Releases > Releases Annual 2019

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Heart Of The Home
Big Mamma Records 0009, 14 Tracks, 58 Minutes

Joanie Madden and her ladies are out in force here, sure aren’t they always? Joined by a bevy of bright singing talents, Don Stiffe, Kate Purcell and Nathan Carter to name but three.
These days Joanie Madden shares her heart in homes in the Bronx and Miltown Malbay. She is settled and happy in both place; happiness bathes the album from top to toe. The liner notes deserve a special mention, full of detailed information, beautifully designed, the typeface is clear, all the words are legible, a rare thing these days when it comes to CD production.
Nathan Carter the Liverpudlian singer, who can do no wrong and has brought acoustic music to a new level of popularity in the Irish Country fraternity, is the main voice on the title track. It’s an upbeat, positive affirmation of the strengths of family and place. Written by the late Andy M Stewart, it is the most American sounding track on the album.
Kate Purcell from Feakle in County Clare does a fine rendition of Maurice McGrath’s Glenties, a song inspired by a cottage in Donegal. The Ennis sisters bring their harmonies to the sea song Ambletown, a long time favourite at the South Street Shanty sessions in New York.
Joanie Madden’s roots are in East Galway and to reflect this she has Don Stiffe on board singing Shadow of a Singer and His Song. Staying in Galway, there’s a new composition The Portumna Workhouse, played on the whistle, named for probably the cruelest workhouse in the 19th century. Joanie wrote the march to signify the happiness felt by someone who had left the place and was on the way to a better life. Travel inspired the catchy melody Farewell To The Catskills (I can see this becoming a session staple in the years to come). We also get an accordion hornpipe from 1857 called Princess Beatrice played by Mirella Murray and an upbeat new jig composed by Kathleen Boyle called The Murphy Boys. The album closes with a delicious slow reel Gloria’s Travels written and performed on guitar by the long serving Cherish lady Mary Coogan, followed by two new pieces, Galloping to The Glen by Nollaig Casey and the final tune on the album is Joanie Madden’s Montana Reel.
Still entertaining, still full of life and still bringing the best of Irish music on a happy journey, Cherish The Ladies’ music never gets old, never gets tired. There’s a warm welcome at the heart of their home, and I for one am glad of it.
Seán Laffey

The Last Pint, Old Box Records OBR005, 14 Tracks, 47 Minutes

Irish American music in its raw state from this Maine-based melodeon master and many of his musician friends: this is Dan’s fifth album, and after almost half a century of playing he is still on top of his game. Think of a great local session, where the regulars know each other well enough to take some liberties, and where the likes of Kevin Burke and Séamus McGuire drop in from time to time. Classics such as The Eaves-dropper and The Silver Spire are supplemented by recent compositions from Charlie Lennon, Liz Carroll, Jackie Daly and others in traditional style. In the melting pot of North America, where almost everyone is an immigrant, it’s no surprise to find the occasional tune from Newfoundland, Québec, Sweden or even France cheek by jowl with the Irish repertoire, providing plenty of variety.
Some of these pieces have had to flex to fit the constraints of the humble melodeon, the title tune by Pierre Bensusan keeps only its first two parts here, and Martin O’Connor’s Flying Clog by Phil Cunningham is also slightly curtailed, but most of the core Irish tunes are played in a way which only enhances the listener’s pleasure. Sweet Biddy Daly, Baker’s Well, Lad O’Beirne’s, Maid on the Green, Miss Cassidy’s and more are delivered with flair and passion by Dan and friends: Bill Verdier on fiddle, Teresa Baker on piano, Billy Oskay on fiddle, Gerry Whelan on tenor banjo, Vince Burns on fiddle, Frances Cunningham on bouzouki, Bruce Molyneaux on tenor banjo, Kathy Fallon on guitar and Myron Bretholz on bodhrán.
There are some beautiful slower pieces too: Hommage til en Spelman from Sweden, the charming waltz Dublin Airport by piper Gerard Fahy, the French-accented Uncle Stewart’s Waltz from Québec, and Dan’s own tune Ellen’s Waltz in a modern style reminiscent of Stockton’s Wing or Sharon Shannon. The final set of reels underlines this album’s character: driving tunes, an open and informal approach, and great session playing by a group of firm friends. Let’s hope for many musical pints to come from Mr Possumato.
Alex Monaghan


Own Label, 8 Tracks, 43 Minutes

Barely three years old this trio were winners of the 2017 MG Alba Scots Trad Music Awards’ Folk Band Of The Year and if you are wondering why, this album will answer all your doubting questions.
Three players here are in perfect Sync with each other, with their traditional music, and also with the art of making new music sound old. Talisk are Mohsen Amini (concertina) and Hayley Keenan (fiddle) and Graeme Armstrong (guitar). They have been in demand of late and their travels are echoed in titles such as Montreal and Cabot Trail both referring to their trips to Canada.
Perhaps one of the key features of a Talisk performance and indeed this CD is that they bring a freshness to their work, as if their meeting is a spur to something special. They are engaged in traditional music it seems at every waking hour, all are busy in other bands. You’d need a Venn diagram to keep up with the outfits Mohsen Amini is involved with. Beyond the title track comes in at number 8. It opens with long notes on the fiddle and concertina before the fiddle runs off with a familiar selection of tunes, McKendrick’s, Sweeney’s Butter Milk and Green Banana, the first and last tunes in the set are Amini compositions. Farewell begins as a gentle inter-play between fiddle and guitar, the concertina stepping in cautiously, then there’s a guitar interlude before the tempo is turned up to 90.
Talisk can do lyrical, no more so than on Serbian Dreams, the concertina holding the opening theme throughout the almost 5 minutes of the track. Likewise Liddlesdale is a gentle bucolic ramble, as is the first three quarters of the Cabot Trail; I can imagine playing it on the lonely road from English Town to Ingonish. The album was produced by Mohsen Amini & Andrea Gobbi, recorded and mixed by Andrea Gobbi at Carrierwaves Studio & GloWorm Recording, Glasgow. The accolades were well founded. Talisk are set for a very fine future. Beyond will take them places.
Seán Laffey

Theory of Chaos
Cúig, 10 Tracks, 43 Minutes

The Theory of Chaos is the latest album from Cúig, one of a daring new wave of groups pushing and pulling at the boundaries of the tradition.
The album kicks off with a belter called Midnight on the M50, a title that will no doubt conjure up images for most musicians of the late-night trip home after long night’s work. Well, on this occasion, the inspiration must have been a wild night. Full drums replace the traditional bodhrán in the percussion stakes, providing the backbone for button accordion, uilleann pipes and banjo. The tunes in the set: Eamonn Coyne’s, Lexie McAskill’s and 12 Weeks and a Day, are played solidly, with the percussion offering some interesting rhythmic nuances to enhance the vibe.
Each set is carefully arranged with a keen ear on adding plenty of groove and funk around what is essentially an album of contemporary tunes in the traditional format, structured to create an experience for the listener much in keeping with what this five-piece outfit has in mind for its exploration in and around traditional music. Cathal and Eoin Murphy’s composition Patient Zero is the title track for a set, which exemplifies all of the above and Cúig’s approach.
Their ability as musicians is matched by their creativity and their confidence to experiment in the studio. The title track, or tracks, comes in two chapters; The Theory of Chaos Chapter 1 and The Theory of Chaos Chapter 2, with plenty of texture in each chapter and various moods being applied, again taking the listener on a journey with the group.
A lot of hard work and effort evidently went into producing this fine record of music. However, a visit to their website will reward the curious in regards to their inspiration and the origins of the ideas that embody this tight, well-orchestrated album.
Derek Copley

The Last Goodbye
Universal Music Ireland 7712932, 10 Tracks, 38 Minutes

This is a musical and a technical masterpiece. Universal Music Ireland have taken the voice of the late Christie Hennessy and seamlessly interwoven it with music from the 45-piece RTÉ Concert Orchestra. The arrangements are by Christie’s son Tim; they are always sensitive, never overpowering Christie’s inimitable high tenor voice. They also allow Christie’s very accomplished guitar playing to shine too. His songs are often sensitive, for example The Actor, with a telling line, “I once was a clown and a poet”. Perhaps this is semi-autobiographical, is it his retrospective look at a life lived on stage?
During Christie’s lifetime his albums went platinum around a dozen times, a measure of his enduring popularity with the Irish public. Here are fan favourites such as Messenger Boy, from his very first LP released in 1972, on which his guitar sounds slack-tuned, almost like a dulcimer. There’s new twist with a fiddle driven Celtic bridge, the song getting an almost String Sisters makeover. His daughter Hermione joins him on: Every Time A Star Falls and If You Were To Fall (And I Was To Fall In Love With You). She shares the same vocal range with him, their musical DNA is tightly spliced together on every note.
The arrangements become cinematic with Every Time A Star Falls. I could see this turning up in an animation, the track is broken by a spoken word snippet, Christie telling us what singing for the public meant to him. If we are in any doubt about the bond he had with his craft and his audience, it’s all there in Roll Back The Clouds (I Am A Star), and Christie candidly telling us music is the place where he found happiness and a home. This is one for the fans surely, one for those who marvel at the possibilities of modern production, one to be discovered anew, one for all time. Christie was a gentle soul; gone too soon, yet he left us with so much joy. The boy from Tralee’s Long Good Bye will outlive us all.
Seán Laffey

Longing For The Day
MFP01 2018, 11 Tracks, 43 Minutes

Like so many Irish musicians Don started out with a brass band. For him that was in his native Galway and has progressed through the music business over the years honing his craft and accumulating a repertoire of songs to entertain and delight. On this album we are treated to just under a dozen but they serve to highlight his mastery of the trade.
His interpretation of Jimmy McCarthy’s There is No Night is a wonderfully crafted song that does full justice to a beautiful song. The CD also showcases Stiffe’s own song writing talent. One of my favourites of his own compositions is Celia Griffin, which is a wonderful story song that one should listen to very closely. It makes one want to seek out so much more about the subject of the song. He also contributes a nice tribute to his home area in Headford Co. Galway which looks across at Connamara on Connemara My Home.
He proves his ability to tell a story in song in another one from his pen called You Will Always be my Mother, which tells the heart-rending tale of an adoptee learning of his status that will bring a lump to many a throat.
Sadly the cover notes do not tell us much of the stories featured on the album, other than to say that his rendition of Isle of Inishfree comes from an arrangement of the tune by the Saint Patrick’s Brass Band and what a wonderful track it proves to be.
Add to these songs like Sarah from the pen of Johnny McEvoy and Supermarket Wine by Micky McConnell and you have a wonderful album that should be sought out.
Nicky Rossiter

Own Label, 10 Tracks, 49 Minutes

In their very early twenties, Benedict Morris and Cormac Crummey are a fiddle and guitar duo playing a quite contemporary style of Irish and Scottish traditional music - compositions by Kittel, Napier, Lombardi, Brady, Magill and others, plus four by this pair. Wavelength has other instruments filling out several tracks; banjo, percussion, keyboards and bass. Cormac hails from Belfast, Bene’s studying in Glasgow. There’s a strong Irish dance influence in the rhythms and textures. My first thought was Riverdance on a diet, perhaps not as over polished as those big Broadway productions, the musical quality comes close.
A handful of traditional tunes, mainly Irish, keep this CD close to its roots. Monica’s has familiar melodies from Mike Vass, challenging fiddle pieces, which demand great technical skill, and Morris keeps the beat as a good dance musician should. Vale of Shadows is funkier, more modern, like something David Grubb might write, pushing the fiddler’s abilities; this is seriously arranged, but very impressive. There’s some great flat-picked guitar on Could Do and elsewhere. Bene & Cormac present a selection of recently written reels and jigs here, virtuoso stuff from both sides of the Irish Sea, and while the ensemble playing does drift occasionally, the standard of musicianship on this CD is excellent. Crummey struts his stuff on Kommnick’s gentle air Teacht an Earraigh, a smooth tasty guitar solo. Morris cuts loose on The Graf Spee and The Virginia Reel, crisp clean fiddling with extra attitude thrown in. The laid-back medley Molly Might Fly brings us to a Vegas finale, bluesy fiddle, white grand piano and all the trimmings. Benedict and Cormac are still developing their own personality, that will come with time. Wavelength is a fine and intriguing debut album, worth Googling.
Alex Monaghan

Fiddle Beatz
Factor Canada KF001, 10 Tracks, 34 Minutes

Kerry Fitzgerald is from a family of award-winning fiddlers of Bancroft Ontario, leading lights in the traditional and Canadian Old time fiddling community. Surprise then that this recording is as edgy as broken glass; it is sharply cutting music from the young Canadian fiddler. She has created an oeuvre that is more Ashley Mac Isaac than Jean Carignan. If you are familiar with the recent works of Damien O’Kane, Jartlath Henderson, Conor Caldwell and Una Monaghan, then this is a shoe in for your collection.
Kerry’s is a sophisticated modern music, her fiddling isn’t always front and centre. Her fiddle tunes are elements in a bigger sonic construction, built from dismembered melodies, all of which Kerry has composed herself. Tofino circulates around a Cape Breton style fiddle, there’s clapping, orchestral chimes, echoes, the fiddle bow pulling us on to a finale where the piano brings it all to a quiet close. The shortest track Gould, begins on piano, a simple little statement under which the fiddle draws slowly into action, whilst percussion pops and whizzes like sparklers at a summer barbecue. Shadow is the most electronic of all the tracks. The fiddle is dominant here, a clear voice of reason between the harmonic voices and off kilter tones that move through the octaves like in the old days when you could tune a radio with a bakelite knob.
The title track is the funkiest, courtesy of Kerry’s electric bass. The percussion is choppy with the piano running in at intervals, the keyboard splashing us with hiss as the fiddle recedes for a few seconds. All the while that trademark bow-work coming at us, inviting us to try and trace its roots, faint memories of a century or so ago, when tunes cheered those hardy folks bent on the colonial Celtic expansion into the white north. Breathtaking music. Very now. Very next year. Very Kerry Fitzgerald.
Seán Laffey

Dark Turn of Mind
IF19DARK 2019, 6 Tracks, 23 Minutes
Iona is a young lady who has already amassed a lot of acclaim in her native Scotland. Noted for her singing in the Doric accent of the North East of Scotland this is her first foray into standard-English language material and will extend her reach beyond her native Scotland. Here we have folk songs that are rich with storytelling, where the singer is the narrator of tales that must be told.
The accompaniments are probably a little more sparsely arranged than on folk albums of late, with guitar, piano and mandolin making featuring. No bad thing, as this allows Iona’s distinctive voice to give shape, emotion and meaning to each of the songs she makes her own.
Those songs include established numbers with a fine heritage behind them: Little Musgrave, The Golden Vanity and Let Him Sink. Iona’s scholarship in the liner notes is exemplary, with a full disclosure of the provenance of those three traditional songs, and more than a glimpse into Iona’s own artistic process of creating new songs woven from related lyrics. The tracks Dark Turn of Mind, If I Go, I’m Going and Swing and Turn are from the American tradition, the latter from the singing of Jean Ritchie, the former two songs having been written in the past decade. The piano is the dominant instrument on Dark Turn of Mind, the mandolin shines in true Ozark fashion on Swing and Turn, with chopped chords as Iona takes up the verses. Those American songs are complete with rich harmony vocals from Aidan Moodie, Rory Matheson and Graham Rorie, her talented backing band.
The opening track Dark Turn of Mind, written by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, highlights the quality of her voice to great effect. If you are familiar with The Golden Vanity from the more folk rock style of Steeleye Span be prepared for a very new and innovative arrangement and performance. Iona’s take on the perennial Matty Groves, is a virtuoso performance, this time without accompaniment that brings new life to the song; the melody is a close cousin of Shady Grove.
There might only be a mere half dozen tracks on this album, but we are left in no doubt that Iona Fyfe is a major young voice in the continuous skein of the ballad tradition. Iona is a folk singer’s delight; not only can she carry a song masterfully but she has the patience and the poise to treat each one with the respect it deserves. The tradition needs more people like Iona.
Nicky Rossiter

Friends Old and New
Own Label, 5 Tracks, 22 Minutes

Out of Hawaii, home of Steve McGarrett and Hawaii 5 0, come The Kilt Lifters, not the first Celtic band from there, Unreel did that in the 90s. The Kilt Lifters celebrate the island nation with their eclectic and electric Celtic rock sound. With rocked out traditional and original tunes, paired with beautiful classic ballads, The Kilt Lifters bring a modern twist to Celtic music. Their new EP Friends Old and New brings their second release into focus with a potent mix of traditional and self-penned material. Hailing from Hawaii and the US the quartet fire up with an energy and vitality of their own. Chris Carr’s vocals and Mark Caudill’s violin form the front line while Jason Stith’s bass and drummer Sam Woldenberg complete the line-up.
The five tracks straddle folk ballads from The Bonnie Lass of Anglesey, Twa Sisters, The Cruel Sister and The Parting Glass, from Scottish and Irish traditional canons. From their own pen comes title track Friends Old and New. The music is unquestionably folk rock and Celtic Rock of the Tempest/Horslips variety. Indeed Tempest is a good comparison visually with both bands wearing kilts on stage and playing a high octane brand of Folk Rock. The Kilt Lifters’ sound is still in transition and there is sure to be future growth, the promise and accomplishment displayed here excites me. The band is worth looking out for and keeping tabs on.
John O’Regan

BRAMBUS201896-2, 12 Tracks, 42 Minutes
This is an ambitious album of music that comes mostly from the pen of the performer, Brendan Monaghan who hails from the north of Ireland. This is always a gamble because no matter how much we may seek out new music, we always feel better with the familiar. Therefore any singer /songwriter brave enough to produce an album like this deserves a careful listen. Having said that Brendan certainly delivers on the promise with very well written songs that are beautifully produced and recorded. The songs such as Unbroken and Darkest Hour are up there with the best on offer from any source and keep you listening for hours with their intelligent lyrics and fine accompaniment.
I particularly enjoyed the jaunty song The Devil Must Have Sent You that will stoke memories for many who give the lyrics a careful listen. Gospel Jim is another example of Monaghan’s ability to take the minutiae of everyday life and people and weave them into a witty and enjoyable song. We all have memories of people with nicknames but seldom can we embroider such a tale from their lives. Deep Dark Rosaleen 2018 is a fascinating title for an enchanting song that showcases his vocal ability.
The one track on which he does not have a writing input is called Farewell. The track Love You Till the End epitomises my view of this CD. I know it is always hard to take that step and pick up an album from an artist you may not be familiar with and doubly so with a list of 12 completely unheard songs. But if you enjoy exploring new songs, taking that little risk and of course if you like a good unified album that will give you “bragging rights” on having discovered a new and exciting voice, this is the album for you.
Nicky Rossiter

THE WHILEAWAYS, From What We’re Made
WF00032018, 12 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Recorded and mixed by Seán Óg Graham, The Whileaways’ new album From What We’re Made is innovative, contemporary, and relevant to writing and recording in the modern world. With twelve original songs, their themes are concerned with family, relationships, travel and love songs that are heart warming and heart breaking in equal measure. There are no down by the sally garden lyrics here, this band who describe their own style as ‘Irish roots’, descriptive enough, fitting, but the Whileaways’ material could be more genre defying than that.
There’s great originality here, in the ethereal singing voices of Norianna Kennedy and Nicola Joyce and the earthiness, honesty and lyricism of Noelie McDonnell’s work. Mother Says is Kennedy’s sweet, personal poem, an inverse blessing, from child to mother, a child who was ‘never left crying, never left alone/never left wondering where is my home’, the melody is rich and sustaining.  Accompaniment on five string banjo, double bass, guitars and percussion is tasteful throughout, never getting in the way of the singing. The human voice is everything here, the phrasing unusual, the imagery realistic. Nicola Joyce’s Loneliest Girl, a nod to the fantasist existence, ‘she makes up her face for the lovers in her head/she makes up her bed’, an unapologetic rendering of isolation, beautifully delivered. Julia, from Noelie McDonnell’s pen is philosophical, something moody but giving in it: ‘And every heart you meet will softly beat/and meet a heart that’s true in you’, the song has uniqueness of message, simple yet profound and insightful. I Am A Hill is terrific, the soundtrack for a small movie telling the love story within the song.
The solo voices, the harmonies, straight up and collaborative, all are robust. The work is tightly woven, experimental, fresh and energetic, a listening delight.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Tir; Highland Life and Lore
CACD 006, 12 Tracks, 44 Minutes

Brian Ó hEadhra, son of Aidan and Joyce, is heir to a rich musical heritage. It has brought him to both sides of the Atlantic and many other shores. He now lives in Inverness in Scotland, with his wife, Fiona Mackenzie, and two daughters. This CD is the fruit, they say, of 25 years’ music making.
Recorded in Stornoway by Keith Morrison and in Glasgow by co-producer, Mike Vass. The twelve songs are: An long Eireannach, Deus Auribus / Gleidh M’Anama, Beannaich A Thriath Nan Flath Fial, Cha Bhi Mi Buan, In O, Cauldron, Togamaid Bothan, Iomaraibh Eutrom, Chan Ann Ach Thu Mo Chraobh Ubhla Dhubh, Maria, Tha Mi Dol Dhachaigh Leat and Mar An Fhiadh. Those songs are guitar-based with synth, and it’s very much a studio-based production. The album has been described as sophisticated, ambient and cinematic. Themes range from love and death, the perennials, to protests about chemical/nuclear pollution. What comes through is strength of personality, and a desire to tell their own heirs of the Clearances, and of the richness of their shared heritage.
The title Tir, (meaning country) is taken from Tir Colmcille, a project and map showing the many links between Ireland and Scotland. Scottish Gaelic can prove a frustrating challenge to Irish speakers but the excellent liner notes help to get over this hump. Listening to this in an Irish context I am reminded of De Valera’s three great aims: to end Partition, end emigration and restore the Irish language. Curiously, the last of these, keeping the language of the Gaels alive and relevant may be the best bet, notably through the arts and projects like the enjoyable efforts of Brian and Fiona. A very fine achievement; go mairfidh sibh beirt le fada.
John Brophy

IMP 006, 11 Tracks, 46 Minutes

As well as enthralling visitors from all around the world for two decades performing in Dublin’s Temple Bar, Irish folk rock outfit Sliotar have equally taken their music on many trips abroad, playing at numerous festivals around Europe and beyond.
Their latest album Voyage, harnesses the group’s multi-faceted sound, with jazz-influenced drums from Des Gorevan and folk rock rhythms of singer-songwriter JP Kallio working alongside the whistles and uilleann pipes of Ray McCormac. The album opens with Pigtown, comprising three tunes including the title track along with Ships are Sailing and The Silver Spear. Recorded and produced in Denmark by Tomas Somr, the opening track feels very live, in that it takes beyond the first tune – Ships are Sailing, for the rhythms to sync up, that of the free-flowing nature of the traditional melodic instrument, with the strong, dictatorial backline of drums and bass. The synchronicity does kick in, however, and much like a live show, the album builds in energy, shifting between fiery sets and also songs, like Tonight’s The Night, sung by JP and in no way connected to the Neil Young song of the same name, which was this reviewer’s presumption.
That lift can be felt, a rawness in the energy, on Kitty’s Welcome to Limerick, with a climactic build from An Phuis Fluich. There is diversity in repertoire on Voyage, with a fearless approach to effects and arrangement, like on tracks such as The Crow and the Cradle, with drums sounding quite close to the timbre of a bodhrán, or the subtlety of The Sweet Little Girl from Barnagh. The Kilmaley gets a whirl, as well as a frenzied, if somewhat offbeat version of the Atholl Highlanders.
The intensity of the tunes and passion in the songs are kept up throughout this Voyage from Sliotar, which certainly makes for a fine snapshot of a busy band still full of energy and enthusiasm after two decades in full throttle.
Derek Copley

12 Tracks, 44 Minutes
Irish traditional music meets Quebec in this joyous album. Fiachra plays uilleann pipes and Sophie is a fiddler and singer. Andre Marchand joins them on guitar. Add in a few high profile musical friends, John Carty on Tenor Banjo, Daniel Roy on harmonica, bombarde, dulcimer and jaws harp, Jaques Landry on bones with Malo Carvou on Irish flute and you have a superbly earthy ensemble here. They open with a song Les Brunes et Les Trois Brigands; there’s wild piping in the intro, percussive feet in the Quebec fashion throughout and that lift that you get when the French Canadians take a reel to heart. There are strong Irish tunes too, Sean Ó Riada’s Sport played here on pipes, a simple bouncy melody, played straight from beginning to end. Fiachra is back with a selection of jigs, Molloys, The Chattering Magpie and Sheila Coyles which will be familiar territory to many of our readers.
Take time to explore the Francophone foilworld, dance to Les Filles Des Compagnie. Sophie’s rendition of La Belle Endormie (literally The Sleeping Beauty) is a mile away from other versions you might discover online. Sophie takes this song into a darker realm. This is Droit du Seigneur territory, the tune is from the sombre end of the sonic spectrum, the words speak to the abuse of power by men over pretty innocents. The album closes on a couple of breezy summer bookends, Le Brise de Mai and Le Vent D’aout, fiddle and pipes in conversation as they call and answer each other, the bones taking up the role of the foot percussion as we dance into an August sunset.
A lovely album and one for my Quebecois collection. It will sit very nicely alongside Le Vent Du Nord, Gwazigan and Temps ‘D’Antan.
Seán Laffey

Round & Round, Own Label,
15 Tracks, 48 Minutes
The great thing about the acoustic sound is that there’s a good chance you get to hear the words of the songs. In Ciaran O’Kane’s CD, Round & Round, this certainly is the case and while we’d be familiar with the trad numbers, more or less, and the words are no problem, when new songs are on the menu, clear diction and a good sound mix make all the difference. And Ciaran’s songs are worth hearing, because he’s not just a fine singer, he’s a gifted song-writer, as well. Added to all that is his talent as an accordion player making this an altogether pleasing recording.
Right from the opening track, Ciaran grabs your attention and interest with his strong singing voice and one of the great traditional songs, The Banks of the Lee, that I know as When Two Lovers Meet, that I first heard sung by Nora Butler. In singing the trad numbers, we hear what for me is one of the finest young performers in what most people would regard as the Ulster style that’s easy listening anytime.
In another familiar traditional song, Lord Franklin, sung unaccompanied, Ciaran’s mother takes the lead and he does harmony. No bother to them, and it’s a satisfying listen. Ciaran lists an interesting mix of performers who have had an influence on him, and they include, Ray Charles, Tracy Chapman, Patsy Cline, Séan Keane, Dolores Keane, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, and Paul Brady. I hear echoes of the acclaimed English family, the Watersons, and their distinctive harmonising.
Ciaran O’Kane is from Cushendun in the glens of Antrim. His parents both play music and sing and so he became involved in the local music and singing sessions early on. His new album includes a couple of other trad numbers: Willy Taylor and Where the Moorcocks Crow, and the rest are his own compositions.
The CD was recorded at Séan Óg Graham’s studio in Portglenone. Ciaran is joined by Gary Graham, a renowned guitar player from the band Runabay and on percussion by Eamon Graham, from Glenariffe. Séamus O’Kane the well-known bodhrán maker and player from Dungiven is also featured on some of the tracks as well as Michael Sands of the Sands Family on guitar. Bass is provided by Trevor Hutchinson (Lúnasa) and Seán Óg has arranged and played a variety of instruments on many of the tracks as well.
Aidan O’Hara