Releases > Releases August 2018

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Live in New York
Raelach Records, RRO12, 13 Tracks, 53 Minutes
Here is the latest collection of tunes from Noel Hill. In a nutshell, it’s an album of unaccompanied concertina music decorated with Hill’s customary finesse. There are no frills or commercial tricks here; simple, pure and traditional to the very core, this album is a joy to listen to. There is an infectious buzz from the music, it’s a live recording made in New York, a city where he used to reside in the 1980’s. The tune selections are really well crafted, there’s lots of old favourites including the Banish Misfortune jig, played here in memory of the late fiddler Patrick Kelly of Cree in Hill’s native County Clare. The Holly Bush reel begins the opening track, a fantastic composition of the late Finbarr Dwyer, which has now made its way into the greater known canon of traditional repertoire. The music flows effortlessly in a natural, uncluttered way. A wide variety of tunes and tune types ensue as one is drawn magically into a sea of concertina heaven. Occasionally a tune is played on its own such as The Collier’s Reel (one which Hill fondly recalls being able to lilt long before he could play an instrument), whilst another set includes a selection of four well–known reels.
There’s interesting key choices for some of the better known tunes such as The Foggy Dew air played in the unusual setting of G minor or indeed the Ladies Pantalettes reel played here in the key of A major, breathing a new lease of life to the music. There’s also unique setting of the slow air, Ó Rathaille’s Grave. Add to that other classic titles including The Gold Ring (jig) and Johnny Cope (hornpipe), both of which are mammoth tunes played here with exceptional ease. It’s clear to see why Hill has long gained the recognition as Ireland’s finest concertina player. He makes effective use of drones throughout adding a richer texture to the sound. The recording is accompanied by interesting sleeve notes to contextualise the tunes and their settings. Recorded at Raelach Records by his nephew Jack Talty – a fine concertina player in his own right. Finally, there’s a heartfelt tribute from his lifelong friend Tony Mac Mahon, who rightfully describes the music of Noel Hill as a tonic to the soul.
Edel Mc Laughlin

Turas 1980 (2 CD set)
MIG0 02092, 20 Tracks, 95 Minutes
I first saw Clannad in Dublin in 1977 and was very impressed with their zealous adherence to their shared Gaelic tradition. This recording captures the band before they achieved the success, which led to a major departure into more mainstream contemporary music. It was recorded by Radio Bremen in 1980 during a German tour, and showcases their extensive repertoire of traditional songs and tunes. Everything is acoustic and unadorned, and there’s a wonderful purity to the production throughout, with live sound managed expertly by Nicky Ryan. The undoubted star of the show is Moya Brennan on lead vocals and harp, her singing is a constant joy and her exquisite harp playing provides much of the melodic interest, supported by brother Pól on flute.
All the material is traditional, and from the opening Turlough O’Carolan tune (uncredited, but actually a version of Planxty Brown), we are invited into a magical world of tunes and songs in Gaelic (with an occasional English vocal), carefully introduced by the band to an audience hanging on to every word, note and harmony. The mood is relaxed, and the carefully–arranged material is delivered by a unit with close family ties, exemplified by their tight vocal harmonies and effortless ensemble playing.
The album contains many of their early live favourites, including Down By The Salley Gardens, Siúil A Rún and Níl Sé’n Lá. Introductions to the material are included, as the context of each item is carefully explained to the audience. The ensemble playing is carefully understated as the natural beauty of the material is allowed to shine, with gorgeous arrangements on many tracks. Both CDs are essential listening for all serious Clannad fans, and the package is a remarkable snapshot of the band just before their elevation to international stardom by the mid–1980s.
Mark Lysaght

Caitlín Nic Gabhann, Ciarán Ó Maonaigh & Cathal Ó Curráin
Own label C&C 2, 11 Tracks, 48 Minutes
The new CD from The High Seas featuring Cathal Ó Curráin, Ciarán Ó Maonaigh and his wife, Caitlín Nic Gabhann, provides us with musical delights vocally and instrumentally, and there’s a pleasing blend of the old and the new. Songs are in Irish and English. Cathal and Ciarán are from Donegal, and Caitlín from County Meath, with her impeccable credentials in traditional music, is quite at home in their company regardless of which instrumental tradition the music comes from.
The trio play a variety of instruments and succeed in achieving an amazing amount of agreeable sounds from bouzouki and fiddle (Cathal), fiddle and octave fiddle (Ciarán), concertina, dance & foot percussion (Caitlín). This was particularly evident in the beautiful The Speaking Waltz, one of the many waltzes in the Donegal fiddle repertoire. The note to this track states: “It was played by Frank Cassidy and John Doherty in days gone by and also went under the name The Exhibition Waltz.” To my ear I felt at times I was hearing echoes of the traditional musical sound of Norway, and very pleasant, too.
I was particularly pleased to see that Stirling Castle, which they say in the notes, “is a Strathspey that has been a staple of the Donegal fiddle tradition ‘since longtime’.” They add, “This version of the Lowlands of Scotland comes from Mountcharles fiddle player and composer Danny Meehan.” The strathspey is followed by Mooney’s Reel, a tune that the late, famous Donegal fiddler, John Doherty, played for Ciarán’s aunt, Mairéad (of Altan) and his grandmother, Cití (wife of composer Francie Mooney, composer and translator of many songs).
And speaking of Francie, the trio sing one of his songs, Mo Ghloine Uisce Beatha (my glass of whiskey), and follow it with ‘something completely different’ Eklunda Polska – a tune Ciarán learned in Sweden. As with all the tracks, the CD notes are informative and very helpful, and all the song words are supplied. This adds hugely to the pleasure of listening. This is the trio’s first self–titled album and they have been touring Ireland. It’s worth noting that there is also a High Seas limited edition and especially mastered Vinyl edition with artwork by Maurice Gunning.
Aidan O’Hara

Ignorance is Bliss
Own Label DG105, 12 Tracks, 37 Minutes
Box player with New York Irish band The Yanks, Gurney has been involved in a few other projects but this is his first full solo release. He also happens to be a founder of Concert Window, the streaming live music portal, so I expect you can catch him there from time to time if you like this CD. Ignorance is Bliss follows a pretty standard formula: jigs, reels, a couple of slower pieces in the middle for variety, and one or two other dance rhythms tossed in. The material is mostly familiar with a slight US bias: The Walls of Liscarroll, Sporting Nell, Mordaunt’s Fancy, The Rolling Hills of Maryland, Miss Walsh’s Jig and other fine old tunes.
Dan has been influenced by many players, from Billy McComiskey and Séamus Connolly in New York and Baltimore to the Lennon family in Leitrim/Galway and the Dwyer family from Kerry. Several box players are mentioned in excellent sleeve notes: Séamus Begley, Kevin Keegan, Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin, Charlie Coen. Mr Gurney has his own style, a light lilting touch even on heavyweight reels like The Boy in the Gap or The First House in Connaught. The only place where that playful exuberance abates is the slow air Taimse im’ Chodladh, a serious piece with more of a bass accompaniment. Otherwise the mood is cheerful, swaggering even, with sparing use of the left hand and bright ornamentation in the right. There’s a lovely Fermanagh highland, an unusual version of the Scottish pipe tune My Wife’s a Wanton Wee Thing (who’d dare to compose a title like that today?), a delightfully bouncy rendition of The Woods of Caol Rua, and a final romp through evergreen reels The Boyne Hunt and Father Kelly’s #2. This is the best of old–style Irish music, played for enjoyment, without too much introspection or analysis: as Dan Gurney says, Ignorance is Bliss.
Alex Monaghan

Own Label TYREE 09CD, 11 Tracks, 45 Minutes
More traditional and folky than I was expecting, these Hebridean hipsters have found a groove between ceilidh and country, piping and pop, Glasgow grit and glam rock. Singer Alec Dalglish skips between genres like a mountain hare in a midge storm: hints of Luka Bloom, Dougie MacLean, Donnie Munro, Foreigner, Skippinish, Don McLean, maybe Ed Sheeran on a bad–hair day. At the End of the Line is a crooner’s dream, while the provocative Live Forever could be straight off a Runrig album. Hold On reminds me of big country ballads, or Big Country ballads. Take My Hand is closer to folk rock, but Borderline comes back to redneck love songs. Every vocal track has the Skerryvore stamp on it too, helped by the excellent seven–piece backing band.
That band is also capable of cracking instrumentals: pipes and fiddle, accordions and whistles, plus a full rhythm section. The opening Exorcists is all the proof you need of Skerryvore’s party band credentials: wailing guitar, pumping accordion, full–on highland pipes and a pounding beat, building up to a rocking reel fit for any highland ceilidh. There’s humour too, in tune titles like Mile High Header and in the colourful sleeve notes. Trip to Modera and The Rise are high–energy dance numbers, whereas Soraidh Slàn is a poignant Hebridean lament, chillingly beautiful. The arrangements throughout EVO are lush and creative, and every member of Skerryvore is a master musician. The overall effect is tight, exciting, compelling music which leaves dancers and listeners alike quite breathless.
Alex Monaghan

To Belfast
Own label CC01, 9 Tracks, 29 Minutes
Belfast–born fiddle player Conor Caldwell has been to the well of tradition and has drunk deep. Indeed, he’s been to a couple of those wells, and there are a few of them. To take the phrase that Seán O’Boyle Senior heard from an Ulster singer, Conor drank of the ‘raw bar’ of the tradition as passed on by the Donegal fiddler, Johnny Doherty, and he has made an “extensive study of the collections of Edward Bunting” who published three volumes of Irish music from the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Conor says of his new CD, To Belfast … that “the recording is old music, re–imagined for a new city”.
He adds that “To Belfast… is a progressive take on the music of a bygone period”. On the face of it, listeners might therefore be a bit surprised at what they hear and while some could be challenged initially, if they stick with it and heed what this talented player says, they’ll be rewarded. We’re told that Conor “plays with the listener’s expectations of Irish music and suggests new creative directions for the future” and if you’re up for the challenge, I think you’ll be impressed.
The air of Thomas Moore’s song, Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms, is not one we might expect on a Conor Caldwell disc, but he explains: “Tommy Potts is a great hero for many fiddle players. I really got to know his music in 2008 when sharing an eight–hour car journey from Missouri to Minnesota. My travel companion, Dan Cass, had only one CD in the car, Potts’s Liffey Banks! More recently I heard Potts’s recording of Believe me if all those Endearing Young Charms along with my wife Sarah’s vocal arrangement. In imitation of Potts, I also play two hop jigs Comb Your Hair and Curl It and The Dusty Miller.”
I was intrigued with other track titles, just two of which I’ll mention. MS 6 No. 4 is a set of three tunes Conor came across while leafing through the Bunting collection. They’re marches he tells us, and adds, “I’ve refashioned the last one as a reel and Donal O’Connor (recording engineer) provides piano accompaniment.” The second track is Prelude Conor’s arrangement of “a tuning prelude for the harp” that 90–year–old Denis Hempson recalled at the 1792 Belfast harp festival. You’ll just have to hear them.
Conor says the recording is “inspired by curiosity, spirit, and dedication of Edward Bunting” and in this contemporary production he has captured the spirit of Belfast at a thrilling and turbulent time. You’ll be enthralled by his treatment of Gaelic music from a time he says “pre–dates our more recent dance music tradition”.
Aidan O’Hara

Ties and Tunes
Ride On Music ROMO14, 12 Tracks, 51 Minutes
The Poppy Seeds are a formidable French foursome, featuring fiddle, flute, guitar, banjo, mandolin, and cittern. If that wasn’t enough they are joined by our own Junior Davey on bodhrán, Jaouen Le Goic on button box and Jamie McMenemy on cittern. The liner notes are in French, and the CD itself has a retro black–vinyl appearance. That track list pops with familiar titles: The Holly Bush, Down The Broom, Lad O’Beirne’s, The Graf Spee and more. They include new compositions, such as The Vortex, by their banjo player Camille Philippe, a reference to the recording studio of the same name.
The Maid on the Green opens with a jazzy call to muster, answered by the guitar and flute, this blends into Victor’s jig a new composition by their fiddle player Benoit Voiant (there are shades of McGoldrick here, no bad thing either). Tigh Rabhartaigh opens gently, picked out on the guitar, the track ending with a big deep flute buzzing around the Beehive, like the honeyed insects; there is purpose and industry in the playing.
There are songs too, John Doyle’s The Bitter Brew and Dan Tyminski’s Carry Me Across The Mountain both bathed in Appalachian mist. Jamie McMenemy’s The Sun Rises Bright In France; is a Jacobite song, of exile and separation after the Battle of the Boyne and two generations later following the defeat at Culloden. McMenemy’s voice has lost some of its edge that it had forty years ago with the Battlefield Band and Djiboudjep, his cittern playing is still up there with the best.
A bluegrass mandolin closes the album as they spin into the Vortex and an Allan Henderson tune, the Dashing White Eejit, propelled banjo and flute, for an upbeat energetic flourish to an accomplished and articulate album.
Seán Laffey

Own Label, 12 Tracks, 67 Minutes
Una Monaghan is a harp player from Belfast. She also has a PhD from Queen’s University and is a research fellow in Music from Cambridge. In her academic work she is exploring how Irish traditional music can live in this new sound world of electronic effects. The title For reflects the many dedications due to her supporters.
There have been many attempts to put electronic effects with the music. Remember the theme for Dr Who, created a couple of generations ago? However, recently both Jarlath Henderson and Damien O’Kanes’ work leans towards this genre. Is there a new Northern paradigm emerging?
Una is a fine and sensitive player: the bass sound was nicely boosted on my version. That’s important for a harp, where every semi–quaver and triplet needs its 15 micro–seconds of fame, and the treble, well one word, clarity. There are several examples here of pioneering work such as The Choice (dealing with addiction) or An Dearcadh (The Viewpoint) using the sounds of Belfast to evoke childhood memories.
Una also has a tribute to Séamus Begley. She made the pilgrimage to West Kerry in a cold February to play tunes all night (and Mass the next morning to hear the choir from Cul Aodha in Ballyferriter). And that proves the thesis: music is a human communication, and the rules are not haphazard. In Irish music they go deep to the bone marrow, this pioneering is a stony path to tread and even the best of us can hope only to add a pebble to the pyramid, but I hope she will persevere. And like the Gobán Saor, bring a companion to shorten the road.
John Brophy

True Born Irish Man
Own Label Daoiri CD001, 10 Tracks, 46 Minutes
I  picked my copy up at one of Daoiri’s gigs, and as he’s one of the busiest performers these days, there’s a chance you could do the same anytime soon.
Here we have Daoiri singing unaccompanied, with his trademark Foley bouzouki and with the full band. His style of playing is similar to Andy Irvine (who wouldn’t follow the master?), his singing stems from the same tradition as Liam Weldon and Frank Harte, unashamedly Dublin, authentic and emotional. Weldon is a personal favourite of his and he studied the songwriter for his Masters at the University of Limerick.
Farrell closes the album with a breathtakingly simple setting of Weldon’s My Love is A Well, his voice allowed to ornament the words over an uilleann pipe drone from James Mahon.
Before that final track there are songs about travellers: The Blue Tar Road (a gritty realistic slice of itinerant life written by Liam Weldon), Pat Rainey (in the jolly tinker tradition), which sandwiches a fizzy instrumental reminiscent of a Galician muiñeira before its final verse. Daoiri delves into Irish history with The Valley of Knockanure (from the Black and Tan War), and the Shady Woods of Truagh (from the Confederate campaign of 1646). Fergie McCormack a song from New Zealand has a comical twist in its final line, well worth waiting for. Factor in the Scottish standard Bogie’s Bonnie Belle and an ever–building festival show–stopper Van Dieman’s Land, and you have in Daoiri, a folk singer’s folk singer.
This album has become my default choice for long car journeys, full of songs you can sing along to, and musical stories with meat on their bones; it is a great companion for the blue tar road.
Seán Laffey

Like A Radio
MIG, 15 Tracks, 69 Minutes
Matthews Southern Comfort had a massive hit with their version of Joni Mitchell’s song Woodstock in 1970, and they are back. This line–up combines Ian Matthews (ex–Fairport Convention) with a trio of Dutch musicians, Eric de Vries on guitar, Bart de Win on keyboards along with multi–instrumentalist Bart Jan Baartmans. The sound blends Matthews’ roots in English folk–rock with Americana, spiced up by a sophisticated and pleasing jazzy tinge.
Ian is a strong, smooth vocalist (oddly like a more polished version of Donald Fagen at times) and harmonies are applied with taste and discernment. The material is mostly original, although the sleeve notes don’t supply detailed information on the writing credits, with covers of songs by James Taylor’s Something In The Way She Moves and Goffin & King’s To Love, (which sounds like an Everly Brothers tribute) added in a bonus section.
The title track establishes the overall theme perfectly, with jazz keyboards to the fore, and The Age Of Isolation, written by de Vries, is another highlight.
Chasing Rainbows is a nod to the 1960s, complete with sitar and Beach Boys harmonies; Jive Pajamas satirises the LA lifestyle that Matthews observed while living there, and Phoenix Rising is a gentle ballad, which seems semi–autobiographical.
Right As Rain is a gorgeous slow song played with sensitivity, while Bits and Pieces is a more up–tempo showcase for the band’s style. Lastly, compliments to Bart Jan Baartmans as a one–man rhythm section playing bass and drums, who contributes greatly to the overall musical quality of this enjoyable CD.
Mark Lysaght

The Gothard Sisters
Midnight Sun
Own Label 2018, 12 Tracks, 48 Minutes
Here we have a very welcome album of new songs and music all the way from the west coast of America. The sisters Willow, Greta & Solana have been very well received at festivals over the past few years and they now give those unable to attend the live gigs a chance to experience some wonderful music.
In keeping with tradition they open with the title track of the album which like all dozen tracks comes from their own combined pens. It has a lovely driven beat that contrasts beautifully with the sweet voices. I particularly liked the instrumental bridges on this track.Against the Grain gives us a chance to truly appreciate the virtuosity of the players in this group.Then we are back to the well thought out lyrics on Wandering. This gives us a set of wonderful “word pictures”.
As always there has to be a stand out track that one would hope to hear getting airplay. On this album there is no doubt that such a track is Mermaids. There are almost a dozen instruments added to a trio of vocals on the song and the end result is a rich, warm and compelling song that has once again some wonderful musical sections that display the talent of the Gothard Sisters. This track also gives us a lovely fabled story.
The nautical theme carries through to Bells on the Hill despite the title. Cat and the Fiddle is a perky toe tapper that is a joy to hear – it seems to take its cues from a certain well–known rhyme.
Slowing the pace down beautifully is When the Rain Falls a doleful instrumental that reflects the mood of a day spent indoors as the rain does fall. If you want to tell children a fairytale seek out the lyrics of Rose, Marie and Heather. They close this wonderful album with Colors of Home in a performance that will leave you wondering where the time went and hoping for a new release as soon as possible.
Nicky Rossiter

All Aboard
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 36 Minutes
All original material, the composers, songsters and musicians in Ticket to Happiness explore journey themes, the actual and metaphorical, Irish drinking habits, dancing, love, world peace, religion, America and Shane McGowan.
Using only strings, violin, guitar, mandolin and banjo gives the work a light airy feel. Opening with Down in Mexico the song evolves from folksy with minimalist rhythmic guitar, to vocally rocked–up. The poet ‘dreamt of girls, dreamt of money’, but fell in love instead with a beat–up Cadillac.
Wind in my sails is a tender love song with melodic harmonies from Mona Kaczmarczyk. Young Willy, a haunting story of a fifteen year old destitute Irish boy, a Famine survivor who left Ireland with ‘two shillings in his pockets and tears in his eyes’, sailing to America, the brave new world of survival and opportunity, where he succeeds, marries and lives in Los Angeles. The chanted chorus is a salve to the underlying sadness.
The wedding song Hey Ho is an endearing narration of a marriage proposal, born from a chance encounter in Dublin. The Balkan Polka is a fine lively tune with unusual timing signature and exotic rhythm but it blends effortlessly with the songs. Ticket to Happiness is a dream sequence, a train journey, where the adult male yearns for adolescence, for escape, to be at ‘no destination, no idea, just a ticket and some Danish tins of beer’, a stream of consciousness song, with a happy ending, a familiar device in the writing here.
Band members Jan Phillip Baumer, Yannick Helle, Patrick Helle and Mona Kaczmarczyk have a strong combination of talent and performance skills. Their tribute to Shane McGowan and obvious admiration for his work has seeped into the arrangements. Their themes and the atmosphere of the album sprinkle a pinch of Pogues flavour throughout, Shane McGowan would be flattered.
Anne Marie Kennedy