Releases > Releases August 2019

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Timeless, Beo Records,
10 Tracks, 36 Minutes
Timeless is Moya Brennan’s and Cormac de Barra’s third album together, and I wondered about the title they chose for their new CD. “It’s the title of one of the tracks, Timeless Tide,” said Cormac. “We ended up writing eight new songs for this album, it’s mostly newly-written music, mostly Irish but some in English. We were inspired by the discovery of two tombs near the Boyne, near Newgrange last year, and how many thousands of years have gone by and how time has revealed even more mysteries of an Old World. So we called the song Timeless Tide.”
Their first two CDs together, Voices & Harps in 2011 and Affinity in 2013 received enthusiastic reviews. Moya and Cormac point out that while the 2011 CD hadn’t as many new compositions, by 2013 they had worked hard and recorded more new material for Affinity. “I think we just grew in together, writing together,” said Moya, “and that’s what’s nice about our partnership, as well, there’s nothing forced. From years of touring, Cormac and I play a lot together and it all developed of its own accord.”
Both artists are ever aware of their respective family traditions – one from Cork, the other from Donegal, and know how blessed they are in their inheritance. The hauntingly beautiful Is Cuma, sung by Moya, celebrates “Ealaíon atá beo” the Living Art of their musical legacy. Another is called The Countess, and Cormac explained how it came about.
“I was doing a lot of work in Los Angeles with the sound engineer Lynne Earls who’s Irish, and we got the chance to do the music for a documentary on the State Art Collection for Oireachtas TV on RTÉ. It’s called House of Art, and Moya came in on that, so the three of us got together and one of the songs we wrote was called The Countess, inspired by the fact that the only female portrait in all of Teach Laighean (Leinster House, the seat of the Irish parliament) is of Countess Markiewicz.” It’s good to see so many new pieces on Timeless, but I was quite taken with the traditional Páistín Fionn sung by Cormac with harp accompaniment, of course, and harmonies by Moya. They are equally at home with the timeless trad songs and their new material. Fad saol agaibh beirt.
Aidan O’Hara

Back to the Island
Own Label MM005,
16 Tracks, 46 Minutes
It’s his first solo album in two decades, but the strength and determination of delivery is as striking as the last solo run from legendary flute player Matt Molloy. Back to the Island is the name of this new work, and comprises tunes old and new, all the while played and perfected in that timeless, iconic sound that is the essence of flute playing for so many traditional music fans.
The sleeve notes by Merrily Harpur state that, “in Matt’s hands, the river of tradition becomes oceanic”. Indeed, the nautical references abound, no surprise for those who know of the maestro’s passion for the seas and sailing. The cover photo of the album has Matt on his beloved ‘Eccentric Lady’ boat. The music, as it were, flows characteristically and effortless in Matt’s capable hands, along with an assembled crew; like the opening Spider’s Web set, which takes in The Boys of the Town and Leg of the Duck. Matt is accompanied by friends and fellow maestros Brian McGrath on piano, Arty McGlynn on guitar, and also Joe McNulty on bodhrán.
The expertise and execution of a craft master reverberates throughout the album, not least on the hornpipe set Second Star/Galway Bay, the clarity of the notes and the ornamentation, the control to allow the tune to ebb and flow, all the qualities traditional music lovers can take for granted in Matt Molloy’s company.
The tune following this, The Girl I’ll Ne’er Forget, obviously evokes a lot of emotion for Matt, and that emotion and raw energy can be heard in the performance of this reel; he dedicates it with passionate words to his late wife (Geraldine) and daughter (Clair). No doubt to lighten the mood, the first tune of the next set is Get Up Old Woman and Shake Yourself, with Steve Cooney joining Matt and Arty McGlynn for this set of slides. The title track set, Back to the Island, features two of Matt’s own compositions, Back to the Island and Skipper Seán Prendergast, which he states in the sleeve notes, express his love of the sea. Recorded at Clew Bay Studios in Westport, County Mayo, Back to the Island is both a flute enthusiast’s and traditional music enthusiast’s delight, with a vast range of tunes and, as ever, exemplary musicianship from Matt Molloy.
Derek Copley

An Evening with Kevin Burke
Loftus Music MM009,
22 Tracks, 63 Minutes
Kevin Burke is famous for his work with the Bothy Band, Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, Patrick Street and latterly The Celtic Fiddle Festival. Many of the tunes on this album were first heard in such an ensemble setting. Here Burke strips his tunes down to their distilled essence, in an evening of solo fiddling. It’s actually a skilfully stitched patchwork of three gigs, two in Oregon and one in Matt Molloy’s of Westport, Mayo.
Kevin gives us a generous hour of talk and of course his raw bar fiddle playing; with tunes, anecdotes, humour and introductions that touch on autobiography. The first track sets the scene as he takes us on a musical journey around Ireland, beginning with the “home of renegades, poets, and musicians on the run” Sliabh Luachra.
His trademark pulse is here, especially on the Pigeon on The Gate set and Sailor on the Rock. He crosses over to the continent for Paris Nights, heads back in time for a longer medley of O’Carolan tunes (has there ever been a more heartfelt recording of Loftus Jones?). He tells us of growing up in London in the 1950s, and plays Lucy Farr’s Fling which he had from the Galway fiddler who made her home in the south of England.
There’s a very funny reminiscence of the late Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham, with whom Burke played in the first iteration of the Celtic Fiddle Festival. With a hint of emotion for a dear departed friend the album closes with Burke playing a favourite set of Johnny’s two Quebecois reels The Dion and the Mouth of the Tobique.
With the help of engineer Danny O’Hanlon, Kevin Burke has brought us an authentic deeply personal concert experience. A must buy for fiddle fans everywhere.
Seán Laffey

Precious Heroes
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 54 Minutes
From the opening bars of Here’s a Health to Every Miner Lad, this CD is unmistakeably Andy Irvine, his distinctive voice and instrumentation immediately in evidence on an original song dedicated to miners and their struggles. It’s a familiar theme, as he has spent much of his long career championing various causes and victims of oppression in all its forms. This album is generated to working classes everywhere, and his close collaborator, the Tasmania mandolin player Luke Plumb, who produced and engineered all the tracks and contributes mandolin, guitar, bouzouki and vocals, joins Andy. The pair manage to achieve that hallmark interwoven sound, aided and abetted by additional musicians including Mike McGoldrick on flute and whistles, and John McCusker on fiddle.
Although recording took place in a variety of locations in 2016 and 2017, the album is extremely cohesive and brings together original material, songs and tunes from both Andy and Luke, along with selected items from the tradition. Niamh and Oisín is a joint effort by the two principals, book marked by a lovely tune of Andy’s called Trip to Tír na nÓg which dates back to 1973. Another Irvine original celebrates Frank Ryan, a left-wing activist of the 1930s who fought in the Spanish Civil War, and there’s a great version of Ewan McColls’s Champion at Keeping Them Rollin’, his anthem for UK truckers.
A nice touch throughout is the excellent use of female backing vocalists Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton on several tracks. The closing song Erin’s Green Shore is classic Andy Irvine, starting in an understated manner before expanding into a gorgeous arrangement, full of subtlety and nuance. Although he is well into his seventies now, Andy Irvine’s musical spirit is undiminished; he has found a great musical partner in Luke Plumb, and this CD is a joy from start to finish.
Mark Lysaght

Dúchas, Raelach Records RR016,
13 Tracks, 44 Minutes,
A young box-player from Corofin in North County Clare, Damien O’Reilly manages to combine the best of several styles in his playing. His music is flowing, highly ornamented, with a rolling melody line in the right hand and a clear pulse for dancers in the left.
The first two selections reminded me strongly of Joe Burke: that same relaxed authority and easy mastery of the B/C accordion on heavyweight reels like Farrell O’Gara and The Flogging, and on the jaunty Maiden that Jigs it in Style as well as a version of The Humours of Glin. East Galway is not far from North Clare, musically or geographically. But then Damien switches to single-row melodeon for a trio of barndances, and suddenly we’re in Connemara, heading towards Sliabh Luachra.
There are several hints of Kerry music in O’Reilly’s repertoire - the lovely air An Ciarraíoch Mallaithe from the singing of Seamus Begley which is actually the longest track on Dúchas despite being the only unaccompanied one, The Kerryman’s Fling from the recent album Rooska Hill, and a joyous set of slides which may not all originate in Kerry but which have the punch and panache of that county’s box-players.
Dúchas is indeed a very varied album - the Carolan march Lord Mayo, the Shetland reel Donald Blue, set dances and numerous flings sit among the jigs and reels. Accompaniment by John Blake, Caoimhín Ó Fearghail and Padraic O’Reilly on guitar, bouzouki and piano leaven most of this music, but the button box is always to the fore and always putting its spark into the tunes.
Damien O’Reilly’s energy and zest are what makes this CD something special. Many young players can produce virtuoso renditions of Austin Tierney’s or The Boys of Ballisodare, but very few can bring a range of traditional melodies to life as Damien does. Dúchas shows more than virtuosity: it shows vitality and vision, and an ability to reveal the soul of this music.
Alex Monaghan

365 Volume 2 Reveal Records 081CDX,
12 Tracks, 34 Minutes
The Scottish author James Robertson wrote a story every day for a year, each little vignette was exactly 365 words long, eventually collated into a book, it was published in 2013. Inspired by Robertson’s concept, Aidan O’Rourke, an award-winning Scottish fiddler and member of the band Lau, has taken the idea of creating a piece of music a day. Here he presents 25 of those compositions on the second volume of his 365 opus. Each piece refers to one of Robertson’s micro-novels, paired with O’Rourke’s new pieces as the literary and musical equivalent of a painter’s miniature.
It would be hard to call these simple tunes, they are more evocative, more crafted than a set of dance tunes. Indeed for many of the tracks the fiddle steps into the shadows as Kit Downes’ piano takes the lead, as it does on the opener simply called Piano, after Robertson’s response to hearing a piano played in an unusual apartment block.
The album is complete with the words to Robertson’s stories, so you can read the story as its associated track plays in the background. It’s an intriguing work and a challenge that Aidan set himself and has mastered in a dignified fashion. Don’t expect showy fiddling here, with pieces such as Bill Was Already at His Window, this could be a modern Child ballad in the making. On The Braggart the fiddle builds a tension by repeating each phrase with each return adding a little more volume and a little more aggression, only to fade away as if the braggadocio has been proved nothing but fake news.
Inspired on many levels, this album is at the imaginative end of Celtic music’s rainbow.
Seán Laffey

Music in the Valley
Redbox Recording, 12 Tracks, 40 Minutes
Crowned Senior All-Ireland Céilí Band Champions at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2018 in Drogheda, The Blackwater Céilí Band now present their debut studio album, Music In The Valley. Formed in 2015 their music is very much rooted in the Ulster tradition, and this album showcases just that. Lively and with a variety of rhythm, this collection is for both dancing to and listening to. The band are joined on this new release by acclaimed artists Dermot Mulholland, Emmet Mulholland and Cathal O’Neill.
This collection of music shows just how versatile the band are. Opening on a set of reels, and immediately followed by jigs, then marches to songs, barndances to hornpipes, further jigs and reels, this is certain to have you singing out loud and yet dancing to the set. You just can’t help yourself. Versatility and brilliance. The vocal harmonies, the rhythm, the wonderful orchestration, the versatility of the music caters for everyone who loves Irish music, both listeners and dancers. One minute it’s relaxing, the next it’s exhilarating, and then there’s a song. The Blackwater Céilí Band enrapture you in the music throughout.
As with every compilation of music, there’s always a favourite. In this case it has to be The Ballyronan Maid with Cathal O’Neill. It’s just the perfect wind-down from the music leading up to it, and a beautiful rendition of the ballad. The album is framed with sets of reels, opening with The Cappataggle Shuffle/ The Duke of Leinster/ The Humours of Ballyconnell and finishing with The Pipers Despair/ The Boys of Tulla/ I Wish I never saw her. It’s orchestrated brilliantly. Sculpted to musical perfection and powerful with every tune/song.
This is certainly a debut album you’ll listen to again and again.
Grainne McCool

Mandorla, Own Label SDP56169,
10 Tracks, 40 Minutes
Two highly respected Canadian musicians, one from the east and one from the west but now both living around Vancouver, Pierre Schryer and Adam Dobres bring their fiddle and guitar to a wide range of music here. Concentrating on the French Canadian fiddle tradition of Pierre’s family, and the Irish music both he and Adam have grown to love, Mandorla also ventures into seventeenth century popular music, Brazilian choro, and new compositions in styles from delicate jazz to traditional music.
The mysterious Algerian Berber Tune leads into two relatively recent Irish polkas: Steve Cooney’s Blue Fiddle, and Alan Kelly’s Trip to Dingle, both overdue for a new recording. The first taste of Pierre’s powerful Quebec fiddle and foot-percussion comes on the modern classic Fleur de Mandragore, a delightful but challenging piece which Pierre polishes off with panache before bending the bow to his own crooked reel Berthier-sur-mer. A trio of tunes by Purcell, Dowland, and Carolan, with tuned-down guitar and fiddle adapted to the style of lute and baroque violin, provide a complete contrast: Twas Within a Furlong of Edinburgh Town is a fiddle showcase, while Dobres picks his way elegantly through Lady Hunsdon’s Puffe and Schryer canters joyfully through Carolan’s Concerto with perhaps more swing than the composer imagined. Dobres also shares the melody line on La valse des jouets, and takes a toe-tapping solo on his own Orca’s Jig as well as wringing emotion from the air Bruach na Carraige Báine in a Cooney-esque performance.
This duo’s past and present collaborations with the likes of Steve Cooney and Dermot Byrne certainly influence the driving Irish jigs and reels: Humours of Glendart, Banks of Lough Gowna, Wheels of the World and Johnny McGoohan’s are all deftly handled. And there’s more: competition-level Canadian reels from Pierre, Adam’s poignant Freda’s Journey with hints of Russian and Jewish music, the old favourite Sheepskin & Beeswax, the funky Easy Club Reel and the final towering Tico Tico. Fiddle and guitar doesn’t come much better than Mandorla.
Alex Monaghan

Polecats and Dead Cats
Brechin All Records CDBar 037,

12 Tracks, 52 Minutes
Over the years, readers will have read what I’ve had to say about the Scottish musician and entertainer, Sandy Brechin, so what I’ve to say about his latest CD will come as no surprise to some of you. Its title, Polecats and Dead Cats tells you that there’ll be fun, and there is. But that’s Sandy’s way, while at the same time he provides us with an impressive musical package that’s top class and original. On the CD cover he states: “No animals were harmed in the making of this album (but you may want to protect the ears of any pets before you play it at home).”
The Sandy Brechin Trio consists of Sandy on accordion, and two equally accomplished Swedish musicians, his friends Jimmy Johansson on fiddle, and Christopher Andersson Bång, double bass. Sandy likes to give tracks semi-ridiculous names, e.g. Bleeding Gums and Penguins that consists of the well-known trad number, A Pinch of Snuff and Simon Jeffes’s Music For a Found Harmonium.
The track Mr & Mrs Linklater’s Fumbling, Jumbling Polecats consists of two tunes composed by Sandy; of the first one, Your Drunken, Fumbling Fingers, he says, “There’s a few topics that this tune could have been written about, I suppose, but I’m glad to say that in fact it refers to a brave but futile attempt to play the accordion while inebriated.” There’d be no prizes for guessing what might have inspired another composition of Sandy’s, Brechin Wind. Yes, you guessed it. He says, “Having an addiction to hot chilli peppers can have serious antisocial side effects “
Finally, The Tartan Punch medley has a tune by Sandy called The Poetry Punch-Up, composed after a book launch in Edinburgh where he was playing and two rival poets had a fight on stage. “It was a most entertaining evening,” says Sandy. So’s this CD.
Aidan O’Hara

Midnight Mission
CMCD001, 10 Tracks, 40 Minutes
Midnight Mission is the new guitar album from Bill Shanley, an album that brings the guitar right back, with Bill focusing his adept skills on the early years of the electric guitar sound, weaving rockabilly, rock n roll, swing, surf et al on one exciting body of work. A renowned and in-demand guitarist, Bill calls upon a stellar cast of musicians to perform on Midnight Mission. His vast knowledge of guitar music comes into play and will tease and excite fans of the electric, with nods towards those classic sounds associated with rock n roll, like the title track Midnight Mission, which evokes memories of The Shadows and Hank Marvin. If a track like Swinging Like New doesn’t get you up and, well, swinging, then it’s time for bed. Shanley and his band could not help but have fun putting this record together, playing around with different effects and rhythms, a rebel no-holds-barred approach, much in keeping with the evolution of that electric sound. Mainly an instrumental album, Ray Davies of The Kinks lends vocals on Graceville, which still keeps in tune with the rest of the album’s conscious experimental wave. Paul Brady also drops by for the last track, playing mandolin on the despondently eerie Curious About You.
The Cork native leaves no lick or vibe unturned, ranging from the laid-back groove of No 9 or Little Queenie, to the more funky Lucky Strike or heavier Midnight Mission. With a head full of music going back to his childhood being surrounded by musicians at Shanley’s Bar of Clonakilty, it’s all coming out on this eclectic tribute to the electric guitar, on Midnight Mission.
Derek Copley

Put the Ha’penny Down
Own Label, 13 Tracks, 51 Minutes
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This is a fascinating album by a man with a fascinating middle name that will certainly get him noticed. We get 13 tracks for our money and we also get a family affair because he shares the vocals, so we get to hear his son and his daughter on separate tracks. Like all the best in folk music here we have a number of stories woven into the songs on offer and seven of these are from Mr Walsh’s own pen and they are a delight to hear.
The opening song and the title track perhaps should come with a glossary for the younger listeners with its reference to halfpenny, Woodbines and Post Office switchboard but it is delightful and in ways a poignant tribute to an Ireland not long gone.
Sadly his second offering on the album Tomorrows Never Come is about an Ireland that is all too much with us and may be for years to come. It is a well composed piece about the plight of the homeless. Recent history also gets a shout in The Beast referring to the “siege mentality” when The Beast From the East lashed us a few years back. I loved his reference to how Tom Creane might have reacted to our fear of that “bit of snow”. Other modern cultural phenomena that he records in song for posterity are Marathon Sunday and Here’s a Health to the Motor Trade. The inclusion of lyrics on the insert greatly enhance these tracts of social history. This is culminated in All Because It’s Christmas.
As well as some excellent instrumental renditions he adds a few tracks from other writers. One of these is the perennial favourite Matt Hyland, which he sings to perfection with a beautiful instrumental backing. Another song that sounds wonderful and full of history is Passage West from the pen of John Spillane and the voice of Mick’s son Gerry while his daughter Bronagh completes proceedings with the haunting She Moved Through the Fair. This album is a wonderful introduction to the Walshes and to elements of our history that might soon pass from our minds but it is also a pleasure to listen to for the musical performances.
Nicky Rossiter