Releases > October 2013 Releases

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To the City
Own Label SMK001
14 Tracks, 49 Minutes

The McKeons are a very prominent Dublin piping family, with Gay heading Na Piobairí Uilleann for many years, but they have been less evident on the recording scene until quite recently. Their trio album The Dusty Miller was released in 2005 by Gay and his two sons Seán and Conor, the first commercial recording from any of the three as far as I am aware.
Seán soon followed up with the duet recording Dublin Made Me in 2009 with fiddler Liam O’Connor. To the City comes hard on the heels of that CD, and is the first solo sortie for this young uilleann piper: Liam joins him again for three tracks, and John Blake hops across the sea from Ireland’s second city to provide accompaniment, but this release is clearly stamped with Seán’s own character throughout. The album title pays further homage to the flourishing Dublin piping community which has nurtured Seán’s music.
Although greatly influenced by the crisp closed fingering of many great Dublin pipers, Seán combines aspects of the flowing traveller style into his own piping – listen to the virtuoso piece Planxty Davis in particular, or very appropriately Willie Clancy’s Jig which has both Clare and Donegal touches.
However, most of the tracks here are controlled and measured: the reels are swung rather than stampeded, the hornpipes and jigs leave plenty of space for ornamentation, and the regulators add depth and elegance to several tracks. All the material on To the City is traditional, but there’s still room for innovation in its presentation.
I have heard Seán play in a more relaxed style in sessions: here he keeps something back, piping with the reserve and grace of an O’Flynn rather than the passion and fire of a Masterson. The slow air Beauty Deas an Oileáin is an exception to the rule, a stunning duet with Liam on fiddle which brings out all the sentiment of this old Kerry song.
To the City finishes with a set of big reels: compare this version of Famous Ballymote with the Bothy Band’s 1975 recording, and you’ll appreciate the differences, but also the skill of Seán McKeon.
Alex Monaghan

Catch the Air – Traditional Slow Airs
13 Tracks 42 Minutes
CICD 194,
I had the pleasure of sitting in on a session with Gavin Whelan in the back garden of Cleary’s bar in Miltown Malbay toward the end of the Willie Clancy Summer School this year. He was driving the session with his characteristic break–neck speed of whistling, finding energy in places where most were worn out from their week of tuition.
To begin that week, where Gavin was also hosting his regular tutorial classes, he launched his latest offering to the world of traditional music, Catch the Air – Traditional Slow Airs, a little more mellow in approach than as I found him amid the horde of musicians in the sun–drenched beer garden.
Catch the Air does follow on nicely from his last studio album, Homelands, which also saw Gavin take a more relaxed attitude in his playing. However, instead of mixing various tune signatures, he sticks strictly to slow airs, displaying equally as much emotion in his gentle treatment of these pieces of music as he does when in full flight.
From the opening Iain Ghlinn Cuaich, the melody to the Scots Gaelic love song, some familiar names and sounds can be heard in accompaniment of Gavin’s whistling and piping, including Paul Doyle and Gavin Ralston on guitars, Deirdre Smyth and Daire Bracken on fiddles, along with Peter Eades on keyboards and percussion, all of whom have worked with Gavin Whelan in the past.
Hector the Hero will be known to fans of Gavin’s recordings, as it is the link between this and his Homelands album.
In just over 42 minutes, he has managed to pack in another 12 tracks alongside Hector the Hero, and this is perhaps the one criticism, as some airs, like the opening track, feel as though they are not given enough time to breathe in such a short space. This is not the case with Easter Snow, however, with the beautifully sustained, long notes, filling the air with all the magic the tune deserves.
Produced in conjunction with Cló Iar–Chonnacht, Catch the Air – Traditional Slow Airs adds to the versatility and array of expression in Whelan’s music.
Derek Copley

The Sun, The Moon, The Stars and Other Moving Objects
Own Label DDMCD01
12 Tracks, 51 Minutes
Belfast born, David Dee Moore has arrived at an eclectic style of music that’s been populated by all aspects of his performing career. From his initial days in Punk bands he has crossed over between Folk and Country styles at one time forming The Loose Connections with Niamh Parsons and John McSherry. Since relocating to Westport, County Mayo he has been a regular at Matt Molloy’s. He has also re–discovered his bent for song–writing penning all 12 tracks on The Sun, The Moon, The Stars and Other Moving Objects. The music here goes from the zippy Country sounds of Cooltown Train to elegant ballads like Love won’t be there and the Alt Country of Where the Buffalo Roam. The material is quality stuff delivered in a confident distinctive manner – the backings subtle and indiscreet with a bunch of hot shot Northern musicians on board. David Dee Moore has a way with words which is both descriptive and poetically romantic without resorting to cliché and a commanding delivery. This allied to strong material and subtle backings makes The Sun, The Moon, The Stars and Other Moving Objects a welcome and resounding comeback.
Its a quietly articulate object d’art.
John O’Regan

Silver Threads
Own Label
12 Tracks, 48 Minutes
Silver Threads is a duet album featuring the music and songs of multi – instrumentalist and composer,Yvonne Bolton and singer/ guitarist, Alan Jordan. With Jordan’s connection with The Outside Track a similar sonic carpet of self–written material, in a sub Celtic idiom already exists. Yvonne Bolton plays fiddle and concertina and writes the bulk of the material, while Alan Jordan sings and plays guitar while minimalist accompaniments from Hermitage Green’s percussionist Dermot Sheedy and pianist Matteo Cullen allows for a chunky yet spacious backing.
The music sits comfortably the established norms of reels and jigs but the swipe and scope is bigger and more worldly in approach. Thus fiddle playing more akin to French Musette finds itself jigging in The Wishing Well while concertina leads the way on The Mermaid. To find 90% of the instrumental quotient self–written can be either foolhardy or genius and the latter applies here. Alan Jordan’s guitar pins everything while adding to the flights of fancy, and his singing on Blackwaterside clearly borrows from Bert Jansch stylistically. The music is solidly chunky in sound yet light and airy enough not to suffocate the individualism on show.
For a debut album Silver Threads is commendably successful and musically fascinating.
John O’Regan

The Humours of Ennistymon
15 Tracks, 41 Minutes
As much as it is about the music, Davoc Rynne’s The Humours of Ennistymon is as much about his life story. The sleeve notes document his journey from Prosperous (and that house that features on the cover of Christy Moore’s 1972 album) to Spanish Point, and almost everywhere in between, including how himself and Christy became friends, and how Davoc met his Anne, thus spending the past 40 plus years in marital and musical bliss.
It is without surprise, then, that Christy and his brother Barry (aka Luka Bloom), along with flautist nephew Conor Byrne, feature on The Humours on Ennistymon, along with other friends and ‘clan’ members (the track listings indicate who plays on each track, with additional info such as ‘and the clan backing’).
A very informal setting for the album, it was recorded in Ennistymon in just six hours, with all 15 tracks completed and produced in a warts–and–all fashion (on the opening track, Davoc can be heard among the duelling whistles and bouzouki, calling out: ‘go again!’ A good call!).
From that opening track of The Piper’s Despair, both Davoc and Trish Dillon (also on whistles) lead through a host of warm and friendly sets, including Lark in the Morning and The Congress, with others including Eoin O’Neill on bouzouki and Johnny Hehir on harmonica.
Christy sings The Galtee Mountain Boy with‘ the clan backing at the end, while Anne sings Blackwater Side, the song which – according to the sleeve notes, still gives Davoc shivers some 40 years after first hearing the woman who would become his bride singing it.
A life’s worth of tunes and stories in this album, The Humours of Ennistymon is full of life and charm from start to finish.
Derek Copley

The Sunny Banks
Own Label – Blackthorn Records 001
16 Tracks, 60 Minutes,

Clare concertina charmer Edel Fox already has a couple of albums under her belt, a solo stunner and a duet with Galway fiddler, Ronan O’Flaherty. Now she’s crossed the country to find a fiddler from Waterford, Neill Byrne. Neill has made a name for himself nationally and internationally, and his music has been influenced by many fiddlers including local composer, John Dwyer. Together, Edel and Neill play traditional Irish music as it should be played, with warmth and understanding, and with a great deal of skill. The Sunny Banks is a true collaboration, every track bar two is a duet and it would take a better man than me to tease the instruments apart. Edel even switches to the fiddle for one set of slip jigs, which makes separation all the harder.
If it weren’t for the harmonies, inventive and playful, you’d be forgiven for doubting that there was more than one musician at work here. Listen to Kitty O’Neill’s Barndance, an intricate little melody, and marvel at the flawless triplets and perfect synchronisation.
There’s so much to admire here. The bold step into Poirt Cuil Aodha, the Scottish pipe march Lochanside with its unusual rhythms, the pumping drive on big reels such as Sean sa Cheo and The Pigeon on the Gate, the beautiful slow waltz Seothín Seothó, and the storming final track which gives this CD its title, taken from a great modal reel I first heard played by The Chieftains in the seventies.
Edel’s solo starts with Nana Jo’s, a reel she composed which has an American flavour to my ear, and she follows that with the classic Murphy’s and Jackson’s. There’s hardly any need for the deft accompaniment on guitar, bouzouki and bodhrán, but here as elsewhere it adds a delicate touch. Neill also favours reels for his solo, and chooses two traditional favourites followed by Brendan McGlinchey’s Farewell to London which covers all four strings of the fiddle. Compositions by several other fiddlers feature on this recording – Charlie Lennon, Joe Liddy, Sean Ryan, and of course John Dwyer. The final piece of fiddle homage is paid by Elizabeth Kelly’s Favourite and The First Slip, twin fiddling from Neill and Edel on two fine slip jigs.
It’s impossible not to like The Sunny Banks, and it will probably be in my Top Ten for 2013.
Alex Monaghan

Out of Dublin
Own Label LAD003
11 Tracks, 39 Minutes,
Tourists to Ireland almost inadvertently find their way to Dublin’s popular watering hole in Temple Bar seeking to attain an indelible memory of a snapshot of the traditional essence of Ireland. That holiday snapshot could more than likely encompass the vibrant sound of Lad Lane who regularly entertain the multitudes as they flock into this colourful area of the Capital. In this, their second release entitled Out of Dublin; they have captured a descriptive soundscape of their energetic live performance.
The music is well–executed and personable with a heady mix of the traditional with the contemporary. The variety will please all whether it be the melancholy intro of the march of Napolean Crossing the Rhine or the quirky rhythmic phrasing of Packie Duignan’s and the vocal follows suit, showcasing wide appeal for the more traditional The Mountains of Pomeroy with the brilliantly rearranged version of the Josh Ritter cover, The Snow is Gone. The pace continues with a striking string introduction to Sean Frank’s which relaxes into a laid back version of Paul Brady’s Nobody Knows delivered with an ease of style.
The lads have been playing together since 2005 and this shows through the effortless production of each track that is steeped in the familiarity of combined play. Lad Lane knows exactly what their audience want to hear and Out of Dublin delivers this with flair.
Eileen McCabe

Seal Gan Ghruaim
12 Tracks, 45 minutes
Own Label
In the notes that accompany a new CD, one of the obligations performers are sure to observe is that of making their Acknowledgements, giving friends and supporters their due recognition. In his new CD, Seal Gan Ghruaim, Aodh Mac Ruairí has generously acknowledged the encouragement he received from his wife, Geraldine Weir, who kept after him to see the job completed, and also Leo Brennan of the renowned Leo’s Tavern in Meenanleck, Crolly, Co. Donegal, who gave generations of young people their first opportunity to perform on stage – Aodh included.
Aodh spent about a decade in London before returning to Donegal in 1996. Around 1998, he began recording single tracks for different recordings, including the Trad Trathnona series. After a while his wife, Geraldine, and others encouraged him to produce a CD of his own. Seal Gan Ghruaim is a new collection of traditional songs from around his native Rann na Feirste, and was launched by acclaimed chef and singer Brian Danny Minnie at Leo’s Tavern.
When Aodh Mac Ruairí was a teenager he admits that he ‘sort of moved away’ from the songs and even the Irish language that had played such a large part in his upbringing. “It seems to be a natural progression,” he said. “Teenagers move away from what they’re used to, even the Irish language.” When Aodh was in his mid–20s, he again embraced both.
“I was listening to bands like Clannad and I would go and see them in London, and this is what made me realise the importance of Irish music and the Irish language, and it was just as much appreciated abroad as it was at home,” he said. In deciding what songs to include, he said he didn’t have to think too much about it. “They were the songs I had sung for years, songs that are local to the area. Most of them would have been sung in Rann na Feirste – they still are today.” They include well–known numbers like Geaftaí Bhaile Buí, Siobhán Ní Dhuibhir, An Droighneán Donn and An Seanduine Dóite.
Aodh has been well–served by the musicians he chose for the accompaniment: Mánus Lunny (guitar & bouzouki), Martin Crossan (uilleann pipes & whistles), and Dónal Lunny (Hammond organ). The old songs in a new dressing of superb arrangements, and Aodh’s distinctive singing style make this CD a pleasure and a delight from beginning to end.
Aidan O’Hara

Long Time, No See
Own Label
10 Tracks, 44 Minutes

Own Label
Young Omagh fiddler, Shane McAleer was the darling boy of the early Dervish years, an All–Ireland champion in his teens and an international star soon after. Then he disappeared, inside one bottle too many, only to re–emerge many years later as an older, wiser, sober player who still has a lot of music to give us. He’s now a major force on the Belfast session scene, and his debut solo CD is very aptly titled: a decade and a half after his departure from Dervish, Shane is back in a barely recognisable Belfast music scene. His return is very welcome. He still has that distinctive Northern fiddle style, his bow arm working hard to inject rhythm and variation, while the fingers of his other hand are relatively relaxed. Long Time, No See is a monument to straight fiddling, Irish music pure and simple, great tunes played with great skill but no pretensions.
Let’s start at the end for once. The air A Íosa, Mhic Mhuire comes from a Gaelic hymn, and beautifully illustrates Shane’s measured approach to the music: every note given its due, every bow stroke perfection, and a constant warm tone. The three jigs which follow are equally enjoyable, especially The Lost and Found which soars from low G up to the E string and back. The final pair of reels is another Northern treat, the Donegal classic Repeal of the Union and one called Clancy’s Fancy which sounds to me like two of Sean McGuire’s Mason’s Apron variations. The pattern of jigs, reels and slow air is repeated throughout this CD, with a couple of barndances and hornpipes thrown in, and the unusual inclusion of a march: The Pikeman’s is a very popular melody at the moment, replacing Bonnie Prince Charlie and the occasional clan march which used to be heard in sessions. The air Dunluce Castle is a McAleer original, and well worth learning, along with his Camowen Reel. Fellow Tyrone man Eamonn McElholm supports Shane on guitar, and indeed opens proceedings with an introduction to Scatter the Mud, a great way to start an album and a fine sentiment to finish this review.
Alex Monaghan

Sorrowful Strains of Music
Chateau Couches ESB002
10 Tracks, 46 Minutes
That’s an air of Celtic mythology around the Sorrowful Strains of Music released by the trio Goltraige who are based in France. Goltraí was one of the three strains of music played from the harp of the ‘Good God’ of the Gaelic Gods; Dadga who was a king in the fairy race known as Tuatha de Danann. Goltraí, being the sorrowful element in that it was meant to ‘make women cry’. The other strains were that of Geantraí, the joyful strain and Suantraí which was purported to lull people to sleep.
With Goltraí as its theme, the musical abilities of Evelyne Pourrat, Jérémie Mignotte and Jean Banwarth entwine the melancholy with the continental as they take on traditional songs such as Kilkelly and Dougie MacLean’s Caledonia that depict the loss of loved ones through emigration. The equally sombre versions of Army Dreamers and The Lass of Glenshee encapsulate the mood of despair again through differing versions of bereavement that are enhanced by the mournful aura of the instrumental.
Pouratt’s vocal showcases the emotion with a gentle poignancy whilst Mignotte’s flute provides a lilt of tender expressiveness that is echoed by the strings of Banwarth, especially in the delicate rendering of Eleanor Plunkett. This lifts slightly with some nicely paced reflective flute and string in the finale; The Funky man of the House.
Each track is essentially traditional yet is uniquely delivered with a European flavour that intrigues. The theme might be that of sorrow yet the outcome of the album is that of pleasure; a lovely listen.
Eileen McCabe

So Say We All
CDTRAX377 2013
14 Tracks, 41 Minutes
I am always apprehensive when I pick up a CD from a new singer songwriter but such fears evaporated from the opening track on this wonderful album. Over the fourteen songs on offer he runs the gamut of human experience from depression to elation but on each track he illuminates and entertains the listener. Looking at the listing I am amazed that he manages to tell these stories in song in an average of about three minutes each. They actually gain so much from the concise delivery.
For instance Cheap Motel in less than two and a half minutes has the listener believing that they have stayed at least one night there and despite the economy it is a very enjoyable stay.
On Harm he relives and recounts his experience of depression as few have done before and gives us a beautiful impression of what that dreadful illness may feel like.
If you want to experience just one track and deprive yourself of an even greater experience I strongly recommend Weather Vane. Even a casual dip into the lyrics are enlightening. “Everybody leaves their mark, some profound and some profane” is just one example followed by “everybody falls in love and falls back out again”.
His beautiful song of unrequited love A Star Above will resonate with a very wide audience. Likewise the magnificent Ordinary Man with its very short pen pictures of those ordinary people who are quite extraordinary in their own way – “first a kiss upon the cheek, then silver changing hands, what a sorry condemnation for an ordinary man”.
The album closes with the title song and we are left wanting so much more from David Francey.
Nicky Rossiter

13 Tracks, 52 Minutes
Blue Case Tunes
A deep, gutsy guitar exemplifies Cara Luft’s Darlingford, the third solo album from the Canadian roots artist. With squeaky strings throughout, this roots album blends some wonderful sounds and vocals with good old honest lyrics, highlighting why the Juno award–winning singer/songwriter is marked out for her abilities in portraying the tragedy of life in understandable, artistic tones.
It opens with Only Love Can Save Me, dripping with beautiful folksy rhythms, and a pulse like a heart ready to break. Bye Bye Love is the story nobody wants to experience, but yet we all seem to suffer this fate at least once in life. With lines interspersed like ‘I didn’t see the warning signs’ and ‘I got caught day dreaming/I can see how love can make you blind’, you quickly empathise with Cara and the healing tones in her voice as she gently learns to say ‘Bye bye lover of mine’.
With the subtlest of hints of banjo, the album moves into more uptempo beats with ‘Idaho’ and the live track Charged and its simple backing with dobro, though not so simple border crossing from Canada into the United States, where she declares: ‘I’m a Canadian folk singer/And I’m only bringing songs’, until some marijuana’s found under a seat! Portland Town bounces with some modal clawhammer banjo frailing, in respect of its author, the ‘Banjoman’ Derroll Adams, who wrote the tune in 1957 in reaction to the Korean War.
Recorded in old wooden churches across the Canadian prairies, Winnipeg–based Cara Luft’s Darlingford sparkles in its down home country twanged, folksy charm, with more traditional songs like He Moved Through The Fair dressed in checked shirt and country beats in between her own finely honed lyrics on one finely honed roots album.
Derek Copley