Releases > Releases April 2021

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Own label, 9 Tracks, 35 Minutes
Low Lily singer-songwriter, guitarist, and pianist Liz Simmons weaves a storytelling tapestry of love and life in her new Americana album, Poets. Simmons draws songwriting strength from her rich childhood memories travelling with her musical parents to create a seamless flow of five originals and four exceptional song cover versions.
To complete her project, Simmons brought on board fourteen spectacular musicians, combing them into simple but tight units to perfectly complement Simmons’s lilting voice: husband Flynn Cohen (Low Lily; acoustic guitar, mandolin), son Gabe Bradshaw (drums, electric bass, synth), Lissa Schneckenburger (Low Lily; fiddle), Emerald Rae (Annalivia; fiddle), Dunia Best (Dubistry; vocals), Hannah Sanders (vocals), Nicole Zuraitis (vocals, piano), Dan Pugach (drums), Stefan Amidon (hi-hat), Natalie Haas (cello), Pete Grant (vocals), Andy Hall (The Infamous Stringdusters; dobro), Corey Di Mario (Crooked Still; double bass), and Wes Corbett (Sam Bush Band; banjo).
Simmons sets the tenor of her album with When the Waters Rise. The quiet ballad, resonating to all who yearn about keeping their home roots intact, introduces her silky-smooth voice against a light arpeggiated guitar, dobro, and drums backdrop. A pedal steel guitar, double bass, and sweeping brush drum strokes produce a sweetly meditative, slower, two-step swaying rendition of Who Knows Where the Time Goes, an old 60’s Sandy Denny melody (Fairport Convention). The soft-rock, title-feature original, Poets, takes listeners to a different level as they reminisce of flirtatious love before experiencing a stark mood shift in Dirk Powell’s lament, My Love Lies in the Ground. Simmons’s brilliant opening solo against a droning fiddle is nothing less than spinetingling before she heads into her upbeat version.
Like all of her lyrics in this album, one could easily inference deep introspective messages, such as in is the case of Adventurer, which speaks to much more than flying, Sailing in to Shore is another song that takes a look at love from another time—with both tracks incorporating ethereal harmonies to secure the mood. Simmons continues to lighten the mood with her quasi-sunshine pop version of Joni Mitchell’s 60s song, Night in the City, followed by an upbeat tempo to a Holland-Dozier-Holland (and Moy) Motown love-song favourite, This Old Heart of Mine before bringing it full circle with her reflective original about bygone days, Home from the Storm. Replete with a refreshing collection of songs, Poets has all the makings of becoming an ageless album.
Anita Lock

Topic Records TSCD608, 12 Tracks, 46 Minutes
A name to conjure with, there’s a good deal of magic in Fay Hield’s songs, and death, and love, and betrayal, all the ingredients of folk ballads. Hare Spell is based on the “confessions” of a Scottish witch, bewitching birds and animals. Jenny Wren is a more human story of an abandoned mother. Terri Windling’s poem Night Journey is obscure, inviting interpretation, set to Hield’s tune: though the threads are hard to follow, every word is crystal clear in Fay’s strong voice. Many arrangements feature only simple banjo chord shapes, but Swirling Eddies gets a full band setting on strings, reeds, percussion and more from Rob Harbron, Sam Sweeney, Ben Nicholls and Ewan MacPherson. This title track takes the old story of selkies, seal-people, and dual life on either side of the wrackline.
Watery death, buried babies, lust and revenge are familiar themes for songs in England and Ireland. Fay Hield’s soft Peak District tones tell these stories well, even throwing in a verse from The Well Below the Valley, gruesome Child ballad number 21. Her version of Go Tell Aunt Nancy elevates this rhyme from playground nonsense to pastoral tragedy. Pig Song adapts 1933 lyrics by Benjamin Hapgood Burt, an American composer, and sets them to a new melody. The great Maggie Boyle is the source of Sweet William’s Ghost, a classic dead lover ballad, another full arrangement worthy of an Appalachian string band.
Fay wraps up with two new songs, her own almost atonal Wing Flash and the sensuous When She Comes with Sarah Hesketh’s poem looking through the eyes of the bewitched hare, bringing us back to women and witchcraft and wine, ending and restarting the cycle of these captivating songs.
Alex Monaghan

Old Dog Long Road
Volume 2 (1961 – 2015)
Own Label Two Discs, 23 Tracks, 98 Minutes
Volume one of this fascinating look into the workings of the genius that is Andy Irvine was a huge hit with his legion of fans. The groundwork he tilled on that first volume is once again the seedbed for another intriguing look into the musical methods of one of the most influential folk singers of the past fifty years.
We all have to start somewhere, and Andy’s earliest recording here goes back to 1961. It’s number 6 on the second disc, Andy’s faithful interpretation of Woody Guthrie’s Hobo’s Lullaby. Recorded at home on a Baird reel to reel, he hadn’t found his original voice at that stage; the track is a pastiche of the American folk-singer’s style. Once Andy discovered Irish folk song his voice became his own.
Here we have a lifetime of Andy’s listening to other singers, and the generous sharing of repertoire and material that followed so naturally from those interactions. Carrowclare from Eddie Butcher, Erin Go Bragh first heard sung by Jock Manuel in a folk club in Hull. He had Sweet Ban Water from Joe Homes and Len Graham. John Barlow from another of those northern song carriers, Robert Cinnamond. There are also tracks that didn’t make it to the final cut of Mozaik albums, The Snows, and The Wind Below The Danube. The former sung by Chrysoula Kechagioglou. The latter recorded in Hungary.
There is a live version of As I Roved Out. Andy writes in the detailed liner notes: ‘recorded by Planxty in 1975, somewhere in Germany’. A seminal A Blacksmith Courted Me, taped in a noisy flat in Dublin in 1970. On volume two Andy includes more tunes, the jigs Contentment is Wealth/ Shores of Lough GownaCooley’s and O’Dwyer’s hornpipes, and a sparkling live version of the Drunken Sailor played on a mandola.
His own compositions are here in abundance, Facing The Chair, Douglas Mawson, Love to Be with You and a closing You Fascist Bound to Lose. The story behind this song, which involves a nightclub in Munich, is told in the liner notes. Generous to the last word, he acknowledges the contribution luthier Stefan Sobell has made to Andy’s craft.
Volumes 1 and 2 are marvellous and revealing. I wonder if he has anything else in the attic?
Seán Laffey

The Immigrant: A Stone on the Cairn of Tradition
Grove Records GR001, 19 Tracks, 77 Minutes
Yes, seeing the name John Tunney, singer and folk song scholar on the CD, I immediately thought to myself that he must be from the noted musical Paddy Tunney family. I was right, and I have the pleasure of telling you about this new recording of John’s, The Immigrant: A Stone on the Cairn of Tradition, which is indeed a family affair throughout - in singing, designing the case and booklet, and in copyediting the booklet that is replete with detailed and fascinating notes. The song words are also all supplied on John’s website.
John Tunney grew up in Letterkenny and comes from a long line of west Ulster traditional singers, including his father, the legendary Paddy Tunney, and his famed grandmother Brigid Tunney. John has been singing songs from the repertoire of his extended family for over fifty years and this recording features many of these alongside new, previously unrecorded songs, in traditional style, written by himself and his father. There are 18 songs and one poem.
“While a good proportion of these are written in Irish traditional style,” John says, “most belong in other genres, from folk to pop and even rock.” He added that when he was young and pop or rock music came on the radio his father ordered it to be switched off right away. By way of compensation one might say, the Tunney home had a constant flow of musicians and visitors where, John says, there was “a very different beat” of “traditional music and song”. The visitors included noted performers like fiddler Hughie Gillespie, singer/flute player Cathal McConnell, Séamus Mac Mathúna, Len Graham, Geordie McIntyre, John Faulkner, and record producers like Diane Hamilton and Bill Leader.
There is huge pleasure in hearing John singing what he refers to as the old ‘Tunney songs’ like You Rambling Boys of Pleasure and The Mountain Streams Where the Moorcocks Crow; but also his own compositions - like the title track The Immigrant, which he says is “my contribution to encouraging understanding and tolerance of those who, for a variety of reasons, have chosen to come here and make Ireland their home”. John tells us that the songs and the liner notes are “intended to be read and listened to hand-in-hand” and I can assure you of great satisfaction and enjoyment when you do just that.
Aidan O’Hara

Volume 1
Raelach Records, 12 Tracks, 51 Minutes
Ten years ago concertina player Jack Talty set up Raelach Records. Their USP is the raw bar, the condensed essence of Irish music and song, for which Clare, the label’s real and spiritual home, is renowned.
During the summer of 2020 Jack decided to create a choice compilation, the Rogha in the title reflects this act of choosing. Eschewing the easy furrow of re-releasing selected tracks from the 16 albums in the label’s back catalogue; he chose to feature 12 previously un-released gems.
Frank Keane’s reels lead us into the album, from The Martin Hayes Quartet. Hayes is joined by Liz Knowles on fiddle and viola, alongside long time pal Dennis Cahill (guitar) and the bass clarinet of Doug Wieselman, heavy hitters in the first round for sure.
There are songs from two Gaeltachts, Sile Denvir carries the flag for Connemara with An Cailin Fearuil Fionn and Nell Ni Chróinín delivers, Eoichail, a song from the An Rinn Waterford, (a show stopper of ex-Danú band mate Ciarán Ó Gealbháin).
One way into the album is to select standard tunes and see what the musicians make of them. Here goes, The Concert Reel and Jenny’s Chickens, played by Noel Hill, as pure a drop as you’d expect from the consummate master of the concertina. Fraher’s and Garrett Barrys’ Jig is a selection from the duo of Derek Hickey (box) and Macdara Ó Faoláin (bouzouki), a two note intro to calm the nerves before the pair settle on the perfect pace, the bouzouki allowing the melody to drive the tune on. Hickey has a light accurate touch and Ó Faoláin is on the button with every button press, in synch with every push and draw from the box player.
Geraldine Cotter plays a maze of a tune, Poll Halfpenny, twisting and turning over two minutes before the well-known melody is revealed. Jack Talty solos on An Droighneán Donn & The Cúil Aodha Jig, the first a slow air, taking up the bulk of the track; the way he moves effortlessly into the jig is a master class in itself.
Clare man in exile, Bobby Gardner, one of the most influential box players of the past 60 years, is given the final track, playing a melodeon, backed by Jack Talty (piano) on The Humours of Glendart & The Mullingar Races, the latter oscillating like an American dance hall.
Add in atmospheric photography by Maurice Gunning; a trademark of the Raelach releases is broody and moody, the cover shows a bank of cloud forming like a huge tsunami over the patchwork fields of Clare. Jack says the album is meant to distil the “aesthetic and ethos of the label”. It does that and more. If you’ve already collected the other 16 albums from Raelach, Rogha stands its own ground. And is highly recommended.
Seán Laffey

Clefs of Moher
Own Label, 13 Tracks, 51 Minutes
After retiring in 2016 Tim Moher visited the old country. Totally smitten, on his return home to Canada he began work on the music for this album.  His Celtic jazz ensemble features his saxophone, uilleann pipes, one fiddle, cello, two percussionists, bass, keys, guitar, trumpet and a French horn. This album is a joyous trip around Ireland, with track titles recalling places that mean so much to Tim: the Wicklow Mountains, Dublin, Cashel, Edenderry and yes the Cliffs of Moher.
That title Track, The Clefs of Moher is a jig played on sax and whistle, full of feet lifting energy. His Dublin Romp reminds me of Keith Donald in his pomp, whilst his rock of Cashel is like a 1950s Cadillac ride around the Golden Vale. Danny Boy is played as an air; the cello and piano are prominent in this arrangement. His Wicklow Mountain is a shoe in for an Irish dance show, its middle section recalls Moving Hearts at their best.
Track 11 is digitally labelled as Galway Bay. The track begins on pipes and whistle, before a slow air from Tim’s rich saxophone takes the reign, the piece picking up tempo with percussion and a key shift into a funky big band section, before a bass and piano’s late night jazz vibe interludes until the sax and whistle gently walk us out of the music.
Down by the Sally Gardens introduces us to the voice of  Shannon Kingsbury, a simple beginning with acoustic guitar, joined later by a resonant electric guitar and lush vocal harmonies. Michael Kelly Cavan sings his own Child of Immigrants, a powerful evocation of what it is to be one the first generation Diaspora.
Ninety years ago the Irish Church railed against jazz in Ireland. Today in our more enlightened times this album will lift your spirits and like the country itself, its variety and complexity will leave you spellbound.
Seán Laffey

The Humours of Scariff
Own label, 15 Tracks, 57 Minutes
John Keehan who lives in Scariff, Co. Clare, grew up in Lough Cutra near Gort, Co. Galway, and with him on this, his long-awaited CD are guest musicians Derek Hickey (accordion), Ciara O’Sullivan (harp & vocals), Willy Kilkenny (flute), and Mary Noonan, John’s sister, (vocals). There are two songs, several traditional dance tunes and three of John’s own compositions, and the combined ensemble provide us with what I am happy to describe as a pure listening pleasure. The recording, The Humours of Scariff, is given that title in honour of John’s adopted home.
But whatever Clare musical influences John might have experienced, he will quickly remind us that his musical roots are in Galway. His parents were excellent set dancers and while neither of them played an instrument, they instilled in their children a love of Irish music. Also, the radio was important in their lives, and Ciarán Mac Mathúna’s Sunday morning Mo Cheol Thú was a favourite. Indeed, I had the honour and the pleasure of ‘sitting in’ for Ciarán and presented the programme when he was away on other business.
John’s CD has an added feature that adds hugely to the enjoyment of listening to his playing and that of his guests, and that is the liner notes covering biographical details and fascinating information on all of the tracks. For instance, while most of the tunes are from the tradition, he tells he got the Cloone Hornpipe from his mother-in-law, Joan Giblin, who in turn found it in the Roche Collection of Traditional Music. Frank Roche’s collection was published in 1912. The other tune in the hornpipe medley, Eimear’s Hornpipe, is John’s composition, written in memory of his niece Eimear Noonan, Mary’s daughter, who died in a tragic accident in France in 2017.
Ciara O’Sullivan’s harp playing is heard to great effect throughout the recording and her rendition of I Live Not Where I Love, is just perfect. Indeed, the same applies to Mary Noonan’s singing of that great song - one of my favourites since school days, An Droimeann Donn Dílis. A flawless rendition to round off this gem of a recording.
Aidan O’Hara

AIR Music, 7 Tracks, 47 Minutes
It is fair to say that John Walsh has effectively carved out a unique niche for himself, an Irishman, originally from Co. Longford, who is a virtuoso flamenco guitarist and an accomplished composer. This album showcases both attributes in full measure, as we are treated to a journey through a selection of set pieces, written in very definite styles and accompanied (as appropriate) by percussion and handclaps. Started as a home recording project designed to keep him busy during the first pandemic lockdown, it rapidly evolved into a virtual collaboration with flamenco specialists in Spain and the Netherlands.
His solo guitar is the unwavering centrepiece, from the opening title track, which showcases the cross-fertilisation of influences shaping his music; here we have tinges of Hibernian sensibility with some embedded echoes of O’Carolan. From the outset, his absolute command of his instrument is apparent, with some absolutely stunning passages in terms of sheer musicianship. In contrast to the faster tracks, Reflejo y Sombra and La Anoranza are more reflective (the latter title translates as “longing”), and they both feature just solo guitar, which often sounds like two or more instruments, as the various themes interweave and entwine.
Cassiopeia references his keen interest in astronomy and evokes more of the traditional flamenco dance style or palo, with prominent handclaps and a stunning finale. The closing piece Fuente Nueva is another dance with a great sense of drama and pace. Throughout, Walsh adheres steadfastly to the structural and compositional dictates of flamenco, which he describes as a complete musical language. As a debut, for those hitherto unaware of John Walsh’s talents, it is a stunning introduction to his superb talents; to those already acquainted, it’s an absolute vindication of his steadfast dedication and devotion to his art. I can’t wait for the follow-up.
Mark Lysaght

Big Mann Records, 9 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Livewire is their first full-length album. Yet you’d never guess that on listening. Mec Lir has released this collection of 9 tunes and introduce us to the drama of this eclectic foursome immediately.
Repeal the Union opens the collection: a set of three reels which is just simply dramatic from the beginning. This sense of drama continues to the very end. The drama is still present as we reach the third track, Vasen. It could be the opening of a movie. We can’t wait to hear what happens next. Then boom, the drums come in, gentle at first, before the fiddle brings the trad music alive once more. This is an eclectic mix of synthesis, trad, folk and a tempo so changeable it’s theatrical and dramatic at every turn. Earthbound provides an ethereal experience musically. It feels like they are preparing the listener for a return to earth as the album draws near its close. Its tempo cut back; it’s quietening us down. It brings us right back down to earth again having been to space and back with the previous 7 tunes and their liveliness. And then Palm Bay closes the music with a return to the upbeat of the beginning.
Featuring seven guests: Adam Brown (bodhrán), Paddy Callaghan (button accordion), Davie Dunsmuir (electric guitar), Rachel Hair (harp), Sarah Markey (wooden flute), Ciaran Ryan (banjo), Calum Stewart (uilleann pipes & whistles), the four band members are exploring their musical ability and reach success with each exploration. Synthesis and the traditional instruments just work with these lads and they win us over from the onset. As it rounds up, we are left wanting to start it all over again. This has been a lockdown project that brings everyone alive once more. Livewire is a real livewire collection of music from beginning to end.
Grainne McCool

Own Label, 11 Tracks, 52 Minutes
If the Balkan tribes hadn’t given us 7/8, a Scottish musician would have had to invent it! That musician might just have been Adam Hendey, whose dervish dance The Mayor of Homer opens the third album from California Scottish trio The Fire. Hendey plays guitar with poise and panache, and with sensitivity and rare skill, behind the impressive front line of Rebecca Lomnicky on fiddle and David Brewer on pipes and whistles. There are no guests listed, so with a smattering of other instruments The Fire deliver all the music here unaided, a tall order as tracks range from marches to mazurkas, Burns songs to beautiful slow airs. The CD cover art designed by Rebecca is also very attractive, and the website is well worth a visit. All three band members showcase their own compositions, Adam’s swaggering reel Buchanan Street sounding like an afternoon at Glasgow’s Piping Live festival, Rebecca’s Blizzard at Donner Pass a storming showpiece to contrast with her beautiful rendition of the classic Charles Grant fiddle air Mrs Jamieson’s Favourite, and David’s eight-minute suite of Mexican-Scottish music finishing off this album in a high style I haven’t heard since Ossian’s Dove Across the Water opus. There’s a lot to enjoy here, old pipe tunes brought to life with the fizz and crackle of a tight young trio, a delicate rendition of Burns’ There was a Lad, a measured take on Rip the Calico, and a lovely selection of strathspeys and reels by lesser known Scottish composers. Marigold is exciting, fresh, and hugely enjoyable.
Alex Monaghan

To the Awe
Shadowside Records, 10 Tracks, 40 Minutes
To the Awe is the new album from Scotland’s Rachel Newton. A collection of music placing women at the centre of their narrative, at various stages of life and often marking a coming of age and an acquisition of power. This music is taken from old poems and ballads.
Comprising of 10 tracks, this album is inspiring and motivating for women everywhere. But at its heart is the music. And music created during lockdown 2020, which is even more inspiration to add to the mix.
Opening with The Early Morning we can almost see the day awaken. It’s loud and it flows. And it flows into what is my favourite track, We Will Listen. The lyrics here are from an old poem, To Jean Ingelow. Newton interprets the poem as one woman encouraging another.
I can’t help but feel this song encouraging me as I listen and relisten. There follows a variety of musical tracks and each one creating a sense of power in the listener. There is pain in some (Maid by the Shore, Two Sisters), there is awe in others, but at all times there is a celebration. A celebration of the women gone before; the women who helped build us to the women we are today. The women who helped shape our world.
To the Awe is changing the narrative of our world. It is bringing the women’s voice and experience alive.
The album ends with the track Would You Be Young Again. It allows us to stop and contemplate. Question our very age and being. It encourages us to appreciate the wisdom age brings us, and the wisdom we have being women.
This collection of music is creativity at its best. Created during one of the toughest times our generation have known, and it resonates with women everywhere.
Gráinne McCool

Journey Through the Roke
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 52 Minutes
East Anglian husband and wife duo Lucy and Jon Hart, took to writing new songs during lockdown, live streaming gigs every Sunday night. Add in some crowd funding and the album Journey Through the Roke will be released in late April 2021.
The duo is joined here by Toby Shaer (whistles, harmonium, flute, fiddle, bass), Evan Carson (drums, bodhran, percussion), Archie Churchill Moss (melodeon) and Graham Coe on cello. The string work is wonderful, Lucy and Jon play guitars, bouzouki, five string banjo, mandolin, double bass and ukulele (the tone of Lucy’s uke is harp-like).
The musical variety here is impressive, from the bluesy The Miller, to the Americana of The Flowline and Life on Earth, (thanks to the five string banjo and the fiddle breaks). Buried in Ivy packs a Suffolk punch. A bell-like mandolin and the repeated phrase ‘We’ve no time to waste’ punctuates Freddie Cooper. They venture to Ireland for My Lagan Love, its moody shimmering echoing backdrop provides the open space for Lucy’s slow heartfelt vocals, suggestive of Sandy Denny. My vote for the catchiest tune is: Sweet Honey; it’s an earworm. If you crave darker corners then I’d recommend. Unless We Start It.
The word Roke is Suffolk dialect for the mists that rise from its marshes. This album is one of the clearest recordings I’ve heard in a decade, holding its head above the roke and into the sunlight on every track.
Seán Laffey