Releases > Releases Annual 2021

Want to see earlier releases? Visit the archive.

Call On You (Single)
Maċa Music, 1 Track, 3 Minutes
As we look forward to the soon to be released album SPIRAL by the Carty sisters SaoirseNaoise, and Ciara known better as Maċa, the ladies have released a teaser single to up the anticipation, and that it has successfully accomplished.
Call On You is a pull on the heartstrings song about knowing you have that one person who, no matter what, you can count on to be there for you. Written by Saoirse, who credits her sisters with help, she wanted a song that spoke to the times we are now experiencing, a song that reached out to all of us needing something to lead us on and look forward to.
With lyrics that express how, “We are all looking for someone to guide us through…I can’t be sure what the morning brings, but I know I can call on you…” put to music that pulls you in, this single gives promise to a brilliant album to come. The song ends with them calling out, “Can you hear me?” Yes, we can, and we are looking very forward to hearing more!
Maryann McTeague Keifer

Own Label 10 Tracks, 34 Minutes
The Byrne Brothers have just released their new album, LIVING THE DREAM, a musical story of the family’s travels and experiences since leaving Donegal and what a story it is! Opening with one of several of Finn’s compositions, Waikiki Reel has you seeing and feeling the waves, and then you travel into The Seanamhac Tube Station Reel. You immediately are taken by the maturity of their music. The quality of their individual playing and arrangements, as well as their smooth and interesting transitions are impressive. The combination and pairing of self-composed and Trad pieces are well thought out and brilliantly done.
The Broken Pledge and The Toor More Slide are joined with Finn’s The Snapped Leash written about two surfboards coming back with only one surfer… Luca brings you in with some dynamite box playing and then is joined by Finn’s mighty fine picking and the beat of Dempsey’s bodhran. There is no way you won’t be air playing with them half way through this set. In fact, you’ll get your full work out with this album as your toes will be tappin’, too.
You’ll be travelling to upstate New York with the Savage Cabbage set and then feeling the fear and relief of just missing being sucked into a tornado with the Texas Tornado Reels. One of my favourites is a set they worked on with Colin Farrell which includes The Poppy Leaf Hornpipe, Stevie the 3 Legged Alligator, a real creature, and Banna Swing Reels which they composed with Colin.
There are ten tracks, which include two songs and a heartfelt waltz honouring their Granny. While their Dad, Tommy, is an accomplished musician, these lads have now proven they are well on their way.
Maryann McTeague Keifer

By Heck
GMCH Music 001, 12 Tracks, 35 Minutes
Waterford’s Flanagan brothers were an entertainment sensation in the Irish immigrant communities of New York in the 1920’s. Their music fitted perfectly the fast-paced optimistic outlook of the city in the first post-war decade of the 20th century, when, like the Empire State and Chrysler building, everything seemed to be on the rise.
Frankie Gavin’s discovery of the Flanagans’ music was at the heart of DeDannan’s cover of My Irish Molly; it changed his career forever. This album is by way of a thank you for that eureka moment and a chance to shine the light on a joyous period in traditional music. Frankie assembled a big band with a core of traditional players to provide the backbone: Emma Corbett from Ballymacarberry in County Waterford heir to an authentic Flanagan regional sound on her melodeon. Banjo player Martin Murray who lives on the other side of the Waterford border, in Carrick on Suir, plays the plectrum style that was such a feature of 1920’s jazz orchestras, and of which Mike Flanagan was an absolute master. Carl Hession on piano, brings his skills as an arranger to the big band parts.
If you have ever seen Walt Disney’s 1928 cartoon Steamboat Willie this music would fit it perfectly, both are in lock step with the 1920’s zeitgeist. It’s music with swagger, panache, punched out with staccato optimism. Gavin brings us the brio of the new immigrant life that seemed possible before the Wall Street Crash. Yes there are references to old Ireland, but the Flanagans’ music had the wit and humour to encapsulate a new Irish identity in the land of freedom. The Irish music of the time was far more diverse than it is now. By Heck opens with a Clog, called Galway Farewell. The title track is a barn dance; Tickling the Strings is a Rag. The Dream an Irish Fox Trot.
The final track is a bit of digital magic; Frankie’s core quartet stitched into the Flanagans’ Auld Lang Syne, with its characteristic closing 1920’s flourish. Robert Burns’ famous song says “Should Old acquaintance be forget…”, well By Heck this album brings us back to the fun and energy of the not to be forgotten Diaspora’s golden moment 100 years ago. It’s not an antique, it’s a double espresso revival.
Seán Laffey

The Tide of Winter
RUNA Music, 13 Tracks, 50 Minutes
Celtic Roots band RUNA has always been known for taking traditional music and giving it that punch with crossovers into jazz, bluegrass, Latin, and other genres.  Their albums have always been joys to anticipate and listen to.
twelve year project Christmas album has finally been completed and is now out to add to our holiday celebrations. I was expecting to really like this album with Shannon Lambert-Ryan’s stunning voice, and the creative music of Fionán De Barra, Cheryl Prashker, Jake James, and Caleb Edwards, but ended up truly mesmerized by it. The Tide of Winter is a collection of both well known traditional and lesser known carols that have been given new life and beauty with Shannon’s singing and the interesting and enchanting musical arrangements accompanying her.
Adding the hymns Gaudete, Pleased to See the King, and Soul Cake, to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, The Wexford Carol in English and Irish, and Wassailing has provided a varied and captivating listen for the holidays. Shannon has the vocal range to do justice to every song on this album, and the out of the ordinary instrumental arrangements will have you playing The Tide of Winter again and again during the season. It is truly a gift from them to us for the holidays.
Maryann McTeague Keifer

The Harvest, 25 Years Of Song
ML CD002, 16 Tracks, 69 Minutes
Named ‘Irish Female Vocalist of the Decade’, listed in the Top 100 Irish Americans by Irish America Magazine, Cathie Ryan has a stellar reputation, in North America, Ireland and throughout Irish music communities worldwide.
This compilation album on Mo Leanbh Records is a joyous song cycle that reaches across time periods and generations, her luxuriant tender vocals and chosen material make it an enchanting piece of work. An album of re-mastered tracks from her many previous recordings, traditional and original. Songs are sparingly accompanied, vocals to the fore. Cathie Ryan is an outstanding performer who clearly takes delight in singing, entertaining and sharing the personal.
With celebratory warmth, the opening track by Richard Kemp, Somewhere Along The Road, is probably a deliberate choice given the times we live in; ‘Somewhere along the road/someone waits for me/beyond these present storms that blow/waiting patiently’, couldn’t be a more fitting opener.
Her original interpretation of the pirate queen’s travails, Grace O’Malley with music by John Doyle deserves its place here. Her tribute to the much loved Tipperary grandma provides a vivid snapshot into their relationship, the matriarch obviously an early music influence, the older woman liked to play the fiddle, ‘but best of all my grandma liked me’, and grandma is rewarded with immortalisation in the chirpy, cheery, upbeat song.
Newly composed verses by the McGuinns are blended into May The Road Rise To Meet You, an innovative device where the singer inserts herself craftily into the song structure, winding the prayerful hymn into a love story, really effective, new words and old chorus, a perfect match. Her silken-voiced version of Danny Boy provides a great flourishing finish, a capella, at times operatic, from beguiling crescendo to a whisper. Cathie Ryan’s The Harvest, is a rich crop.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Apples in Winter
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 43 Minutes
French flutist Lucie Périer was influenced by her family in Irish music from a young age, so it’s no surprise to discover this wonderful collection of music from herself and violinist Orwin Hébert.
Apples in Winter is a very aptly titled CD. Apples are very much a ‘feel good’ and ‘go to’ healthy option to stave off illness, especially in the winter months. And of course music is very much prevalent in keeping our mental health alive and well; in fact never more so than now amid this pandemic world we find ourselves in. Although the title has its literal origins in a cider meeting of these two musicians, I feel the health benefit interpretations by far outweigh the cider meeting! This French duo really do bring a little touch of well-being to our spirits these winter months.
Apples in Winter is a collection of fourteen tracks steeped in Irish tradition. From jigs to reels, waltzes to barn dances, hornpipes too, this is a collection of fine Irish tunes all the way through. With a good mix of familiar tunes alongside those very much stamped by Lucie. The Cuckoo’s Nest and The Plane on the Plank, among those familiar, and The Stork Takes Its Flight, Planxty Koé and Farewell to Caledonia from Lucie, and of course Koko’s Jig from Hébert. There’s a real mix in this collection and something everyone can enjoy. With Hébert’s experience in a variety of musical traditions combined with Périer’s flute, the result really is a very fine sound. Périer and Hébert are joined by Eddiy Guilloteau (bodhrán), Jacky Beaucé (flute) and Nicolas Delatouch (accordion). All come together beautifully to enrich and accompany this duo.
Apples in Winter all the way from France, yet very much Irish in temperament, really is a good medicine to listen to in this winter season.
Gráinne McCool

Live in Galway
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 55 Minutes
Live in Galway is a 12 track digital album recorded live at a special concert in St. Nicholas’ Church in Galway city. Featuring a host of musicians and guest singers, all having appeared on the night of recording.
Uilleann piper Richard Neylon surpasses all expectations once again with this collection. His distinctive sound resonates throughout. Neylon laid out the album himself and it’s done perfectly.
Opening with O’Neill’s March and Jigs, written as all tracks (with the exception of Sonda), by Neylon himself, we are immediately transported into the uilleann pipe land and dancing on our seat. Following on with a song, Lark in the Clear Air and the beautiful vocals of Moylan BrunnockNeylon has changed the tempo and allows us to sit back and capture the wonderful lyrics and music accompanying. Cape Clear provides us with a beautiful introduction with the uilleann pipes before interaction with guitar and more and continuing to showcase the variety of this live piece.
As we near the end of the album is my firm favourite. Track 11 is the well-known song, The Green Fields of France. But this is different, it has Neylon’s personal stamp all over it. He’s transformed a piece of musical history and very much made it his own.
There’s something rather poignant listening to this wonderful collection from Neylon at present. With little live music available, this is the perfect time to release an album of a live recording. Just close your eyes and imagine you’re there! Neylon says this is an album featuring “me and some great friends” and this is exactly how it feels from beginning to end. It’s a gathering of friends and it’s a collection you’ll listen to again and again. A sonorous piece throughout.
Gráinne McCool

Roots and Stones
Own Label, 13 Tracks, 49 Minutes
The brothers Alexander and Danylo Fedoryka, founders of Scythian, may have Ukrainian roots but they’ve rightly become crowd favourites at Irish festivals across the USA. Described by the Washington Post as ‘D.C.’s most energetic and eclectic band’. We are blessed they’ve chosen to embrace Irish music as their default, in itself a testament to the popularity of blue-collar Celtic Rock in America. The thirteen tracks here capture the live energy that I was lucky enough to see many times at the Milwaukee Irish Fest over the past decade. They open with a traditional medley they call Broken String, fiddle to the fore, the drum following the contours of the reels, a bass line underpinning the groove as the band segue into the Penguin Café’s Tune for a Found Harmonium. Production is first class, as is the band’s singing and musicianship.
The song Sail Away Johnny is a winner with its catchy melody and hook line in the refrain “The King’s come looking for his whiskey Johnny it’s time to sail way.” Duffy’s Cut is a song about railway construction, an impressively theatrical number, and the baritone vocals adding even more drama to the song. The band are joined by Shane Hayes from Socks in the Frying Pan on Galway City, the song a condensation of memories from their fan trips to the city of the tribes. Check out their Facebook page for a video of this song; we think it has the potential to be the next Wagon Wheel (are you listening Mr Carter?).
There’s a dose of down-home fiddling on the rollicking country song Virginia, written and sung by Alexander’s wife Catie Parker, a love song to her adopted Blue Ridge home. The final track Best Friend Song is a poppy upbeat happy ending, an electric mandolin weaving its way through the tracks as the band sing “I stand here with you, finally back here again.” It’s oven-ready for when those big festivals open their gates again and Scythian let rip live again.
Seán Laffey

Own label NFB004CD, 12 Tracks, 38 Minutes
After a first album in 2011 and a second Deliverance in 2016, here is the Nordic Fiddlers Bloc back with a third opus entitled Bonfrost, a term used in Shetland to describe a very hard freeze.
The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc are three friends, the Norwegian Olav Luksengård Mjelva, the Swede Anders Hall and the Shetland Scotsman Kevin Henderson who have been playing together as a trio since 2009.
Bonfrost, as usual, combines Scottish and Nordic traditions arranged by Olav, Anders and Kevin. But this time they are taking a slightly different direction by including a solo piece by each of them on the album to take a closer look at the different styles emanating from their home countries.
This allows them to push their own boundaries further, developing a broader sound that explores the many possibilities offered by the range of instruments they play. But they do not forget what has so far been their trademark, a highly specialised collaboration with highly original arrangements. Three distinct styles on which they enjoy skillfully weaving the different components of their respective musical cultures and traditions. The album opens in a very original way with a scottishe by the Scottish musician Calum Stewart who has been living in Brittany for several years. A tune he composed as a tribute to the place where he settled in Finistère.
The eleven other titles are divided between Scotland (Up Da Stroods Da Sailor Goes), Norway (Vrengja) and Sweden (En Konstig Fan).
The great variety of instruments used by our three friends from the Hardanger fiddle to the viola, brings them an unequalled richness which is not far from making one think of a string quartet even though there are only three of them. An album of beauty.
Philippe Cousin

Good Enough Music
Own Label, 14 Tracks, 60 Minutes
The full title of uilleann piper Nicholas Brown’s new recording is Good Enough Music for Those Who Love It – A Selection of Historic Tunes Played on the Irish or Union Pipes. And that just about sums up what we get in this album of tunes by the early pipers, mainly from the eighteenth century. The CD title, by the way, is taken from a 1683 book by Sir James Turner. Nicholas was born in Illinois but brought up in Ontario, Canada, and became interested in Irish music in his late teens. He began learning the uilleann pipes from Norman Stiff who had been taught by Dublin-born Chris Langan of Na Píobairí Uilleann.
At a music workshop in Denver, Colorado, he met singer songwriter, Patrick Sky, from whom he purchased a copy of O’Farrell’s Pocket Companion for the Irish or Union Pipes first published in 1806. “This collection of music was so intriguing,” Nicholas says, “and it has led to a deep interest in exploring the repertoire of early pipers, learning about the history of tunes still in the common traditional repertoire, and also in finding good tunes that have fallen out of fashion.”
The recording and the remarkably learned notes reflect that interest fully. Nicholas has provided us with a presentation that is a music delight and with background notes to the tunes and their history that are comprehensive and informative. “A good tune is a good tune,” he tells us, “no matter where it comes from, and it’s clear that pipers of the time didn’t stick to strict national boundaries in what material they played. For instance, Irish pipers such as O’Farrell and Courtney were a key part of the Beggar’s Opera of Oscar and Malvina (nominally Scottish mythology).” That was in the 1790s.
Nicholas plays several tunes from that opera and apart altogether from the pleasure he provides in performing these dance tunes and airs, his vast knowledge of published Irish music is impressive. One final intriguing detail is this; he says “…my set of pipes was likely made some time after the 1750s and before the 1800s,” and adds that he hopes that “some of the tunes I’ve included here may even have been played on this very same set of pipes some 200-250 years ago.”
Aidan O’Hara

Acid Croft Volume 9
Shoogle20120, 8 Tracks, 54 Minutes
Traditional music is a living art form and much of the technical art was to play music that a community could and would dance to. Shooglenifty, formed thirty years ago, understand this truth and have lived their message of west Highland Acid Croft for three decades.
Kaela Rowan provides the vocals on Air Chuiart, her voice is imbedded in the mix, sometimes to the fore, often an echo. Shoogle singing is part of the ambient space. They have a new fiddler, Eilidh Shaw. Recruited from the Poozies, she brings not only her fiddle, but an appreciation of where the Shoogles have come from. For many years Angus R Grant was the wild child of the Shoogles. His influence and his tunes are the ghosts in this album, especially his Silence of the Trams, a tune he was working on shortly before he died. Angus is never far away from this album, yet the CD doesn’t fall into the traps of sentimentality or a seismic departure from their roots. Acid Croft Volume 9 is still a Shoogles album, thanks to the electric banjo and strident mandolin on tracks such as Hunting for Angus, which begins with a spoken word manifesto about the tripartite culture of Scotland: Music Art and Dance read by the poet Magi McGlynn. It bubbles with Arabic beats and fades on a jingled tambourine. More Asian sounds are found on Black Dog, written after drinking Indian Black Dog whisky, (in India). Evidently the Shoogles are well travelled and open to all sorts of influences.
The band has a biting sense of humour; you’ll get more than a few chuckles in the sleeve notes or on their website. I’ll leave you with one example, Eilidh Shaw’s; Billy’s Birthday Tune, they say it “was written in honour of Arisaig’s finest brickie, Billy MacMillan, on the occasion of his 60th birthday.” How’s that for being cemented in the locality?
Seán Laffey

The Next Best Thing
Wavelength Media WM-002, 12 Tracks, 43 Minutes
As the Canadian lockdown came into play during March 2020, musician, composer and all round media-tech guru Graham Lindsey gathered together a distanced but digitally connected raft of some of Canada’s finest performers to help him interpret his Covid-time compositions.
The opening track, Fractions, features Graham on his Laskin Tenor Mandolin, Carole Bestvater (fiddle), Jesse Périard (guitar) and Leonard Podolak (banjo). This new fiddle tune shifts through the time signatures of 9/8, 10/8 and finally 12/8. Nothing is normal in these beyond normal times. Graham sticks to a more regular metre on Flying Paul, his octave mandolin dominant over the fiddle and bass from Carole Bestvater and Joe Philips.
The title track comes in at number 3; it’s a Canadian fusion of bluegrass, Celtic and folk music, opening with unaccompanied harmonious chorus from Cara Luft and J.D. Edwards. Graham writes in the sleeve notes the song is about “when life was busy and how many of us loved the adventure and adrenaline rush.”
Track 4 is one that could be adopted by folks in Kerry or Newfoundland, a set of three tunes: Dayna Manning’s Jig, The New House on Barnes and The Warm Up Session, the latter would make a great new Kerry Polka or a Newfoundland single.
There is an infusion of Nordic lyricism on Pass The Remote, where Graham plays whistle and flute. Darren McMullen of Cape Breton’s Còig, brings his banjo to Don Kavanagh’s Latest, a jumpy little hornpipe. Shack Wacky is a trio of tunes with the title melody closing out the selection, named when Anita MacDonald asked Graham if the lockdown had turned him Shack Wacky.
The Next Best Thing is a creative collection of fine new music, played by some of Canada’s leading exponents of folk and traditional music. All held remotely together by the affable and hugely talented Graham Lindsey.
Seán Laffey

The High King’s Harper
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 38 Minutes
Barbara Lucas’ cover art of The High King’s Harper is in the style of the much-loved illustrator Eric Winter. It shows a blonde-tressed Harper playing beneath a Gothic arch of a mediaeval castle. The Mistress of Melody depicted on the cover is Samantha Rose Owings, a gifted fiction writer, musician and composer, a lady much in demand for music at Renaissance Faires and an actor/performer at theme parks in Utah and Oregon.
Samantha has a fine voice and often sings at those theme park performances. This album consists of solo pieces, all Harp instrumentals. Her selection of tunes includes a number of Carolan compositions; The Clergy’s Lamentation has a lengthy introduction and a moody resonant main section. Carolan’s Welcome is a friendly hello, the tune greeting us like a friendly puppy. Captain O’Kane is the most arranged and dramatic piece on the album; beginning simply and gets deeper and more emotional with little pauses for dramatic effect as it builds to the final bass chord. Her own compositions: the gently melodic Forsythia, her The Blind Man and The Monk is slower, interlaced with sparkling arpeggiated passages on the high strings, her Marigold and Whiskey would make a great tune for a song, its meter reminded me of The Sour Milk Cart. She visits more familiar territory on two session classics The Butterfly / Morrison’s Jig, both investigate for their melodic architecture rather than as fast paced dance tunes.
The final set Castlebay Scrap is funky and fun, syncopated and loose, reminding us that in the time of the High Kings Celtic music had its lighter side. You can hear the full album on her Bandcamp page, which is accessible from her beautifully presented website.
Seán Laffey

New Irish Tin Whistle Tunes
Timezone Records TZ2027, 10 Tracks, 39 Minutes
A whistle player from Germany, and an album of new tunes, not so unusual but the combination is intriguing, especially as Sickmann presents this as a learning tool and tunebook as much as a listening album. It’s a pleasant 40 minutes, with the sweet Sindt whistle and suitable guitar accompaniment, but the promise of play-along MP3s and a PDF tunebook should make this worth a look for any aspiring whistler.
A word of caution, this is not core Irish traditional music, either from the form of the tunes or the style of playing. Great music in both respects, but you won’t necessarily fit these alongside tunes from Clare or Sligo or Donegal. Olaf has a more pan-Celtic mindset, reminding me in some ways of Manx music that sits between the dark groove of Wales and Brittany, the multi-layered eclecticism of northern England, the regimented music of Scotland, and the varied greens of Ireland’s many musical fields.
The performances here are slick and polished, fancy tonguing and fluid fingering, but rolls are replaced with flutters, grace notes with slides and trills, and the meter is more measured than you might expect from a traditional musician. Sickmann certainly knows his stuff, with ten albums under his belt, mainly guitar but also whistle. He writes a fine melody, and he can play, so if you’re in the mood for a slightly different approach to the tin whistle, or looking for some tunes that step outside the Irish canon, this might well be right up your alley - or your Gasse, as Sickmann’s CD is bilingual English and German.
Alex Monaghan

Beneath the Hedgerow
Own label, 11 Tracks, 38 Minutes
The debut album from Cliodhna Donnellan is a culmination of her musical journey with a strong influence in particular to that of her native East Clare. In a time where we have witnessed so much post-production in the studio, it’s refreshing to hear an album that pares this back to the core.
The opening track is simply unaccompanied fiddle allowing for the music to speak for itself. A second fiddle is added from Liam Flanagan for track 2. Cli’s playing style is very much rooted in a strong traditional vein. There is a clarity of tone that sings through the music. This coupled with the relaxed tempo paves the way for a majestic soundscape to emerge - one of tradition, simplicity and wholesome beauty.
The East Clare Jig, a self-composition sits seamlessly in with the mix as does The Legacy, an air written recently but sounding like an old gem. Track 5 displays a set of jigs joined by her fellow members of the group Seoda featuring Bríd O’Gorman on flute and Ciara O’Sullivan on harp. A charming set of reels follows including the Trip to Parliament reel which sits beautifully in the less popular setting of the key G. Another gorgeous arrangement is of Sliabh Geal gCua a haunting air, which is arranged here in a unique fiddle / guitar duo pairing.
I particularly enjoyed the settings of tunes here in a different key from the original - for example, The Mountain Road reel is played here in C which breathes a fresh new lease of life into the tune. The music sounds calm, uncluttered and is free to breathe at its own pace. O’Carolan’s Cup is a heart-warming arrangement of this haunting Irish air. Harp and flute enhance this rich arrangement with counterpoint lines weaving in and out of the fiddle parts. The blend, balance and unique texture creates a musical soundscape not unlike that of a Baroque composition.
The album concludes with a rousing set of reels finishing with a group sound where banjo is a welcome addition to the mix. The set ends with a catchy composition of the late Brendan Mc Glinchey, a fitting tribute to this fiddle great who sadly passed away earlier this year. An album full of little gems along the way this comes highly recommended.
Edel McLaughlin

Once Upon A String
Opus Asia Records, 10 Tracks, 54 Minutes
This is the third album from duo Steve and Jane Gerrity; we have recently reviewed John O’Dreams, their CD of classic folk songs and Watercolour Clouds, their album of originals and contemporary covers.
Once Upon A String is an album featuring nine of their own compositions, with a prologue called Tapestry, where Jane sets out a lush harmonic menu of their intentions for this album. She has a powerful folk rock voice, impeccably controlled, no muffle or mumbling, each word lands bulls-eye on your ear. There’s almost a 1980s Eurovision vibe on Follow The Sun; remember when songs had catchy tunes that didn’t get lost in a huge production? Tapestry invests a full drum kit and keyboards from Lol Harris on this track.
Melody is obviously important in their own songs, even when they dress them up with a waterfall of strings on Sail Home To Me. A wind blows in and a church bell chimes on Jane Eyre; this is stripped backed singing from Jane, her vocals fragile, almost alone, keyboard drones smoothing out that bleak Pennine gale. There’s more than a thimbleful of Gothic angst in Fiery Dragon and the Lady of Shalott, both harnessing the power of an imagined past to tell us about the present in allegorical tale.
The one cover on the album is Sting’s Walking on the Moon. Tapestry’s interpretation brings out the human story; yes the tune is there, but the exposition is different to Sting’s, somehow more personal, more grounded, shifting from pop to folk. The last track is the showstopper, Once Upon A String, asks the question: I wonder where that glorious melody came to me? And answers, that it was once upon a string. Tapestry weaves their music both ways, the warp of the old, the weft of the new, coloured by panoramic arrangements and dusted with magical imagination.
Seán Laffey

Diamond In The Rough
Own Label, 9 Tracks, 38 Minutes
How do you capture a band’s creative energy on an MP3 file? It can’t be easy for those who work with The 19th Street Band. Their concerts are high-octane Americana. Yet on their latest album, they manage to give us a sample of the joy that cascades from their stage shows.
Their new recording is a vibrant celebration of country folk-rock from start to finish. From the opening chords of I Just Had to Say to the closing refrain of I’ve Been Waiting, The 19th Street Band give it all they’ve got, as usual. Six of the tracks were written by the band themselves, and the remaining three are by Philip Donnelly, John Prine, and Stephen Pearse. This is where the alliances become very interesting indeed.
Donnelly, the so-called ‘Clontarf Cowboy’ produced those tracks and also played guitar and percussion on other songs. His CV is an impressive read, he’d worked with Johnny Cash, Donovan and the Everly Brothers, to name a few. Sadly, Donnelly died only a short time after this assignment, and Prine passed away more recently.
Although band members created much of the material, Donnelly’s involvement lifts their work to another level. He has captured the band’s rich delivery, taking their compositions into the same class as his own.
Frontman Caolaidhe Davis is a son of Northern Ireland, and keeps the band from becoming too laidback with his Joe Strummer-style zeal. His wife Meghan is a remarkable fiddle player and creates beautiful harmonies. They produce a similar atmosphere to The Beautiful South, particularly on Nothing to Do (All day to Do It) –with its horns section.
Hillbilly Boy shows the band’s humour, linking American culture with Northern Ireland. Firefly has an East European feel, driven along by Greg Hardin’s bass and Patty Dougherty’s drums. Diamond in the Rough shines in the greyness of lockdown, as preparation for the full-on live band experience.
Clive Price

Great White Records, 16 Tracks, 69 Minutes
Vana is the fourth solo album from multi-instrumentalist Ross Ainslie and showcases many of his own compositions. There’s a wonderful variety of sounds and rhythms on this CD and in the impressive presentation and arrangements of his compositions. Ross and his Sanctuary Band have chosen well to have as top guest musicians that include Malcolm Jones (electric guitar), Steve Cooney (acoustic guitar), Duncan Chisholm (fiddle), and Damien O’Kane (banjo). Ross’s band member, Paul Towndrow on sax, is heard to most appealing effect, not least in the soulful melody Maybe Another Time with spoken words delivered by Jack Urqhuart.
Vana is named after a wellness retreat in India that Ross visited last year. He says that he drew inspiration having experienced peace and the recharging energy from his visit, and set to work writing and arranging this new body of work. Ross wanted the music on the album to reflect “the feeling of allowing life to happen at the pace you want it to go instead of being dictated by external factors”. Ross Ainslie is one of Scotland’s most highly regarded traditional musicians and composers, and is highly sought after on the Scottish contemporary folk scene for his skill on pipes, whistles and cittern. And having listened to Vana his fourth solo album, one can see why. “Vana is the final product of a reflective journey towards self-preservation,” Ross says. “I was beginning to feel burnt out with the pressures of touring, so I decided that I had to take a step back to breathe and evaluate what direction I wanted my life to go in.”  Ross is a founding member of the turbo-charged 13-piece musical powerhouse Treacherous Orchestra. Influenced by pioneering fusion acts such as ShoogleniftyMartyn Bennett and the Afro Celt Sound System, the band takes Scottish dance music into a thrilling new dimension with a sound, which draws on traditional roots and contemporary influences. Ross’s new CD Vana reflects these influences and is indeed a pleasurable musical experience. I enjoyed it a lot.
Aidan O’Hara

Land Of Sunshine
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 49 Minutes
Philadelphia based Poor Man’s Gambit are Corey Purcell (button accordion, cittern, bodhrán, vocals, dance), Deirdre Lockman (fiddle and vocals), Federico Betti (guitar and fiddle). We interviewed them earlier this year about their December 2019 Land of Sunshine album. The plan was to bring it on tour with them in 2020; we all know what happened to such plans after March.
The trio’s sound is full and truly traditional. Skip straight to the title track Martin Mulhare’s Land of Sunshine written it is said when he first landed in the USA. The tune is also known as A Jacket of Batteries thanks to DeDannan. Here Corey Purcell and Deirdre Lockman bring it home to Irish Philly. There’s a musical trip to Cape Breton for The Sweetness of Mary, written by Joan MacDonald Boes. Back to Ireland for the Broken Pledge with an intricate cittern introduction, the guitar adding just the right amount of push when the tune takes off as the fiddle and box dance together, then the fiddle steps away, leaving Corey to run with the tune. At nearly 5 minutes they use the extended time to dust the nooks and crannies off the tune to perfection.
The band are no novices when it comes to songs either. A bodhrán begins Highland Plaidie a Scottish courtship song. A courtship gone wrong is the subject of Beeswing. They get political and so woke on Ewan MacColl’s Ballad of Accounting. Corey quietens things down with a plaintive slow air, Flat World on the box, reminiscent of Tony MacMahon in its intensity. The surprise is the folk setting of John Lennon’s Imagine. They sign off with a tune from another land of sunshine, Brittany, with the traditional La Ridee Six. Poor Man’s Gambit’s Land of Sunshine is a treasure chest of tradition.
Seán Laffey

Stone Upon Stone
Own Label, 14 Tracks, 48 Minutes
Stone Upon Stone is a collection of 14 songs from Catherine Koehler. Catherine has been singing for over 40 years and her experience certainly resonates on this collection. You get a real sense of her comfort and contentment with each song. With a mix of bluegrass, folk and even traditional, these are songs she grew up with, and yet songs young people will recognise. Like much of our Irish and Celtic music, it’s rooted in time and it’s down to the performer to allow it to travel and remain timeless.
Koehler certainly allows it to travel well on this collection. Opening with Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears, one of the most poignant songs ever about emigration, its central, story still ringing true today. Koehler has put her mark on this and makes it her own. Koehler succeeds in making each song her own as we listen; The Briar and the Rose, Jeff Canady, and then we get to Grace. One of the most popular Irish songs ever. Surely she can’t do anything new with this? She doesn’t, but she doesn’t have to. Koehler’s voice is all it needs to make it her own also. This iconic Irish ballad is all hers.
The collection continues with some of the most famous Irish songs and then I hear, Lady of Knock. A hymn I expect to hear in Church, and yet it’s right at home on this album. It just works. One of my favourites is there too, The Rare Ould Times. And again, she owns this song. Accompanied by Jack Dingler (vocals), Antonio Santiago (mandolin), Christy Melowy McLeod (bodhrán) and Gordon McLeod (guitar, fiddle and whistle), they bring new life to these old songs. As a stone upon stone builds memory and life, Koehler continues building life in these songs with her vocals.
Gráinne McCool

Howdy Y’all
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 36 Minutes
Howdy Y’all is a collection of music inspired by Hillary Klug’s upbringing, immersed in the old-time musical heritage of Middle Tennessee. The selected songs are those that suited her dynamic fiddle and dance style. The album title resonates throughout the collection, with Hillary talking to us from the outset.
Her fiddle playing is filled with a high energy on this collection of 12 tracks. But her voice is there to the fore. A deep, but consistent flow of vocals fills the air, but at no time do they distract from the fiddle and other instruments supporting. It’s difficult at times to decide which you are hearing, the instrument or the singing, they blend as one. And that’s what’s so striking about this collection of music, it’s united from beginning to end.
This old-time record is an all-acoustic one, with influences from Celtic, Americana, bluegrass, and folk. The instrumentation includes vocals, fiddle, guitar, bass, mandolin, banjo, and bouzouki. All combine to produce a very uplifting, yet relaxing set of tunes and songs.
Klug’s dynamic and fun dance style reflects onto the listener from track one. Oh! Susanna immediately takes us on a fun musical journey and that journey continues through to the very end. 13 Days to Nashville and Allie Cat are instrumentals where I found myself playing my ‘air fiddle’. Not a common occurrence, but Klug just makes you want to play. The last track, The Cuckoo, cements this 12 track collection of old and new and leaves us wanting a little more. Howdy Y’all is filled with an energy that brings new life to the old. We leave this listening experience feeling refreshed and ready to conquer life. Klug’s energy and passion resonates throughout. This young, energetic, all dancing, fiddle playing Tennessee girl leaves her mark, and you can’t help but smile.
Gráinne McCool

Sing Me The Songs
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 41 Minutes
Florida based trio Celtic Conundrum. Celtic fusion is popular in the sunshine state as they play at Celtic Festivals, Highland Games and Pirate Gatherings, Steampunk Festivals, and pubs across Florida. Their sound has been honed in front of live audiences and this direct connection continues in this new album. They are a ballad band with a penchant for high energy songs, drawing on influences from rock, folk and Americana. The opening track Two Shots of Whiskey & A Prayer is like an acoustic Lynyrd Skynyrd back yard jam, great tremolo mandolin playing here lifting the track to another level. Some tracks on this album will be known to many of our readers, Ye Jacobites by Name (the shorter Robert Burns version), Step It Out Mary and Wild Mountain Thyme, the closing anthem for hundreds if not thousands of folk clubs around the world. They dip into the rich ballad repository of Newfoundland on the hilarious The Night Paddy Murphy Died, a dark tale of drinking at an Irish wake. Gene Martinelli is the songwriter in Celtic Conundrum. He addresses the folk themes of hard labour on Paving The Rail, a story about the separation felt when every mile of railroad track laid down was another mile away from your sweetheart. And of the cramp confines of coal mining on Gates of the Devil’s Home.
Americana meets Irish whistle on Call to the Wind. There’s more low whistle on Birch Hill, the most lyrical track on the album, the whistle providing a bridge between verses. They bring a close harmony aesthetic to the title track; this features the voice of their five string banjo player Pamela Jo, the chorus, a request: “Grandma sing me the songs, so I’ll remember and carry them on.” Celtic Conundrum are singing our songs and creating new ones. Sing Me the Songs is a credo of their craft.
Seán Laffey