Releases > Releases December 2017

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Charcoal Records CHARCD009, 10 Tracks, 43 Minutes
The renowned Derry–born folk singer Cara Dillon’s new album is aptly titled. Wanderer consists of seafaring songs, actual and metaphorical journeys, physical movement and the beguiling nature of love.
Sam Lakeman, her husband–producer collaborates and accompanies with delicately intricate piano accompaniment and rhythmic acoustic guitar. The recording shifts seamlessly from minimalist styling to full folk orchestra as in their superb version of a centuries old song, The Sailor. Here, Cara and Kris Drever sing in unison and harmonise effortlessly, deepening the emotional importance and pathos in the song.
Both Sides the Tweed is given a pared back treatment, the poetry and nuance of lyric to the fore, highlighting the almost prayerful theme of the song. Similarly with the Banks of the Bann, Dillon’s ethereal voice is beautifully invested in the lost love ballad, the fiddle accompaniment without blemish. There is creative warmth and intimacy in this album, the seventh from Cara Dillon in a relatively short time. Her maturation, professionalism and contemplativeness are evident from the choice of songs, the arrangements and production.
And yet there is the mandatory melancholy of this genre of folk songs, but it is a sweet sadness given her vocal range and prowess. Cara Dillon has worked with movie makers and is internationally recognised, yet with this new recording, she has stayed true to the traditional and cultural pull, the influence of native place, her loyalty to the Irish folk genre a tribute to her authenticity and the sustainable nature of these songs. Accompanied on the album by Sam Lakeman, and a host of other top notch musicians, namely: Kris Drever, John Smith, Justin Adam, Niall Murphy and Ben Nicholls, Wanderer is available at
Anne Marie Kennedy

The Femme Fatale of Maine
Own Label C002, 10 Tracks, 45 Minutes
The debut album from the Jeremiahs showed them to be brave and bold; now this second CD carries on in the same vein, with a collection of songs and tunes that are at the cutting edge of modern Irish folk. It helps of course to have a vocalist of the calibre of Joe Gibney grabbing songs by the scruff of the neck and showing them no mercy.
He makes all the songs on this album his own; some are indeed his own, others, notably Derry Gaol and Passage West are from well–respected songwriters in the vernacular tradition – Alan Burke/Tim Potts and John Spillane. The Jeremiahs’ version of Passage West could almost become the definite rendering, yes it is that good. Their new songs are of a similar high calibre. Baby Don’t Go is about emigration, the opening track, The Wild Barrow Road begins with Jean–Christophe Morel on fiddle, or is it a hurdy–gurdy you might say to yourself, it carries a Massif Central drone, over which the song erupts like an ancient volvic geyser.
Jean Christophe breaks out on the fiddle in Croix–Rousse a tune he composed about a hill in Lyon. The title track is about seduction, temptation and sin, a new song walking down a well–trodden path. There’s a traditional set of tunes, Spring Fling, putting this trio up there with the likes of 10 Strings and a Goat Skin, Bon DeBarras and The Alt.
The liner notes show the lads have a keen sense of language and an ear for rhyme and meter, their sources are acknowledged and the underlying stories vignetted. Printed comments are brief but always intelligent. Produced by Trevor Hutchinson and with some high profile guests, including the Henry Girls on backing vocals, this is the sharp edge of the folktradition in 2017. We have heard great reports of their live performances, and if you snagged a copy of this album after one of their gigs, I can only assume it must be on your shuffle list, it certainly is on mine.
Seán Laffey

Live on St Patrick’s Day, Rover Records IRD0216
Double CD, 24 Tracks, 96 Minutes
In some parts of the world the 1960s–ballad group phenomenon lives on and even thrives in the North American continent. Why, you will even find such groups still performing in Ireland’s pubs and hotels for tourists. And then there are The Wolfe Tones in Ireland and The Irish Rovers in Canada who seem to go on forever, and if I may paraphrase lines from Tennyson’s Babbling Brook one could say of them, “We sing and warble still, y’know, The ballads we deliver, And groups may come and groups may go, But we go on forever”.
George Millar who’s been there from the start never seems to grow any older and is as lively today as he ever was when he was known as the cheeky character Twerp in the fabled Rovers 1970s Canadian TV series. I remember hearing him say of the group’s proclivity for singing and long living:
“Imagine a world without music; each day would be dreary and long, And the Irish would suffer in silence without the sweet lilt of a song; And if we’d no songs for the singin’ or music that makes the heart throb,Then all of the old Irish Rovers would each have to find a new job.”
There’s no fear of them needing a new job, as The Rovers release their new double CD marking their 50th anniversary Live on St. Patrick’s Day recorded at The Port Theatre in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island. Founding members, George Millar and Wilcil McDowell still perform the majority of songwriting and management duties for the band, and with them in their line–up of eight performers are top musicians and singers who maintain their role not only as formidable entertainers but as great ambassadors for Ireland and all things Irish.
On their new double CD, they provide plaintive and wistful songs and tunes alongside others that are … well, naughty but nice; so they give you Dark Island, Lily the Pink, and The Unicorn, and then toss up The Drunken Sailor, She Led Me On, and the bawdy sea song, Whores and Hounds: Whores and hounds n’ navy rum, They have me broke, they have me numb; A drunken sailor I become whenever I’m on shore. They even finish up with the old joke about the nun and tea–cup, thus proving, I suppose, that ‘old jokes are best’. And so, too, are the indomitable performing phenomenon, The Irish Rovers – the best!
Aidan O’Hara

Own Label, 11 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Here is a very interesting project from Irish/Persian group Nava. What is undoubtedly a UNIQUE live collaboration of diverse, strange bedfellows, is now available for posterity as their music has been released over 11 tracks on Nava’s debut album Tapestry.
Not only is it strange to hear the bluegrass staple of 5–string banjo playing Irish music, but, when this is taken further into the musical frontier to blend with the sounds produced by the Persian santoor and percussion of tombak, on paper it seems destined for the scrap heap of cultural fusion projects. And in not–so–capable hands, maybe it would. In the hands of the four lads who make up Nava, however, it is easy to understand why Carl Corcoran (who up until recently presented a wonderfully eclectic mix of music on RTE Lyric FM’s Blue of the Night) described Nava’s music as ‘a pioneering musical collaboration’.
The 5–string and the santoor sound as though they were separated at birth, such is the sympathy of each to the other. Heard throughout the album, the ear is drawn to the wonderful similarities from the opening track Rolling Wave/Chahar Mezrab, which immediately rolls out the reason behind the album title Tapestry, such are the rich layers applied to the arrangement. The next track Hess again puts santoor and banjo lying close together, the tremolo of the santoor helping to bring these two instruments from different spectrums of the globe, together in harmony.
The band, comprising of Paddy Kiernan on banjo, Niall Hughes on Double Bass and brothers Shahab and Shayan Coohe on santoor and tombak respectively have selected tunes from both the Irish and Persian traditions, weaving through jigs, reels, Persian dastgah and originals such as Crossroads of Twilight. The dastgah, being described as a modal system used for improvising, would obviously suit the talents of both Kiernan and Hughes, who in another outfit are renowned bluegrass musicians, a style not unknown to the occasional improvisational break. The soundscape of this musical form is hypnotically portrayed on Chahar Pare.
Among the original compositions is Bray, which falls on a groove via the percussion of the tombak, while santoor, banjo and guitar take breaks in this bluesy, jazzy romp: the kind of track which sounds like the musicians didn’t even know the record button was on as they jammed.
The improvisation and musical collaboration all comes together on Banish Misfortune. Although some might say Banish… is a bit overplayed, even the most seasoned session player would find it hard to criticise the new life pumped into it here. The call and response of the banjo and santoor offer a new dimension of listening to the audience.
I have long been a fan of Kiernan’s banjo playing, particularly how smoothly he plays Irish tunes, with a highlight on his jig playing, in three finger banjo picking style. In his work with Nava, he has found strange and wonderful musical bedfellows indeed, but the familiarity in the music and instruments as can be heard on Tapestry demonstrates the importance of what Nava has done with this record, which is breaking new ground on the global musical landscape.
Derek Copley

Own Label, 10 Tracks, 33 Minutes
Brigid O’Neill’s Touchstone is an eclectic mix of folksy, blues, jazz and good country songs. With producer Gareth Dunlop, this award winning singer–songwriter has explored unspoken intimacies, life lessons, journeys and a refugee’s pilgrim narrative. To tie in with an acknowledgement of her parents’ vocal legacy, the title track Touchstone polishes the work.
Brigid O’Neill segues easily between genres. The first three songs set the stage for her versatility as a writer and performer. Little Birds with its whispery delicate lyrics, sang with minimalist drone accompaniment, is a sensitive comparison of birds flying the nest and children leaving home and starting to make their own way in the world, with the reassurance that “you will find your way”. Her vocal layering here and throughout the album is an enhancing feature. Turn and Face the Sun contrasts beautifully, with upbeat rhythm and a high energy vibe. Refugees, told in the voice of a pilgrim is a hauntingly melodic piece, lyrics concerned with the night time dread, the longing for morning and the quest ‘to find home’. Her vocal range is comfortably extended.
Relationships, healthy and otherwise feature: Running Back to You, is catchy, elucidating the age old conflict of inequality in love. Brigid has spent time writing and performing with the highest echelon of Nashville musicians and singers, evident in Rumour, a great big country song, where that ‘kind of folk’ go about spreading nasty rumours, they ‘strike a match just to have some fun’, and the fire spirals out of control. The guitar playing (picking) is tremendous, the arrangements top notch. This jiving number should come to the attention of all well tuned in radio DJ’S.
Brigid O’Neill’s talents are well recognised previous to this. She is the recipient of the Artist Career Enhancement Award 2015–2016 and was twice a finalist at the prestigious Allingham Festival Songwriter competition. This new album, Touchstone, will elevate her status as an intuitive and versatile singer and song smith.
Ann Marie Kennedy

Home from Home – original words, poems & songs from County Monaghan
Own Label, 17 Tracks, 56 Minutes
The musical and cultural ties between Ireland and Newfoundland are perhaps better known than some other Irish connections with Canada; but in more recent times the people of Co. Monaghan have been celebrating the ties with that other island province of Canada, Prince Edward Island, and the province of New Brunswick.
Interestingly, all three Canadian provinces are rich in music, song, and dance, reflecting the strong ties that bind us. The people that emigrated from County Monaghan brought with them their songs and stories, and echoes are still found in their music in Canada. Rather than selecting material from this musical heritage, a group calling themselves MOPOSOGS (Monaghan Poets and Songwriters) have chosen to compose original material of their own to mark their ties with Canada.
The material reflects what they refer to as “remarkable stories” that have “unfolded in recent decades bringing to life, through rekindled relations, the experiences of thousands who departed Co Monaghan to Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) and Miramichi, New Brunswick”. P.E.I., Canada’s smallest province both in size and in population, was first settled by people from France and later by Scottish and Irish settlers. The name Miracmichi is derived from the native Mi’kmaq people’s name for their lands, and again, the first early Europeans were French.
The Irish began arriving in Miramichi in numbers after 1815 at the end of the Napoleonic War and with a few exceptions ceased coming to the area before the great Irish famine of the 1840’s. The CD notes tell us: “Through municipal, cultural and heritage links created in 1991 and growing ever since, groups, agencies and individuals from both sides of the Atlantic from a variety of locations have continuously reached out to have their story told and more importantly to mobilise in commemorating and celebrating a rich ancestral connection.”
The performers on the CD sing movingly of these connections in prose, songs and poems with titles that include And I Will Never See Again, referring to county names and places; Lost Identity, where the writer wonders what will be lost in emigrating; Margaret’s Journal details in prose a young woman’s account of her own and her loved ones’ hard and sometimes dangerous labouring work in Scotland, and then the move to P.E.I.; and the mood lifts somewhat in Green Lands of Ireland when the emigrant in Canada looks back to happier times in the homeland and the longing to return.
Aidan O’Hara

The Ultimate Guide to English Folk
ARC Music EUCD 2671, 35 Tracks,
2 hours 24 Minutes
The Ultimate Guide to English Folk carries on from the templates set out by ARC Music’s previous “Ultimate Guide to” compilation sets dealing with Spanish, Irish and Scottish folk styles. This excellent value for money 2 CD package includes 35 tracks selected and annotated by compiler John Bowden of Bellowhead fame complete with detailed liner notes.
It is a much needed and worthwhile anthology of classic English folk material. It is broad in both its artistic achievement and its chronological span including many of the leading names in the UK folk scene both established and new. Mostly drawn from the exhaustive Topic records vaults with remainder from own artists’ archives and canons. All the major names are covered: Martin Carthy, Nic Jones, Kate Rusby, Show of Hands, The Copper Family, The Unthanks, Martin Simpson, The Watersons and newer talents like Fay Held, Jackie Oates and Leveret included.
It also highlights the oft–forgotten names like Roger Wilson, Blowzabella and the late Peter Bellamy. Familiarity exists with classics like Nic Jones’s Canadee–I O, Martin Carthy’s Scarborough Fair, Martin Simpson’s Bramble Briar, June Tabor and Martin Simpson’s Heather Down the Moor and Waterson Carthy’s The Light Dragoon stand out and Sam Lee’s Bonny Bunch of Roses and Fay Held’s Green Gravel impress from the new pack.
The musical stance is primarily acoustic and traditionally based with a nod to Folk Rock in Steeleye Span’s The Weaver and The Factory Maid. While there’s no Fairport/ Sandy Denny/ Pentangle present or a nod to the Renbourn/ Jansch Early Music school to encompass all aspects, this is an up to date primer. A lovely closing snatch of Joseph Taylor’s Murder of Maria Marten retains a sense of circularity. The Ultimate Guide to English Folk salutes a living tradition with respect, poise and gratitude – a great collection.
John O’Regan

Restless Angel
Taylor Park Music TPCD0601,
14 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Kansas City native Connie Dover has released a series of highly accomplished solo albums mostly centred in Irish and Scottish traditional songs and their American variants. Her musical journey has seen her traverse from the band Scartaglen to solo work in which she established herself as a leading interpretation of Celtic song in albums like Somebody, The Wishing Well, If Ever I Return and The Roof of Heaven.
Now she moves into the singer songwriter realm with Restless Angel Subtitled Ranch Girl –Love Lyrics. This is a different album, not in the same area as the Celtic Cowgirl and she is both, working as a cowgirl and ranch hand as well as a Celtic exponent, this CD shows her exploring her western side.
It’s a collection of 14 self–written songs centred on nature and the countryside. Recorded in New Mexico and rendered in a relaxed acoustic laid back style the songs are more western and Americana style in the campfire ballads and songs vein but she touches a nerve only Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt and Marty Robbins hit previously – writing singable songs and coverable material for any Celtic/ Americana cross over.
Echoes of Alison Krauss spring to mind when hearing the title track and the spacious languid treatment of The Man You Could Not Get and Is This The Part? while the purity of her voice remains intact.
The piano backed Just Like a Lie aches in its heartache as does Oh Foolish Me and the rollicking Out Yonder seep in a simplistic naked stripped down emotionality. The backings on acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo and fiddle perfectly suit the campfire scenario offering a different yet equally important side of Connie Dover’s talents. There is a simplicity and quiet affecting beauty about the songs and performances that make Restless Angel a delightful surprise.
John O’Regan