Releases > Releases Annual 2024

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Own Label, 9 Tracks, 40 Minutes
Conor Mallon plays the uilleann pipes and he’s recognised as one of the best Ireland has produced this millennium. As we went to press, this album had been nominated for Album of the Year at the Northern Ireland Music Prize, and deservedly so. For my money, it puts Conor up there alongside Davy Spillane; the comparison isn’t a vacuous one, Conor’s music has the same sweeping ambition, and shares a vision of the possibilities of the pipes beyond the pure drop tradition (of which he is a recognised master). Moreover Conor composes tunes.
Writing tunes is a difficult task. How many albums are variations on the same melody as an artist gets stuck in a groove? Mallon, because he is grounded in the expanse of the tradition, brings a distinct voice to each track whether they be new compositions or a standard such as the opening track Cape Clear.
One Four Four is a good example of the framework on which Conor constructs his new tunes; it’s a set of three pieces, the jig 100th Day, Hasi’s Hat and One Four Four. That attention to the unwritten rules of the tradition also plays out on the title track, with Conor employing Kevin Crawford’s Heaton Chapel as a prelude to Unearthed. Heaton Chapel is a sophisticated mixture of pulsing pipes and notes that can best be described as ‘Nyah’. The backing band giving the tune space before they come in with washes of chords, percussion and the electric guitar playing double time. Until the tune shifts to Unearthed. Listen out for Micheál Ó Seanáin’s spoken word passage, it’s surely poetry and piping perfection. Micheál also introduces m’Eirenannch Bán, a slow air played with feeling, the backing from Sean Óg Graham’s synth a simple drone that builds in intensity to herald in another verse from Ó Seanáin.
Conor Mallon takes up the low whistle for the first tune in the set Rise of Macha, a lyrical syncopated Battle of Aughrim, over splashes of cymbals, then a lyrical bridge as Conor shifts to the pipes for a robust and muscular Rise of Macha, referencing the foundation myth of Armagh. And if you are looking for a takeaway tune to learn, go to the final track Lake Banook. It’s accessible and gorgeous.
I could continue praising each track, and with repeated listening you too will find more to hook your line and sinker into Mallon’s sonic word. Unearthed is an album that will be talked about and referenced for years to come.
Seán Laffey

The New Strung Harp
Old Bridge Music OBMCD25, 13 Tracks, 41 Minutes
This is a digitally remastered CD of Máire’s debut album, originally released in 1985 and recorded by Robin Morton for his Temple Records label. It was back then, a revelation. This was harp playing on the very edge of the tradition. We asked ourselves will Máire take this work forward? The answer is that she did, notably with the virtuoso guitarist Chris Newman. All the seeds of her four-decade long career are on this one recording: the intricate traditional ornamentation, the spirited jigs and reels, traditional music transposed to that most genteel and drawing room of instruments, the harp.
For many harp players, their doorway into Irish Music is through the work of Turlough O’Carolan and this album opens with one of his tunes. Written for and named after his patron Charles O’Connor, Máire teams it with a jig Father Hanly. Then onto Ó ho Nighean, É Ho Nighean, a song from South Uist, which Máire says might have been contaminated by her West Cork Irish. Nearer to home she sings The Bantry Girls Lament with accompaniment on the fiddle from her sister Nollaig Casey, who along with her siblings Máiread and Greg, add harmony vocals; the fiddle is introduced towards the end of the track, tapping perfectly into the sad tenor of the song.
Máire livens things up on a set of dance tunes: The Gander In the Praitie Hole and The Queen of the Rushes. She plays a droning low D on the former to emulate uilleann pipes. There are more dance tunes: The Fisherman’s Hornpipe/The Cuckoo’s Nest and two learned from John Doherty of Donegal: The Boys of Malin and The Old Oak Tree.
The final track Planxty Sudley, although recorded in 1985, may be a pointer to a future harp possibility. Máire leads on the harp, Nollaig plays fiddle, and Máire overdubs a synthesizer, emulating a cello, teasing us, suggesting Carolan’s music is ripe for a string quartet to explore.
The key question. Has The New Strung Harp remained relevant forty years on? The answer is yes! This is still a benchmark for anyone who is serious about the harp and its place in the Irish tradition.
Seán Laffey

Female Rambling Sailor
Whirling Discs, 12 Tracks, 53 Minutes
A fine new conglomeration of the talents of Cathy Jordan, Irene Buckley and Claudia Schwab. The appropriately named Plúirín Na mBan meaning A Woman’s Love, issue their debut album Female Rambling Sailor. Instrumentally one hears guitarlele, bouzouki, bodhrán, guitar, violins, vocals, harmonium, keys, thumb harp and electronics. In keeping with the current market for traditional folk singing laced with drones and electronic effects, the result falls somewhere in between the sounds of Varo and Lankum and it sits comfortably within such company. It also recalls to a degree Sileas and The Poozies with its concentration on vocal arrangements and shimmering echoic settings, placed within traditional and ambient soundscapes and warm, clear singing.
Their material comes mostly from traditional sources, save for Cathy Jordan’s Curragh Wrens inspired by the plight of cast out women in post famine Ireland. Their name recalls the tiny “nests” they dug out in the ditches using their bare hands around the soldier’s camp at the Curragh in County Kildare and displays what a fine songwriter she is in the process of becoming.
The Balkan laced Port na Mná written by Claudia Schwab and the opener Lissadell written by Claudia Schwab & Irene Buckley features the poem The Little Waves of Breffny by Eva Gore-Booth. It falls within waves of electronic ambience, spoken word and gypsy violin. Among the traditional fare, the sean-nos Saidbh Ni Bhruinneallaigh attributed to a boatman Labhrás Mac Con Raoi, thought to be written between 1815 and 1821. An unrequited love song where the heroine Sadhbh has the upper hand on her would be lover and the title track tells of Rebecca Young, who dresses as a man to join the “men only” navy so she could live life on her own terms. This is a compelling, quietly stunning and powerful celebration of the world seen through female eyes.
John O’Regan

Artes Records ARCD6040, 11 Tracks, 51 Minutes
The fiddler and singer from German Irish group Cara teams up with the box player from English and French icons Blowzabella and Leveret to deliver a captivating eclectic collection. Conversations range from Norway to Chicago, Flensburg to Ireland, adding a couple of Cutting and Walther originals to a constellation of traditional jewels.
Starting off with a pair of English 3/2 hornpipes, an old one which smacks of Tyneside to my ears, and a new one crafted by Cutting’s Leveret bandmate Rob Harbron, the duo follow up this punchy set with a poignant melody Kommt, Ihr G’spielen sung by Gudrun and sweetly played on fiddle over Cutting’s inventive accompaniment. A Swedish polska provides a stately and perhaps slightly sombre interlude before the sprightly Walther composition April Snow fills that essential 7/8 slot for any folk album. This is followed by one of the highlights for me, Liz Carroll’s heartfelt air Island of Woods with words by Barry Foy, a real spinetingler.
Paddy O’Brien (Offaly) is the composer of Tiny the Trooper, a fine slipjig firmly delivered by this duo. Despite there only being two people on this recording, and no double-tracking as far as I can tell, the sound is as full and rich as you could wish. Cutting and Walther switch into John McCusker’s Mondegreen jig Should All the Penguins Be Forgot, and from there it’s back to Germany for a pair of grand polonaises and the last of the songs here. The final three tracks on Conversations maintain this pair’s top quality with a delightful Cutting air, the jaunty march Greenfield House, and a Norwegian gangar which is another highlight. The album ends with Gudrun’s slow 5/4 Shadows, a wonderful winding-down tune.
Alex Monaghan

Sheridan’s Guesthouse
Own label, 15 Tracks, 57 Minutes
This 2006 album has come to prominence again recently. Leitrim flute-player and button boxer Dave Sheridan crammed an impressive line-up onto one CD: Seamie O’Dowd and Brian McDonagh of Dervish provide the backing for fiddles, accordion, pipes, and Dave’s flute and whistle. The bodhrán is represented by Junior Davey and Neil Lyons among others, and there are keyboards and bouzoukis scattered through the album. The overall sound is excellent. There’s a wide range of textures: simple flute and fiddle on The Maid on the Green, a full session sound on Christy Barry’s, and plenty of sparkling duets and trios.
The opening pair of reels Mulhaire’s and Kiss the Maid Behind the Barrel shows the impromptu, slightly hectic side of Sheridan’s Guesthouse: not everything is polished, and the timing isn’t always perfect, but there’s the freshness and spontaneity of a good session here. When it comes together, it’s magic: Father Kelly’s Jig and Muñeira de Ourense is a good example, Sheridan’s flute and Padraig McGovern’s pipes blending enchantingly through these Irish and Galician tunes. It’s jigs and reels from start to finish, with a waltz and a song thrown in as token relief. The final track adds a polka and a reel of Sheridan’s own in a carefully-named medley: Enjoy Your Stay, In Sheridan’s Guesthouse, and Safe Home.
Mr Sheridan himself has been active in various line-ups since as a very fine fluter, and obviously well connected. About half the fifteen tracks here are flute-led over a strings and drums accompaniment, and they’re all good. The Maids of Castlebar set is a straight trio of reels played in fine Sligo style. The Big House and Fred Finn’s are slightly unusual versions of more well-known tunes. Sheridan’s flute is enchanting on Allan MacDonald’s Hebridean waltz The Jewels of the Ocean, confirming his consummate musicianship: he’s well able to front a recording, but seems equally happy to share the limelight and there’s no shortage of other stars in Sheridan’s Guesthouse.
With well over fifty minutes of fine music here, and some nice surprises along the way, I’d advise you to check the website and book early to avoid the rush!
Alex Monaghan

Cascade Mountain Aire
Own label, 10 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Dréos is a trio of performing composers. Their website tells us their name comes from Scottish Gaelic and translates as “blaze” in English “with the idea that it is light that helps us see the past, present, and future, and that it is the warmth of musical performance around which we gather for community and dialogue.”
The trio are Eliot Grasso: uilleann pipes, flute, low whistle; Brandon Vance: fiddle, hardanger fiddle, voice; and Glen Waddell: bouzouki, guitar, accordion, djembe. Eliot Grasso’s piping is well known in Ireland, it is volume 1 of Na Píobairí Uilleann’s series of master pipers, The Ace and Deuce of Piping.
This album is a mixture of traditional tunes and new compositions. The title track, written by Brandon Vance is a slow air, his fiddle taking the first half before the centre shifts to Grasso’s whistle for the second section, before Vance’s fiddle brings the tune to a gentle close. Grasso’s skill as a composer is highlighted on Half Your Life/ The Gates Lifted / The Lemon Tree, a set of three reels. Their pacing is perfect; I can see these being taken enthusiastically in the session community.
We often judge traditional music by an artist’s handling of the familiar and there are a number of tracks here that are straight from the global tradition of Irish Music. For example John Doherty’s / Colonel Fraser with the fiddle dominating the first tune and the pipes and their vamped regulators prominent on the second. Throughout, the guitar accompaniment by Waddell is strong and rhythmic.
They move out of and back into the Irish tradition on the set Ut i mörka natten (Emilia Amper) / Benoit Kensier’s (Benoit Kensier) / Maggie’s Reel. The beat on the opening track is one to catch accompanists out, well worth a careful listen.
The final track A’ Mhisg a chuir an Nollaig Oirnn / Calum Crùbach / Muileann Dùbh / Jock Broon’s 70th, at 6 minutes long features Scots Gaelic unaccompanied singing with the last tune a full on Scottish reel written by the late Gordon Duncan from Perthshire. Impressive, infectious music on every track from three masters of the tradition. Their blazing music will warm the heart of any trad gathering.
Seán Laffey

Drivin’ Leitrim Timber
Own Label LTCD9009, 13 Tracks, 49 Minutes
First released in 2010 and then re-released in 2021 as Covid hit and a kind of music hibernation slept over Ireland. Now we can wake up to Sheridan’s driving, energetic, free flowing music that has come out of Leitrim this past quarter of a century. Thankfully if you missed this first time round, you’ll be rewarded in spades when you listen to the dazzling virtuosity of his playing.
Currently Dave divides his time between teaching and performing with the band Garadice and on Drivin’ Leitrim Timber we have an assured performance alongside his band mates: Michael McCague (bouzouki and guitar), Brian McGrath (piano), Neill Lyons (bodhrán), Kevin Doherty (double bass), Rick Epping (harmonica and jaw’s harp) and Hugh Sullivan (bodhrán).
Straight out of the gate there’s a lively rapport between the flute and bouzouki; if you are an accompanist, the introductory zook passage is a masterclass. A big chord from Brian on the piano heralds the Hornpipe & Reels set: Fisher’s Johnny Gorman’s, P​.​J​.​MacNamara’s. There are bent slurred notes on the Fisher’s, a tongued trill at the end of one bar and then a sweeping move into Johnny Gorman’s. The track ends with a full bodied reel, with its deep bass foundation from the bodhrán and the piano adding lightning flashes of chords.
Dance tunes dominate the album, there are no slow airs. Sheridan supplies track after track of foot tapping music, mainly reels and jigs, and springy selections - the Grey Ridge Breeze Waltz & Tommy People’s Mazurka, the latter is very well known in the tradition and Dave’s adventurous high notes lift it to another level of happy Mazurka. If I had to pick my favourite track, it has to The Morning Dew: flute, bodhrán and bouzouki, what else do you need? This is obviously meticulously practised music with some knowing pauses that make you sit up wide-eyed wondering how did they manage that? If you crave the meat and potatoes of the Leitrim tradition, the last track at 8 minutes long, the reels Martin Rochford’s/The Sunny Banks/Speed the Plough is a feed to keep you going all day.
The album constantly underscores the fact we all know, traditional music never dates, and in Dave Sheridan’s hands, the music of Leitrim is youthful, vitally alive and kicking.
Dave has recently set up a flute (and whistle) tutorial website His flute course is a comprehensive course which covers beginners right up to advanced players. His whistle course is a little less serious, just acting as a gateway to get anyone with a tin whistle in the key of d up and running with some easy tunes on the whistle. This course is entitled ‘Couch to 5 Tunes’. Both albums can be purchased on his website also.
Seán Laffey

Eva’s Tree
Connoisseur Records, 13 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Thomas Walsh is the man who wrote perhaps the most loved slow air of the last 40 years, Inisheer (Inis Oirr).
On Eva’s Tree, Thomas is joined by Eamon Keany on Irish and Greek bouzoukis, guitar, lute, harmonica and shruti, Kieran Leonard on bodhrán, Sean Moran on uilleann pipes, Theresia Klumpp on fiddle. With guest appearances by Ksenia Walsh on piano, Rachel Nolan on flute and Katerina Speranskaya on the cello.
His album is inspired by family and friends, and one track which has been released as a single, the upbeat positive Hill 16 is a tribute to his beloved Dublin GAA Football team, award-winning, record-breaking blues. The tune is prefaced by the noise of the crowd at Croke Park celebrating a goal, the tune itself is a polka, and it’s a three pointer if ever there was one. His love for things that surround us is brought to the fore on the many tracks on the album. An Leanbh Nua (The New Baby) bouzouki and fiddle welcome a new person to the family - Thomas Walsh has gifted tunes to his grandchildren. Other titles are: Princess Mya / Prince Leo (An Banphrionsa Mia/ An Prionsa Leo), which Thomas plays on the button accordion, more accordion on Nathan Agus An Féileachán Glas, Dearg Agus Oráiste (Nathan And The Green Red And Orange Butterfly); the tune here has a flavour of a continental barrel organ.
Now to the album’s title, its first and last tracks refer to Thomas’ granddaughter. The first called Eva’s Tree in Bloom is a jaunty duet between flute and the piano; it has a song quality in its verse like structure. Whereas the last track Eva’s Tree with a long piano introduction and a plaintive fiddle over Speranskaya’s cello is more restrained and reflective without being a sober or sombre ending to the album.
The new tunes here are each played as a single selection, which will help them diffuse into the wider music community. If you are looking for new tunes this Christmas, you might find a present under Eva’s Tree.
Seán Laffey

Just a Second
Own Label RYM02CD, 9 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Smooth with a capital Smoo, as the cat said: Ryan has taken inspiration from Ireland’s Martin Hayes and applied the same lyrical sensitivity to Scots fiddle music. His second album, delayed considerably by Covid and by health issues, is a little shorter than his 2017 debut but just as long on quality. A dozen and a half of the finest fiddle tunes, spanning four centuries at least, include classics such as Fingal’s Cave, Knit the Pocky, and the self-explanatory Rock and the Wee Pickle Tow. More modern pieces such as Phil Cunningham’s Monday Morning Reel and Gordon MacLean’s The Mortgage Burn are also delightful, played at a leisurely pace.
The currently topical Little Donald in the Pigpen and the ever popular Woo’d An’ Married An’ A’ are highlights for me. Just a Second also includes the mouth music piece which I know as Ho-Ro Na Piseagan, as well as The Bird’s Nest popularised by Alasdair Fraser and a pair of gorgeous Gow jigs. Less familiar is perhaps Bang Your Frog on the Sofa: composed by Will Harmon, but surprisingly not in E; this Dm reel is a funky little tune which will strike a chord with many fiddlers.
Every track is a revelation: I had forgotten great melodies such as The Fox and Mrs A MacGlashan’s Jig. Young is sympathetically accompanied by guitarist Craig Irving, and no additional help is needed. This recording overall is warm, natural and authentic.
Alex Monaghan

Ré Órga
Raelach Records RR021, 15 Tracks, 52 Minutes
Geraldine Cotter, whistle and piano tutor, academic, published author and composer has just released Ré Orga, a compilation of newly composed tunes and older ones from the Irish tradition, beautifully interfered with, embellished, with strains of jazz, modern and classical.
A delightful snapshot of a musician at the top of her game, the album showcases not just musical prowess, with surprising arrangements, mood setting, interpretation and most notably her ability to take a tune out of its framework, make it something else and return it as found. Her orchestra comprises a stellar line up, with Eamonn Cotter and Cillian Boyd on flutes, Neil Ó Lochlainn double bass, Matthew Berrill on clarinet, Oisín and John Boyd the guitarists, Gráinne Cotter and Maedhbh Hendrie on fiddles.
With harmonic vocabulary, rhythm and percussive elements, the piano is the bedrock of the album, telling a cascading story in The Hole in the Hedge, slow to uptempo and slow again, a delightful listen, captivating in creativity, as is her version of Caoineadh Bean Uí Chiarraí, lonesomeness, extant echoes of the bardic tradition, the melody hauntingly beautiful, the humble whistle soaring over drones, highly unusual, innovative.
Geraldine views her legacy in the tradition through a huge lens, a wide spectrum of music familiar to her, providing adventure, exploration, with piano sometimes muted. There are intricacies everywhere, layering, each tune bespoke, unique; the well known Miss McLeod’s is given an exotic, classical treatment, mesmerising. A rousing finish with back to the grass roots céili, full steam ahead, vamping ‘n all, the highly accomplished band play Stack Ryan’s Polka, the pure drop.
Ré Órga is an important album in the Irish traditional canon, from an accomplished woman, who, like the weaver of multi-coloured textures and fabrics, she knows the warp and weft of the tunes.
Anne Marie Kennedy

A Seed of Gold
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Wiltshire born and now Sheffield-based Rosie Hood has formed a quartet with musicians, Nicola Beazley (fiddle, five-string fiddle, vocals), Rosie Butler-Hall (fiddle, five-string fiddle, vocals), and Robyn Wallace (melodeon, percussion, vocals). Rosie herself is a noted songwriter and interpreter of traditional songs; both strands of her talent are harvested on A Seed of Gold.
The first track The Swallow might have the longest single note opening of any folk song released in 2023. A fiddle drone settles us down for Rosie to sing three verses of a song of abandoned love from her rural west of England. Birds and their characteristics are enumerated in the song Turtle Dove, a song from a woman who pledges her undying love to an absent lover, perhaps at sea or enlisted in a foreign war?
A typically English staccato melodeon is foremost in the song Lyddie Shears, again based on a Wiltshire, a wise woman living alone in the woods dubbed as witch and shot: The chorus:
The hares fly before me, we dart across the downs
Like Lepus from Orion, we’ll keep from the hounds
No hunter will snare me, nor drive me from my form
I’m Lyddie Shears, and this land is my own
Rosie sings Tyger Fierce, her interpretation from the Tiger’s perspective of an incident that occurred at Malmesbury in 1703 when Hannah Twynnoy, a barmaid was mauled to death by a tiger from a travelling menagerie. The song with its multiple vocals conjures up a surreal dread. Another song with a long history is Bread and Roses by James Oppenheim, first printed in 1911. He saw the words Bread and Roses on a placard held by strikers of Chicago Women Trade Unionists.
The song may be American in origin, yet every track on A Seed of Gold is undeniably English, not in a jingoist Farage way, mind you. Rosie Hood’s endeavour is a modern extension of social commentary in the tradition of Charles Dickens and William Blake. Write it well, sing it loud and keep the message clear. Rosie and her band do all that on A Seed of Gold.
Seán Laffey

If Tomorrow
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 44:56 Minutes
Up She Flew was Steph Geremia’s very successful previous flute album, and she’s soaring again with If Tomorrow. This time it’s all vocals from the Galway girl, who certainly knows her way around the songs. Produced by John McCusker, recorded with Cameron Malcolm, it features some of the elite of contemporary traditional and folk musicians. Eddi Reader, Kris Drever, Phil Cunningham, Alan Kelly, Michael McGoldrick, Ian Carr, John Doyle and Donald Shaw in collaboration, make this a fine-tuned, highly polished and creative piece of work.
Drawing from Irish, Scottish, folk and Americana, bilingual, innovative, she brings fresh energy to the older songs, passion to the more obscure ones - small wonder that the album has already garnered hugely positive reviews and radio play.
Great vitality in her version of I’ll Remember How You Loved Me by Natalie Hemby, compelling and dramatic Aird Uí Chuain with John McCusker and Ian Carr.
Her version of Dougie McClean’s Garden Valley is outstanding, time-transcendent, the displaced community, a dispossessed poet “in the stranger’s room, playing at the stranger’s table, where there can be no peace”, the only comfort being the memory of a garden valley “singing out along the Tay”, beautifully arranged, tenderness, elegance in the vocals, a poignantly relevant prayer for the modern world.
Her own composition Galway’s Sweet Bay is a meditation on previous generations of Irish women, women who lived near her home, where she walked to “look to the land far across the bay”, seeing farms, sky and sea, a place to reflect on the lives of other women, on her own life, not taking for granted her artistic freedom, travel, success, opportunities, compared to those who came before her, ancestral women who lived with the same horizon for all of their lives - great poetic flair, flawless arrangements, a waltz for Galway.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Single, 3 Minutes, 21 Seconds
New single:
Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, X and TikTok: @sinatheilmusic
It was the morning of my Dad’s anniversary that I sat listening to Embers, the new single from Sina Theil. In a rather contemplative and sombre mood, I didn’t know if it was upbeat or slow. I clicked ‘play’ and my tears dried and my ‘feel good’ mood switched on. This new, very upbeat single from Sina, written by John Broderick and Ronan Lardner, is a celebration of the unexpected love that reignites the heart’s fire, and sparks the zest for life. And that’s exactly what it did for me on that morning – it reignited my own zest and immediately turned my mood around.
Like her words, “my life was turned upside down….life was rearranged”, it mirrored my very thoughts. Although this is primarily about love, but it went further for me on that dawning of the anniversary. I recalled how life changed after a death and yet how we must reignite the fire again. We must live.
Embers is a real feel-good, positive outlooking, inspirational single. It’s a tonic to the ear and it makes the wee heart jump, all in a good way.
With a host of prestigious musicians playing, you really are transported to a ‘happy place’ listening to the new single, and it will relight your embers, no matter how dying they might appear.
Gráinne McCool

Dreaming My Dreams
Own Label, 13 Tracks, 45 Minutes
This is Fiona’s debut album, which was launched in Ennis in November 2023. It marks the culmination of a lifelong ambition to record songs that have been dear to her heart for many years. And what a lovely collection of songs she has collated on this fine album.
A visit to her Bandcamp page will give you an insight into each of the tracks; many reference family members, her husband and her siblings, who have supported her. Tim Collins is singled out for praise as a mentor, guide and supplier of a new song Face The Wind, its lyrics carrying a positive message for us all in these dark and troubled times. Fiona has a wonderful way with a melody and there’s none sweeter than Hó Ró m’Iníon Donn Bhóidheach, one of those tunes that I wish could go on forever.
She sings a version of Paul Brady’s The Island, staying faithful to his original piano score. It is as poignant now as it was on its composition in 1985. Straddling the conflicts in the North of Ireland and in the Middle East, which is contrasted with our desire to forget the outside world and cocoon ourselves in domestic intimacy.
There are older songs too, such as Teddy O’Neill, which began life in the American Music Hall. Here Fiona gives us the unsanitised original version from 1843; its melody is as sweet now as it was 170 years ago, Fiona’s daughter adds a bow or two of magic to it with her violin. Flute and finger-picked guitar, jazzy chords, smooth upright bass, a touch of show time with a traditional echo of a wooden flute, all play into the mix of the Scottish song: Wild Mountainside. The last song supplies the album’s name plate, Waylon Jennings’ Dreaming My Dreams. Bittersweet in its original recording, it becomes tender and personal in Fiona Ryan’s reading.
Dreaming My Dreams is a polished professional debut, with earworm after earworm of memorable tunes. I expect we will be hearing far more from Fiona Ryan in 2024, and it will all be good, very good indeed.
Seán Laffey

Turn of Tides or Where the Waves Come From
Left Lane Records LC 100534, 13 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Based in Berlin, Ludwig Wright is a singer songwriter whose latest album is inspired by holidays spent with his grandfather in Devon, and that county’s coastal seascapes are intimately woven into the lyrics and the feeling of the 13 songs on this album. He writes on his Bandcamp page: “For me oceans are simply magical and I’ve always felt this profound ‘Sehnsucht’ for the sea.”
He has a British father and a German mother, and had a two-year sojourn in London. Recalling his yearly visits to his grandfather in North Devon, he says, “we’d sit on the cliffs for hours, watching the waves hit the shore. Now these memories have flown into this album.”
On the track Deep Waters, those tides bring us a folk-pop vibe akin to Ed Sheeran. His lyrics on screen or paper seem slight; they come to life as he stitches them into melodies and that track carries a repeated weft: “Deep waters seem wordless but they have a message for you, a message for you”. The title track Turn of Tides uses repetition to its advantage, firstly in a La La La break and a secondly in a spoken incantation of the refrain: “Every wave hits the shore like a breath, a breath for more, more, more, more.”
Things take a turn down in tone and mood on Lighthouse when he sings, double tracked with a humming adding a drone over his cappellacci voice, the story of a gallows hill repurposed, into a chilly tale of a lost love:
There’s a lonely hilltop
on the cliffs by the sea.
It was called the ‘Old Hangman’
for centuries.
Brea Robertson joins him on Even If the Sky Is Burning. I hear echoes in their duet of James Blunt especially in the lines:
Even if the sky is burning tears or red and blue.
Even if it comes to pass whatever we might do.
I’m lucky at the end I’ll be with you.
Comparison to some of the most successful singer songwriters in the modern acoustic space is not trivial. Like theirs, Ludwig’s music is music of the moment, music of our times, and in that sense Ludwig’s music is truly contemporary.
Seán Laffey

Reverie Road
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 51 Minutes
Reverie Road’s Winifred Horan (fiddle), John Williams (accordion, flute), Katie Grennan (fiddle, mandolin, banjo), and Utsav Lal (piano), with guests Donogh Hennessy (guitar), Chico Huff (bass), and Steve Morrow (bodhrán), combine musical masterminds to create their self-titled debut.
Reverie Road immediately draws listeners’ attention with their lively jig rendition that closes with a Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh tune in The Gap of Dreams (Hardiman’s Fancy/Girl of the Big House/Gap of Dreams). The mood shifts with minor/major-mode French waltzes in Trés Elégante (Trés Elégante/Valse pour Yvette). Emma’s Reels (Owen Thomas’s Reel/Megan McGann’s) offers feet-tapping Bill Black tunes, while Naked and Bare delves into Horan’s hauntingly beautiful presentation of a Shetland Island tune.
Land’s End (Land’s End/Throw the Beetle at Her/Evan’s) contains riveting slip jigs, while Le Femme de Marbre highlights the interplay between Horan’s violin and Grennan’s mandolin throughout a mesmerizing French mazurka. Snow Drifts (Dodging Waves/An Siocán Sneachta/Only for Barney) includes a light wintry mix of a Grennan original and Joe Carey and Josephine Keegan favourites. Lal’s piano intro lends nuance to the well-beloved air, The Rocks of Bawn.
The group livens up a trad and two Horan original reels with a catchy descending transition in The Calico Set (Tear the Calico/Joe Horan’s/Molly Mae’s Reel). Williams’ accordion rendering of Indifference is an excellent lead-in to a hopping close of reels: The Flooded Road (Flooded Road to Glenties/The House of Hamill).
This powerhouse group’s embodiment of refreshingly eclectic Celtic music is nothing less than a one-of-a-kind gem.
Anita Lock