Releases > Releases April 2023

Want to see earlier releases? Visit the archive.

Own Label, 10 Tracks, 53 Minutes
These two are so talented they’re in the genre of performers about whom it’s sometimes said, if they were to put a telephone directory to music, they’d enthral their listeners and leave them asking for more. John Doyle and Mick McAuley are composers, singers, and multi-instrumentalists, and in choosing their opening number, a medley of tunes, it’s as if they wanted us to know, here’s what we can do. And boy, can they make the rafters ring with a spirited waltz of John’s and two reels composed by Mick. He has more of the same later on. The two of them sing songs from the tradition and others of their own composition.
John and Mick have been playing music together on the international stage for over twenty years, and among my collection of recordings, are all six of the Transatlantic Sessions DVDs where John appears as a featured performer. As members of Irish-American supergroup Solas, they combined to create part of the group’s unmistakable early sound, which garnered critical worldwide acclaim with the Boston Herald heralding Solas as “The Best Traditional Band in the World”.
Mick’s song, It’s Sunrise, is a call for human rights and speaks to the futility of war. John was inspired to write the song One Fine Day having viewed a BBC interview with a refugee in Lesbos. He also sings the trad song Abe Carmen about an unrepentant burglar, a version he heard sung by Terry Timmons of the Góilín Singers Club.
Over the last several years, Doyle and McAuley have toured extensively as a duet all over Europe and the U.S. Individually, they have played and recorded with some of the most respected musical artists in the world and are, themselves, among the most highly regarded musicians in the Irish folk world. They are rightly described as “one of the most powerfully dynamic and versatile duets in folk music today”.
Aidan O’Hara

Abigail (Tomhas Ghobnatan)
Own Label, Single, 3 Minutes
Abigail (Tomhas Ghobnatan)  is Emma Langford’s ode to St Gobnait and sees the Limerick songstress further distilling her melodic song writing gifts with a pronounced ethnic twist. Recorded and produced in Grouse Lodge, Westmeath, by Alex Borwick. Funded by The Arts Council of Ireland via project funding awarded to Gary Ó Nualláin.
Freely mixing Gaelic and English lyrics she produces something unique, ancient and contemporarily relevant at the same time. Langford’s wispy lead vocals increase in strength to where she reaches full height without moving a muscle. Having studied the influence of the women who have populated Irish history, the first of which was Saint Gobnait who lived in the wilds of Ballyvourney Co. Cork. Her name a translation of the Hebrew name Abigail also known as D’vorah, and its Anglo Saxon translation Deborah is synonymous with the local area, where it has given her name to places such as: St Gobnait’s Well, Gobnait’s Tree and Gobnait’s Monastic Site.
The piece also looks at how women that have professed non-religious beliefs have also been labelled as outlaws by patriarchal Irish society. This links to an earlier Langford piece The Bell and the Ruin on her debut album Quiet Giant.
Emma Langford is unafraid to gather stories and create work that considers the inhuman treatment dealt out to people of other faiths and belief systems, making her one of the more exciting and radical new Irish talents of the moment, She is a singer whose work and output is rooted within the traditional song canon yet pledging no allegiance to it.
John O’Regan

Own Label, 10 Tracks, 38 Minutes
Niall has supported Ed Sheeran and guested as the singer with Beoga on their US tour. Beoga’s Seán Og Graham produced this album for Niall. It is Niall’s debut solo album and the weight of personal experience and reflection makes it a masterpiece, in the true sense of the word. No wonder it was RTE1’s ‘album of the week’ back in February.
Confined to his native Clare Island during the lockdown, singer songwriter Niall McCabe re-evaluated his approach to song making, taking a deep look at his own life and reworking the echoes of tales he heard in the community. For example on Stonemason, which came from hearing returned emigrants talk about life on the buildings in post-war England, Niall says Stonemason is about the lies we tell others and ourselves just to survive our self-made prisons.
Loss of loved ones to exile is the theme of his deeply personal Lost Boys, written for his two young sons who have left Ireland to live with their mother in Canada, Niall sadly missing out on the little memories of their childhood. A hard song to write but there must have been a measure of catharsis in its making.
November Swell finds us back on Clare Island, the song informed from seeing a 1962 film of lobster fisherman Michael Joe, talking of pulling crabs all day to feed pot bellies in London. Niall’s lyrics match the uncertainty of fishing at the most uncertain time of year, work that involves long days at sea before dawn to after dusk. “I hope the hold’s full, I hope the man comes. If he’s buying who can tell?”
The standout of course is The Ritual, a happy guitar intro, some accordion, folksong at its simplest. It came to Niall after he settled into the rhythm of the lockdown, the time he had to mend fences, repair walls and tend the garden. He says it’s about finding purpose in the mundane. Yet there’s nothing mundane about this or any other song on the album.
Niall has emerged from the cocoon of Clare Island as a mature and compelling songsmith.
Seán Laffey

Volume 1
LuluBug Records, 9 Tracks, 41 Minutes &
I had an early heads up on this album and found just one sample track on the duo’s Bandcamp page* - ten seconds in and wow! Pound’s harmonica playing is as high as a Chinese spy balloon, positively stratospheric. (*All the tracks are there now).
Pound plays harmonica and melodeon and Jenn Butterworth backs him on guitar. The level of musicianship from both is off the scale, as attested by that opening track called Reckoned. It’s a mash up of Will Pound’s composition The Reckoning (inspired by the playing of Liz Carroll and Martin Hayes), Addie Harper’s The Barrowburn Reel, and Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Backstep. Pound’s harmonica fizzes and shifts between swatches of jazz, a hint of blues, a blur of Americana (for a second or two), the pace never faltering, not a single note out of place, like fireworks for the deaf..
Pound is at his expressive best on the harmonica, Blackthorn is a fine example of his exuberant style. He’s more constrained on the box; the melodeon isn’t as supple or expressive as the mouth organ. His melodeon version of that Handel/DeDannan classic, which he calls Sheba (he likes single word titles for tune sets) is not as fluid or freeform as his harmonica work. If it was a standalone number we’d say it was brilliant, which goes to show how stellar his harmonica playing is.
There is one song on the album, Peggy Seeger’s anti-nuclear weapons song Better Things (written in 1958 for the Aldermaston Marches) sung by Jenn, sad to say it’s probably more urgent today than it was over 60 years ago.
Jenn’s guitar backing is equally impressive, how does she keep up with Will on a set of Bourees, or the twin tunes he calls Beggarman (Soldier’s Joy and what we might call the Red Haired Boy)? The album closes with Speedy, Pound’s version of the English gypsy tune Speed The Plough, a laconic lazy-Sunday sort of piece with Butterworth’s guitar keeping us in the groove of the furrow as it turns into a reel.
I’ve said it before, and it’s worth saying again, wow!
Seán Laffey

10 Tracks, 48 Minutes
Sarah-Jane Summers and Juhani Silvola have made their third album, an impressive recording of tunes that span genres and styles. Taking inspiration from traditional Irish and Scottish, they blend and overlay material from Scandinavia. An expressively emotional album of fiddle/viola/guitar, each tune has several parts, variety in tempo and mood, titles that suggest behind-the-scene narratives.
The solo fiddle at times set to a beautifully lonesome pitch, it is also contemplative, playful and intimate. Two instruments, deftly played, skipping from solo interludes to accompaniment, their strength is in the blending when the sound emanates as one instrument.
Number 81 has a great orchestral sweep, melodic depth and texture, Christmas Day, fiddle-driven, it has a cinematic feel. Another standout is Donald Morison for its gentle, meditative quality.
Even the title, Morning Prayer is a distraction, luring the listener in gently, solo fiddle, several layers unfold, influences from the natural world perhaps, a sense of foreboding, drama, a siren or wild bird screech, a trapped animal, a banshee? Team Summers-Silvola have created a wild soundscape here, superb playing, really innovative, a signature sound in the making.
Call and Response is lyrical, a story in the notes, driving intensity, the arrangements clever, the drone suggesting a lament. But wait, here comes a chase, (hints of The Foxhunter), theatricality, action, intricate playing.
Summers and Silvola are taking musical boundaries, pushing them away, treating them not so much as borders but places of adventure, places to extend their creativity, to make a new and evocative cacophony of sound, exciting, a blend of genres, really distinctive, a new furrow ploughed for future generations of fiddle and guitar combinations. The duo will be performing at all the well-established festivals across the Scottish, UK and Scandinavian circuits, well worth keeping an eye out for.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Small Voyages
Own Label, 8 Tracks, 35 Minutes
Small Voyages is the debut album from Scottish singer, songwriter and harpist, Chloe Matharu. The collection of 8 tracks captures her travels from sailing around the world on oil tankers. A Navigational Officer in the Merchant Navy, Matharu brings a little piece of the world to this music. Her travels and her experience of the natural world, her beautifully haunting voice, and the harp, gives this music depth and authenticity.
The album consists of original songs all inspired by her time at sea. They allow us to see her life through the sea lens in a most unique way. From the opening track Catching a Free Ride to Artic Tems and ‘Clyde Islands’ we are taken in by a sense of calmness and contentment. Although the harp features primarily, we hear the pipes, piano and drums showcasing the sounds of the sea and the natural world throughout. We hear thunder, birds, the sea and more as we travel alongside Matharu through the music.
With a very distinct voice, Small Voyages takes us across the Floodplains, the Change of Light and the Frozen World. Alongside that ominous voice, the harp is always to the fore capturing the very essence of the sea. We see the land from a seafarer’s point of view and it’s beautiful. Finishing with the delightful Ships in the Night, the view is of whales passing.
Throughout the eight tracks, we find ourselves at sea sailing along with the music. Chloe Matharu really has created something unique with this collection and provides us with a peek into the life of the mariner through her wonderful natural flowing contemporary music. A finely crafted collection of music and song is the result of Matharu’s travels, and we get to enjoy it in a unique and special way.
Grainne McCool

Own Label, 13 Tracks 53 Minutes
Émilie Brûlé and Kate Bevan-Baker are a fiddling duo based in Montreal. They are currently exploring the music of Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Ireland and Scotland. They play fiddle, baroque violin, fiddle in cross-tuning and medieval bowed vielle.
Kate grew up in Prince Edward Island and has Scottish ancestors and Émilie traces her heritage back to France and Jersey. The name Archetype is a play on the French word archet, the fiddler’s bow. This recording was made with financial support from Le Conseil des arts de Montréal and The Canada Council for the Arts.
They kick off with Cradled on the Waves, a translation of the first nation name for Prince Edward Island, it’s a gentle start. Later they kick up the dust on Acadiasque, an Acadian medley, crisp clean and determined, the vielle adding a deer rasping pedal as a prelude to the podorhythm so characteristic of Quebecois dance music; listen carefully and you’ll hear an Irish lineage towards the tune’s ending.
On Au Chalet Du Lac Rouge there’s an ebb and flow that comes in after a pizzicato beginning, more foot percussion from Olivier Demers, who wrote the first tune of the selection Reel à deux têtes. This is followed by Liz Carroll’s Pat & Al’s and then Reel du Forgeron by Omer Dumas.
Irish tunes are played with a Quebecois accent. Consider The Gold Ring with Émilie’s bowed vielle and a baroque violin and 5-string violin tuned down to A-415; inspired by the piping of Séamus Ennis, the vielle offering a bowed interpretation of the pipe’s drones. A magical track.
King Of The Blind is an Irish slow air they had from John & William Neal’s Collection of the Most Celebrated Irish Tunes (1724). Éric Beaudry adds his bouzouki to Reel Bulle, a piece written in lockdown - the title refers to the bubbles families sheltered in during the pandemic. They end the piece on a hopeful life-affirming chord.
The album closes with Le Fleur De Mandragore (the hallucinogenic Mandrake), opening brightly like a spring dawn, a riff rises and the bow slides as it accentuates the dominant beat, the fiddles in counterpoint with dips and dives into plucked passages.
If you get a chance, do explore this album. You’ll find a whole new territory of tradition to enjoy; here’s a warning, as soon as the vielle kicked in I was smitten.
Seán Laffey

Common Nation of Sorrow
Free Dirt Records, 10 Tracks, 31 Minutes
American alt-folk from Nashville. Irish readers may recall that Rachel Baiman was a featured artist on a Music Network tour here in 2021. Originally from Chicago she’s been involved in the Nashville music scene since she was 18.
Baiman grew up in a left-wing family, not something to shout from the rooftops in the USA. Maybe having seen democratic socialism in action over here, she realises it is not as scary as the American right would have you believe. This album is about “the intensity of our economic oppression” not withstanding the irony of “sitting around talking about how anyone affords to buy a house, and how we can get rich people to pay for our albums”.
The album opens with Some Strange Notion; at a distance it is polished Nashville music, up close, listen as the lyrics punch through:
But now, some strange notion has taken a hold of us
It’s the common nation of sorrow,
hear the boots march through the dust
when so much pain is intertwined,
there are none who can tear it down..
There’s a return to her musical roots on the old time tinged Annie with five string banjo, bent-stringed guitar riffs and even a section of whistling. It is a brew of coffee with a troubled friend. She is more acidic in the song Self Made Man, asking “How many men do you think it takes to make a self made man?”
She has a superbly developed sense of vocabulary and an economy with phrases that leave a lasting impression. On Old Flame, we know how music moves us: “My stomach still turns when I hear the songs of an old flame”. Perhaps her strongest song is Bad Debt, painting the plight and personal anguish of living in a credit card culture:
Now I got bad debt, bad debt
I can’t make good.
Like I knew that I could
Bad debt won’t let me be
Bad debt I’ll never be free.
The album is full of honest songs that draw an alternative portrait of American life, where millions of people are trapped in a common nation of sorrow.
Seán Laffey

Crossing the Causeway
Own Label, 14 Tracks, 53 Minutes
An intriguing fusion of Celtic and Country, French and Gaelic, Backwoods and Mi’kmaq, this album is Mary Beth Carty’s attempt to capture the cultural pot pourri of Cape Breton Island, a musical gem set in the Atlantic ocean, just off the coast from her Nova Scotia home.
Playing accordion and guitars, percussion and more, Mary Beth also delivers ten vocal tracks in a mix of at least four languages. These vocals are the core of Crossing the Causeway, but many of them include extended instrumental sections in the Canadian style. Carty is joined by a crowd of Cape Breton’s finest musicians in almost every traditional style to be heard on the island: Scots, Irish, French Canadian, First Nations, Acadian, and of course Americana of various sorts. There are a dozen or more world-famous artists here, including perhaps one of the last appearances by the late lamented Pastelle Leblanc, plus at least two dozen local stars who shine brightly on this recording.
The country nugget Tow Truck Song is paired with Dan R MacDonald’s classic reel Trip to Windsor. The Gaelic nonsense song Pige Ruadh opens a huge medley of fiddle tunes and song fragments. An entire track is devoted to the beautiful Mull lament Mo Mhàthair, followed by a medley of catchy jigs on solo accordion. Voilà le Printemps captures both traditional French song and toe-tapping contemporary Acadian styles. Arcady would appreciate this version of Moonlight and Clover, but Driver McIvor might have more of a local resonance.
Original songs and old standards, fresh and familiar tunes are swapped in satisfying arrangements. There’s many a rough edge here, many a wry smile, and many a moment of pure joy. Crossing the Causeway captures Cape Breton almost as surely as John Alec Hugh McIvor did in the song, and it will capture hearts for Mary Beth Carty.
Alex Monaghan

Albert’s Place
Own Label, Single, 4 Minutes, 30 Seconds
We’ve reviewed Martyn Joseph’s song writing before and have always come away impressed by his lyrics and melodies. This track is no exception to his excellent oeuvre and then again it is.
Commissioned for the BBC’s 21st Century Folk project, with an emphasis on the North East of England. This is from a place where levelling up is an empty Westminster slogan. Albert’s Place you see is a drop-in centre for those who just can’t manage. In a previous generation that might have been restricted to a narrow slice of society, today it includes the working poor and white-collar office fodder. Joseph’s lyrics putting it, as “You’d be surprised who’s beside you, a businessman who just wants to feed his kids”.
There’s a real person at the heart of the song, Andrea Bell who runs The Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen. At Albert’s Place, some 100 people in great need drop in every day for good food, clothes and shelter. Joseph moves the story into a bigger picture built of the disrupted lives of Andrea’s patrons (clients would be too clinical and cold a word to label the care her centre affords).
Harking back to Ralph McTell’s Streets of London, Joseph furnishes the song with the lines:
Rain seeps through the only coat she owns
But in the High Street there a place she knows…
Albert’s Place is, in a wider context, a refuge from the ache and loneliness of post Thatcher attempts to cleft American individualism into places where community meant so much and people had real value.
Albert’s Place is a window into the worst and best of our collective humanity. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Sunderland Community Soup Kitchen. You will be contributing to a place where there is tea and love.
Seán Laffey