Releases > Releases December 2019

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Wendy Pops Records, WEN R002, 11 Tracks, 35 Minutes
Having received major plaudits for her debut CD Carry the Day, Aoife Scott returns with a follow-up exploring more challenging but compelling material. Her musical partner Andrew Meaney plays a central role, co-writing several of the tracks and contributing guitar accompaniment and arrangements throughout.
Produced by Grammy award winner Ron Block, of Alison Krauss & Union Station, and recorded at Block’s studio in Tennessee, the album features guest appearances by an impressive list of American musicians, including Block on guitar and banjo, Stuart Duncan on fiddle, and Sierra Hull on mandolin. Irish musicians include a longlist of well-known performers such as Eamonn De Barra, Floriane Blancke, Daire Bracken, and touring partner Cathal O’ Curráin, with members of the Black family on background vocals.
The title track, co-written with Enda Reilly, is a relaxed outing which builds nicely with beautiful mandolin figures. It’s a style which is maintained in some of the songs co-written with Andrew. Another Reason again strikes a sweetly optimistic note, and in the heart-wrenching Tangled, Aoife describes a difficult period when writer’s block was affecting her. But the pair can also craft more rhythmic material, as evidenced by the edgy Fuel I Need, which shows a soaring range of dynamics.
Two tracks reach further into Aoife’s musical heritage, including the classic Dominic Behan song Building Up and Tearing England Down, and there’s a nice version of the The Night Visiting Song. However, she’s increasingly drawn to more contemporary material, with some excellent choices here including Barry Kerr’s Ireland’s Hour of Need, showing her refreshing political awareness. A gorgeous song in Irish, Do Mhuirnín Ó, emphasizes her versatility, and Block’s guitar sound is like a classic Alison Krauss recording.
One standout performance is by Block on banjo - listen out for the intensity of his banjo with Stuart Duncan’s fiddle on Irish Born, with its message that emigrants can become who they choose to be in their adopted countries.
This is a hugely impressive follow up, showing a growing maturity and confidence, and expect Aoife Scott to maintain her rapid emergence to the forefront of Irish Folk music.
Mark Lysaght

Live At The Hawk’s Well
SODCD3, 15 Tracks, 70 Minutes
One man, one audience, one theatre and a handful of instruments; guitar, harmonica, fiddle, and voice, all present and very correct. When all those permutations align, something top notch and special bubbles out of the brew. Lucky for the folks at the Hawk’s Well Theatre in Sligo in October 2018, who witnessed the performance that gave rise to this album, and kudos to Luke Devaney and Marie O’Byrne for capturing the essence of this live show.
Seamie opens with a crowd settler on harmonica: Mo Mhuirnín Bán and the Downfall Of Paris a slow air and set dance. He sings Robert Burns’ Now Westlin Winds one of the most literate songs ever written. His emotional voice brings out the sad regretful melancholy in the Lag Song. Seamie intersperses songs with some raw Sligo fiddling, first heard on, The Mountain Streams, Martin Wynne’s The Cairn On The Hill and Lucy Campbell’s. He plays fiddle and sings mountainy old time American music with a lively version of Wedding Dress /The Kitchen Girl. There’s a bottleneck bluesy version of the Galway Shawl, too. He is at his most lyrical on the songs about his home county: Believe Me Sligo and Thom Moore’s Turn The Corner, a love letter to Knocknarea, set to the air of Sean O Duibhir an Gleanna. Seamie is a master of many genres, burnishing the gold of each track; with his musical Midas touch. Closing the album with an encore, the crowd go wild when his furious fingers burn the fret board for a no-holds-barred Crooked Jack,  he’s back with the harmonica on its middle eight, in complete contrast to the opening slow air. Summing up the breadth of this live album, there’s a phrase from his cover of Runrig’s Rocket to the Moon; it’s all there from ‘a flicker to a flame’. Hot stuff, no dusty embers at all.
Seán Laffey

Own Label, 12 Tracks, 35 Minutes Email :
This collection of a dozen tracks is an excellent exercise in taking the familiar and making it feel new with a wonderful wholehearted performance on each and every song.
Watchorn has a voice well suited to bringing new life to these standards of the Irish folk canon featuring the traditional alongside the contemporary compositions that will no doubt be designated “trad” in a few years. One of these no doubt is the opening track from the pen of Sean McCarthy, Hills of Connemara which gives the album a rousing start to be followed by the more contemplative Sonny’s Dream showing that Paul can give a prime performance on both types of song.
One of the main selling points of this album is that it is bringing songs that were once the staple of the pub ballad session or the folk based television show to an audience that might not have had an opportunity to appreciate this rich vein of Irish music.
It is not often now that even at a folk gathering you will get to enjoy The Galway Races or Waxies Dargle as they are presented and performed here in a style that is both new and also faithful to the originals we all loved. One of the lesser recorded songs that surfaces here is Phil Coulter’s Hand Me Down My Bible and it is a song that deserves more airplay with the performance on this CD. I dare you to play New York Girls and keep your knee from bouncing as Watchorn brings this shanty ashore with verve and energy. He shows his versatility in then turning to a beautiful rendition of John B Keane’s emigration song that recalls a sad part of Irish social history Many Young Men of Twenty. This is a gem of an album that should find an honoured place in anyone’s collection.
Nicky Rossiter

Gaps Between Stars
Session To Stage, 11 Tracks, 41 Minutes
Ennis born Aodán Coyne’s new album, Gaps Between Stars, is due for release this autumn. A songwriter, producer, composer and singer, and a prominent member of acclaimed folk band Socks In the Frying Pan.  Gaps Between Stars is a collection of 11 songs. Starting with Chance & Gamble we are introduced to a relaxed, warm and very engaging collection of original songs. Like all tracks, this is very much rooted in the folk tradition but it alludes to contemporary vibes throughout.  Coyne has incorporated his sense of self throughout, and you can’t help but sit back and enjoy each track individually.
There’s something special for myself in Brave, the 6th track on the album. It’s passionate and it’s soothing. This is true for all tracks on the album. Coyne exudes passion in his very appealing voice and you just want to hear some more.  There’s a little bit of magic with each new song. Perhaps that is because it was written in my beloved County Clare. The album was written on the outskirts of Ennis overlooking the lake of Ballyalla, a surge of scenic calm in the midst of the creator’s hectic schedule. “In retrospect, it was a crazy time for me, the band was in full swing and I really had no idea what to expect from trying out my own music. However, I think the fact I was going for a truly authentic sound and not being fake helped the process a lot.”
Fake is indeed the last word that would spring to mind, having listened to this music a number of times. Coyne says he was going for ‘a truly authentic sound’ with this, and he succeeds whole-heartedly with such. Gaps Between Stars is original, it’s engaging and most importantly, it has soul.
Grainne McCool

Humours of Derrynacoosan
Own Label MM01, 16 Tracks, 57 Minutes
The debut fiddle album from Mossie Martin was recorded live in his native County Roscommon. Influenced by many locals, he also cites a variety of fiddle masters for their musical inspiration, including Frankie Gavin, John Carty and the Lennon brothers. Recorded by John Blake, this album displays a fine and wide range of tune types. The opening track is lively and energetic, traditional in style with a slightly modern twist. This is followed by a spirited set of barn dances entitled The Ballroom Favourites, which exude playful fun, drive and energy.
The repertoire presented is derived from a myriad of sources; some are old favourites such as St. Anne’s Reel’ & ‘The Teetotaler, whereas others are newly composed, from luminaries including Michael Rooney, Shane Meehan, Seamus Thompson & Maggie Cassidy. Track 4 provides the unique pairing of unaccompanied fiddle with mouth organ to play an uplifting selection of slides. The music is driven, rhythmic and uncluttered. It feels live and authentic. This is contrasted beautifully with a Michael Rooney composition Planxty MacClancy. The harp takes centre stage in this, melody alongside fiddle, ably enhanced by rich harmony lines.
The Himalyan Hornpipe a catchy self-penned tune displays a wide melodic range with an unexpected twist. Mossie’s diversity is displayed on his tin whistle track featuring a composition of the great Josie Mc Dermott,  The Mill of Kylemore paired with ‘Mulvihills’ which was sourced from fiddler Paddy Ryan.
A striking element of this recording is the consummate joy it radiates throughout from jigs and reels to the lesser-known tune types of slides, polkas and slow pieces. An interesting arrangement presents The Moving Cloud as both a waltz and a reel played with complete ease and joy. The sleeve notes are comprehensive and entertaining. A fine debut, this recording showcases Mossie Martin as one of the finest exponents within the North Connaught tradition.
Edel Mc Laughln

MBR8CD, 9 Tracks, 40 Minutes
Bethany Reid, Jenna Reid, Lauren MacColl and Anna Massie are four young women playing fiddles in the Caledonian tunings of AEae and ADae. Together since 2013, they are grounded in the traditional music of the Scottish Highlands and the Shetland islands; here they explore those musical depositories in an exemplary album of musical reverse engineering.
The album feels alive, recorded in just 4 days at Glasgow’s historic Charles Rennie Mackintosh Church in Queen’s Cross. Rant say this iconic building was an ideal space to capture their music, whose default setting explores the textures and timbres of their fiddles as much as it does the tunes they choose to play. Like Mackintosh’s architecture there is a starkly intersecting linearity about the tunes on this CD. Take a pair of reels; Sir Ronald McDonald’s and Johnny D’s, the first is a dissected and deconstructed tune, before Rant slowly re-assembles it, a tantalizing promise of a dance figure is slowly distilled. Rant crafts elements together like blending a bespoke Whisky, each fiddle etching out the shape of a melody before the fully formed Johnny D’s reel emerges.
If open skies and flat wet empty beaches could choose their own soundtracks, then the high pitched Now Westlin Winds, is a lovingly lonely elegy. As a contrast The Rescue Man starts off traditionally enough, then converges into a conversation, with pizzicato stops, and a repeated phrase under which a harmonic counterpoint is simmering away in Pam’s Hoose. The album closes with a simple slow air: Nach truagh mo chàs (Hard Is My Fate). Thoughtful, delicate, audacious; Rant view their Scottish and Shetland musical heritage traditions through a different and fascinatingly fractured kaleidoscope.
Seán Laffey

Tangled Roots and Twisted Tales
Sonic Justice, Just 002, 10 Tracks, 33 Minutes
The mention of the Midnight Special in the title of the opening track, The Curse of the Midnight Special, hints at what is to come on songwriter Ed McGinley’s new album, Tangled Roots and Twisted Tales.
The album has a distinct country vibe throughout, a flavouring of Americana angst and heartbreak, which also borrows from the bluesy side of life, as in Tattoo On My Heart, with a solemn trombone blowing alongside. As with those first two tracks, seven of the 10 tracks on Tangled Roots… are written by McGinley. His song writing fits neatly with the music he produces, a style steeped in early country music, as in Long Ago, Far Away, the self-awareness tied in with self-deprecation, a knowing that the protagonist is far from perfect, but he’s trying. Of course the instrumentation choice of pedal steel helps to encourage such comparisons. A fine big cast of musicians feature across the production, including the distinctive claw hammer banjo playing of Dublin banjo legend Bill Whelan and I Draw Slow’s Adrian Hart on Shiloh Town, as well as Kevin Malone, Garvan Gallagher and Darragh O’Kelly serving as the backbone of the album.
There are three covers on the album, including Hank Williams’ I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry, quite the funereal tribute with just the right feel of despondency the song requires, trombone and lonesome guitar notes hanging bleakly, almost contented in the heartache.
Derek Copley

‘twill do!
SPM 1001, 16 Tracks, 53 Minutes
The debut recording by Carrick-on-Shannon fiddler Shane Meehan is a breath of fresh air. Each of the 16 tracks displays his unique style of fiddle playing, oozing freshness, elegance and class. His style is firmly connected to his roots, his grandfather John Meehan, Michael Coleman, and his contemporaries have helped shape his musical manner. This collection features a number of his own compositions, influenced by many of the great tunesmiths of the tradition. These tunes are well grounded and likely to make their way into the greater traditional repertoire. Kevin Brehony tastefully provides the accompaniment on piano and Macdara O’Faoláin on bouzouki. It adds to the subtle nuances of the tunes; it is consistent and strong, yet unobtrusive through- out. Similarly, the musical repertoire here is enhanced nicely by effective use of variation and ornamentation in each of the tunes. Meehan’s style is unique and personal yet firmly represents his roots and personal influences. His style sounds not unlike that of Andy Mc Gann and Seamus Connolly, both of whom are cited as influences.
There’s a comprehensive booklet to accompany the CD with a highly impressive self-portrait, highlighting that he is a man of many creative talents. Recorded & mastered by Paul Gurney, this album is endorsed by two of Ireland’s leading fiddle exponents. Fellow Leitrim stalwart, Ben Lennon states, “this is an album of quality (a rare enough commodity these days)” whilst Bríd Harper adds, “Shane has a natural talent for composition and his work whilst unique shows the influence of Dwyer, Keegan and Reavy.” Indeed, this is a truly refreshing album, which is a must for any traditional music collection.
Edel Mc Laughlin

First Take Records FTCD004, 12 Tracks, 53 Minutes
This well-produced album from English musician Luke Jackson has an impact from the start, with his strong, defined vocals emitting to the listener a big soul sound, which graduates as the album moves over the 12 tracks on Journals. His songs are crafted with a finesse to grab the attention of almost any potential audience, his vocals varnished with a pop style crossed with a blues, folk soul at its core.
There is the melancholy of Home, a song that will resonate with many musicians who spend a lot of time on the road, there’s the blues-rock road trip of Cherry Picker, and then there’s Aimee, which takes a journey down the by-ways of folk music.
Throughout, Jackson’s vocals drip with emotion, his heart invested in every word. On Baby Boomers, he invokes the spirit of Billy Bragg, in everything from pushing his accent, the sparse electric guitar strumming, to the hard-hitting realism in the lyrics [‘They put knives in the hands of children/tell them don’t go starting a war’] of this coming-of-age folk song. The one cover on the album is of Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where the Time Goes. It’s an interesting choice, given that Jackson has been likened to Denny’s one time band mate Richard Thompson, who includes Who Knows… in his sets from time to time. A strong album with a lot of work and graft behind it, this is the sixth release from Jackson and it puts him on an upward trajectory in the world of folk singing.
Derek Copley

Bring My Love to Connemara
Veteran Records VT162CD, 22 Tracks, 76 Minutes
If you have any interest in Irish song this album should be in your collection. Why? No ifs no buts, it is an outstanding work of musical scholarship that is chronicled in its detailed liner notes with musical riches galore on the album’s 22 tracks. This oozes with passionate, engaged, empathetic fieldwork, and an authenticity, which is almost impossible to contrive in a studio.
Released by English based Veteran Records; this is a remarkable and important CD of sean nós singing. The original recordings date back to 1970 when English folk singer and member of Ewan MacColl’s Critics Group, Terry Yarnell, set off to Galway for a two-week recording trip. The landscape was scouted first by the Headford flute player Gabe O’Sullivan, so that they would gain the maximum benefit from their fortnight in the west.
What a corral of singers they met and recorded: Seán ‘ac Dhonncha, Rita & Sarah Keane, Pádraic Ó Conghaile, Tom Pháidín Tom, Cáit Bean Uí Chonluain and Colm Ó Caoidheáin, quality tradition bearers each one. We hear two distinct traditions that were happily co-existing side by side in Connemara fifty years ago; the predominantly English language material of Sarah and Rita Keane (May Morning Dew, The Month of January, There was a Maid in Her Father’s Garden) and the Gaelic tradition exemplified by Tom Pháidín Tom’s Brídín Bhéasaigh. Perhaps the most rewarding selection on the album is the final track. Seán ‘ac Dhonncha’s An Abhainn Mhór (The Owenmore), his voice is superbly recorded and it has a most melodious quality.
This CD is a must have resource, especially if you are ever thinking about taking part in Corn Uí Riada or a Fleadh singing competition.
Seán Laffey

Postcards and Pocket Books
NOE12CD, Double CD, 27 Tracks, 107 Minutes
BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards winner Bella Hardy found her first home in folk music through a childhood love for ballad books. A self-taught ‘fiddle singer’, she began performing at Cambridge and Sidmouth festivals from the age of 13. Her debut album Night Visiting established her reputation as a talented songwriter when her first original composition Three Black Feathers earned a BBC Folk Award nomination.
Since then, Bella has sung unaccompanied ballads at a sold-out Royal Albert Hall and learnt the songs of Chinese farmers during her time as British Council Musician in Residence in Yunnan Province. She’s sat on the moors of her beloved Peak District with only her fiddle for company. She spent a year in Tennessee as a ranch hand. All this has yielded a rich harvest of experiences which frame her music and this compilation double album Postcards and Pocket Books is both a marking stone and story so far.
Gleaning her material from traditional sources and her own vivid imagination she conjures a curious blend of traditional nous and subtle experimentation. There are touches of Kate Bush in her vocals mostly heard in the high backing harmonies to the punchy opener Learning to Let Go which could, if given airplay, yield a hit single. The bouncy treatment of Whiskey You’re the Devil conjures a cross of Liam Clancy, Maddy Prior and Kirsty McColl – it’s spunky and brash yet restrained enough to caress the eardrums. Other traditional ballads attempted here include Sally Sovay a tale of a female highwayman testing true love and The Herring a curious travelogue of the fish gutting trade.
Her themes of displacement and home, lost and found love, heartache and joy, are delivered with her unique, disarming honesty, and, of course, her acclaimed crystalline voice.
John O’Regan

KAPCD011, 11 Tracks, 43 Minutes
A lot has happened since these two Swedish flute players were interviewed by Eileen McCabe for IMM back in 2014. They’ve formed a quartet, concentrating on the regional music of their native Skåne.
Joined here by Niklas Roswall (Nyckelharpa) and Alexandra Nilsson (Cello), they are now a quartet, fusing traditional Swedish music and instrumentation with a light baroque touch. Andreas Ralsgård and Markus Tullberg both tip their hats to Irish flute influencers, yet this album is unreservedly Nordic, the dance forms are a long way from jigs and reels, they are infectious nonetheless. With the addition of the strings they create a carefree moment of merriment on Berghman/Lagerfeldt.
Track 7, Pipor, takes their mood down with a sombre introspective piece of music. The traditional tune Lokarod sees the Nyckelharpa both leading the tune and gently closing the door on the track, think of an Elizabethan slow air with a punch in the centre and you’d be near the impression I had from listening to this track.
Flute and Nyckelharpa weave around each other on Silverpolskan. Their last track Luftstrang is deliciously dark with flute and cello caressing each other in conjugal counterpoint, each gently taking turns to lead the tune to the next bar. It’s a regal end to an intriguing and hugely absorbing album from some of the most accomplished traditional musicians currently active in Europe.
Seán Laffey

Turas Cumadóir (Songwriter’s Journey)
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 43 Minutes
It is indeed a long way to Paula Ryan’s native Tipperary, considering the musical landscape explored here by the prolific singer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist - these new folk-songs take us on a fascinating trajectory from guitar-makers in Germany to songs like Ebb & Flow set in Thailand, reflecting the human stories behind the devastating Tsunami of 2004.
A long way and yet not. Paula’s compelling voice holds fast to her own Irish traditional influences and inflections, there in the smoky tones and bluesy sound across Paula’s first self-penned track of the album Vision. The album title is well-earned; Turas Cumadóir is a solo album in the most literal sense of that – Paula writes and sings her own songs - 12 in total, all song arrangements, instrumentals, including the well-crafted harmonies are all her own work. Paula also plays bouzouki, bodhrán, guitar, low whistle, saxophone, and marimba.
Stand-out tracks include Only a Cabinet Maker, a fascinating narrative about how the now renowned guitar-maker CF Martin was pilloried by warring craft-guilds of his time who refused to take him seriously as a gifted craftsman.
Pace and timing work well, songs with political overtones are interspersed with tongue-in-cheek irony deployed on tracks like My Handsome Irish Man.
There’s a notable tone of clarity across the songs, music that is melodically accessible but an edge of quirkiness throughout. The CD markedly underpinned by Paula’s voice is a melodic reminder that musical expression carries the power to take living stories to a new level.
No surprise to me to read that Paula’s compelling WW1 song O My Blue-Eyed One was award-nominated by the UK’s acoustic music magazine Fatea. It’s the final track, and in the closing, an apt, poignant and melodic return to Tipperary.
Deirdre Cronin