboration In a Lifetime that stands out with the striking Brian Kennedy ably replacing the U2 frontman in this captivating version of the song.
The DVD incorporates two bonus songs and enhances an already successful recording with the stunning visuals of a truly fantastic setting. Whichever suits, the whole performance is a valid recognition that Clannad richly deserve their elevated place in the Irish tradition.
Eileen McCabe

TRIAD, Own Label RLBCD001,
10 Tracks, 42 Minutes
Three of the best, no doubt about it: Clare concertina, Breton flute, and Dublin bouzouki playing in an exciting post–Coolfin style, this is great modern Irish instrumental music. OK some of it is Macedonian, and there’s a bit of French, oh and a Swedish tune by Olov Johansson, but that’s the way of eclectic Irish musicians these days. Fans of Lúnasa, Flook, Buille, and of course Guidewires, will recognise this swirling intoxicating brew which is based on traditional dance music forms spiced up with pretty much anything that fits. Barou, Rynne and Lunny take a meaty Irish stew and turn it into a musical feast: exotic melodies, hypnotic rhythms, all the ingredients of world–class acoustic music. Reels, jigs, polkas and slides are supplemented by the compositions of Rynne, Lunny, McSherry and others. Pádraig and Sylvain draw on shared Guidewires experience to produce perfect harmony: their long–standing friends Jacques Pellen, Tola Custy and John McSherry himself add weight and variety at times, but mostly it’s flute and concertina with that magical man on flat–back bouzouki.
A Rynne hop jig slips into John’s Slide from Grace, and then into the traditional Star Above the Garter without raising a ripple. Three of Pádraig’s reels punch through with a distinct swagger, followed by an unmistakable Lunny classic where McSherry takes over the piping duties from Barou. The Rolling Wave, an old session favourite, is paired with the first of three Rynne jigs before the lads succumb to foreign temptation: a Macedonian dance which Sylvain learned “from an old tape” (probably one of Dónal’s early albums). Sylvain also leads the captivating slow air Ton Disanv, which starts a more laid–back section of this album. SunFishRipple flows gently like the Liffey on the western edge of Dublin, and Svampmannen slows the pace even further, before the final jogging beats of Skipstep pick up the tempo a little for the final track.
No great crescendo, no gallop for the finish: but when it’s over you’ll probably want to start from the beginning again, such is the appeal of Triad.
Alex Monaghan


Tromper Les Temps
13 Tracks, 53 Minutes
Borealis Records
Canadians are famous for supporting their indigenous music, consequently their industry is consequently both robust and culturally rich and this album has been nominated for one of Canada’s prestigious 2013 Junos Awards, rightly so.
Tromper Les Temps, could have been just another excellent Quebecoise traditional album, foot percussion, feisty fiddling, hurdy–gurdies and chansons that have their origins in pre–revolutionary France. However, there’s a deeper depth to this album. Obvious from the opening track, Nicolas Boulerice’s Lettre Á Durham, a complaint against the recommendations of John George Lambton 1st Earl Durham, who in 1840 drew up the plan to amalgamate Upper and Lower Canada into one entity. This was a response to the 1837 Rebellion in Lower Canada (one of the ring leaders of which was Edmund Bailey O’Callaghan, born in Mallow around 1797). Durham’s hope was that the Francophone population would be subsumed into an Anglo–Saxon future.
We all know Durham’s plan hasn’t worked and this album is one small proof of the survival of Quebec’s French culture. In it you will discover some old song forms such as the newly composed piece by Olivier Demers; Le Souhait. A new reel La Soiree Du Hockey, a pseudo medieval piece Le Dragon De Chimay inspired by a stopover in Belgium. Manteau D’Hiver is another new reel played on a crossed tuned fiddle in G.
The oblique track is Adieu Marie, which sounds the most main– stream American piece on the album, it’s a syncopated waltz, where the accordion of Réjean Brunet dances toe to toe with the fiddle of Olivier Demers. Brunet plays his trump card on the final melody Souffle D’Ange an achingly melancholy melody, after all the fire and footwork of the album this final track is the perfect closer.
You can hear why this has been nominated for a Juno, it is full of new compositions built around age old idioms. As they write in the excellent sleeve notes The act of Union of 1840 was a measure to assimilate French Canadians “Yet here we still are, still standing strong, still searching for ways to ensure our survival and find our place in history.”
Le Vent Du Nord are still making wonderful, brave, uncompromising music, if I were on the panel I’d give them a Juno.
Seán Laffey

Cosa gan Bhróga,
Linn CEFCD111,
12 Tracks, 36 Minutes
Another re–release from 1987, this CD is a real fountain of traditional music. Gerry plays fiddle in Irish and Ulster Scots styles, and Eithne sings and plays flute and whistle. The first time I heard them, live in Dublin in 1993, I was immediately struck by the brilliant fiddling and gorgeous singing of this couple. Gerry is still one of the finest exponents of Northern fiddling. Eithne sadly died young in 1999, a great loss.Their son Donal is carrying on the fiddle tradition in and around Belfast, with John McSherry and other world–class players. Desi Wilkinson has dropped off my radar recently, but is one of the finest fluters of his generation, playing with Cran and recording a couple of excellent solo CD’s.
This 1987 album was the first recording for all three musicians, and shows remarkable unison of style and timing: the march Down the Glen, for instance, sounds like the product of many years of playing together, as flute, whistle and fiddle gel perfectly. One third of Cosa gan Bhróga is given over to songs, four of them, sung in Irish, unaccompanied except for a touch of keyboard or guitar. Eithne’s voice is strong, pure and clear, with a wide range and an occasional smoky note. There are similarities to Mairead Ní Mhaonaigh or the Dillon girls Cara and Mary, but none of them quite matches Eithne. I’m not a big fan of singers, so Eithne’s voice is one of the few I would travel to hear.
Instrumentals are much more my thing, and there are some great one here: flute and fiddle duets for the most part, standards such as Contentment is Wealth and the neglected Beer Drinker Jig, as well as local tunes picked up by Desi and Gerry on their travels round Ulster. Molly What Ails You is a highland tempo version of a reel found from Shetland to Shannon, and is paired with two unashamedly Scots tunes. The Pikeman’s March has been recorded a few times now, but is still rare enough. The music of John Doherty and Michael McNamara, from Donegal and Leitrim respectively, is perhaps more readily available these days: in 1987 The Maid of Mullagh and The Mohill must have been welcome discoveries for many listeners. After polkas, marches, jigs and highlands, the reels are all packed into the second half, and there are some great ones, finishing with The Arkle Mountain by a young Sully and an extended Considine’s Grove from Gerry’s mother Rose. What accompaniment there is keeps well out of the way, allowing fiddle and flute to shine. Both songs and instrumentals have an exceptional warmth, an unhurried familiarity, and an appealing quality which explains why these performers quickly became icons of Irish music.
Alex Monaghan

As I Roved Out: Songs of Spring
Copperplate Distribution, CELCON 002, 12 Tracks, 41 Minutes
I like the style of this jaunty pair who are based in Oregon, U.S. Hanz Araki and Kathryn Claire have embarked on a project that involves the release of four albums depicting the corresponding seasons in just one year. The thought process behind this is unique in the fact that the four albums can be toured respectively giving fans of the pair the opportunity to purchase in line with the performance and with the albums produced with minimum over dub and editing, the duo has proved that this can be done at minimum cost to the production yet, on an enjoyment level, with a maximum benefit to the listener.
As I Roved Out: Songs of Spring depicts the Season that embodies the emergence of all things nature so the slow air introduction on the first track gently bears fruit into an upbeat version of Primrose Lass where the wind instrument prevails with a quality assurance. The mix of pace is evident again in the April Fool set where, with a lovely flow, the pair, sweep into The Skylark with a flourish of percussion backing. The song choice is detailed with a strong traditional folk vibe and makes full use of the intuitive harmony, especially in the acapella version of Pleasant & Delightful which fully enhances the striking vocal. The pure tones of Araki’s voice at the start of Verdant Braes of Skreen is perfectly complemented by Claire’s sweeter subtlety and the flute and fiddle provide a whimsically poignant background to bring an end to a highly accomplished offering.
Eileen McCabe

Celtic Airs & Reflective Melodies
CDGMP8015 2012
18 Tracks, 73 Minutes
Greentrax have come up trumps once more with an excellent compilation that “hits the spot” to perfection for those getting a bit frazzled by the pace of modern life.
This album may not cure hypertension but it will put you into that ‘place’ where the worries of the world are forgotten fir a bit more than an hour. The 18 tracks on offer will sooth the mind and relax the body. It may tax the brain a little bit in trying to recognise the tune as it swells in your room and your mind but even that is a soothing sensation.
Starting with Lord Galloway’s Lament you might think that it is going to be a morbid excursion but then you realise that the Celtic culture celebrated all aspects of life – even its passing – in wonderful music and using that adjective in its much devalued original sense.
Gordon Gunn’s Slow Air for Margaret reminds us on the romance of sweet slow music as does The Swan and Wendel’s Wedding’.
This is not a CD that will leap put at you with familiar titles, in fact Ye Banks and Braes was the only title I recognised from the contents list. But do not let that make you lose the chance of obtaining a beautiful collection of classic and classy tunes from the best purveyors of such music in the world.
This is one for sedate driving, lazy summer evenings, a roaring log fire and a ‘wee dram’ to accompany the mood.
Nicky Rossiter

Great Wings in Flight
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 41 Minutes
A young American woman called Ginny Preston dropped into my office in School Broadcasts, St. John’s, Newfoundland, one day in 1976; she was there to ask a favour: an introduction to an 85–year–old woman, Caroline Brennan (known as Aunt Carrie), whom she wanted to consult with for a paper she was planning to write for her folklore studies course at the university. I had made many recordings of Carrie during my own studies in the same department at Memorial University of Newfoundland and was happy to provide the young woman with an introduction to one of the great repositories of traditional song and lore on the island of Newfoundland.
That same Ginny who has released her new CD, Great Wings in Flight, married a son of Newfoundland, John Ryan, and I must say I am delighted to make her acquaintance once again through her fine album of traditional songs and some of her own composition. Ginny has a very true and musical voice that adds considerably to her treatment of the trad numbers she sings, not least the two Appalachian songs, The Blackest Crow and Bright Morning Stars. Instrumental and vocal accompaniments are provided by a number of prominent Newfoundland musicians that include Billy Sutton, Graham Wells, Rick Hollett, and Pam Morgan who also acted as producer of the album. “She has touched the songs at their hearts”, Ginny said of her, “and given them wings.”
Space doesn’t allow me to deal at any length at all with Ginny’s own compositions, but I cannot pass up the opportunity of mentioning one of them in particular. It’s called Talamh and Éisc/Marion’s Song (the Irish language words in the title mean, The Fishing Ground, the Gaelic name for Newfoundland). Aunt Carrie had made a big impression on the young Ginny Preston, sharing with her songs and stories and some words in Gaelic she recalled hearing from the old people in the late 1800s. “I wanted the song to be at least part in Irish in memory of Aunt Carrie,” Ginny told me.
A thoughtful and fitting tribute to a woman we both loved and admired.
Aidan O’Hara

Celtic Folk ERSE 1
11 Tracks, 39 Minutes
Cherry Red’s new Celtic Folk imprint kicks off with an undiscovered folk rock classic in Contraband. Originally issued on Transatlantic Records in May 1974 it was the sole recording of a Glasgow based Celtic rock band. Contraband had strong Irish connections– brothers Billy and George Jackson had Donegal connections and singer Mae McKenna’s roots lay somewhere in Monaghan.
Operating within the Fairport Convention/Steeleye Span blueprint their music balances rustic folksiness, medium hard rock and orchestral instrumental flair. Vocally Mae McKenna shines both solo and within the band context a vibrant Rattlin’ Roarin Willy and The Devil’s fiddle see her handing the vibrant strains of energetic folk rockers while Lady for Today and Banks of Claudy display an interpretative power with dramatic ballads. Musically the Irish links seep through in the use of tunes like The Black Rogue and Spanish Cloak sets where session ambiance, rock dynamics and classical pastoralism mixes harmoniously.
While largely forgotten Contraband helped sire musicians that would form Ossian, the Easy Club and Gryphon, Isla, Tannahill Weavers among others, this re–issue is timely and vital. Lovingly packaged with photos, press releases and band overview, it’s the first sight of talents that would dominate and discern the direction of Acoustic Celtic music. The fact that Contraband still retains a youthful integrated freshness heightens its artistic validity and ensures its importance in the Celtic folk/rock ranks.
John O’Regan

The Complete Songs of Robert Tannahill
Brechin All Records. CDBAR017, 21 Tracks, 58 Minutes
Taking a new CD out of its container never becomes quite routine, but occasionally one experiences a frisson of anticipation at what’s in store. It happened when I received Volume 3 of The Complete Songs of Robert Tannahill, and if you have read my remarks on those earlier volumes you will know my feelings on the matter: that there are goodies in store, and great value for money, so to speak, in what’s on offer.
Volume 3 has a total of 21 songs, a booklet full of background information plus song words, exquisite arrangements, and a line up of singers and musicians nonpareil. And that’s to say nothing at all about the songs themselves by one of the greatest songsmiths in the English and Scots languages, Robert Tannhill. I nearly said ‘one of our greatest songsmiths’ because Tannahill, like Robert Burns, is so universally regarded and so gifted in exploring emotions and the human condition, that we relate to them totally. Besides, those of us from Donegal and Ulster regard our neighbours across the way as the closest of relations anyway.
My own regard for this master songwriter has been considerably enhanced from having met the great authority on Tannahill and all things Scots, Dr Fred Freeman, producer and musical director of the CD series and supplier of fascinating notes on the songwriter’s life and times. He’s a mine of information on all things Scots, not least matters musical and linguistic. “Tannahill, like Hamish Henderson, was a multiculturalist,” Fred will tell you, “who recognized the strength of the hybrid in Scotland’s diverse social mix and seized the opportunity to put his ideas into practice.”
Robert had genuine sympathy for the Highlander after the Jacobite Rebellions as they poured into Glasgow looking for work and meeting with discrimination. Competing with the Gaelic speaking Highlander for work were their Irish speaking cousins from over the way who were also despised and discriminated against. In one of his songs Tannahill has an Irish farmer say ‘some folks may still underrate us’ but ‘The man that won’t feel for another’ really ‘lives without knowing a brother’.
Space prevents me from extolling at length the qualities of the fine singers and musicians on this CD, but you have a treat in store, believe me, and I heartily recommend this album to you.
Aidan O’Hara

Alternate Routes,
Own Label, 11 Tracks

“Listening to Long Time Courting, I’m struck by their precision and creativity,” writes singer songwriter Aoife O’Donovan of Crooked Still. “This is not a ‘girl band’ for the sake of being so. These women are true masters of their craft.” Spot on, Aoife; they’re five musicians who know their music and are darned good at, too. So who are they? They’ll tell you themselves that they’re an all women quartet that “delivers traditional and original music from Ireland, North America, and beyond, with pure vocal harmonies and powerful dance tunes”.
Sarah Blair began playing Irish fiddle in Providence, Rhode Island’s thriving traditional Irish music scene. Liz Simmons grew up listening to her mother sing traditional songs from Ireland, Scotland, England and Appalachia, as well as the New Orleans brass music her father plays. Flute player, Shannon Heaton has toured nationally with her husband, guitarist Matt Heaton, for over ten years. She discovered the Irish music community in Chicago and began learning tunes at Comhaltas and pub sessions. Matt is a guest on the CD. Ariel Friedman is a classically trained cellist from the Boston area, one of the few musicians challenging the boundaries of cello playing.
I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised any more to find musicians who aren’t Irish born or of solid Irish backgrounds abroad performing like they were born into the music – gur thógadar é ón gcliabhán, as its says in the Gaelic (that they have it from the cradle). But it never ceases to impress me when they do, not least in their mastering of the nuances and subtleties of various Irish traditional styles of singing – as in the case of the members of Long Time Courting. Why, the four members of LTC are almost at the same high level as my good friend Julee Glaub, an American who spent years in Ireland absorbing the technique and who’s back home again where she’s widely recognised as ‘a Voice of Ireland’ so remarkably accomplished is she in her singing.
The ingredients that go into the music mix in LTC’s new CD include dance tunes that are shared by musicians on both sides of the Atlantic, and a delightful selection of songs, all presented in a manner nonpareil! I think Robbie O’Connell, composer of Islander’s Lament, would be pleased indeed with LTC’s rendering of his achingly beautiful song: I’d sail every ocean to see you again / I’d instantly brave any danger / I’d roam through the world for one night in your arms / For I cannot abide being a stranger. But whether these four fine musicians sing American, Irish, Scots, or English, they are graceful, authentic and very winning indeed.
Aidan O’Hara