Releases > Releases April 2022

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Take Her In Your Arms
Own label, 12 Tracks, 41 Minutes

Andy Cooney’s creative juices kicked into gear soon after COVID lockdown, finding ways to keep his talents alive and moving. His persistence paid off when he released six singles to radio stations in Ireland, the US, and the UK—all of which became a part of his twentieth album, Take Her In Your Arms.
Cooney’s swooning voice speaks of love in this light-heartened and optimistic 12-track collection. The CD opens with three Irish love songs, the first with the same album title and a cover song by the late Silly Wizard singer-songwriter Andy M. Steward. Cooney and songwriter Jeffrey Teague joined forces creating Take Me Back to Dublin, followed by In Search of A Rose, an old Mike Scott cover from The Waterboys.
Shifting over to Country, Cooney introduces a new Chris Stapleton song titled Starting Over, a seamless lead into two George Jones classics, She Thinks I Still Care and Waltz of the Angels. Grammy-winning artist Larry Gatlin is the featured singer in a swingy Cooney-and-Gatlin original, Come Tennessee Me Tonight.
Three more Irish songs follow: Looking For Love In Lisdoon, a perfect matchmaking song; My Belfast Love, a Finbar Magee cover; and a grand Tommy Mulvihill cover, Keep the Tradition Alive. The album draws to a close on a love song, Everyday Thing, and an original featuring Ryan Cooney, sending a reminder to all during COVID days that We’re All In This Together.Andy Cooney’s latest is bound to be a new favourite for Cooney fans and beyond!
Available at and It will be released on Spotify, Apple Music and all digital platforms on March 4, 2022.
Anita Lock

Day Is Come
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 45 Minutes

The Alt are Nuala Kennedy (flute and vocals) with John Doyle, and Eamon O’Leary both playing strings and adding vocals. On Day Is Come they have a special guest, none other than Kevin Burke on fiddle. It’s my favourite album of the month.
Nuala sings Flower of Northumberland and two songs in Irish Tá na Lá and Páidín Ó Raifeartaigh, the latter is the first part of a set with two dance tunes Lohan’s and The Donegal Tinker. John Doyle picks Lohan’s on the guitar and Nuala joins him on whistle, the final tune sees her shifting to flute.
John Doyle’s version of The Falkirk Fair is a tale not unlike Darby O’Leary about the misery of hiring for a stingy farmer. There’s a call to romance on The Willow Tree with intricate interplay between flute and bouzouki combining with the lush sweep of Burke’s fiddle. There is a straight instrumental set of Stolen Butter / Biddy Earlys Reel / The Salamanca, the final element recognisable from the Bothy Band repertoire.
An oft overlooked part of Irish history is recalled in The Connaught Rangers, an a cappella duet between Nuala and John: told from the perspective of a loved one watching the men march down Dublin’s quays to their troop ships and an eventual action in France in 1914.
The last track is one of unrequited love, The Black Bird and the Thrush, not the ribald version you may find in some folk song books, but a bittersweet questioning of song birds by a lovesick youth. John Doyle asks the birds “why do you sing so happily”, their answer is because they are free. That isn’t a condition open to humanity, what a choice, the lock of love or the lonely release of the recluse?
Day Is Come is an album of attractive and addictive melodies, stunning string work, intoxicating arrangements and a willingness to take old folk songs and breathe new life into them; and here’s the Alt’s brilliance, they never over gloss old songs with the soon crackled varnish of modernity. This is vintage for any season.
Seán Laffey

Own Label, 12 Tracks, 45 Minutes
This debut album from Aisling Lyons has set the harp world talking ever since its release in December 2021. What makes it so special? Her playing (of course), her tune selection (obviously) and her newly written pieces, melodies that will endure, melodies that will easily lodge in the memory.
In a recent interview with IMM’s Aidan O’Hara, Aisling said if it wasn’t for the pandemic she would not have composed many of the new tunes here.
The lockdown gave many musicians time to contemplate and re-evaluate their music. For Aisling the time was more pressing, her father was ill and he did sadly pass away in 2019. During his illness, as a get-well gift to him, Aisling composed Tune for Dad, a simple melody, full of love and care and acceptance, and a tune that will live long in the tradition, a gift for us all and a faithful legacy for her father.
Aisling’s harp playing is always sensitive, always on point, each set of triplets is ice-water clear, her transitions between tunes and her selections are perfectly chosen. For example the set of hornpipes and reels: Buster’s Dreams/Pigtown/The West Clare Reel/The Boxing Reel, moves between major and minor keys and shifting dance rhythms in a seamless flow. There is something very County Clare about this album, the way its tunes are played without fuss or hurry, there’s no need to blur all the notes together just because you can play fast, the inherent tempo of the tune always dictates its playing in Clare. Even when Aisling swaps the Harp for the concertina on the jig set on track 4: Cregg/The Fiddler’s Jacket/Helvic Head, she still imbues the music with a relaxed, seemingly effortless poise.
The liner notes explain the background to the tracks, adding context and meaning to our listening pleasure. Helping us becoming familiar with Aisling’s journey that is Aistear. Such attentive listening will no doubt throw up many favourites for you, mine is undoubtedly Tune for Dad. This is an album of sumptuous melodies to be embraced by the tradition.
Seán Laffey

Own Label, 10 Tracks, 41 Minutes
Billy Treacy is a songwriter, with a voice straight out of Dublin’s north side. Billy’s voice is raw and unaffected, somewhere between Damien Dempsey and Luke Kelly. His bandmates, the Scope are: Anna Mary Donaghy: fiddle, Anthony Warde: banjo & mandolin, Eoin Dillon: uilleann pipes & whistles, and Graham Watson: lap steel guitar. The subject is Dublin itself, the streetscape and the lives lived in it. On Into This Life he recalls his own mad dash from venue to venue in order to keep food on the table.
In the song Dollymount Beach he remembers happy times gone by, witty observations of locals attempting to get a tan or buying ice cream, the ordinary stuff of ordinary childhoods. He recalls the markets of his youth and their recent closure: The stalls, they are all empty, you can hear a pin drop to the ground. The buzz and banter that once was here, will never more be found.
On Moving This Way Billy rails against the rebuilding of Dublin for profit not people, the creation of empty spaces from places once full of life. His song Temple Bar, recorded live, is about the tourist district and it is an ironic comment on a place the locals avoid for fear of empty pockets. None of this is presented as maudlin begrudgery, he is such a craftsman with words and language, with the economy of rhyme, we feel his pain but smile at his art
His standout song is Ma, about his mother, it begins: “I’ll tell you a story, it’s no Jackanory..” Neither is it sentimental nor is it cloying. He even channels his inner city Bob Dylan on a couple of rockier numbers, such as The Good Life. The band is excellent too. Warde’s banjo is a consistent driver and there are trad tunes at the end of Temple Bar and The Sally Gardens. There’s also a live traditional instrumental: King George IV to close the album. However in the end it is his love affair with Dublin itself that shines through.
Billy Treacy is a major find, he has an original voice, he has a critical eye, and he is well worth discovering for yourself.
Seán Laffey

Live at the Market Place
Own Label, 13 Tracks, 64 Minutes
The amusingly named All Folk’d Up is the brainchild of banjo virtuoso Pauric Mohan, from Tyrone. They play a mixture of well-known Irish ballads and tunes, mixed in with some more contemporary material, with Pauric also on lead vocals, and the rest of the band features James O’Connor on accordion, Pauric’s brother Barry on guitars, with a driving rhythm section of Luke Ward on bass guitar and drummer Szymon Dwulat (originally from Poland) completing the line-up.
This live recording showcases their high-energy approach, with no let-up until the fourth track, an extended version of Raglan Road. Until then it’s a full-on assault, with The Hills of Donegal (including the Tamalin reel), The Irish Rover and Whisky In The Jar played in rapid succession, at pace!
The bass and drums provide a high-octane boost to complement the vocals and melody, and the atmosphere of what was obviously a highly enjoyable live performance is well-captured. Harmony vocals add another layer to the sound; it’s obvious that the band members are all highly accomplished individual players, and arrangements are well thought out.
However, it’s Pauric Mohan’s banjo playing and vocals that really catches the ear, his instrumental prowess to the fore on the instrumental sets such as The Star of Munster and the almost obligatory The Mason’s Apron, which closes the album. His singing throughout is strong and convincing, and I really enjoyed their take on Richard Thompson’s From Galway to Graceland. This hints at the band’s potential future direction, as there is a wealth of more modern material, which could be re-interpreted in their distinctive style.
Overall, the album is an enjoyable mix of old and new material, providing a real sense of the excitement they generate when playing live. I look forward to a follow-up recording in a studio setting.
Mark Lysaght

Talisk Records, 10 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Talisk are Mohsen Amini: concertina & synth, Graeme Armstrong: guitar, electric guitar & vocals, and Benedict Morris: fiddle & strings. They also employ the production skills of Charlie Galloway on the tracks Lava and Storm. They have a penchant for the one word track title, such as Aura, Surya, Interlude and Beast.
Equally at home playing traditional classics (with enough energy to keep a wind farm spinning for years), they also have a contemporary electronic alter ego, which is the personality that bobs to the surface on Dawn. The intro hits you like the sunburst of a tropical dawn; in under 50 seconds we are awake in the present and ready for another 9 tracks of dazzling music..
Talisk’s signature style, one in which they find ample opportunity to create variations, both between and within the tracks, is to make tunes from repetitive motifs. These are over laid on a dynamic and driven back line; the tension this entails is a key to holding our attention. The Light of Day begins with the sound of waves lapping a rocky shore and Mohsen picks up the imagery with little triplets from the concertina as the tide ebbs its gentle way back through the wrack, like a mother’s fingers through a child’s hair. The fiddle taking a top line at half the pace of the underlying concertina, as the guitar holds the pedal rhythm in place. This is one of the least complex tracks on the album, but it is still a full and richly rewarding listen….
Beast is a big contrast, pumping chords from the keyboards herald a frenetic session of concertina playing, the chords at one point become staccato statements, from which the concertina escapes at a gallop. The ninth track Dystopia 1 is laid back, perhaps a reminder that we are coming towards the finale of the album, but that relaxed sojourn won’t last long, this is a Talisk album! The second half rises to a crescendo preparing us for the closing Dystopia 2 and its ending on an almost Gregorian drone
Hand waving and jumping up and down will be contagious when you hear this played live. This is Talisk’s third CD release since March 2021, and like the Dawn itself their golden star is rising.
Seán Laffey

The Postman Thinks I’m Crazy
Own Label, Digital Album,
13 Tracks, 54 Minutes
Tyrone born Raymond Coleman has a new digital album out and it’s a mighty fine collection of work. The Postman Thinks I’m Crazy is a collection of 13 tracks and each one showcases Coleman’s genius. With guest singer Ashley Davis, musicians Colin Farrell, Joanie Madden and Philadelphia legend Michael Lecompt, this really is a great one to start 2022.
The album is a mix of some of Coleman’s favourite songs and a number of fan favourites are there as well. Recording with Gabriel Donohue in his Cove Island studio in Philadelphia, this is music showing the serious talent of Coleman.
Opening with Johnny Set Em Up Tonight we are immediately onboard the journey with Coleman. A real tribute to Liam Reilly and Bagatelle and sung with a clear love and admiration for Liam, we really are transported to the iconic world of Reilly. It is also from this track that the album title is taken, so this is a genuine tribute all round.
We then hear Passage West and another edge to Coleman’s voice. This is what I love about this collection of music, the various sounds of Raymond Coleman. There’s a real traditional feel throughout with a hint of bluegrass there too. For the traditional sound l’d recommend Home Away from Home. This is followed immediately with the haunting vocals of Áine Ní Bhrollaigh ‘as Gaeilge’ with Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore, with Coleman coming in not long after.
Coleman’s Irish childhood, his growing up and sayings back home in Tyrone are all in his original track Angel Wings. Rounding off with Blower’s Daughter and Rainbow you can tell why these are his favourites and his fans’ favourites. It’s a beautiful collection of songs and music made extra beautiful with the unique voice of Coleman.
Grainne McCool

No End In Sight
Rover Records, 15 Tracks, 63 Minutes
The Irish Rovers were formed when George Millar and Jimmy Ferguson found themselves in Toronto at the peak of the ballad boom in 1963, nearly 60 years ago (let that sink in for a while). Who would have thought the Rovers would still be making music today, filling theatres with George creating new songs with punch, panache and presence?
The band is dispersed with members resident in Ireland, Canada and Florida; in a normal year they take their rousing family friendly folk music on tour, and they’ve been a few times round the world at this stage. On this album they deliver what their fans have come to love, upbeat good time music, with songs about sailors (The Wellerman and Back to Sea), drink (No Rules or Borders), the plight of the Irish Bachelor (The Girl Down The Lane), Irish characters (Rambling Paddy) and even Irish rebels from 1798 (Tom Archer).
Listening to these songs you can see how attractive their stage shows must be, lyrics rhyme, the language is tight and the vocabulary is extensive, words are chosen to fit the cadence of a tune, their choruses are accessible, the tunes get your feet tapping and the band is full of first class players. There’s an attraction to the free drinking free thinking life of the characters in their songs, even if we all know they really are fiction.
The title track sums up their attitude to retirement, the chorus rings out: “We’ll sing and play and tear away and keep the devil waiting.” Other autobiographical tracks include Give Us A Song Boys and the closing Dinosaurs, with a full-on 70’s rock makeover, electric guitar, bass riff intro and a thumping drum all included. The chorus has the line: “We’re Dinosaurs the old guard, we march to a different drum.”
Fair play to The Irish Rovers, they really are the ultimate good time Irish band. Their beat goes on and there really is no end in sight.
Seán Laffey

Own Label, 9 Tracks, 45 Minutes
A mix of nationalities united by their love of Irish/Scottish music, Fourth Moon evolved from a session at the 2014 Willie Clancy Week in Miltown Malbay, and the current line-up includes guitar, flute/whistles, fiddle/strings and piano accordion, with singer Ainsley Hamill now added to the ranks. The music is mainly original, carefully arranged and structured, also often difficult to categorise, as the heady mix of influences combine to conjure up an ever-changing sequence of musical vistas.
Musically, they use their relatively conventional instrumentation with different structures, where Jean Damei’s guitar is often employed melodically, creating a different take on the sound you would associate with a chamber music quartet – while also maintaining conventions elsewhere. One minute, the four players are closely entwined in a tight formation, then suddenly an instrument will break free, soaring to new heights, a technique used very effectively on the first track Open Seas. It’s only on track 4 Sextant that Ainsley Hamill is introduced, and her contribution is effectively a fifth instrument as the vocalisations resemble scat singing.
There’s an overall theme to the album, charting a sea journey, and the titles reflect this, the music painting pictures of the eventful passage, and describing events such as Northern Star and Borealis. Ainsley Hamill gets a chance to shine on The Elf Knight, with the band providing an atmospheric and strangely menacing backdrop, featuring David Lombardi’s strident fiddle to the fore.
On the last track, Voyager, the band really takes off, guest drummer Michael Shimmin adding an extra rhythmic component and driving the core musicians to new heights of collective excellence. The virtuosity throughout the album is top-notch, and this award-winning band is on track to continue their odyssey to the very highest level.
Mark Lysaght

Idir Dhá Sháile 2 – Amhráin ar an Sean Nós
Gael Linn CEFCD 128, 12 Tracks, 53 Minutes
This is an album of unreleased songs from Sarah Ghriallais, which was recorded in 1987. In the extended history of the sean-nós singing tradition, 1987 isn’t that long ago. However, in terms of recording technology it was a time when DAT tape was the dominant medium in studios, and two years before Pro Tools hit the market; but none of that matters on this timeless album of pure songs and music from Gael Linn.
The songs are sung with feeling and control, high notes and embellishments are no effort to Sarah, who like her sisters Nan and Norah, is a Corn Uí Riada winner. The first track, Sagart na Cúille Baine is the longest at 8 minutes and it’s possibly the most typical of the big songs of the western Gaeltacht. Many sean-nós songs are so old that their contexts have been lost; what was once common community knowledge in this song about a drowned fair-haired priest, is now a mystery, but that lack of exact narrative never detracts from the power of the song or Sarah’s performance of it.
Johnny Og’s contribution forms a link between songs, accompanied by John Blake on the hornpipes the Rights of Man and The Smell of The Bog. And two selections of reels, Tom Flemings/Dinny O’Brien’s and Paddy Ryan’s Dream.
The meat of the music of course is Sarah’s exceptional voice, such power in her Amárach La lé Pádraig, sad last words from a man condemned to hang in Clonmel. On Eileaóir na Rún she uses the natural resonance of the room to great effect and the recording faithfully captures her amazing technique, picking up her little breaths, which seem to be able to fill the room with sound as she sings long phrases.
This album will be referenced for years to come, (listen out for it on RnaG), and if you have a grá for the art form it is a must for your library and more importantly your development; songs like these need to be in circulation. Sarah’s legacy is assured at this stage and her songs have been handed on to other singers, Corn Uí Riada competitors amongst them. It would be wrong to think of this album as an archive, it’s a well of inspiration and a milestone for those who will follow a path in the old style footsteps of Sarah Ghrialliais.
Seán Laffey

O’Carolan’s Harmonica
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 30 Minutes
Since his debut album in 2003, Tony Eyers has come a long way, all the way from Sydney in fact, halfway round the world. Innovative Irish harmonica seems to be an Antipodean thing, and this album certainly approaches some of Brendan Power’s work - but it’s different too. Eyers aims to present “traditional tunes arranged for multiple harmonicas and a string band”, with a definition of tradition that includes at least three continents. About half the material here is Irish, the other half being American, and there’s also an engaging Ozzie disregard for convention, which enlivens much of this recording. Katherine O’More and Fanny Power on the one hand, Chinquapin Hunting and Elzric’s Farewell on the other, styles and tempos change so quickly on O’Carolan’s Harmonica that it’s hard to know whether you’re sucking or blowing.
The CD title will already have enraged the purists, but if you’re looking for a cool draught of Carolan slow airs you picked the wrong watering-hole. O’Carolan’s Quarrel with the Landlady is as graceful as it gets here, a stately almost classical piece, which still has that bushman’s swagger. While the moothie’s major cross tones are the meat in the sandwich on most tracks, with multi-tracking to provide bass lines and harmonies, there are several other musicians who have chosen to share a billabong with Mr Eyers: his brother Quentin on various instruments, the wonderful Catherine Fraser from South Australia on fiddle, and Andrew Clermont on fretted strings. Together they manage to sound like an old-time jug band on Shady Grove and a very spirited rendition of Cold Frosty Morning, an Irish American dance band with The Temperance Reel, a Renaissance banquet entertainment for Sir Charles Coote, and maybe a Tucker Bag-ad as they waltz through the Breton air The Wren.
Tony Eyers and friends fill this album with familiar classics and exotic delights, often simultaneously.
Alex Monaghan

Both in A Tune
Knight & Spiers KSCD002, 10 Tracks, 50 Minutes
Peter Knight on violin and John Spiers playing button box are two stalwarts of the English folk scene. Separated by a generation in terms of their age gap, but as close as can be on this often experimental and fresh take on folk tunes. Older readers my recognise Peter Knight from his work with Steeleye Span, and on this album he once again picks up the electric fiddle, but it’s not where he left off with Span in 2013. For a number of years now Knight has been exploring the avant-garde ginnels of folk music, notably with Feast of Fiddles and Gigspanner. That is no real surprise as his background CV includes being inspired by Michael Coleman records in the 1950s and attending The Royal Academy of Music from 1960-64. John Spiers’ role in this album is subtle, for the most part he adds colour to the improvisations that have characterised Knight’s recent work.
If you are listening to this album with an Irish sense of fiddle music, two things will be evident. Firstly the tunes are played straight through; that inquisitive selection of melodies to form a moving whole isn’t as integral to the English tradition as it is in Ireland and her Celtic cousins. Secondly, it often takes a long time for the melodies to appear. Knight’s trademark method is to create mood and atmosphere first, for instance in Scarborough Fair, where the famous melody is preceded by a melancholy opening. The violin is played way up the neck on the high pitched Yellow Haired Laddie, which runs in at a very generous eight and a half minutes. Knight’s fiddle is sombre on Drone in D, Spiers adding the eponymous bass line. Things brighten up on the old Morris tunes, The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance. The middle three tunes on the album are French in origin with Bouree De Concous offering a cheeky chirpy lift to the programme.
The album closes with a tune that was a tear-jerker in the Albion Band’s stage show Lark Rise to Candelford; it’s the Scottish pipe march The Battle of The Somme. As you’d expect Knight explores the labyrinth of the piece before the familiar tune appears like a ghostly piper heading out of the trenches in a fog of mustard gas. Both In A Tune is another tour de force from Knight and Spiers, its slow burning embers and flickering flames taking folk music into another dimension.
Seán Laffey

Carolan’s Receipt For Drinking
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 34 Minutes
Three fine Norwegian musicians, Fir Arda, have devoted a whole album to some of Turlough O’Carolan’s compositions, with familiar tunes: Sheebeg Sheemore, Carolan’s Concerto and Eleanor Plunket, rubbing shoulders with lesser played pieces such as Lady St. John, Kean O’Hara and Captain O’Kane.
They may be covering the compositions of the blind harp but they avoid blindly following existing versions. Their first track, Young Catherine, is now thought not to be Carolan, although it does belong to the same bardic tradition. It was composed by Rory Dall O’Cathan for Katherine Ogie and was first published in Scotland in 1746. Fir Arda’s initial iteration of Young Catherine has Juha Rossi’s bouzouki taking on harp like cadences, with the low whistle holding the tune before the fiddle takes over. The tune is reprised later on with the low whistle giving the air a more plaintive character.
Their title track Carolan’s Receipt For Drinking, is played on an Irish bouzouki, with just enough ornamentation to give it life without making it overly florid. The title is a little confusing to our modern concept of receipt. In our modern equivalent it is a Doctor’s prescription. The story goes that when Carolan was sick from a surfeit of alcohol, he sought Dr John Stafford’s medical opinion and the good doctor’s receipt (prescription) was another drop of the hard stuff. Or the hair of the dog as we say now.
Fir Arda’s version of Eleanor Plunket is delivered on lap steel guitar, and is reprised later on the low whistle, that second time it takes on a more plaintive character. Carolan’s Welcome sounds authentically ancient with a hint of echo on the production. Again we hear older tones on Captain O’Kane with the lap steel guitar of Ketil Simonsen-Liland in tandem with an unadorned bodhrán. Espen Olsen’s fiddle takes the lead on Carolan’s Concerto, it’s easy going and languid, one to play along with, the double stops are very effective and the slurred final notes give it a humorous coda. The album closes with a second version of Young Catherine, this time on guitar, the bass lines adding a delicious foil to the finger picked melody.
Fir Arda had a tall order to fill here, to bring something fresh and yet authentic to an album of Carolan tunes, and what a high standard they’ve set in achieving this.
Seán Laffey

After The City
GFM Records GFM0013, 10 Tracks, 39 Minutes
Brighton based Bird in the Belly describe themselves as a collective, an amalgam of musical and artistic talents, who have a shared vision that they turn into music and performance. On this album they cast their gaze upon cities, not as the great shining light on the hill we imagine from the sunlit views of the Big Apple, but that darker, dangerous, often chaotic crumble of urban England. Cities that have “harboured the best and the worst of life”. Inspired by the 1885 post-apocalyptic novel After London; or Wild England by Richard Jefferies, they say by “taking poems (Cotton Famine Poetry, Plague Poetry) and Broadside Ballads, we constructed a backstory for After London.”
The first track, The Tragic Heart of Towns, is filled with jangly guitars and a modal fiddle. Laura Ward and Adam Ronchetti, two voices in unison, tell of the loss and emptiness found in city centres. Smokeless Chimney came about after noticing rows of houses, as seen from a train window, each smokeless chimney telling of the current move to centrally generated power, a green agenda at work? Or the smokeless symbol of the loss of jobs and community, when coal was shut down, not for environmental reasons, but as a political power grab and for fat cat profits.
They imagine globally warmed, doomed cities, as rising seas flood low lying districts, the hearts of coastal conurbations becoming polluted swamps. Forty years ago John Cooper Clarke wrote about the terraced rows of despair in Beasley Street, and four or more decades on, in Bird in the Belly’s perception at least, things are not getting any better for the citizens of Anglo-metropolis.
A personal story of a life lived and lost in this milieu is recalled in Jemmy is Slain, where the consequence of a military culture that feeds off the bottom rungs of society, is painfully brought into focus.
This is a long way from merry England, for example Pale Horse with a quiet opening on the flute tells of the decay of society. They counter this with an instrumental Landmark, its guitar riffs and a drumbeat summoning the spectre of time ticking away. Bird in the Belly walk us through an often dark and unpleasant land, where the tattered edges of life just about manage in bruised and tired cityscapes. William Blake would be impressed by this dystopian new-folk.
Seán Laffey

From the Hearthstone
Produced by Matt McGlinn The Guitar Studio, 12 Tracks, 55 Minutes
Tyrone born Ciara Fox has recently released a new collection of music. Her debut album From the Hearthstone consists of 12 much loved tracks and each one new and fresh from Fox. Opening, paradoxically with The Parting Glass, we are immediately drawn to the fireside of years gone by and re-imagining the ending of a gathering, or the loss of someone special. Fox sings it with all the feeling that this deserves.
This is followed by one of my all-time favourites, Ralph McTell’s The Streets of London, we again listen to a fresh voice on this old favourite. It’ll always be a timeless telling of the tale of isolation, loss and city based loneliness. Blowing in the Wind, Dimming of the Day all follow and then out of the blue comes, Dreams. I was wary of this cover, as it’s Dolores O’Riordan one expects to hear. But no, Ciara Fox does it justice and makes it her own. With Go Your Own Way, featuring Feargal McAloon, Fox delivers another big tune, and again succeeds in personalizing it too, allowing her voice to own these songs.
Continuing on with Pretty Fair Maid, I’ll Fly Away, Galway Shawl, I will Love you Ev’ry Time and finishing with Mountains of Pomeroy, Fox captures the essence of each track and allows her voice to do the work. And it does. Beautifully. Fox has captured each song brilliantly and makes them hers alone.
Her songs will really warm your heart and get you singing out loud. She takes inspiration and material from Dylan to O’Riordan to Fleetwood Mac and Tyrone’s Ciara Fox makes them her very own. Pull up the armchair, boil the kettle, sit at your hearthstone and enjoy this new collection of old songs.
Grainne McCool

Peatbog Faeries
Valtos Remix
Single 3 Minutes
This is up to the minute dance music from the Isle of Skye, a single track, it is a modern remix of the Peatbog Faeries rousing classic from the 1990s. Valtos are the duo of Daniel Docherty and Martyn MacDonald who have taken the central motif of the opening measure of the Faeries Marx Terrace (an Irish reel, originally played on fiddle by Ross Couper). They chose this reel because of its 4/4 time, which makes it eminently suitable for the modern dance club.
The repetitive riff here is played on an electric banjo. The track to my mind is in the same aesthetic corner as ProleteR’s Faidherbe Square. They also add in a voiceover, effectively it comes pre-package with a DJ for your trad disco, those vocals encouraging the crowd to dance, the whole becoming a hypnotic experience. Running at half the time of the original Peatbog Faeries track, it’s a condensed reworking for an audience who would enjoy the experience and heightened energy of this dance track.
The Peatbog Faeries hinted at the club culture possibilities of this work on their Live@25 album of 2017. Valtos has taken it a few steps further, the Angels share has gone, leaving a distilled danceable groove designed to get a crowd to move. There are more trad remixes to come later this year from Valtos. Consider Marx Terrace as a zingy aperitif from this inspired pair of mixologists from Skye.
Seán Laffey

To Keep the Candle Burning
Joanna Clare Music, 11 Tracks, 38 Minutes
To Keep the Candle Burning is the debut album of Irish fiddler and violinist, Joanna Clare. It is dedicated to the many traditional Irish musicians who inspired her throughout her childhood. The album includes some original tunes but is primarily comprised of tunes Joanna learned either directly from these musicians or from their recordings. The album is a collection of 11 tunes, which include reels, jigs, slip jigs, a set dance, an air, hornpipes and a song. Joanna has carefully chosen those she feels demonstrates the contribution each musician has made to keeping the Irish music tradition alive, alongside the originals of her own.
Opening with a set of reels, Joanna starts with an original titled Annie on the Frontlines. Three reels are then followed with a set of jigs and slip jigs. Strawberry in the Field and The Painter and the Chef are originals from Joanna herself. Other originals are The Cat’s Perch and Insomnia reels, rounding off a beautifully compiled debut collection of work.
Joanna Clare put everything she had into the air, An Buachaill Caol Dubh. This is evident on first listen. Stunning. And equally so with Erin Grá Mo Chroí. Catherine O’Kelly sounds just like a real Irish cailín.
This is a collection which feels fresh yet mature, and never allows us to think on it as a debut. Joanna has captured the essence of Irish music and made it her own.
The music and musicians she dedicates the music to have paved a path for the next generation of Irish music enthusiasts. But Joanna too is helping pave the path with this work to ensure that enthusiasm lives on.
Grainne McCool

Rachel Newton and Lauren MacColl
Proper Music, 10 Tracks, 44 Minutes
Heal and Harrow is a Scottish duo of Rachel Newton (harp & vocals) and Lauren MacColl fiddle. They bring their impeccable folk CVs to bear on this eerie and thought-provoking album.
In our rational scientific times we think of the phrase Witch Hunt as being only a little darker, a little more consequential, than a Wild Goose Chase. But what if you did believe in Witches, and if beliefs were strongly held by those who were for and against the practice, and what if the contra side had all the power? What if those without power were to be interrogated for being different? Beginning in 1584 the Scottish Witch Trials ran for 200 years, and it is thought as many as 3000 people were executed for the crime of witchcraft.
Here historical fact and mythical stories, interpreted by the author Mairi Kidd, coalesce in reverence for victims of power and prejudice. Some of the tracks bear the name of those witch-victims. Some tracks are interspersed with spoken word passages, commentaries empathising with our kinder contemporary times. To some the witch was a wise woman, a healer, a herbalist, a positive member of the community.
On the track Judge Not, the question is posed, “How could they have expected you to understand that the world should have no magic in it?” Some tracks are purely instrumental, often built out of repeated phrases on the fiddle and harp, hypnotic, dancing us into a spiritual trance. For example Cutty Sark, which takes its name from the short shift of the chasing witch in the tale of Tam O’ Shanter. The music is not menacing, we don’t feel like we are being hunted. A chorus of ghostly voices fades into the track, echoes of the beauty that was found in the old earth magic of Sooth-Sayers and Druids.
For listeners who allow themselves to be immersed in this audio-experience there is much to be enjoyed and much to be felt. Who cannot feel a well of sympathy for victims of blind prejudice when we hear the line which defines persecutors as those who find a shard of ice somewhere in their heart and hold onto it?
Seán Laffey

River Of Dreams
RED SKY RECORDS RSKCD124, 12 Tracks, 50 Minutes
John Coppin is a singer, songwriter, poet, guitar player and pianist; he is based in Gloucester in the west of England. He is the same vintage as Christy Moore and if England treated her folk singers like Ireland cherishes hers, Johnny Coppin would be a household name.
Being a veteran of the scene (he formed his first band in 1959) he knows what works, both lyrically and melodically, he can compose a good tune and fit succinct and telling words to those carefully arranged melodies. As a folk singer of the old contemporary school he writes with an observer’s eye. The Bisley Boy recounts the legend of a young Gloucester boy who was chosen to replace Queen Elizabeth 1. The young Royal had died and a local child was chosen to replace her. Only a red haired lad in Bisley was a suitable surrogate, offering an explanation why the queen never married.
Johnny moves form alt-history to real geography on the Song of the Severn, England’s longest river and a border between the Saxon and Celtic world. He appreciates the metaphorical significance and the constancy of the river, in a chorus which repeats the phrase Let your soul roll with the river. He touches on modern day issues, particularly mental health and a sense of self worth on Breakfree. He also covers the Roseanne Cash song When The Master Calls The Roll a song about a couple’s separation during the American civil war.
The album comes with all the lyrics printed in the liner notes and you can tell that every line is honed to perfection; each spare phrase has been polished before it was presented to us. History, locality, and perceptions of human bravery in the most difficult of circumstances make this a moving album of beautifully performed folk music.
Seán Laffey

Proper Records ILR001CD, 11 Tracks, 44 Minutes
On this debut album from Iona Lane we get to hear of her relationship with the sounds and landscape of the north of Britain. The name Hallival comes from a mountain on the Scottish island of Rum, recalling family holidays North of the border when she was growing up.
Recorded in the Scottish Highlands at Watercolour Music, it was produced by Andy Bell of Hudson Records. The work features guest musicians Mia Scott on fiddle, Louis Berthoud on drums and shells, Sol Edwards on synth and Jay Taylor on double bass, guitar, piano and field organ. Iona plays guitar and shruti box.
Although Scotland inspires many of her original compositions, Iona’s singing voice is Northern English. Her home is in the Yorkshire Dales and her accent and gentle way with a song will no doubt draw very favourable comparisons to Kate Rusby.
Two of her songs take on the format of conversations between inanimate objects, Fingal and Bran references (although obliquely) the two giants at the hearts of the folklore of the basalt coasts of Scotland and Northern Ireland, where “Peat wastelands are blown by westlin winds.” Tipalt Burn is a talk between the ever-running stream and the impermanent impostor of a new wall, built to curb the burn’s flow…Schiehallion looks to the history and legend that will be forever associated with this almost perfectly conical Scottish mountain. In 1774 it was used in an experiment to determine the weight of the earth, a feat of science and mathematics, a consequence of which, was the invention of contour lines for mapping. Iona takes that parcel of history and runs it alongside the mystical importance this mountain has had as “the mound of the Caledonians”. Crossroads is a romantic call to meet, to dance, to enjoy life, the sort of tryst that once might have happened at the foot of Schiehallion.
A gentle, almost a cappella album, with Iona’s voice calm and clear on each track, a remarkable debut from a young woman who sings to the beat of her heart.
Seán Laffey

Own Label,
11 Tracks, 50 Minutes
This is a milestone album from Welsh singer songwriter Martyn Joseph. Now approaching 62 years old, he’s had a prolific career, and this is his 23rd studio album. 1960, however, is something more personal, on the surface a celebration of becoming 60. His muse was triggered when he visited his 80-year-old father who is in care and suffering with Alzheimer’s, a disease that leaves children with the cruel burden of curating their parents’ memories.
Given that sad scenario this could have been a dark album, but Martyn is a child born in 1960 and his life and music is infused with rock and Americana, sunshine leaks in everywhere. The album starts brightly with Born Too Late, which condenses the dilemma of all retro fans, you’re always too young to have experienced the real thing as a sentient adult.
In I’m Going Down to The Well Tonight; there is a guitar, drums, keyboards and handclaps, a Tex-Mex vibe, and a big instrumental middle section. Then there is the song that goes back to the album’s inspiration. Martyn’s father had a moment of lucidity when he recalled shadow-boxing with his young son fifty or more years before. The shared remembrance is gifted to posterity in track 9, Shadow Boxing; with voice and piano and the essential message, “The bottom line is love”. The final track, a folk tour de force on guitar and harmonica is This Light is Ours.
As I listened to each track I couldn’t help but be reminded of Springsteen’s Nebraska. Martyn Joseph’s 1960 has that same spirit of thoughtful lives lived in the most familiar places. It lifts us out of the everyday by visiting the everyday with fresh eyes. Martyn Joseph’s 1960 ends optimistically, his words leaving us with solace and hope: “If you are in the dark with the light just breaking through…the light will shine on all of us and not just for the few.” Martyn Joseph’s 1960 is vintage.
Seán Laffey

The Brickfields
Grimdon Records, GRICCD005,
9 Tracks, 37 Minutes
Granny’s Attic are Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne, George Sansome and Lewis Wood; these three young men are taking English traditional music forward.
For the past half-century and more, English folk has been an idiom dominated by songs, you are free to blame Ewan MacColl on that score. English traditional music is broadly regional and low key. Some have tried to get the Ceilidh out of the village hall, and Ashley Hutchin’s Morris On project of 1970s is perhaps the original commercial template to bring this music to a wider audience.
Granny’s Attic’s The Brickfields is a musical manifesto; the band is bent on re-invigorating traditional English instrumental music from the bottom up. They see no need to dress it up in some rural glam rock garb, or borrow from the current and transient pop zeitgeist; this is excellent music played on acoustic instruments by people who have a feel for rhythm, syncopation and a moving bass line. Their manifesto even extends to a downloadable PDF book of tunes, enticing a new generation of musicians to engage in the tradition and own it for its musical sake.
That musicality of the trio is immediately evident on the smooth transition in the opening set of Cruds and Cream/Jig From New Harmony, both tunes bouncing along as they fizz and pop, the box playing in particular is smoother than we’d associate here with the old push and draw style, which has dominated English dance music for decades. They bring the tone down on Odd Thoughts/ James’s Maggot, the first tune ending each bar on a minor chord; the second tune begins as a whisper before it’s played loud and proud by the trio. The box is the main instrument on Rakes of Kirkby a tune that could easily be adopted into the Irish tradition; they fuse it with a modal shift to Will Grimdon’s Number 2 an original composition by Cohen; playing it through enough times to bring out its colour, tone and variation.
The title track is the second tune on track 9, which begins with a sedate Morris style tune called Boxing Day. The final track is a duo of Anglo concertina and the fiddle of Lewis, and if you’ve stuck with the album to this point you’ll be well used to the staccato of English dance music, which on this final track is almost booking its ticket to Quebec.
This could be the future of English dance music, the trouble is Granny’s Attic are also very good traditional singers. Let’s hope it’s an instrumental opportunity with a trajectory.
Seán Laffey

Needle and Thread
Own Label,
10 Tracks, 49 Minutes
Southampton born and bloodied in the folk pubs of Brighton, Dom Prag is one of a number of exciting folk singers emerging in the UK. An accomplished guitar player, his work includes traditional songs and his own compositions, which begin as poems. He then whittles them down into folk style songs. This album was created during lockdown whilst Dom was staying in Banbury. It seems to be a good spot for whittling.
The opening song Come All You Fine Young People is a call to action, Dom proclaiming “Come all you fine young people, let your voices ring and don’t forget to sing.” And sing he does on the next eight tracks. There are old songs here, that tell of worker unrest: The Oakley Strike Evictions with fiddle and drums, followed by South Memodsley Strike, it’s a jaunty tale of a strike for more pay in 1885. (Prag it seems has a penchant for mining songs, you’ll find him on YouTube singing the Black Leg Miner). There’s sadness in My Brisk Lad, which he performs with a solo guitar. The title track is the most contemporary on the album; it’s a sensitive vehicle for Prag’s tenor vocals and grows on you the more you hear it.
Some of the tracks I can only describe as gorgeous, a resonant guitar and a rich cello on the Shoemender, a commentary on the loss of the small town trader and the rise of big box stores and fast fashion. It is followed by an instrumental version of the tune, which itself gives way to George Brabazon’s First Air, with cello, fiddle and nylon strung guitar, I hit the repeat button on that one. The last track is one we might know over here in Ireland, Van Dieman’s Land, a tale of transported poachers; when it is sung in Ireland the action often shifts to Nenagh. Take the history with a pinch of salt, there’s reference to barbed wire; it was invented the year before the final convict ship left England.
That of course is the point of folk song, the power of the people’s music comes from its delivery and how deeply it touches our hearts. Needle and Thread tugs at our heartstrings, as the title song says. “I hope you find love and place to keep you warm, and a needle and thread to fix what gets torn.”
There’s healing and mending in the songs of Dom Prag.
Seán Laffey