Releases > Releases December 2014

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If We Only Knew
Own Label, 10 Tracks
There’s a wealth of subjectivity when it comes to choice of taste in vocal album, so, in a subjective context, I highly rate the pitch, inflection and style that Aodan Coyne brings to is in his debut album If We Only Knew. The Socks in the Frying Pan stalwart has produced a collection of thoughtful song, based on well considered reasons, which he explains, the songs were ‘written with conviction and honesty by the composers….. and thinking about what events occurred to inspire and motivate the writer to put pen to paper and their thoughts and feelings to the music.’ Coyne carries this theme of conviction and honesty through to his unadorned performance using the combination of chords and vocal passion to convey his connection to the meaning of each.
There are two original compositions on the album, the first being Time is Short but Free which he wrote travelling around Asia. The upbeat song is augmented by the bodhrán of Niall Preston and the bass guitar of John Bridge where the melding of instrumental with Aodan’s vocal tone makes for an impassioned edge, which is evident in the, deeply emotional, other original If You Only Knew. That one resonates with every rise and fall of striking chords and vocal inflection. Coyne’s voice is perfectly suited to the tones rendered in his version of The Wounded Hussar, the evocative lyrics thought to commemorate the multitude of Irish soldiers who lost their lives in other countries, and the poignant longing of Tá mé ‘mo shuí in which Coyne highlights the reflection of love perfectly.
It’s obvious from the attention to both the vocal presentation and the instrumental accompaniment that a lot of thought has gone into the depth of meaning and reasoning behind each song on If We Only Knew. A great debut from Coyne that will definitely be played over and over again.
Eileen McCabe

Haymaker, Own Label
22 Tracks, 83 Minutes
A double CD from a young Irish American quartet operating out of New York. Individually they’ve been on the radar for a while, graduating from Charlie Coen’s classes and touring with the likes of John Whelan, Eileen Ivers, Millish, and even the McPeake family. Collectively their style is punchy, raw at times, occasionally moving and always exciting. There’s a lot of music here, a real mixture of tempos and traditions, plus a couple of songs. Starting off with a rake of reels and jigs, The Yanks stick mainly to the classic Irish repertoire on disc 1: Hanley’s Tweed, Fred Finn’s, The New Mown Meadow, Brian O’Lynn, Paddy O’Rafferty and such. Corney is Coming and The Graf Spey both come from Scottish composer James Scott Skinner, I believe, and the band throw in a couple of their own tunes. The songs are traditional, more English than Irish, delivered by guest singers The Murphy Beds. Josh Dukes sits in on drums to complete the Haymaker sound.
Only a year on from their debut album, this second release from The Yanks suggests a prolific career ahead. Disc 2 adds more variety in the form of slides, waltzes, hop jigs, a hornpipe and a slow air. With guitar and box solos by Sean Earnest and Dan Gurney, powerful piping and a spot of sax from fluter Isaac Alderson, and the robust fiddle of Dylan Foley, The Yanks boast both breadth and depth on this recording. Gurney’s reel The Trip to Boston opens this double album, and Alderson’s The Haybarn starts the second half. Earnest contributes The Widow Boyle, a haunting jig. Another couple of Scots tunes slip in between Irish favourites, along with compositions by Finbarr Dwyer, Colm O’Donnell, Josephine Marsh, Jimmy McHugh and others. Some high points for me were the wild enthusiasm on I Have No Money, the languid hornpipe version of Far from Home, the beautiful fiddle waltz Judy Ann’s composed by Josh Dukes, and the vintage 1930’s sound on the title track. As to the CD title itself, if Haymaker refers to a strong sweeping knock–out blow, it’s spot on in this case.
Alex Monaghan

Own Label, 11 Tracks, 42 minutes
Those familiar with the Online Academy of Irish Music will surely be familiar also with the flute playing of Kirsten Allstaff who is also known for her tutorship at The Irish World Academy of Music and Dance. The Scottish flautist with a strong interest in the musical binds of the Scottish and Irish traditions has released her debut solo album Gallowglass.With a focus on the flute intertwined with a myriad of supporting instrumentation, Kirsten has produced an album that uses breath, pace, flow and tune choice to showcase the best of Irish and Scottish music. Echoing the Gallowglass, Scottish Warriors who plied their trade with the Irish Chieftains of days gone by.
With a strong background in the teaching of the instrument it would make sense that the structure, technicalities and rhythmic sway would be spot on with this album. The standout sound throughout Gallowglass though is the ability to signify emotive change within each track by breathing heart into Maitiú’s Waltz, passion into Paddy Mills Fancy reels and depth into Pearl O’Shaughnessy’s barndance. Clever use is also made of the instrumental conversation between the flute and the beats of John Joe Kelly and Tony Trundle, the strings of Eoin O’Neill, Jean Damei, Jon O’Connell and Adam Shapiro and the piano keys of Mhairi Hall, especially in the clarity of rhythm at the introduction to the Shetland reel Sleep Sound in da Morning.
Gallowglass gives a glimpse into both the history and marriage of Scottish and Irish traditional music it also gives a glimpse into the depth of passion Kirsten has for the tunes and her instrument. Each set articulates the depth, flow and resonance of the tune in its un–adulterated form and Kirsten has given a lesson in how to produce an album of fluting finesse.
Eileen McCabe

Foreign Shore
Little Sea Records
11 Tracks, 41 Minutes
Hanz Araki is definitely a master of his art. In Foreign Shore, his eleventh release, he has recorded eleven songs and tunes from the traditions of Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, America and New Zealand. This collection of music dives into the heart of a musical tradition that travelled the world as Araki’s Irish and Japanese forbearers did!
On Foreign Shore the sound Hanz creates is colourful and varied and somehow creates pictures of the lyrics. He plays flutes and whistles on the album and occasionally doubling and tripling the melody and harmonies. The melody almost tells you what’s happening in the song.
Foreign Shore offers the listener a first–class compilation of classic instrumental and narrative folk; from Valentine O’Hara to a wonderful rendition of The Herring Song/The Boats of Killaloe to The Chicago/The Maids of Mt Kisko/The Virginia. Foreign Shore captivates you completely whenever you listen to it. Although widely known for his exquisite musicianship, Araki also possesses a haunting voice which was born to tell tales. Listening to My Jolly Roving Tar and Davey Lowston, considered by many to be one of New Zealand’d first folk songs, the action in the story dates to a real incident that occurred in Jackson Bay in Fiordland in 1810. History or no, you’ll be under Araki’s vocal spell.
Foreign Shore is: one outstanding album. More information can be found at
Grainne McCool

The Boroimhe Project
10 Tracks
Own Label
“Do you be getting fed up with all the WWI commemorations? Well, don’t worry, son, it’ll all be over by Christmas.”
This sally of Dublin wit deals with the events of a hundred years ago. But earlier this year we had memories of a thousand years ago, when we ruined the Viking empire. And this was mightily remembered a hundred years ago, when we had to prove that Irish kings were of a far better quality, and courage, and much superior pedigree than anything John Bull could muster. Brian Ború has a secure place in royal annals.
Now, at the millennium commemoration of the Battle of Clontarf, things are much more easy–going. Paul Dolan, from the semi– independent republic of East Wall, within rowing distance of the battlefield, imported friends from Mayo. Especially Kevin Donnellan. They had a great session. The result is a heady mix of styles, ranging from blues, complete with harmonica, and an anti–war theme, to a couple of jigs that sit squarely in the trad. For an example the song Don’t Wanna Go to War: After Boru became the High King in 1002, a period of relative peace reigned in Ireland, and many of his soldiers settled back into normal life. This is the story of one of those soldiers, a Dalcassian, who has had enough of going to war and plots a way to avoid the Battle of Clontarf.
Now the project is community based and it draws on a wide range of musical talents and tastes so trad and folk rubs shoulders with rock , blues and classical.The result is a companionable curiosity, showing the many facets of the musical language we spoke when remembering a thousand years of history. It would agreeably shorten a road.
John Brophy

Own Label
11 Tracks, 46 Minutes
It’s one of those names that could be a happy coincidence or a total contrivance. Whether or not it refers to this band’s main means of support, Giro is certainly international and retro. And these lads (and lass) do seem to hang out around Galway, despite coming originally from Denmark, Japan, New Zealand and Canada. From this information you’ll already have worked out that they were drawn together by a love of Irish music and strong drink. What won’t be so obvious is their mastery of music from Scandinavia and what used to be called Eastern Europe, as well as Ireland of course.
In a slightly chaotic performance, GIRO run through 1920’s New York Irish hornpipes, Klezmer dances, Swedish wedding marches, Carolan waltzes and straight trad reels, all with a hint of vaudeville comedy. Kyle Borey adds a couple of stage Irish songs, The Galway Races and Bridget Flynn, as well as applying his talented lips to flute and piccolo. Mayo Yanachi may or may not be the real name of GIRO’s fiddle diva, but she combines a fine feel for the Irish tradition with an impressive ability to handle anything from the Arctic to the Balkans. Anders Trabjerg’s accordion captures the crispness and frenzy of Kimmel and others racing to fit three tunes onto a two minute recording: the Far From Home set has a bounce and urgency rarely heard these days. Clarinetist Geoff Ward turns his hand to the banjolin for diddly–i, and shines on music from further east (beyond Blackrock even) including Anders’ own tune The Devon Court Gypsies.
Every track is different, every arrangement unique, as this quartet mixes and matches, providing such ample variety, that Scotsman Niall McQuaid’s guest appearance on tambourine is almost superfluous. From the opening Sunshine Hornpipe to the final gallop through Rocking the Baby, the Galway International Retro Orchestra delivers everything you’d expect and more. Authentic twentieth–century instruments, high quality production, that tambourine of course, and terrible taste in hats: these guys are worth checking out.
Alex Monaghan

Tunes Inside
Own Label
14 Tracks
Dan’s website tells it as it is: ‘recorded in Ireland and the USA. Dan is joined by 16 accomplished Irish traditional musicians. A delightful mix of old favourites, rarely heard tunes, and a few new compositions are all here! Guest musician Mick Mulcrone sings two time–tested songs, one of revenge and another about the hard lives of 19th century sailors.’
Over the span of his career, box and melodeon player Dan Possumato has shown us that his music isn’t about innovation, blinding technical talent or keeping up with the break–neck speeds that so many of Ireland’s top players. Instead, as Possumato shows us with his third release, Tunes Inside, the heart of the music he plays is found next to the hearth, surrounded by good friends in a dimly lit room with strong drink and much laughter: It is comfort food for your ears.
Tunes Inside comes decked out with 14 familiar favourites like The Captain & His Whiskers and The Cameronian, as well as a number of lesser known gems such as Da Eye Wifey, which has been a standard in Shooglenifty’s repertoire for well over a decade. Well arranged, expertly mixed and warmly played, there’s a lot to like about Tunes Inside, and you’ll find more with each listen.
Possumato’s playing is competent, methodical and warm. With just one listen, it becomes evident that the largely self taught musician holds the music he’s chosen for Tunes Inside in high regard. That he’s joined on the album by the likes of Kevin Burke, Julie Langan, Brian McGrath, Teresa Baker, Frances Cunningham and Eliot Grasso provides the 14 tracks with the depth and texture required to transform what would be a enjoyable listen into a record that you’ll be happy to hear every time it finds its way into your life.
Seamus Bellamy

At The Stringsmith’s Forge
12 Tracks, 51 Minutes
Own Label
Skyhook is a group encompassing Cath James, Martin Harwood and Eoin Teather, line–up two fiddles, a Foley zook and guitar. This album also features Andy Seward on Double bass Ciaran Boyle on bodhrán and Sue Cain on backing vocals.
This collection commemorates Jerry Holland (hard to believe it’s five full years since he died – what happened the famous fiddle?), Nigel West and singer Hugh Waller from Sheffield.
I listened to this just before the Referendum, and the Scottish flavour of the tunes seemed very apposite, such as Calum Breugach / Miller of Drone / Midgefest / Snowing up the Hill, with the first tune dating back to 1887, the latter two are very recent compositions. There is distinctive North of England flavour to their songs, The Turtle and the Asp left a dark shadow. I enjoyed a Cape Breton et of treats on Caber Feidh / Mutt’s Favourite / Miss E. MacLeod / Aoife’s reel. The music, like those referendums arguments, will carry on regardless and hopefully we’ll hear more of this precision playing regardless of political outcomes. And of course there is one of the most surreal titles in the traditional repertoire Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. You might have felt short changed by the bluff and bluster of the Scottish referendum, not so with the manifesto here, it gets my single transferable vote.
John Brophy

The Friendly Visit,
Own label POS0002
14 Tracks, 49 Minutes

A highly respected fiddler, and no mean flute–player, this founder member of Altan has recorded several albums with fiddlers and fluters who share his Northern taste in Irish music. This is his second solo sortie, after a fifteen year wait. There are no pretensions to radical or revolutionary approaches here: Paul kicks off with Ryan’s Rant, as solid and established a reel as you could wish for, and that sets the tone for The Friendly Visit (which is translated as An Céilí, interestingly enough, one of the original meanings of that Irish cultural institution which covers dance halls, concerts and house parties as well as more intimate social gatherings where music is played).
Paul’s Donegal connections are soon in evidence: a set of highlands ending with one of many Jimmy Lyons tunes, followed by the air Lord Galway’s Lamentation which goes by a slightly different title in Scotland, and then a medley of highlands and reels beloved of Donegal fiddlers. In fact, the spirit of Donegal pervades this CD, from Paul’s bowing style and relatively unadorned fingering, to the sources of his material: the Byrnes of Kilcar, the great Tommy Peoples and Con Cassidy, John and Mickey Doherty of course, Jimmy Campbell and others. The Black Haired Lass, The Swedish Jig, The Spirits of Wine and Condon’s Frolics all have their stories. Between the reels and jigs, Paul slots in a pair of delightful mazurkas which should get any dancer’s toes tapping.
As if that weren’t enough, O’Shaughnessy enlists the help of Eoin O’Neill and Garry O’Briain on bouzouki and piano for several selections, as well as drafting in his mother Pearl and daughter Kate, fine fiddlers both, for some gorgeous family duets and trios. Pearl has been a mainstay of the Dublin session scene for many years, and the set of John Egan polkas here pays tribute to that influence on Paul’s music. Switching to flute, this versatile musician shows his mastery of Clare music on John Kelly’s Slow Reel and a set of jigs including one he picked up from whistle mistress Mary Bergin. Another surprising strand comes in the final pair of reels learnt from American recordings of Paddy Cronin via Dublin piper Jimmy Brophy. The core of The Friendly Visit remains faithful to the Donegal style, though: a great fiddle tradition, a powerful variant of Irish music, and Paul O’Shaughnessy does it full justice on this album.
Alex Monaghan

A Handful of Bad Ideas
Own Label BEOCDoo8
11 Tracks, 46 Minutes
On this debut album Aisling Jarvis makes a distinctive musical mark, yes she may be part of the Clannad dynasty, but here she embraces the modern twenty–something zeitgeist, this is not her grandmother’s music. This is her music. It is an album full of songs resonating with an audience who tune into daytime youth oriented radio. It’s kind of pop, but it’s more grown up than that, she tackles issues full of angst and does so with a strident attitude on My Words My Sounds, with resigned vulnerability on Fragile and anthemic defiance in I’m All About Experiments. Most of the songs are her own, there are some co–writes with Eve Belle ad Megan Nic Ruairi (Thoughts) and the key track The Kids We Used to Be (with Euan Murphy).
The album, which she self produced at the family studio is really well made, technically a testament to the years she spent learning the craft at Pulse Recording Studio and to the skills of mastering by Kieran Lynch which are equally impressive. Her voice is always the main instrument here, clear, emotional and self assured, She does add in some harmonies, nothing as lush as a Clannad album, this is tighter work, although she gets close on I’m All About Experiments (hints of Abba in there too, if you listen closely enough). The tracks tend towards radio appropriate lengths of four minutes. The longest tracks My Words and Sounds and the closing Call Me Home at 5 and 6 minutes respectively would be more suited to night time airplay, with Call Me Home being a plaintive vocal and guitar track which slowly builds, the sound fills gently as her story unfolds. The song cascades with a repeated chorus of a Now You’ll Call Me Home and closes with a big melodic ending.
Aisling also plays guitars, keyboards, bass and uilleann pipes (which are used most prominently as a rousing intro to The Kids We Used To Be).
As debuts go this is very impressive stuff, there are songs here that could stick and hang around for a long time such as Your Shoes Don’t Fit, with its lifting chorus this must be a real crowd pleaser. The Kids we Used to be is the clincher, a two hander with Euan Murphy, at its centre it is the least introspective track on the album.
Aisling has created a work of many layers, and subtle complexity. Was it a handful of bad ideas? I think not!
Seán Laffey

The Danish Emigrant
5 Tracks, 16 Minutes
Go Danish
We could fill the CD reviews on a regular basis with music from Scandinavia and Denmark in particular. The Go Danish label has been very active over the past five years and is doing Stirling work to bring this regional folk music to a wider audience.
This album, well it’s not a full album at only 5 tracks, so is it an EP? Maybe it is a wee bit too big for that description. Now if this was literature it would be a short story and it would be a page turner.
Run Barslund plays the accordion and Andreas Rasmussen is a fiddler. They bring in their pal Rasmus Zeeberg on guitar and tenor guitar and they make a wonderful combination, what a huge sound from only three instruments.
The opening track the Danish Immigrant at just two and a half minutes is a lively calling card for the fine musicianship on show here. It’s a newly composed melody in response to their question ‘what would Danish music sound like if it had been composed by an immigrant to the USA in the mid 1880s?’ Well it would have rubbed shoulders with Old Timey tunes and Irish dance music, as the two lads have done over the few years studying traditional music both in Ireland and America. The bow work from Rasmussen is percussive and positive as it pushes the reel forward.
Rune lived for a time in the west of Ireland and the piece Kerry Polska is inspired by his time in the Kingdom, this marries the polka tradition with his native Polksa dance form. Vals til mor og, supplies the quite moment in the middle of the musical sandwich, a lyrical waltz it could become as popular as Josefin’s Walst and would be an easy rune to learn. The melodies settle into a Danish paradigm on Alexander Den Store (Alexander the Great), with its internal rhythm ever present the tune develops and becomes larger and louder with each bar only to fade away. The duo picks up a great Irish number from the Irish piper Thomas Johnston a version of Vincent Broderick’s Around the Fairy Fort, they combine it with Suzuki–Japanese for Progress, a very Danish sounding tune despite its title.
Yes it is short CD, but its full of fun and if you are looking for something fresh, something to make your music a little less predictable, there’s enough spice on this Danish to keep you sweet for months.
Seán Laffey