Releases > Releases April 2016

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Notes Between the Lines
Own Label FSRCD003, 11 Tracks, 43 Minutes

This is the third in their Notes series of albums (the previous two were Notes At Liberty and Notes After Dark). FullSet deliver a fresh batch of blistering tunes and lyrical songs on this excellent CD. They kick–off with a set that reminds me very much of the Bothy’s Out Of The Wind Into The Sun, here they take a turn with Miss Ramsay, the pipes of Martino Vacca to the fore. Vacca is a disciple of John McSherry and that characteristic ability to set the fields on fire while appearing so relaxed is a feature of much of this album. Miss Ramsay’s has Andy Meaney’s guitar and Eamonn Moloney’s bodhrán supplying a tight groove behind it like the purr of a V8 engine.

The fuel injected energy is turbocharged on a number of tracks, Mullin’s Fancy, The Tara Jig and McIllhatton’s Retreat. It would be a disservice to their musicianship to imply this is all break neck, as there are slower, more reserved passages, which add the necessary shadows to their three dimensional mastery of the music. Josephine Marsh’s Matthew’s Waltz would stand alone as gorgeous tune, here they segue it into Talon’s Trip To Thompson Island, which is a much more in your face melody composed by the Shetland fiddler Kevin Henderson, and here the bow is wielded by the fiddle of Michael Harrison. If you are looking for a new accordion tune then Molly’s Hop fronted by box player Janine Redmond could become an instant favourite. FullSet endow it with a funky flirty contagion that would be hard not to dance to.

They have an ace card in the pack with Marianne Knight, a flute player who can also sing and I mean sing. In a genre overrun by juvenile female voices, Marianne’s voice is a rich alto instrument, yes she can hit the high notes so favoured by her contemporaries, but few can match her when it comes to dipping into the lower register. She brings this to the party on Cyril O’Donohoe’s The Bright Side of the Moon. She embraces Tony Small’s The Welcome in a style that would not be out of place in the pantheon that features Mary Black and Eleanor Shanley, call it De Dananesque if you will, it is heart felt and honest, a wonderful track.

The final selection is a song too, Safe Home, one that was new to me, written by the Wisconsin singer songwriter, John Smith in 2009, simple in its construction it ought to be the Wild Mountain Thyme for the next decade, a fitting way to say Slán Abhaile to a night of music and a lovely way to finish this album. Three notes to the wise: FullSet are a class act.
Seán Laffey


Aille nahAille–Terrible Beauty

Gael Linn CEFCD 209 12 Tracks, 54 Minutes

This is Charlie Lennon’s homage to the executed signatories of the Proclamation of Independence, a centennial souvenir of immense importance and a work that once again marks Lennon out as a major composer, not just of traditional music but of neo– Hiberno-classicism.

Lennon takes inspiration from the personalities and actions of those seven executed signatories. His new compositions reflect and illuminate their characters and roles in the Rising. For example we have MacDiarmada’s Dream a drum, flute and whistle march from Ronan Browne and Jimmy Higgins with Charlie taking over on the fiddle half way through. Recalling the welcome Seán MacDiarmada had in Leitrim after his release from a Galway prison in 1915. Tom Clarke’s Jig is lively and full of long drawn bows. Ceannt the Piper is another jig that could easily become a session favourite and Ronan Browne’s piping is muscular and commanding on a low set of pipes, further adding to its appeal. Charlie is good at jaunty tunes, and there’s none better than track 11 Support from America with that early twentieth century Wexford hop. Caitlín Nic Gabhann, Seán Lennon and Jim Higgins give Charlie a hand on this track. Éilish Lennon on fiddle plays the slow air Ros Muc with Charlie accompanying her on this evocation of the landscape and every changing skies of Connemara, home for a time to Patrick Pearse.

With the RTÉ Contempo String Quartet on board it is clear some pieces are more suited to a classical ensemble, such as Easter Lambs, a Planxty with an Edwardian presence. The piano is charged with The Lament for O’Donovan Rossa, the left hand delving into deep chords under a melancholy melody. The famous poem by Joseph Mary Plunket; I See His Blood, is sung by Muireann Nic Amlaoibh, filmic in it sobriety, she adds even more gravitas to this song. She also displays outstanding technical control on the Aisling Fornocht do Chonac Thui, from which comes the album’s title.
A year before Charlie was born it took Dorothy Macardle 133 pages and 13 Chapters to get to the Proclamation in her mammoth 1937 book The Irish Republic. Charlie reaches the same moment on the twelfth and final track Glaoch chun Saoire, The Call to Freedom. This is the big work, a sonata for piano and violin, with Elizabeth Cooney on strings and Finghin Collins on piano. (A joint wok with arranger T Quigley).It begins with happy call to arms as the volunteers gather at the GPO. The situation of course deteriorated, recalled in a piano passage from Collins, before a final cock crow and the peaceful yet hopeful ending, as if a new dawn is about to flood the land with light.

Charlie Lennon, Gael Linn and Leitrim County council should be congratulated on this recording, a timeless classic, one that will be as fresh and relevant in 2116 as it is this centennial year.
Seán Laffey

Bootleg Panini
Own Label 10 Tracks, 52 Minutes

Another blast from the past, this recording was made back in 1986 just when Tweed and Burns were starting to be recognised as leading lights on the UK Irish music scene, and it rapidly became legendary. It was an unusual idea to start with – Irish music on piano accordion and guitar – but it was just for friends who wanted to learn a few session tunes, so where was the harm? Originally set down on nearly–new cassette tape using a state–of–the–art ghetto–blaster with built–in microphone and a pause button, the tape (known simply as that tape) was passed from pub to pub, copied, lost, found under the car seat, lost again, and finally forgotten until someone gave Karen’s dad an old copy and asked if he’d heard it. It turned out that everyone had heard it, everyone had been influenced by it, and everyone wanted to have a copy for their shiny new CD players.

Well, that never happened, and the tape languished while Tweed and Burns immersed themselves in other music. Then finally, just as CDs were nearing extinction anyway, and cassette tapes were merely the butt of very old Facebook jokes, Adrian and Karen agreed to do something about it. A decent copy of the original recording was found, and the pair boldly decided to put this music on USB devices. Memory sticks. Flash drives. SSDs. With all the artwork and notes and everything. As a second thought, they also made a download available from Karen’s website, for anyone who thinks USB is a bit old–fashioned. The music is still the same as in that North London living room thirty years ago – no attempt has been made to disguise the fluffs, slips, background noises, and plain old cock–ups which crept in occasionally despite the total professionalism and painstaking production of the original tape. Apparently it took almost two hours.

So what’s it like? Bloody brilliant. I’ve heard cleaner. I’ve heard tighter. But if I could hear – or better still play in – a regular session this good, I’d be a happy man. Like the soundproofing in Tom Nagle’s front room that day, this isn’t silk or even Axminster wool. It’s more like a rough shag, if I’m honest, but like an old hearth rug it’s full of life, redolent with the pure drop, and will soon have you itching to be up on your feet! Finbar Dwyer’s, Jacky Daly’s, The Coalminer’s, The Pope’s Toe, Return to Miltown, quite a few tunes by Tom McElvogue and more Gan Ainms than a Facebook photo album: these are the session tunes of the eighties and nineties, some of them written by Karen herself, most of them still on the go, and long may they continue! Between the jigs and the reels, actually, there’s nothing at all – it’s all jigs and reels on Bootleg Panini, and that’s good enough for me.

Alex Monaghan


The Arrows that Murder Sleep

Own Label LMM15001 CD, 12 Tracks, 54 Minutes

Cork–born Lorcán Mac Mathúna is an improvising singer and composer with a special interest in the nature of vocal music. He says he is greatly influenced by his father, Séamus, who’s known in traditional music circles for his flute playing and singing, and a life time of work passing on the music to new generations. But Lorcán tells us that there are many diverse influences on his style of singing and delivery of a song. Sean–nós is a prime influence, and he adds, My greatest inspirations have been what would look like pretty ordinary encounters. Unfussy, unadorned occasions, where the song reveals layers of beauty and meaning, and one such example he recalls hearing was a fluid and uplifting rendition of An Clár Bog Déil in a tiny cramped bar in Mayo, at the Fleadh Cheoil in Ballina in 1997.

Lorcán has been engaged in many projects that investigate the improvising nature of the human voice in solo and collaborative settings. They include a cappella sean–nós singing, contemporary compositions of an improvised nature, music composition theory based on syllabic poetic forms, and more. Aspects of his investigations – including improvised performances – are apparent in this new CD, The Arrows that Murder Sleep, and the twelve tracks represent the best of his compositions over a period of six years.
There are two songs in English and nine in Irish, and one solo sean–nós song, Contae Mhuigheo, which is followed by an improvised rendition of Paddy Lynch’s Ship, featuring fiddle player, Eoghan Neff (Riverdance and Anxo Lorenzo), jazz woodwind instrumentalist, Seán Mac Erlaine (This is how we Fly), and accordionist and composer, Martin Tourish (Altan and TG4 Young musician of the year 2008). Also appearing on the album with Lorcán is fiddle player, Daire Bracken (from trad group, Slide).

The compositions draw on material from ancient Irish texts that include the story of Liadán and Cuirithir, an 8th Century tale of star–crossed lovers tragically struck down, and An Cathach, the story of Colmcille’s copying of a manuscript of Finian’s that led to a dispute over ownership and the Battle of Cúl Dreimhne, followed by what is, perhaps, Ireland’s biggest contribution to legal theory: the precedent on copyright. It is all dealt with in the poignant rendition of An Cathach by Lorcán and his friends.

Aidan O’Hara


Naked Music

Mosco Music MOSCD4014 14 Tracks, 41 Minutes

Eleanor’s eponymous debut album came out in 1993; it was a bit of a phenomenon, clocking up some 250,000 sales worldwide. Twenty three years on and Naked Music is Eleanor McEvoy’s twelfth studio album, recorded at the Grange studio in Norfolk. This release sees her collaborate with British artist, Chris Gollon, who has painted a series of pictures for the album.
As the title suggests the music is brought right back to its skeletal bones. Most musicians approach new albums with new material and moving forward. With this new collection, McEvoy has delved into her catalogue and produced a work that exposes an intimacy from start to finish. Included are a number of new songs alongside the old, they are recorded live, one woman, one voice.

This collection is intimate to the core, and this is also captured in the paintings by Gollon with 4 pictures representing Eleanor in the liner notes. Naked Music showcases McEvoy’s distinctive voice, and it is a whole new experience, sometime it’s lyrical, sometimes breathy, often there’s a hint of intrigue or gossip. The album opens with Wrong so Wrong, a beautiful sensuous song that draws you in immediately: his fingers are’s bad, so bad, I want it so much. McEvoy isn’t afraid to expose a real intimacy within her lyrics as well as the music. What follows is a mixture of old and new, but all with the same nakedness in common. Musically there is a bareness to the album too, just McEvoy’s voice alongside a simple but successful minimal musical accompaniment, mostly acoustic and electric guitars.

Lubbock Woman sees her at home with a country tune, a tale of an ageing good time girl. Look Like Me explores the issues with keeping up with ever changing fashions: an issue close to every woman’s heart. The DJ is an apt tribute to an un–named late night radio presenter. She plays electric piano for the very poignant Half Out Of Habit. The collection of 12 tracks closes with Isn’t It A Little Late? After 23 years, it is not late but timely. If you’re a McEvoy fan, Naked Music is a must..

Grainne McCool


The Hills Above the Valley

Own Label 2015, 10 Tracks, 31 Minutes

Barry is a new name to me and based on this release I hope he will not be a stranger to my music deck. The album gives little information on him or his label but he is well–worth seeking out. He takes the life and lore of his locality in Wicklow and weaves a social history that would be the pride of any locality for centuries.
The opening track Where The Brook Waters Flow had me captivated immediately both in the singing and in story. Kinane has a rare gift of taking the stories of life and relatively recent history to weave magical musical tales that are like short stories of the highest quality.

I defy anyone to listen to Mary and not recognise your own lifetime people, places and events. Barry not only draws us back into a magical tale but he makes it wonderfully listenable.

The Ballyknockan Band is another hypnotic track that gives us local history in rhyme and music. I particularly liked the musical outro. You will go many a mile to hear a song better than Mrs O’s Delight with its story and delivery.The album closes with the title track and while enjoying it immensely I was sad that I had come to the end of my first listen to a gem of a CD. With my love of social history I could rave about this album for days with its combination of storytelling and addictive tunes. All I can really say is that if you love life, people, history and good music get out there and find your own copy cos you are not getting mine.

Nicky Rossiter

IRELAND: Crossroads of Art and Design, 1690 – 1840 THE MUSIC Liz Carroll, Liz Knowles, Catriona McKay, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, Kieran O’Hare, Marty Fahey, Trevor Hutchinson, Emer Mayock, Jackie Moran, Aoife Ní Bhriain, Mick O’Brien (O’Brien International) 15 Tracks, 59 minutes

This CD’s recording was inspired by a 300 item exhibition held at the Art Institute of Chicago in 2015. The objects in the exhibit made their way to America over a 300 year period, both as family heirlooms and wise investments. They represent the high point of Irish design and craftsmanship from the Irish Georgian age, when Dublin was the Second City of the Empire, when its churches and civic buildings were designed in the latest European fashion, and those who could afford quality–whether in decorative objects, furniture or fine art–found that all was to-hand in Ireland.

You can view a crossroads in two ways: as an intersection at which to make choices, or, in the classic Irish sense, as a meeting point where something special happens. It is in the latter meaning that this metaphor prevails on this fascinating CD. It was produced alongside that exhibition of Irish art, furniture and decorative objects, all selected from the period referred to as the Long 18th century. This era was so–called because it represented a period of time, longer than a century, when relative peace prevailed alongside overwhelming artistic and artisanal talent in Ireland. Though it may seem strange to end as late as 1840, there is good reason, as both Bunting and Petrie published their collections years after they had noted down the tunes and because the Famine(s) brought an abrupt end to this era.

Musically, this album stretches from Carolan to Bunting to Goodman, from the last days of the retained harper to the new fangled piano–forte and piano, as well as to the homemade music of the Protestant and Catholic gentry alike. It also represents the span of time when Irish music was not only being recorded in print but its character and its popular parameters were first being established. The CD sets out an ambitious agenda: to offer examples of contemporary music of the age, researched by fiddler Liz Knowles, as well as to present new compositions from Liz Carroll, inspired largely by the seven major themes of the exhibition itself.  Both ladies succeed in their endeavors, and by careful reading of the excellent booklet that is packaged with this album, we get a feel for the far more complex musical milieu of the 18th century in Ireland, where the boundaries between what we now call classical and traditional music were blurred, or more correctly, had not yet been snapped into separate focus.

The music can be appreciated in chronological order, from Carolan’s famous Concerto–played here from the Bunting transcription by Catriona McKay–to Marty Fahey’s rendition of Hampsey’s Soft Mild Morning.  Herein lies a paradox: though Hampsey considered Carolan’s music to be too modern in 1792, his own music was transcribed by Bunting and was written to be played for the avant–garde 18th century instruments, the piano–forte and piano.

Seven of the tracks on this album are original compositions from Liz Carroll, and she is in grand form here. Two noteworthy examples are The True Love of My Heart, a lovely ensemble piece by Carroll, with Liz Knowles (hardanger d’amore 5+5), Catriona McKay (harp) and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill (keyboards); and Planxty Charles Bunworth, in honor of the noted Anglo-Irish champion of Irish music in the 18th century whose personal harp (c1734) was featured in the exhibit. The latter melody is taken at a sedate pace, as a fiddle and flute duet. The planxty is then followed by a jaunty slip jig named in honor of 21st century players, Rose Conway Flanagan and Kathleen Conneely: it is an infectious melody. The other half of the CD is made up of tunes from various period collections, such as those by Bunting, George Petrie, O’Farrell and Canon Goodman, including the spirited Lady Gordon’s Minuet, an unexpected period ballroom dance in 3/4 time. We have further selections from the Goodman manuscripts and O’Farrell Collection in the pairing of the jig The Droning Old Aged Woman and Byrn’s March: featuring piping here by Kieran O’Hare, it is full of long notes and deep emotion.

The booklet alone is worth the price of the CD: it not only provides extensive background to the tunes but also includes excellent photography of key objects from the exhibition, beautifully crafted essays on the 18th century harp and an end piece on the unique role of the Irish country house in preserving and fostering music in what, indeed, could be called a cultural Golden Age of art and creativity.

Seán Laffey


Own Label SCD 10 Tracks, 35 Minutes

An album full of carefully crafted lyrics and mellifluous melodies, matched together like the tight binding on a bespoke guitar. They say there is love at the endings, and so it is with Ben :It’s time to go, time to part, I’ll take you with me in my heart… is the refrain from Time To Go the final song on Ben Sands’ latest album, Troubadour.
For his audiences, that line might also describe the quality of the material, how the words and melodies captivate the listener, how they sustain and stay in the heart. The poetry and lyricism in his work is refreshing, nostalgic, romantic, comic, some sad yearnings mixed with engaging optimism and delivered in his mellifluous, seasoned voice.
Sands expresses vividly the pastoral and natural world; the river in the morning, the sun chasing clouds, the beauty of flowers and the simplicity of a tin can kicked in the streetscapes of a small town. The loneliness of faraway places is explored in Irish Rain when an Irish man, forty years in Australia, misses the rain when he looks in secret at old
photographs. There is pathos and longing in the lyrics, heightened by the sparse, mellow and melodious guitar playing. Ben Sands knows the virtues of love, the pain of loss and he has a philosophical connection to the mystery of humankind. In She is Leaving, there is an anticipation of losing a loved one, he writes that his sky feels empty, because her going has ‘no rhyme nor reason.’
Juxtaposed with that is the penultimate optimistic song: Come As You Are, a slow, deliberate expectation of the arrival of a lover. The physicality of the writer, how he replaces guitar strings, laces his shoes and leaves the door ajar, for all the expected outcomes of the rendezvous. He asks the much anticipated lover to please don’t keep me waiting, come as you are and go where you will,because ‘the fountain of life is flowing, come drink your fill. Similarly, there is a fountain of musical composition and poetry flowing for Ben Sands, a true Irish Troubadour. The bonus is that for or every balladeer who would take these songs into their own hearts the CD comes with all the words to all the songs to ease your learning.

Anne Marie Kennedy


Homespun Songs of 19th Century America

Own Label, 20 Tracks, 64 minutes

This is a recording I have wanted to make for a long time as I have enjoyed many of these songs since my childhood, writes Bobby Horton in the notes he has written for his latest CD, Homespun Songs of 19th Century America. The only problem he had was in deciding what to leave out, so rich were the pickings from the corpus of popular song of the 1800’s in America. Bobby is not only a singer and performer, he’s a respected historian of American song, and for this production he has recorded twenty great songs, delightfully arranged – by Bobby himself – with a detailed account of each one.

It would be understating things to say that the 19th century was an exciting time for The United States as the country opened up to the world and its mother’ as millions flooded in from Europe and beyond. The music business grew and prospered, says Bobby, as the American experience was documented in song. Home entertainment was big in those times before radio, TV and the cinema, and traditional singers included in their repertoires not just songs passed down in the family but newly composed numbers, as well.

Songwriters captured the excitement of living in the young republic. They wrote about all aspects of everyday living: love, work, faith, death, family, politics, leaving home, dreaming of home, coming home, humour, and the experience of being a slave in a mostly free country. And Bobby further points out, Many of these 19th century songs are still loved and sung in America today. And here, too, it must be said.

One of the most prolific composers of songs was Dan Emmett, whose most famous composition was Dixie, first performed in 1859. It’s not on this CD, but Bobby has included other songs of Dan’s: Old Dan Tucker, the lyrics of which Dan claims to have written when he was only 14 years old; Jordan is a Hard Road to Travel, still performed today by bluegrass bands and folksingers; Polly Wolly Doodle, a fun song Dan composed in the 1850’s to be performed by his group, The Virginia Minstrels; and De Boatman Dance, a happy little number about a man who works the riverboats on The Ohio River.

Bobby not only sings the songs, he plays all the instruments, as well! And wrote the notes, too, published the CD, did all the vocal harmonies, and recorded the whole thing at home in his own studio! And that’s why he should be called, Bobby The Hardworking’ Horton.

Aidan O’Hara