Releases > November 2013 Releases

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ARC Music Inc.
13 Tracks, 50 Minutes

Time was, people carried pictures of Moya Brennan in their wallets. Moya’s beautiful, slightly breathy and ethereal voice charmed fans of Irish trad and those whose sole exposure to anything Irish was the cereal Lucky Charms, and of course there was that duet with Bono. In the ‘90’s, Clannad even made a car commercial, and they were darlings of film scores, including Patriot Games
in 1992 and Last of the Mohicans.
There hasn’t been a new studio CD from the Grammy–Award winning band since 1998, though there have been some re–issues and compilations, and Moya’s had several solos and duos over the years. Nádur grew out of the success of the group’s performances in 2011 in a series of concerts at Dublin’s Christ Church Cathedral, which brought the five back together. It’s the real clan once again, siblings Moya, Ciarán and Pól Brennan, and twin uncles Noel and Padraig Duggan.
That’s the first time the whole band have recorded together since 1989. All of this makes the release of the new CD Nádur, Irish for nature, a cause for celebration. In the liner notes, award–winning author Colum McCann says of the music, “You hear it once and you feel as if you have known it a long time… Clannad the family have taken the local and made it universal once again.” Most of the songs are written by different members of the family.
With 13 tracks, Nádur is long enough for a sink in to the atmospheric magic that is the Brennan family when they’re together. It’s a lovely, calm and melodic musical journey; songs like Setanta create a movie in your head. Overall, it has more of pop, slightly new age sounds of their later recordings than the jazz–infused trad of such gems as Clannad in Concert and Fuaim. There are some more trad–sounding tunes too such as a quiet harp spotlight titled Lámh are Lámh. That one was written by Moya and Pól. Cití n gCumann, which closes the CD, is a traditional song, and one of the most beautiful on the album.
Other standouts include the mysterious–sounding march Vellum which opens the CD; A Quiet Town, which uses both Irish and Latin to tell its story. It recreates the exhilaration you feel driving along the coast of Ireland; and Hymn to Her Love, also in several languages (I think I heard Latin). Those are all originals, and instant classics. The family’s harmonies are as close and sweet as ever, and the melodies are nuanced and shifting between keys and modes. The Song in Your Heart includes the line “like hearing songs from long ago.” If anyone can channel those sounds, it’s Clannad.
Gwen Orel

Artes Records ARCD
12 Tracks + Bonus, 56 Minutes

Horizon follows on from the acclaimed 2010 release Long Distance Love and what better way to depict the evolution of musical horizons then on the tenth anniversary year of Cara’s musical existence. The departure of the inimitable Jeanna Leslie has enabled the introduction of the Scottish based stalwart of gripping lyricism and piano forte that is Kim Edgar. The songstress fits well into the exuberant overriding personality that Cara emits through both its live gigs and recordings and her contribution to this album is that of lyrical depth. Illustrated in her compositional song Blood, Ice and Ashes which eloquently depicts the darkness of murder in the female form.
The lead vocal is passed effortlessly between Edgar and Walther throughout the album as they take turns to showcase their expertise in song writing. A standout is Walther’s powerful opening vocal on the reflectively sentimental Be Gone and then the pureness of tone in Edgar’s vocal on The Bonnie Lad resonates as the strings lift the words of Robert Burns to sublime levels.
The quality of arrangement on the instrumental tracks never falters, as shown by the blend of energetic sound on the Baby Steps to Whiskey set, as the increased pace is enhanced beautifully by the syncopated piano and pulsing Wagels bodhrán rhythm. Murphy’s full bodied musical intoxication of his, wine related, composition Echo Falls is a highlight in the driving Big Jig set and so is the inclusion of Cara’s Beoga buddies in the form of the diatonic box playing duo on the Masters of Consequence set. Treyz hits the high mark though, with his complicated compositional arrangement on Odd Rhythms which is so instrumentally involved it needs repeat play to fully appreciate the myriad of rhythmic phrasing within.
Cara, have yet again made an exceptional album full of quality execution, of progressive instrumental vision and a wide sweep of a musical panorama. This album hits the horizon on the first track and then sails beyond into a limitless world of musicality. Captivating.
Eileen McCabe

Colm Ó’Siocháin
Celtic Airs CACD9910
Double CD, 34 Tracks, 2.2 Hours

For someone who is not a huge fan in general of compilation releases, I have to say that the Celtic Note stalwart, Colm Ó’Siocháin, has, through his exemplary track choices, kept this album, Irish Ways: Music and Song of Ireland on repeat play for the last week in this household.
It’s an album designed to be able to dip in and out dependent on musical mood and it also combines the contemporary with the nostalgia of musical years.Take a spin back to the Horslips beating percussion on The Snow and the Frost Are All Over Then skip over to listen to Donagh Hennessy dictate the strings on Flat Water Fran.
There’s a delightful reel set from the queen of the whistle, Mary Bergin herself, which switches into the raucous reverent tones of Luke Kelly as he expounds the story of the Rocky Road to Dublin. From Dublin, we skip through Lá Lugh’s Omeath Music before taking in the sights of Paddy Glackin and Micheál Ó Domhnaill’s Australian Waters then into an encounter with Sinead O’Connor as she lyrically laments Paddy before waltzing around Marino with the inimitable John Sheahan. Ó’ Siocháin saved the best till last on the first phase of Irish Ways as Pauline Scanlon applies a tender lilting tone to The Boys Of Barr Na Sraide and closes on a wisp of a note that still resonates now.
And that’s just the first round. Even glancing down the list of names that makes up the track listing it’s evident that there is an exciting listen ahead. It starts with At First Light and finishes with Luka Bloom and a whole lot in between. The names speak for themselves with Lúnasa, Solas, Damien Mullane, Niamh Ní Charra and We Banjo 3 just a sample of the quality of musicianship within the compilation. Who needs an iPod shuffle setting when Ó’ Siocháin has done all the work and brought the best of the best together in one easy listen.
Eileen McCabe

13 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Own Label

The title is a pun on the scientific term ecotone, a transitional place between two ecosystems, such as reed bed between the shore and the lake. As such Nóirín Lynch stitched a mixture of old and new songs to make a work of outstanding clarity and integrity. Nóirín is a singer, a traditional singer with a distinctive voice. There is no affection towards Americana, what we get is an authentic West of Ireland voice which delivers the songs strongly, passionately and with some style.
The album was recorded in Miltown Malbay and includes well known local musicians who back Nóirín; Eoin O’Neill, Quentin Cooper, Deirdre McSherry and Ger Hoyne. Some of the lads form a mini choir which they call Brogan’s Chorus.
The album is full of songs singers would want to sing, from the opening My Thoughts Tonight in Ireland, Andy Irvine’s homage to the early days of Sweeney’s Men in West Clare to the closing John Riley from the pen of Tim O’Brien. In between are songs that have stood the test of time, such as Sean Ó Dhubir Na Ghleanna, My Bonnie Blue Eyed Lassie, and the Hedger and Ditcher. Mix in a big number from Australia, the Cyprus Brig telling the story of the capture of a ship by convicts, which date is to August 1829. The song originally titled Seizure of the Cyprus Brig in Recherche Bay is attributed to Frank McNamara (Frank the Poet).
Nórin has an ear for a great melody. She excels on Bold Doherty and the much slower Lady Franklin’s Lament. For me the best track on the album is a song by Tony Canniffe, The Tree of Liberty, a gloriously memorable tune and stirring words that seem to have been written shortly after the 1798 rebellion, but of course were not penned until the very late 20th century.
This is an album for singers. Whether you are content to join in a session come all ye, or have ambitions to front a band, there is a wealth of material here from a fine singer who we deserve to hear more of in future.
Seán Laffey

12 Tracks
Own Label PT VISH 04

The last two times I have been to Celtic Colours in Cape Breton, Vishten have played the Friday night céilí at the Baddeck Fire Hall. I have made it my business to catch them live. They are one of the best trios in East Coast Celtic Music; they sing in French and play a mixture of Acadian and Celtic music, which is part the rich tradition of Prince Edward Island. This is their first album since 2008 and was crowd funded, which is an indication of the fan base they have built up over the past dozen years.
Two of the band, twin Sisters Emmanuelle and Pastille LeBlanc hail from PEI, whilst the fiddler, Pascal Mousse is from the Magdalen Islands, an extremely remote area of Quebec. The trio play fiddle, guitar, accordion, harmonium, whistles, piano, bodhrán, jaw harp, moog, electric guitar and foot percussion. They are steeped in their traditions being second generation traditional musicians and yet nearly all the material on this album is their own work, showing what a living tradition they come from. This album won the 2013 East Coast Music Awards (ECMA) as the Francophone Recording of the Year” and no wonder. It is a cracker.
The album opens with a trip down to the south of the USA where the Acadians were banished in the late 18th century. Cajun cousins are visited on a song called Tobie Lapierre, a tale of a voyageur lost in the woods, no panic he’ll enjoy the scenery, drink whiskey and have a dance or two. That sets the theme for the album, joi de vivre, the tunes have that characteristic Quebecoise lift to them with complex interplay of rhythms from the bodhrán and foot percussion, add in Cape Breton style piano and Miousse’ fiery fiddling.
Some of the tracks are a little more French such as Les Yeux Noir which would not be out of place in Paris, L’ame a P’tit Jean is very North American with its electric guitar riffing along, it could be a theme for a spaghetti western. They hop over to this side of Atlantic in the Shetland Magic Bus, the flute piece Tutti Flutti reminds us that even Vishten have heard Mike McGoldrick. The album has songs and tunes in equal measure, 6 of each, with the girls taking on five songs. Yes as it says on the sleeve this is a Mosaic, a patchwork of musical styles and influences, stitched together to keep you warm through the long Acadian winter and to keep your feet tapping all year long. Way more fun than a hot water bottle.
Seán Laffey

Flying Frog Music
9 Tracks, 44 Minutes

Alabama music? Country, bluegrass and Old Time, right? Add in Irish: there has been for years a strong Irish scene in the big ol’ state too. I ran the Celtic Music Society of Montgomery when I lived there, and fiddler Tom Morley presented concerts further South. And box player John Whelan recently became an Alabamian. Go Crimson Tide. Morley also recently released his own fiddle tutor, Learn to Play Irish Trad Fiddle, a friendly intro (with pictures!) to playing for adult learners. He’s also led a tour of adult learners in Ireland.
In Banna De Dhá, Tom and guitar player/vocalist Hazel Ketchum showcase Irish instrumental and vocals with a distinct American accent. There’s a little bit more vibrato, a bit more relishing of a note, a bit less percussiveness, not unlike a southern draw, than you might hear, but that’s not a fault, merely a difference. The liner notes tell us that the two use some music from other folk traditions, so it’s clearly deliberate. And where “drawl” suggests blurred sounds, here Tom gives us every note clearly and purely, a great pleasure indeed.
One of the notable things about this engaging album is the care with which Tom and Hazel take on the tunes. Take the opening track, Father Kelly’s/Paddy Fahey’s No. 15: usually you hear Father Kelly’s fast fast fast, but here it’s more mellow, and the sheer prettiness of the melody shines. Tom plays a 5–string fiddle, a trend these days, Athena Tergis also plays one, they are almost a cross between violin and viola, and allow the violin to reach much lower notes than you usually hear. So no, it’s not a cello you hear on Caisleán an Óir, but Tom. He sounds particularly assured and stylish on Comb Your Hair and Curl It/The White Petticoat/the Black Rogue. Hazel’s voice is warm and full of emotion. Their version of The Water Is Wide, is the best since Mary Black’s, full of heart, and Tom’s break has an Old–Time feel.
Overall, this is a gorgeous outing. Put it in your car and you’ll want to keep driving.
Gwen Orel


13 Tracks, 54 Minutes

Barrule are making strides in the realms of world music by emulating their namesake, the legendary Manx summit, where the story goes that the mighty Celtic God, Manannan Mac Lir dominated his imposing fortress. The emulation is in the domination as the trio currently drive the presence of Manx music to the fore of the through their distinctively exquisite style of play.
The combination of Adam Rhode’s bouzouki, box player Jamie Smith’s forceful draw and the lifting bow of Tomas Callister on fiddle, showcase the best in the music from the Isle of Man, and showcase it with a lively passion. Smith by the way is the same accordion player who has done so much to bring modern Welsh Celtic music to the fore with Mabon.
Fiercely loyal to the tradition, it’s delightful that the sleeve notes are divided into content that depicts the lyrics and tune descriptions in both English and the native Manx language. Within these notes stories are told of the search of Manannan on the top of Barrule, finding sheep in heavy snow and the plight of a rare grasshopper in a field in Langness. Some songs are delivered in English and some in the native language; the lyrics might not be at first understood but the tone and musicality of delivery most definitely is even on a first listen. The instrumentals resound with an energetic flourish and sit comfortably within the folds of the Celtic genre.
Engage and Allen Barbara are standouts in defining what these lads can do as they draw pace and power whilst keeping a hold on the tone and phrasing to create a fantastic sound.
Powerfully dramatic and steeped in the Manx heritage of ancient times, Barrule bring depth and splendour to these carefully sourced compositions yet ,whilst retaining a deep respect for the Manx tradition. They have defined their own contemporary fresh style creating a lift and a vivre that produces an enticing listen.
Eileen McCabe

Irish World Music IWMRCD260413
11 Tracks, 39 Minutes

Sonny Condell has created a body of work that is uniquely distinguished and artistically successful, yet commercially elusive. His latest album Swallows and Farms comes on the heels of two band centred efforts Condell’s Backwater A while and Radar’s Navigation and Scullion’s return effort Long Wave It is a solo effort in all senses played, sung, written by Sonny himself. Musically this is complex and multi–layered yet retaining the acoustic core with a rich lyricism and recollection rendered in Sonny Condell’s distinctive style.
The songs are wistful pen pictures often bucolically inspired as in The Silver Tassie and Falling Apple Sounds based on images from his rustic backgrounds in Co. Wicklow. Avondale paints a picture of life changes with the permanence of nature as the backdrop. Its not an instantaneous experience the contents need extended listening for the lyrical and emotional insights and Condell’s giftedness to make its mark. When it does it scorches, creating a rich evocative landscape, emotional yet reserved and genuinely powerful.
Swallows and Farms is definitely Sonny Condell’s best solo work yet.
John O’Regan

Own Label
10 Tracks, 45 Minutes

Jacqui McShee’s musical career began as a soloist in British folk clubs in the mid–1960’s. After working with guitarist John Renbourn, she co–founded Pentangle with him and Bert Jansch, Terry Cox and Danny Thompson. Together they pioneered an interpretation of English, Irish and Scottish folk ballads laced with Jazz ambience that was both ethereal and exciting. Her latest project Jacqui McShee’s Take Three uses just acoustic guitar and percussion in a stripped down format yet the sound is unmistakably unique.
The repertoire circles the narrative folk ballad canon revisiting choice back pages from the Pentangle songbook like Once I Had A Sweetheart, House Carpenter and Will the Circle be Unbroken all freshly pressed and magical. Nottamun Town is given a dramatic yet sparse reading and Factory Girl gently thrills. The ebb and flow of Alan Thomson’s guitar and percussionist Gerry Conway behind Jacqui’s crystalline voice creates a mood both celestial and grounded. The songs breathe and her interpretative skills can reign and flourish gracefully.
Jacqui McShee’s Take Three is a quietly masterful work.
John O’Regan

GaelLinn selected singles from 1968 – 80
20 Tracks

Archaeology can be a great, even a fun subject, and here we’re unearthing the bones, and more, of the tunes that showed it was possible to have a song in Irish to stand in the charts alongside the Beatles, the Clancys, the showbands and Seven Drunken Nights.
We have four tracks with Dónal Lunny in the Emmet Spiceland group, two from the Johnstons, another one from Clannad, and that’s only the ones that will be immediately familiar: it doesn’t even include Seán Ó Sé singing An Poc ar Buile.
Let no one forget that there was a real Kulturkampf raging at the time, with big name broadcasters, and their acolytes, pushing the likes of Cole Porter or the Frank Chacksfield orchestra or believe it or not, Mantovani. And it was these tunes that ensured that they had to mend their ways enough to know the difference between a jig and a reel.
For anyone who qualifies for a bus pass, this will bring back smiles and memories. For those from Connamara, the big tune will be An Damhán Alla. And for anyone trying to learn Irish, especially those from Another Tradition, this should be a fine boost.
Well done, Gael Linn. Let’s have as good 60 more years from now.
John Brophy

Own Label
12 Tracks, 59 Minutes

This, the third album in the repertoire of the captivating Canadian fiddle player, Kierah, is a showcase of the distinctive clarity of presentation of what are mainly her own compositional pieces. Her previous releases, Irish Madness and A Fiddle Affair both received nominations for the Canadian Folk Music Awards and Stonemason’s Daughter deserves that self–same accolade. Classically trained for thirteen years she displays an evident passion for her Celtic heritage through her performance and creative work throughout this album.
With Adrian Dolan on piano, mandolin, mandola and accordion along with Adam Dobres on guitar they play twelve tracks of tunes with a potent panache. The Galileo’s jig deftly picks up steam with a precision that swiftly enfolds into the tempestuous reel Finally Fourty before the resounding crescendo of Waves of Rush brings the Bohemian Rush set to a flourishing finish. The subtlety of key on the piano intro on A Street Called Winter fully enhances the enunciation of notes on a beautiful air written by Kierah herself. This definition is prominent throughout and perfectly suits the traditional march Bó Mhin Na Toitean which slides into strathspeys and reels with a staccato assuredness. Guest musicians Daniel Lapp on banjo, Martin Nolan on whistle and percussionist Paul O’Brien add an alternative flavour especially with the banjo and bodhrán rhythms on the lively Ireland Meets Scotland.
This recording cannot be described as ethereal and sweet; it’s a masterful presentation of how Kierah commands the fiddle with definition and precision. A powerful listen.
Eileen McCabe


14 Tracks
Celtic International
It’s 999 years since Brian Ború put manners on Scandinavian interlopers, if you don’t count the forgotten naval battle on Lough Ree the previous year. But in the words of Louis Armstrong, it’s now Second Spasm. Catriona, on what they term the Clársach, is from Fiddlers’ Bid, a seven–piece Shetland outfit founded in 1991 and Olov from the band Vasen plays Nyckleharpa (it’s a big keyed fiddle, almost a hurdy gurdy). They make a great example of musical sharing.
Väsen is a Swedish group, quartet at home, trio on tour, featuring Nyckleharpa and viola. Both musicians are splendidly experienced, and what you get is a fine example of two players chiselling out a new language together.
It’s a long time since the harp left the convent parlour and Cailín deas cráite na mBó, and then there was Andy Irvine saying ‘twas Johnny Moynihan first brought in the bouzouki, till we all got a pain in the Balkans from the cross rhythms. Here, Ruben’s Lullaby is a fine adaptation of the Strathspey style, evolving a new sound from two instruments. The overall sound is at the Baroque end of the spectrum, and I’d love to add a set sweet Northumbrian small pipes. It may well be that Nyckleharpa is the new sound. If so, entirely welcome, but don’t forget where you read it first.
John Brophy

27 Tracks, 54 Minutes
Bogfire Records

North Connacht fiddle music has been (probably), over represented in the recorded cannon of the tradition. The big names who recorded first were from there, Coleman, Morrison, Killoran. And we all know the story of how their discs and broadcasts on the wireless influenced generations of fiddlers down the years. But what of the seed bed, what of the area they left behind, was there still music to be heard and if you had a mind could you learn it?
The answer is clearly yes on this remarkable album of archive recordings of the Doocastle player, John Henry.
He got his tunes from the living tradition in the area, from the likes of Pat Kellegher, and John and Michael Cawley, John Henry was born in 1922 and died in 1996. This album captures recording made as early as 1962 and as late as 1988. Of course this is from the pre–digital age and that only adds to the archive ambience of the work. Many of the tracks were recorded by Johnny’s nephew Alan Gahagan and we must thank him for the forethought he showed in getting his uncle’s music down on tape.
There are snatches of interviews laced into the boots of this recording and one of them in particular is worth the price of the album, John Henry explaining how he came to learn the twelve parts of reel, the Wise Maid. He then goes on to play it with noises off as he talks his way into the tune, there are some lovely little bits of the nyah coming from his bow when fully embraces the variations.
For fans of fiddle music and students of the Sligo/Mayo repertoire this is a must, no quibble, you’ll have to get it.
Seán Laffey