Releases > Releases Annual 2020

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Old Dog Long Road 1961-2012
Own Label AK-8, Double CD, 24 Tracks, 95 Minutes
Andy writes in the short notes on this album that this is one for the fans, a limited edition double CD. It is, he says, Volume 1, with perhaps a promise of more to come. The doubt depends on the sales of this album. As it is a limited edition I can see Andy’s thousands of fans snapping it up.
The twenty-four tracks from over a fifty-year period, a time span when technology has, shall we say, developed. Fair play to Leon O’Neil and the late Tim Martin for re-mastering some of the tracks to fit our digital age. The tracks here are not necessarily commercial studio recordings; bedrooms and folk clubs are featured venues in some of the songs and tunes; in essence we hear how Andy works up ideas and then how they are performed to eager audiences.
The oldest track is Andy’s version of Blind Boy Fuller’s Truckin’ Little Baby, recorded at his parents’ London flat in 1961, (he sang the song on the radio soap Mrs Dale’s Diary when he was a teenage actor). There are more tracks with an American flavour such as Reuben’s Train from 1968. Folks looking for insights into Andy’s development as a singer will see references to Sam Henry, Eddie Butcher and Robert Cinnamond, these are reflected in Andy’s inclusion of Ulster-sourced songs: Captain Colston, Edward Connors, and the Longford Weaver. There is also Lady Leroy a gem Andy uncovered in Cecil Sharp House London in 1971. There’s an energetic cover of Ewan MacColls’s Come All Ye Fisher Lassies from 1968, which deserves a general reprise. The most up to date track is The Titanic, a live recording made in Australia in 2012.
Of course Andy’s legacy is assured, but this collection is something special, it’s not just music, this is personal. If great songs, bouzoukis and harmonicas are favourites with you, this should be in your collection; I’m delighted it’s in mine.
Seán Laffey

Pure Records, 12 Tracks, 52 Minutes
The front cover of the album shows Kate wearing a crown of evergreen foliage, eyes closed, her head angelically facing down, as if she is a carving on a reredos of some ancient cathedral. Christmas is a time to bring out the Medieval in all of us, not that Kate has joined the City Waits, the music here is a punch spiced with electronica, distilled by the creative folk at Pure Records.
Some titles will be familiar. others, perhaps are off our Christmas radar. Yorkshire has a distinct carol tradition, truly people’s religious folk songs, sung in moor land pubs, where the winters are indeed deep and bleak. Kate’s Yorkshire I Saw Three Ships is buoyant and bouncing, the original dating to the 1600s from the South Pennines. Her Shepherds Watched is presented with flat picked guitars and accordion, the tune is not the one from our school Nativity plays.
The opening track, Salute The Morn, gets the Full-English treatment, layering impeccable vocals over a simple string intro, building in volume and complexity as the song opens out with electric guitars and a brass band. There are moody passages in The Coventry Carol here given its alternate title of Lu Lay Lu Ly, the song comes from the Coventry Mystery Plays, which were first performed in 1392. How fitting in the pre-Raphaelite context of the album’s cover is Kate’s arrangement of Christina Rossetti’s In the Bleak Mid Winter; this melds her voice against a brass section that is reminiscent of Edward Elgar. Kate counters the dark with songs that might have had currency when the festive hit parade was open to novelty and frivolity. A Hippo for Christmas is a shoe in for that old fashioned Christmas stocking. She closes the album with another story about Big Brave Bill from Barnsley, a Yorkshire character she has created, a lad from the world of Andy Cap, without any of the reprobate cartoon character’s vices and buckets more Barnsley charm. That’s a great word to end this review on, Kate’s Holly Head is a right proper, Northern, Christmas charmer.
Seán Laffey

I Remember You Singing
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 36 Minutes
Dedicated to her mother, Katie Theasby’s album I Remember You Singing is a well-achieved piece of work, innovative, not overly technologized, it is earthy and confident. Her voice, though accompanied throughout, is the main instrument, wide ranging, with a rawness and ease in all the well-chosen songs. London born, to Paul Theasby a fiddler (who played with Dingle Spike) and Gloria Pahad, a huge musical influence on the young Katie, her mother had the child singer well versed in South African Xhosa from childhood. Accordingly, the cover photo, captivatingly black and white, tells a great maternal story of child and mother, lips pursed, lipstick pointed, a stage show being anticipated, the toddler at ease with performance, content in their dressing up togetherness.
The title track, written by Finbar Furey, I Remember You Singing This Song, Ma, is pensive and elegiac, an intimate snapshot into his parents’ relationship, the teasing father who sang out of tune, the mother ‘who blushed when you smiled’, beautifully rendered by Katie, it tells of ordinary family happiness, loving parents and faith in true love, the kind that binds forever, even beyond death: ‘love has a way of never letting go…I know you’re together somehow.’ Tommy Keane’s uilleann pipes on Lullaby provide richness, melodic depth, perfect instrumentation for the final track. Her mentor and friend, the multi-instrumentalist, engineer and producer Peter Eades has a vital and virtuoso presence throughout.
Katie’s version of One Starry Night is captivating, a journey song, a romantic narrative where the jilted one is searching for the ever-elusive lover, a recurring theme in the folk song tradition, her unaccompanied opening stanza is delightful with beautifully sensitive accompaniment throughout. Her voice, in timbre and rhythm is beguiling, effortless lilt and tilt, sean-nós and traveller nuance, mature, vocally tender and powerful in equal measure.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Own Label Linus 270431, 12 Tracks, 53 Minutes
Coincidentally almost exactly the same length as her 2006 album Yours Truly, this recording sees the return of Cape Breton’s First Lady of fiddling after an eight year absence from solo releases. That time seems to have been spent raising a family of young fiddlers, and working with husband Donnell Leahy of the significant Ontario family of Irish musicians. Both experiences have no doubt enriched Natalie’s music, already meriting Canada’s highest award for lifetime achievement, but you’ll be glad to hear that they haven’t diluted her wellspring of Nova Scotia tradition. Sketches includes half a dozen Irish tunes, from reels to barndances, but the majority of this CD is the big dance sets of Cape Breton: jig sets, strathspeys and reels, old Scottish airs, with a few fine MacMaster compositions thrown in. Father John Angus Rankin and The Golden Keyboard, Planxty Hewlett and Lauchie MacDougall’s are all rosin to Natalie’s bow. Tim Edey and Marc Rogers provide flexible backing, and there are a few cameo appearances: Mike McGoldrick adds flute to the original slip-jig Patricia Kelso’s which would sit well with some of his own. The fiddle sings on dance music and dreamy slow tunes alike, hardly a note out of place, and often two or three sounding together.
Blending Scottish snaps and cuts with Irish rolls and Canadian showmanship, Sketches nails compositions by Jerry Holland, Ed Reavy, Andy Dejarlis, Dan R MacDonald, John Morris Rankin and others. Ms MacMaster’s feeling and finger work in heavyweight traditional tunes like Rothiemurchus Rant or Put Me in the Big Chest are second to none, and her slow airs show a maturity and depth, which is equally rare. The final track I Can’t Make You Love Me is both beautiful and instantly belied: yes you can, Natalie, as soon as you play that fiddle.
Alex Monaghan

Hurry the Jug, Own Label, 11 Tracks, 39 Minutes
This is a big meaty album of Irish traditional music, or a full-flavoured fried tofu feast if you’re vegan. It’s seriously tasty either way: pipes, fiddle and guitar from well known names, put together perfectly. I’m still chewing on it after a couple of months of listening, there’s so much goodness here. The pure drop is in Hurry the Jug and The Pullet Wants the Cock, old tunes from an earthier time. The Graf Spey, The Hare’s Paw and Tom Billy’s are deserved favourites for session players and listeners alike. Among a handful of recent compositions, Folan’s beautiful slow reel The Carousel stands out, justifying a track on its own.
The Stone in the Field and Bonaparte’s Retreat, Kitty Shand’s Barndance and Tommy Peoples’ Waiting for a Call: there are uilleann pipe and fiddle solos and duets, some nifty bass regulator work and sensitive guitar accompaniment.
Hurry the Jug has the feel of the old masters, but the polish of a modern production. The final trio of reels Maids of Holywell, Megan’s by Sligo fiddler Philip Duffy, and Kitty in the Lane round off a feast of traditional Irish music which will sustain you through the winter and beyond. Try out the video sample on the band’s website.
Alex Monaghan

Fair Play To You All
Spring Records CD1066, 12 Tracks, 50 Minutes
Watching an Irish sunset while listening to Tommy Sands’ latest album is perhaps a little twee. Yes, of course, Tommy keeps the flame of traditional music alive. He does that through much of this recording, particularly with the playful track Paddy And The Judge and the deeply atmospheric Caoineadh Mhacha. But he also links Ireland’s romantic past, ‘where innocence raised us’ to its realistic present where ‘somebody whispered, a march will be going ahead’. He does this effectively with such stirring compositions as Clanrye Side and Gathering Of The Clans.
Tommy has this special gift of taking the thread of what sounds like an old Irish melody and weaving it into a contemporary tapestry, using such compelling lines as – ‘And if we can’t agree we can always let it be/A higher quality of disagreement’. This is the heart of the man’s message. Tommy is on a quest to help us all carry big hearts on this small island.
In the grand tradition of the classic singer-songwriter, Tommy places colourful characters on landscapes of sight and sound. There are people like Macha, ‘Queen of the land’ and the strange woman who ‘wore a tattoo to say fair play to you all’.
The subject matter takes us on a long trail from the gentle hills of his homeland to Jerusalem – ‘what’s going on in the promised land?’ – and on to America. Most topical of all, there’s even an Ode To Europe. The music meanders like the river of his hometown Newry, through the meadows of traditional-sounding Irish tunes to the mountainous sound of a pipe band. The mix is gentle up to that point. Even in his choice of instruments, Tommy is not afraid to cross community boundaries.
He is well supported by relatives from the musical Sands family and such famous local players as uilleann piper Brendan Monaghan, singer Fra Sands, whistle player Sorcha Keane, fiddler Gerry O’Connor and Steve Cooney in the production chair. Watching an Irish sunrise might be more appropriate as you accompany Tommy on his journey of hope.
Clive Price

Both Sides Now
Own Label KCB 104, 14 Tracks, 59 Minutes
With this their 10th studio album alongside all the others, their live appearances and well-deserved reputation, what is left for us to say about this iconic institution? The whole world is aware of this band and their unique style of playing and professionalism that make them the musical ambassadors of Ireland.
They can never be mistaken for another set of performers and this holds true on this outing from track one which is a set of reels under the title Molly Ban. They follow this with the distinctive jigs that make up the set entitled Highland March and faultlessly segue into polkas with the intriguingly titled Dinky Doofer composed by band member Tom Collins. The title track surfaces as the first of a number of beautifully presented vocal tracks. This rendition of Both Sides Now sung by Edel Vaughan with a sort of lilt that lets us know this is an Irish version and is sung to great effect. Then it is back to the band with reels and hornpipes to get the blood stirring and that foot tapping.
Keeping it Irish but with that international dimension they give us a wonderful version of Crusader sung by Jerry Lynch, from the pen of Mick Hanley. Once again the vocalist is a marvel of proper diction that allows us appreciate the lyrics to full effect. Sure where would that home-based céilí be without a few waltzes and The Kilfenora do not disappoint with two lovely sets of them Jewels of the Ocean and Kathy’s Waltz. To get your breath back after those dances round the room there is no better relaxation than to skip to the vocal track John O’ Dreams which again reminds us of the great vocal talents in a band that is probably recalled mostly for its spirited musical numbers. This is an album that goes to prove that no matter how many albums a good band puts out there is always another surprise around the corner.
Nicky Rossiter

Trad Records TRAD007, 9 Tracks, 33 Minutes
The Belgian folk scene is definitely alive and well, because after the Trio Dhoore and more recently Shantalla, here is a new folk band from the Flanders region, a few hundred miles from Ireland but they have bagpipes and an accordion, intrigued? Read on.
Novar means new and it’s true that the music of this band is a merry mixture. It is difficult to assign a label to it since it is based on traditional Flemish music but with strong incursions marked by modern electro techniques. Novar line up features two Belgians, Toon van Mierlo on bagpipes, accordion and saxophone and Jeroen Geerinck on mandolin and keyboards. As well as two Frenchmen, Thierry Nouat on the hurdy-gurdy and Aurélien Claranbaux on the accordion. All four of them have been involved in traditional music for years, in various bands (Hot Griselda, Naragonia, Duo Absynthe, Les Booz’s Brothers, Snaarmaarwaar, Zef …).
After a first album Emerald in 2016, on their second album Starling, the sensitivity and exuberance of the hurdy-gurdy rubs shoulders with the brighter sound of the bagpipes. Together these two instruments lead the dance, skilfully supported by the raging accordion that accompanies the melodies and harmonics and the mandolin and keyboards that bring rhythm and depth to the band’s music.
Throughout this album, the bourrées, polkas and waltzes, composed mostly by Toon van Mierlo, Botsotokes (polka), Copain Hibou (Scottiche), Chaussée d’Anvers (waltz), Du Pop à Ars (bourrée), Mathijs In Den Aldi (Circle), Nightjar (Hanter-dro), Marielou (mazurka) or La Bande des Volcans (Scottish) and Thierry Nouat for Savagnin - Le Chabris (bourrée), follow one another at a frantic pace, giving their music a dynamic image. Novar distils a new traditional music that smells of the land with a touch of modernity that makes it its trademark. Worth seeking out this new music from Flanders.
Philippe Cousin

Mulholland & McCluskey
Own Label BMMCC001, 10 Tracks, 51 Minutes
Brendan Mulholland is well known as a leading traditional flute-player. His partnership with guitarist Micky McCluskey goes back many years. As Mulholland & McCluskey, this is their debut recording, and it’s a beauty. Their eclectic and contemporary tastes are evident from the start, with a brooding folk-rock version of the old march Bó Mhín na Toitean, the first of several pieces given a funky edge by McCluskey’s accompaniment and Mulholland’s phrasing.
Feilimí’s Misfortune and Daithí’s Dance share jaunty modern rhythms. Lena’s harks back to the Bulgarian tunes brought over by Andy Irvine: it’s paired with a bouncy piece by Micky in a set which reminds me of Deiseal and their whistle-led virtuoso trad. The air Daffodils on the Hillside, written by Brendan for his wife, combines the simplicity and grace of traditional melodies with some delicate jazzy guitar. Sonny Brogan’s, Paddy Fahy’s Jig, The Broken Pledge, Sheep in the Boat and more are treated to Brendan’s rich tone and powerful rhythmic sound.
McGlinchey’s Splendid Isolation is given a quick dusting, and McGoldrick’s Morning Rory fits neatly between pieces by Mulholland and the Breton flute master Jean-Michel Veillon. Johnny Cunningham’s Pernod Waltz really pushes the flute to its limits but gives plenty of scope for fine guitar work. The final track is a bit of a surprise, the well-known Parting Glass in a restrained setting, followed by the seasonal reel Oiche Nollaig which definitely deserves to get out more!
With its combination of quantity and quality, this album certainly sets a high standard for a duo - with a little help from their friends on keys and bass - and whets my appetite for more from Mulholland & McCluskey.
Alex Monaghan

Wandering with O’Carolan
1670-1738 Irish Music for Today’s World
Guitaroscope, 25 Tracks, 49 Minutes
Pascal Bournet is a finger-style French guitarist with a love of the music of Turlough O’Carolan. Bournet has recorded previous albums of O’Carolan’s tunes and has written a book on playing the melodies on guitar, which has been praised for its authentic Irish feel.
He shows us on this excellent album that he is an interpreter of these early 18th century airs par excellence. Bournet frequently references the great compendium of O’Carolan’s music by the late Professor Donal O’Sullivan of University Cork. On this disc there are some familiar O’Carolan tunes: Fanny Power, Carolan’s Quarrel with the Landlady, Loftus Jones, Colonel Irwin; and some not so well known ones, such as Lough Meela, Sir Arthur Shaen, and Planxty Calla (he adopts the older phonetic spelling of Plangsty).
Bournet creates some wonderful harp-like sounds from the classical guitar on the Lament for Charles McCabe, and let us not forget McCabe was the man who did so much in his lifetime to popularise the music of the blind bard. There are duets here with Pascal’s brother, Patrick Bournet, a gifted guitarist obviously following of his brother’s footsteps. Bournet has brought these three hundred year old tunes into the 21st century, fittingly as the guitar is today’s portable instrument, the first choice of the people. In Bournet’s hands it is as evocative, supple and resonant as any harp.
Listening to Bournet these old melodies are young again. O’Carolan is an easily accessible composer. The majority of tracks on the album are under 3 minutes, the playing is crisp, assured, the articulation on point. This album is a study for anyone who would like to advance both their guitar technique and repertoire. An excellent album and one that fits perfectly into Bournet’s lovingly expansive appreciation of Turlough O’Carolan.
Seán Laffey

Martin Butler Producer, 41 Tracks, 75 Minutes
If you take the straight road North Norwest from Dublin for about 30 miles you’ll cross the river Boyne at Slane. Take a right hand turn towards Drogheda and a mile or so on you come to a pretty cottage, birthplace of poet Francis Ledwidge. It’s now a museum, lovingly maintained by voluntary effort.
The same style of effort can be found in this collection which features Ledwidge, Tom Kettle and Patrick McGill: it’s a triumph of organisation and co-operation. When British scribes mention war poets, it’s usually Rupert Brooke, Wilfrid Owen or Siegfried Sassoon (once a year at the Cenotaph is perfectly adequate). But this is one good reason for polishing up the names of the Irish trio, one a socialist, the second a republican and Ledwidge a homesick nature lover.
There are 19 speakers for the 41 tracks. I couldn’t count the number of musicians or the personnel involved in this project, it is cinematic in its scope. The structure is to take a timeline through the four war years and to show how life and poets changed. I’d give special praise to the inclusion of one track in Welsh, with translation, which shows that we were not alone in losing poets to the brutality of war.
This is a follow-up to a project on poet Thomas MacDonagh; the best point of contact for this work is Martin Butler via the Thomas MacDonagh Centre in Cloughjordan, County Tipperary, although Martin has for any years been based in Boston in the USA. There’s two years of work gone into this project, which was successfully crowd-funded through Kickstarter. Among the options on offer was that Martin will attend a listening party within a 50-miles radius of Boston (for a few dollars more).It is notable that there is a current boom in poetry readings and open mic sessions. Quite apart from being a valuable educational resource, indeed it should become essential source material in Leaving Cert History classes; this collection will show what the contemporary accounts of the First World War sound like. This is the sort of work often talked about but seldom achieved; Martin Butler should be congratulated on a great accomplishment. Well done!
John Brophy

Big Oak Road
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 32 Minutes
Big Oak Road is the second collection of music from The River Drivers. Featuring 10 tracks, 5 of those composed by band member Mindi Murray (one alongside Kevin McCloskey), each one tells the story of someone who suffered or just tried to get by. Each one a tale in itself.
The album opens with Children’s March (Mother Jones). Penned by Mindi and Kevin, telling the story of the Irish woman, Mary Harris Jones 1837–1930 who fought for women and children’s rights in the USA. This particular event is a protest for a change in Child Labour Laws in Mindi’s home town early last century. Sung by Kevin McCloskey, and once heard, you never forget it. Following on is Going Once, again penned by Mindi and telling the story of her father’s farm being sold. Mindi’s voice singing here allows us to resonate very clearly of a harrowing time in the family’s life. Sí, Se Puede, again by Mindi, echoes the worker’s slogan from Dolores Huerta, organising boycotts of grapes and lettuce. At all times poignant to history, to people and to a cause. Isn’t it Grand Boys, that old Clancy classic, allows us to look at death in a comical and fun way. Kevin’s voice on this track ensures it’s one you’ll never forget and always sing with a smile on your face.
Big Oak Road, the title track is the name of the road Mindi’s father’s farm was on. Personal and telling a very private story once more. Cumann na mBán, penned once again by Mindi tells the story of women who inspire and continue to inspire us.The album goes on to completion with three tracks, that the band very much make their own; Moonshiner, Union Man and Farewell Johnny Miner.
To say this is a collection of new music mixed with old would be accurate. But there’s more than that. This is a collection you won’t forget for a long time to come, once listened to. One of the finest collections of music I’ve heard in years.
Grainne McCool

Battlefield Dance Floor
Proper Records, 13 Tracks, 49 Minutes
Show of Hands is a UK based group with some Irish connections and this is their first studio album in over three years, but their 18th in all. Phil Beer and Steve Knightley have been together as Show of Hands since 1986 and on this album Miranda Sykes & Cormac Byrne join them. Knightley’s granny was Irish and Waterford man Cormac Byrne is the go to guy in the UK when it comes to bodhrán and percussion. With eight brand new songs on offer it will appeal to their many fans along with anyone coming afresh to the highly talented group.
As their press release states this is ‘an album of broad brushstrokes, it mixes songs of despair and displacement, emphatic songs, tongue-in-cheek songs, poignant songs and carefully chosen covers into a classic Show of Hands package with wide appeal.’ It certainly lives up to that description captivating listeners from the opening track Lost.
This is followed by the title track Battlefield Dance Floor, which is an amazing song that has a great rhythm with a Morris Dance flavour, ideally suiting the witty lyrics that bring the careful listener through battles from Agincourt to D-Day.
They slow matters down on Just Enough to Lose, a beautifully crafted song that takes us through a wonderful story that will touch many hearts.
Mother Tongue is a song of displacement that really brings such a feeling to life in its discordant arrangement. One of my favourite tracks is You’ll Get By with its beautiful combination of intelligent lyrics, a positive outlook and great musical backing. I am a sucker for those wonderful folk songs that recount stories from the past bringing history to light and Show of Hands won me over with Forfarshire recounting the tale of Thomas and Grace Darling.
If you think Jennifer Warnes gave us the ultimate version of Cohen’s song First We Take Manhattan give this album a listen and I think you will enjoy the new arrangement.
This is a collection of songs by a band new to me but I will be seeking out their earlier works and looking forward to any new works. If you want an album that has beautiful and varied arrangements combined with intelligent lyrics look no further. Added to all this they give you a brilliant CD inset. And if you buy their vinyl version look out for a bonus track that holds a story: Jenny’s Waltz/Gwennap/Breakfast For Altan.
Nicky Rossiter

IONCD180, 15 Tracks, 56 Minutes
Cuan is the latest release from traditional trio Iontach, the fifth album in the band’s musical odyssey. Made up of Irish, British and German stock, this European-wide outfit are more singular in their musical base, which is a sure-footed journey into the Irish music and song canon.
The album opens strong with the fiddle of Nick Wiseman-Ellis and flute of Co. Louth multi-instrumentalist Siobhan Kennedy. Jens Kommnick comes in on bouzouki for the second of the set of three. A full, solid sound hits the listener from the opening track and continues its way across the 15 tracks. Songs and tunes are spread evenly like a musical paté, a moreish dip into the tradition from three musicians in fine step with each other.
Passage West exposes the group’s love of harmony singing, a key feature of the group, alongside Siobhan’s strong delivery and guitar playing much akin to the original John Spillane recording.
Other songs are from Siobhan’s late father Rory Kennedy’s musical collection, including the wonderfully catchy Eininí and Cooley Shore. The latter, as explained in the liner notes, was discovered by Siobhan as she sifted through her father’s amassed collection of music material and ephemera, in preparation for an exhibition hosted by Louth County Council to honour him after his passing in 1993.
The liner notes are quite the spread, with extensive notes on each track, delivered in English and German, an appreciation no doubt to their fans in both languages. Throughout the album, the musical mood shifts and is spurred on by the instrumental combinations of fiddle, flute, button accordion, whistle and guitar and bouzouki intermittently, notably on tracks like Kilcooley Wood with a fine, earthy performance with strong bouzouki melodic and accompaniment interplay, backing up flute and button accordion packing a punchy tone.
The album closes out with the melancholic Until We Meet Again, bringing the group’s harmonies to the listener’s ear one more time, until Iontach return again, of course!
Derek Copley

Doireann Glackin and Sarah Flynn
13 Tracks, 41 Minutes
Two young women have come together to make an astonishingly inspired album of music. Irish readers my recognise Doireann as a presenter on TG4 where she has most recently anchored the TradFest series of programmes. Her father is Kevin, her uncle Paddy, her grandfather was Sean O’Riada, she was given a fiddle aged 3 and learnt to play through family osmosis. Both ladies were brought up in Dublin; how blest we are that such authentic, grounded, traditional music thrives in our fast paced capital.
Deep roots of the tradition winds through every track here, and the underlying theme adds both to their importance and relevance. Glackin and Flynn have gone back to the repertoire of a number of ladies who made music in the twentieth century: Ella Mae O’Dwyer, Nora Hurley, Aggie Whyte, Ellen Galvin and Mollie Myers Murphy. The extensive 20 page liner notes provide key biographical and musicological signposts to the cultural lives these ladies led, and also attest to the painstaking research Glackin and Flynn have conducted in making this CD.
In terms of the music on the album, Sonny’s Delight is salient with the concertina and fiddle holding a long note in unison. There’s a slightly more modern version of Farewell to Ireland where John Francis Flynn joins in on guitar; yes it’s post Bothy Band but it is so supple and understated. Sarah’s Pigot McGees/The Leac Rua Reel is the unadorned raw bar, something Mrs Crotty would have warmed to. Seán Potts puts his finger on the music of this duo when he writes in the liner notes that their music is ‘uncluttered by transient techniques or cheap tricks’. By highlighting the music of those outstanding women in such a sensitive manner Glackin and Flynn have awakened a glowing ember that will surely light a fire of scholarship and music in years to come.
Seán Laffey

Neighbours and Sisters
GF*M Records, GFM011, 10 Tracks, 38 Minutes
Bird in the Belly is a Brighton-based Folk group consisting of folk-duo Hickory Signals (Laura Ward and Adam Ronchetti), alt-folk singer-songwriter Ben Webb (Jinnwoo, Green Ribbons), and multi-instrumentalist and producer Tom Pryor. Together they collect little known and forgotten lyrics, poems and stories from around the UK, and set them to their own music which is hypnotic and sparse recalling both the 1960’s folk revival and the acid/folk rock of the early 70’s. Their debut album paved the way for their sophomore effort, the highly anticipated second album Neighbours and Sisters.
Kick off track is called Robin and Starlings, it has a stripped down yet spindly sound with Laura Ward’s voice upfront recalling Sandy Denny and Trees’ Celia Humphris. Coal Black Wine has a deadpan male vocal adding to the mix with the right Acid folk atmosphere while a visiting trumpet makes a regal cameo. All You Females dances in a ghostly rhythmic cauldron, those massed vocals again standing out. This is a beguiling brew of past and present, subtly fermented to provide sounds that resonate from the past and yet sound strangely contemporary and relevant. Essentially it recalls more of the Acid Folk mannerisms than the traditional folk styles yet its roots are undeniably anchored in folk soil.
Alongside recording, the group has been working on a feature length documentary to support the album, interviewing the likes of June Tabor, Frankie Armstrong, Stick in the Wheel, Fellside Record, Rootbeat Records, Ian Anderson (fRoots Editor), Lisa Knapp, Gerry Diver, Naomi Bedford and The Rails about the contemporary folk scene. Clearly a visionary act and one destined to preserve its contribution to the development of folk music in the contemporary world.
John O’Regan