Releases > Releases Annual 2018

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Tunes from the Flaggy Shore, Own Label, 19 Tracks, 66 Minutes
If you Google this young musician, you may find references to “the famous Chris Droney and Martin Fahy”, Clare concertina players from whom she learnt much of her repertoire. Despite their menacing reputation, these are two of the gentlest musicians and the most modest gentlemen you could wish to meet, both luminaries of Irish music and generous in passing on their love and talent for traditional music.
Florence is the daughter of Martin Fahy, and has also benefited from great teachers including the late Dympna O’Sullivan. She continues the Clare tradition of concertina music: moving to Boston in 2010, Florence is now a leading light of the Irish music scene there, and teaching a new generation of hatbox-squeezers in her turn.
Joined by her father Martin, fiddler Marien Collins, fluter Bebhinn Ní Bhríain and accompanist par excellence Garry Ó Bríain, Florence’s debut recording is still a solo triumph: the concertina takes the lead on every tune, and in over an hour of fine music there are plenty of solo tracks. From the opening Josie McDermott reel The Trip to Birmingham to the final pair of popular waltzes, Tunes from the Flaggy Shore is just that: Florence Fahy’s own choice, played as it is in her home place, with no concession to current fashion and no grandstanding for personal vanity.
The Sheep in the Boat by Junior Crehan, the classic reel Garrett Barry’s, the lovely Gráinne’s Jig by honorary Clareman Tommy Peoples, Junior Crehan’s well-known reel The West Clare Railway, and several tunes from the repertoires of Chris Droney and other great musicians from Clare and beyond, are joined by newer compositions by the likes of Vincent Broderick, Paddy O’Brien and Scottish accordionist Will Starr.
Florence’s duets with her father are delightful - Scatter the Mud and The Legacy, a set of reels including one learnt from the legendary Mrs Elizabeth Crotty, and of course those final waltzes. The whole CD is relaxed and unhurried, but never too slow and always with a lift and spark in the rhythm. Tunes from the Flaggy Shore is the best of music from the northernmost point of County Clare, at home in Boston or anywhere else where Irish music is celebrated.
Alex Monaghan

TIARNÁN Ó Duinnchinn
Reggish Paddy
Own label, 11 Tracks, 41 Minutes
The control and sheer intensity of Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn’s uilleann piping hits you between the ears right from the opening bars of his new album Reggish Paddy. That opening track is a lively, meandering version of the great piping tune Rakish Paddy, indeed titled here Reggish Paddy, and coupled with The Bunch of Keys, as Tiarnán puts it in the sleeve notes, a tip of the hat to the generations of pipers who have played and also continue to play these tunes together.
A feisty opener with nothing but Tiarnán’s broad piping skills as drones, regulators and chanter fill the senses of the listener, an arrangement which embodies the entire album, laying bare this exemplary piper’s mastery which will undoubtedly commend this production into the annals as one of the great modern piping albums.
The richness of tone carries across all 11 tracks, including the ‘Twas When The Sea set, in which Cape Breton, Scotland (via Donegal) and Germany all combine as Tiarnán plays a piece from the great composer GF Handel, before snapping into The Iron Man as learnt from Tommy Peoples, then going into a Jerry Holland tune, Brenda Stubbert’s.
The eclectic nature of the album continues with a trip to Italy and a Tarantella captured by Tiarnán, or rather ‘pipified’ as he puts it. For the more conservative piping fan, the air Mal Bhan Ní Chuileannain might be a favourite, although none outweighs the other in this fulfilling episode in the long career of Tiarnán Ó Duinnchinn. A Monaghan man himself, Tiarnán dedicates a set to fellow Monaghan piper Eamonn Curran, from whom he learnt the tunes on the set O’Mahoney’s.
Where so many rely on accompaniment to enhance or perhaps contemporise the overall sound, Tiarnán pays homage to the aforementioned generations of pipers who treated the solo album as just that, and so every melody note and drone and sustain is amplified thus, Tiarnán’s confidence in his ability and that richness of tone enough to carry this album on a solo run. (Steve Cooney and Trevor Hutchinson join on just two tracks). The penultimate set is titled The Fairy Queen, two tunes from an opera of the same name, which would give O’Carolan a run for his money. This versatile and enjoyable album comes to a close with a burst of Cherish the Ladies and a John Doherty tune. Tiarnán learnt Cherish the Ladies at Willie week in 1985 from fellow piper Sean Óg Potts. No doubt Tiarnán’s wonderful recording would find favour with Sean Óg, who recently opened the doors to a new traditional music pub in Dublin’s city centre, called The Piper’s Corner.
Derek Copley

T McProductions / May Monday Horizons, 13 Tracks, 48 Minutes &
Luckpenny is a beautiful collection of tunes played seamlessly by this duo on piano accordion and flute. This pair are completely at ease on this recording; their music blends beautifully as one. Their sound is rich and powerful and played in a highly traditional style.
Unaccompanied throughout, the style is reminiscent of Tweed’s early solo albums. The idea of recording an album together first began back in 2016, beginning with melodica and whistle, before moving to accordion and flute. Around this time a good friend, Paul Ruane, was diagnosed with a terminal illness and subsequently passed away later that year. The album is dedicated to his memory, and includes an original composition of his entitled Orla’s Reel.
There are thirteen tracks in total featuring a wide range of tunes, many of which are part of the traditional canon. It’s lovely to hear old classics including The Tailor’s Twist and Devanny’s Goat. It’s really refreshing to hear favourites such as reels Mayor Harrison’s Fedora and Castle Kelly played in different keys, something that breathes a fresh new lease of life into the music. A beautiful selection of tunes is further enhanced with a number of newly-composed tunes as well, stemming from the pen of various composers including Frankie Kennedy, Paddy Fahy, Steve Cooney, James Scott Skinner and Denis Lancetot. The repertoire is well suited to both flute and piano box in terms of range and the general flow.
One track leads naturally into the next, making for a most enjoyable and highly musical recording. This is the real deal, no accompaniment is needed as the music speaks for itself. Tweed adds some tasteful chords to the tune on occasion, adding an extra sprinkle of sparkle to the collection. This is Irish traditional music at its best, simple and uncluttered. It’s easy to listen to the lovely lift and drive that’s present throughout. A beautiful balance and blend, this album is a delight from start to finish. Recorded at The Mills Studio in County Longford, this is a must for your collection.
Edel Mc Laughlin

The Glory Days are Over
Own label, 13 Tracks, 45 Minutes
This is a superb collection, one of the best I have heard in the last 50 years. When I first heard it, I was so blown away that I put it aside for a couple of days, thinking it can’t be that good. But it is, and more.
But why not? In an elegant and highly perceptive note, Máire Ní Chathasaigh remarks on Eileen’s deep respect for the tradition. Eileen is from the St. Louis clan, people after my own heart. “At no time will you ever see our dancers dancing in public to pre-recorded music. Our own students play the music for our dancers. That is the traditional Irish way; the way it has been done in Ireland for centuries and centuries.” That’s a quote from their website. And no poodle–fleece ringlets on the heads of young females either.
Gannon has a faultless technique, that isn’t acquired in one year, or even ten. Listen to the triplets, which are an acid test for any plucked instrument. The rhythms, too, are spot on, with a lightly syncopated bass on a couple of the early tracks, such as Paddy Mills/Sporting Paddy/The First House in Connacht. Eileen slows the pace down for The Princes Royal and drops it a few notches more for an atmospheric An Buachaillin Ban, a deeply emotional rendition, where the full resonance of the harp adds to the melancholy mood of the tune. There are some bouncy dances tunes such as Road to Ballymac/Pamer’s Gate/ Clogher, and Charlie Mulvihill’s /The Road the Eyeries, a big hearted set dance in the Down Fall of Paris before she draws it all to a close with an ancient air Sliabh Gallen.
This album gives a voice to those tunes and airs that are longing to breathe, and to the listener the joy and confidence of hearing centuries-old music being heard as fresh as the day it was conceived. Well done, Eileen.
John Brophy

Live in Tullamore
Own Label, 13 Tracks47 Minutes
Jigjam hit home soil for their first live album Live in Tullamore, the County Offaly lads igniting the home crowd with their version of The Fox, banjos bursting and sparkling as the flash lads turn on the style once again.
The home crowd deliver on their part, with the energy oozing out through the speakers. The four-piece hit them instantly with their trademark tenor banjo and 5-string banjo duel. With each member a multi-instrumentalist, swapping regularly between double bass, mandolin, fiddle, guitar and banjos, it’s no wonder the crowd sound ecstatic across the 13 tracks on Live in Tullamore, given the visual intensity of swapping instruments, a key part of Jigjam’s live shows. Having first met the then three-piece four years ago as they were setting out on the road with their first album Hello World (the title track of which gets a whirl here), the group’s sound, like the band itself, has grown over those past few years into a full-bodied, layered musical marvel which has been attracting rave reviews, such as the comparison to U2 and the Clancy Brothers as emblazoned on the liner notes of Live in Tullamore.
As discerning ambassadors of the ‘Celtgrass’ label, Jigjam align traditional Irish tunes and American folk with new compositions and well-known songs like Paul Brady’s The Island and an impassioned rendition of Bob Dylan’s Senor, much to the delight of the Tullamore faithful. The Boys of Malin is paired with Yarmouth Town with a driving tempo and characteristic syncopation and improvisation. The traditional capabilities of the lads, Jamie McKeogh, Daithi Melia, Cathal Guinan and Gavin Strappe shines through on Fergie’s Trip to Sligo, merging reels and jigs into one blistering set.
The most notable thing about this live album is how polished and flawless the performances are, when compared to those recorded in the studio on their previous albums, leading this reviewer to wonder if indeed the studio versions were in fact single take lives studio recordings. Of course, the interplay between the four lads and their crossing of genres is what makes the group stand tall, particularly the use of tenor banjo and 5-string in such synchronicity. As you can hear from the crowd’s reaction the locals certainly liked it.
Derek Copley

Irish Traditional Music
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 29 Minutes
There are reportedly around 15,000 tunes in the traditional mountain. Nobody is exactly sure, because it is a living thing, but as a title on an album, something more definite might seem a good idea. Through the wonders of the Internet we know that Alistair teaches guitar in Weybridge Surrey (a place not greatly noted for wild fleadhs.) And he is a Fellow of The Three Counties School of Music in Association with The University of Gloucestershire. And with this album he can offer first-hand experience of the toils associated with bringing an album into the word. I can see how this album will be a boon to newcomers to the tradition, especially adults; the pacing and phrasing is just what you want from a teacher, clear, decisive, melodies presented without too much fluff. There is accompaniment and some washes of keyboards to add harmonic interest, but by and large this is music to listen to, learn from and play along with. It’s a fine selection: the songs in particular are good. Nancy Spain and the Sally Gardens are always worth an outing, and Alistair might well consider doing more in this line: he certainly won’t be short of friends for a small group.
Is there such a beast as “Celtic guitar”? In former times I would have disputed it, but Pierre Ben Susan, PJ Cormier, Chris Newman and Tony McManus have pioneered this genre. Alistair Sherwood doesn’t attempt to play in the same league; instead he brings his pupils on the start of a journey into the world of the six string orchestra as Martin Carthy calls the guitar. No better tune to get us on that road than Carolan’s Dream, which in Alistair’s hands is a well-arranged and thoughtful piece. Sherwood’s album is a drop of the plain, not your only man, but a brother to those beginning the long winding road of trad obsession.
John Brophy

This Day 20 Years, Own Label, 20 Tracks, 72 Minutes
After four solo albums and an orchestral suite, this whistle wizard has produced a highly entertaining compilation CD, featuring himself on whistle and uilleann pipes, plus at least a couple of dozen other musicians on keyboards, percussion, a wide range of strings, and vocals. Every track here is taken from a previous release, with pretty much an even split across all five: his most recent solo recording Beat of the Breath gets a slightly larger share of the limelight here, but with at least three tracks from each disc This Day 20 Years is a very representative sample of Brian Hughes’ music.
The album title is self-explanatory, and in fact there is still quite a bit of talk about the Whistle Stop recording Brian released back in 1997 on the Gael-Linn label. There are relatively few solo whistle albums available, and Hughes has added considerably to their number and quality over the years, starting with one whose freshness and innovation put it almost on a par with Seán Smyth’s Blue Fiddle or Vinnie Kilduff’s Boys from the Blue Hill. Brian Hughes flirts with the jazz-blues groove embraced by Smyth and Kilduff - his opening reels are a good example, and the hornpipe Fly By Night certainly has a touch of that Lúnasa vibe - but he never really strays into Waterboys territory: all the music here is main– stream Irish traditional, even the three more orchestral tracks from Brian’s suite commemorating Kildare-born Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.
Hughes excels at slow airs, and there are a few to enjoy on this compilation. Bruach na Carraige Báine and Fair Gentle Eily O’Carroll are well known and well played here. I Could but I Won’t certainly sounds as though it was written for the pipes, and Caherciveen is dreamily slow on the humble D whistle. Add to these the jaunty Callaghan’s Polka, the intriguing mazurka-like Tabletop Tumble, and the sparkling jigs which finish with The Scotsman Over the Border, and you have a selection to rival the best in Irish music.
This Day 20 Years ends with a song in praise of Shackleton and his men, a shanty of sorts sung by the Monasterevin Gospel Choir in a style somewhere between The Voice Squad and The Dubliners. The combination of balladry and pipery will tug at heartstrings across the Irish world, and is the cherry on top of a tasty traditional iced bun of an album.
Alex Monaghan

Where The Music Takes Us
Own Label, 16 Tracks, 57 Minutes
A lively opener to this album from husband and wife, banjo and fiddle combo, Joe and Adele Greene. Trading as Dulahan, the County Kildare couple’s new album release Where The Music Takes Us kicks off with tenor banjo and fiddle to the fore on the Mrs McQueen’s/Mad Madra/ Polca Dhún Masc polka set. Nicely constructed fiddle harmonies envelop the cut of the banjo as Joe and Adele lift the listener immediately.
The verve and energy continues with a punchy approach to Lucy Farr’s, which is coupled with a Donegal Highland, Maggie Pickens. The album bounces back and forth between fiddle taking the lead, then banjo, with Joe providing guitar accompaniment throughout, to add to the body of music on Where The Music Takes Us. The sweetness in tone of Adele’s fiddling is exemplified on Planxty Irwin, with accompanying harmonies overdubbed by Adele also.
There is a rich mix of music and rhythm on this second album from the duo, while also adding in some other influences, including the Klezmer Frailach, Itzikel. Getting back closer to home, the banjo gives a burst of session favourites in the set The Old Bush/Castle Kelly/Man of the House, with triplets keeping the tunes lit throughout.
Not alone do Joe and Adele Greene play so well together, they also compose a number of tunes which sit comfortably among traditional standards. One such set comprises three jigs written by the duo, Port na Fáilte in celebration of Ireland, the second The Fair at the Lough inspired by a walk to Lough Inn in Donegal, while the third The Pilgrim’s Path pays homage to St Kevin after a visit to Glendalough in County Wicklow.
From O’Carolan pieces, to lively session tunes, self-composed traditional tunes, to music from further afield, Dulahan’s Where The Music Takes Us brings the listener on a pleasant journey over the course of 16 tracks of traditional music.
Derek Copley

Turning The Tides
Own Label, 13 Tracks, 61 Minutes
A stalwart of the US East Coast traditional and folk music scene for over forty years, this is remarkably singer Bruce Foley’s first solo CD, and well worth the wait. He’s an accomplished guitarist and also features his uilleann pipes on this recording, for which he assembled an impressive array of seasoned session musicians to assist him.
His main collaborator is Mary Coogan on guitars, mandolin, banjo and bouzouki, as well as contributions from Joanie Madden, Mirella Murray, John Nolan and Kathleen Boyle among others, with producer Greg Anderson on bass. The album also features some impressive harmony vocals, mainly from Mike Gallagher. There’s a strong connection with the Sands family, Tommy contributes three songs here, and some recording took place in Rostrevor, County Down at Colum Sands’ studio.
Bruce is an impressive singer with an easy vibrato and nice depth to his voice, and the material is carefully chosen from a lifetime of performing and personal experience. Familiar songs such as The Reason I Left Mullingar, Sweet Carnloch Bay and The Snowy Breasted Pearl are carefully arranged and beautifully performed. County Down and You’ll Never Grow Old, both from the pen of Tommy Sands, are rendered with care and emotion, the latter a tribute to Foley’s late son Brendan, who died tragically in 1996. There’s even a recreation of Music of Healing, originally recorded by Peter Seeger, with a ghost vocal by the great man himself.
Foley also features a couple of instrumental tracks, with two delightful O’Carolan tunes and an extended set of tunes (mainly self-composed) as the album closer. There’s an impressive variety in the overall instrumentation and production, and the whole CD has a nice relaxed feel. Bruce Foley can be proud of his first solo outing, and I’m sure that the next one won’t be so long coming.
Mark Lysaght

Here to Play Own Label BNG01, 13 Tracks, 42 Minutes
From a Meath musical dynasty with roots in Clare and Cavan, Bernadette is the most recent member of the MacGabhann family to release a solo album. Her father Antóin MacGabhann, known to many by his anglicised name Tony Smith, is one of Ireland’s most respected fiddlers. Her sister Caitlín is among the new generation of concertina virtuosi. Bernadette herself has established an enviable reputation as a touring fiddler, and this excellent debut recording will certainly add to that. She’s joined here by harpist Eileen Gannon from St Louis, and on the final track by her father for a grand duet on the Scottish reel, which goes by many names including The Graf Spey.
There’s an openness to Bernadette’s playing which is very pleasing to the ear. While her fiddling is elegant and stylish, it has no pretentions to flash or showy performance: the music is the thing, and Ms MacGabhann really is just Here to Play. Whether it’s classics like The Boyne Hunt or newer compositions such as her father’s jig Rós Baltrasna, Bernadette puts herself into the tunes and expresses them with spirit and humour and bags of energy. Every track on this CD gets the toes tapping, with the exception of the air Cois Abhann na Séad which is tinged with sadness in both fiddle and harp.
With seven sets of reels, a couple of slow airs, two jig sets, a waltz, a Carolan tune and a pair of hornpipes, Here to Play follows a mainstream traditional formula. The material is largely well known too: Travers’, Gorman’s, Eddie Moloney’s, John Kelly’s and the like, but there are some exceptions. Bernadette plays striking versions of The Flowers of Redhill and The Wind That Shakes the Barley, lovely lyrical melodies that flow over rippling harp accompaniment. Westering Home is another nod to the Scots tradition, while The Scan Waltz is one of many charming dance tunes attributed to the late great Métis fiddler Andy de Jarlis. Connie O’Connell’s reel The Mountplummers are Coming is full of joy and mischief, contrasting with the stately Miss Murphy. Old favourites The Glass of Beer and The Kilcoon are taken at a nice speed, with space for expression and enough grit in the bow to make the fiddle growl. The final duet confirms Bernadette Nic Gabhann as the latest star in a line of fine fiddlers.
Alex Monaghan

Own Label, 13 Tracks, 51 Minutes
Sheena and Michael are an Irish/German duo featuring Clare woman Sheena Rice and her German guitar playing partner Michael Scheuber from Frankfurt. This album really qualifies for the term home-made, coming in a cardboard foldout sleeve with a colour photo of the couple on the front, basic track listing on the back and a handmade laminated pressed flower bookmark. Based in Ireland and Germany, their second album Flourish follows their debut collection Songs From Home and a couple of EPs.
The sparse packaging on Flourish echoes the production as the sound here is of a gently stripped down nature, which along with the quaint design adds to a relaxed cosy down-home atmosphere creating an air of intimacy and singularity. Their approach seems to mix popular ballads with more recent contemporary material and latterly original songs. The backings include discrete guitar, keyboards, mandolin, fiddle, whistle and percussion behind Sheena’s strong bluesy vocals. Indeed her singing is the strongest point here, having a sweetly restrained yearning quality that makes for some pleasurable takes on well-known material.
The opening Black Velvet Band presents a fresh yet familiar take on a ballad classic. Their quietly resigned take on The Night Visiting Song, is immensely pleasurable as are similar takes on Fields of Gold in the manner of Eva Cassidy, Mike Scott’s How Long Will I Love You? A surprising cover of Oasis’ Wonderwall rendered as a gentle acoustic song with acoustic guitar behind Sheena’s vocal is a spare bare and beautiful highlight. Up tempo forays into Country Pop/ Folk territory with Agape, This Is The Life and Let It Go are not dissimilar to K.T. Tunstall and Cheryl Crowe and adding welcome up tempo contrast to the more poignant material. With its low key atmospherics, Flourish in its sparse intimacy is a highly worthwhile collection.
John O’Regan

Quiet Giant
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 40 Minutes
Emma Langford’s debut album Quiet Giant, appropriate to her youth, has coming-of-age themes, the beguiling beauty or futility of love, relationships, loss, dreams and a fairytale.
Mature themes are explored with compelling lyrics, delivered in a singing voice that shines with uniqueness. The youthful, ethereal range of her vocals almost belies the seriousness of some of her topics. Her style is genre defying, from folksy to jazz, blues, rock and a certain je ne sais quoi.
Sandman could be a New Orleans jazz staple, a big song evoking the distant lover. Closed Book is a fine piece, experimental in arrangement, she shows great versatility here. It is a confident and dramatic delivery of the song, which evolved from an EP. Accompanists Tadhg Murphy, Hannah Nic Gearailt, Peter Hanagan, Ray Yrure and Alec Browne are all tuneful maestros, the violin and percussion prowess most evident in The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Similarly with the minimalist piano and violin on All You Want, a captivating sweetly melodic number and poetic: ‘wish on passing cars, laugh at shooting cars’, an example of the rhyming couplet, but Emma Langford uses other literary motifs throughout the album. There are examples of mid-line rhyme, assonance and alliteration throughout.
The language itself is seductive in The Seduction of Eve; ‘I surrendered all too quickly, to a man of many names’, who ‘excavated my thought’s. The Belle and the Ruin has sustenance and is as enchanting as a fairytale. This entire album is a solid, polished piece of work.
Recorded at Golden Egg studios with Graham Murphy and Chris O’Brien on production, Quiet Giant will be launched at Dolan’s Warehouse, Limerick in December. In the meantime, look out for Emma Langford on the upcoming Irish Folk Festival tour of Germany and Switzerland.
Ann Marie Kennedy

No Better Time, Own Label, 10 Tracks, 41 Minutes
Facebook- Sinéad Smyth Murphy Music: Sin%C3%A9ad-Smyth-Murphy-Music-1871621373055449/
It really is gratifying for lovers of the song tradition to know that young people are still stepping out to sing in ‘the raw bar’ and continuing the old style of singing. One such young woman is Sinéad Murphy from Armagh, and her new CD, No Better Time, is a song cornucopia of delights. With sensitive and engaging accompaniment from her musician friends, she has ten tracks that include, The Cocks are Crowing, Cití na gCumann, Lovely Willie, and One Morning in June. We Irish are quick to claim this song or tune as our own even when it is often plain that it’s one we’ve ‘borrowed’. We can, of course, excuse ourselves for this endearing penchant of ours for stealing … oops, I mean, acquiring other people’s material, because we make it our own – as they do ours. An example is Valentine O’Hara, a song Sinéad got from the singing of the late Frank Harte. She helpfully informs us that in 1974 the English singer, Peter Bellamy, recorded “a similar song called Alan Tyne of Harrow”. Now, look again at those two titles.
Sometimes there can be a mishearing on the part of the listener which results in what is called a mondegreen and that’s possibly what has happened here. A mondegreen? It’s a word coined by author Sylvia Wright. As a child, she heard the lyrics of the Scottish ballad, The Bonny Earl of Murray and thought these were the words: Ye highlands and ye lowlands /Oh where hae you been? / Thou hae slay the Earl of Murray / And Lady Mondegreen. Sylvia later learned that the actual words were “slay the Earl of Murray and laid him on the green”.
There are several such examples, but the well-known misconstruing of the line from The Rose of Mooncoin is not really a mondegreen: “where the thrush and the robin their sweet notes enjoin” rendered as “where the thrush ate the robin and a small ball of twine”. But it’s still amusing. Like my Canadian wife who learned off Love is Pleasing from the singing of Ronnie Drew and came up with, “I laughed at me father, I laughed at me mother.”
I commend Sinéad for providing us with useful notes as to where she got her songs, something that’s a feature of ‘the folk’ from time immemorial: they took their songs from whomever it was came their way. So, in addition to Frank Harte, she acknowledges songs she got from Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, The Voice Squad, Grace Toland and … wait for it … the Danish folk group AshPlant! And their song? The Mulcair River, which is in Limerick. Truly, “the songs of the people” really do belong to the people of the world and in choosing her sources, Ms Murphy shows she has impeccable taste.
Aidan O’Hara

String on String
Own Label, CT 6-43157-4412, 11 Tracks, 37 Minutes
String on String is a CD-title that befits Amy McAllister’s standing as a highly accomplished musician in both harp and fiddle to whom Moving-on-Music recently bestowed an Emerging Artist accolade. Antrim-based with international touring experience, Amy freely credits parental encouragement and a childhood blest by the strong Comhaltas presence in her native Glens of Antrim.
McAllister’s singing voice is also very special, seven great songs giving rich and lovely testament to that, across a concept CD that shapes a thematic exploration of love in musicality, including three of Amy’s compositions. Multi-instrumentalist Camille Champarnaud brings much in terms of production and music; working with Amy on arrangements.
This album keeps drawing me back, and on delving into the genesis of the CD-concept, no surprise to learn that serendipity played a part, Camille coming on-board Amy’s CD inspired by her singing voice. McAllister’s bright beautiful interpretation of the 19th century love-song P is for Paddy along with the mighty blast of great music at its heart feels like validation of that fortuitous collaboration. A lyrical seamlessness in how Amy uses voice, infusing a fresh take on songs that already stand alone in quality. Her vocal tone is clear and distinctive. Significant also is a vocal-vibrato which (unusually) comes across as very natural, adding a gorgeous dimension to Over the Mountain and Matt Hyland. Much-sought-after accompanist Eoghan Scott brings rich sensitive guitar throughout.
“I lifted the latch and I boldly walked in”, sings Amy on track 1, aptly symbolising a playfulness in this artist’s musical assurance between past and present, strings and strands of how she draws elements together (reflective indeed of harpistry that includes O’Carolan and an original Catriona McKay air), respectful passion for tradition that in turn also informs her own songs like Holy Holy. In My Bonny Blue-Eyed Nancy, Amy lingers on traditional words with a songwriter’s embrace of language, husky vocal overtones alongside Jos Kelly’s piano evoking a new ghostly tone to a legendary song. A great debut album.
Deirdre Cronin

Midsummer May Monday
AKERO CD018, 24 Tracks, 58 Minutes
This duo May Monday have been together for nearly two decades now, their first album was released in 2001. On the face of it you might think this is a Nordic album, recorded in Helsinki with a raft of Finnish musicians in the credits and with an engineer behind it called Speedy Saarinen. But take it for a spin on your CD player and you are in for a mix of music from Irish to Nordic to South American. May Monday is a joint effort and Timo Alakotila’s piano is present on every track, sometimes playing a subordinate role as in at other times front and centre. Likewise Karen’s piano accordion sometimes leads, sometimes follows.
The CD opens with Karen’s Planxty Parr, a duet between the piano accordion and the piano, with the accordion taking the repeated phrases of the melody. On Ruane The Man flute player Thomas McElvogue takes over the lead work and a big ensemble sound ensues. Helen Turner’s Textet another original by Karen Tweed is the most continental sounding number with piano, mandolin and a brass section. Timo takes hold of the reigns on Amicum, a simple melody line on the piano answered with thoughtful runs on the piano accordion, the piece ending on Catriona McKay’s shimmering harp.
Track 10 Pilvi and Eskos Brudvals, a wedding tune composed by Roger Tallroth; here Karen plays a simple melody line on the high register of the accordion, the piano adding gentle colours beneath it, quite magical in its simplicity and purity. Karen and Timo take us on a trip to Argentina with Terry’s Tango Painting, Ruth Dornfelt adding atmospheric fiddle. Tracks 17 –20 bring us away from the northern edges of Europe to our own Celtic realms with Mna Na heÉireann, Richie Dywer’s, Noel Sweeny’s Trip to Galway and Eildh Shaw’s energetic Col Sig of the 2-2-6.
Once again Karen and Timo have produced an album full of surprising richly exotic music and magnificent musicianship; it has to be a must for compulsive accordion fans everywhere.
Seán Laffey