Releases > Releases December 2020

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The Wavy Bow Collection
Racket Records 2020. Catalogue No: RR015
15 Tracks, 52 Minutes. &
A lovely anticipatory frisson in the air around this debut father/son collaboration from John & James Carty. Duet fiddle-music so melodically layered with masterful accomplishment; other instrumental explorations, beautiful overlaps of pooling sound.
John Carty so richly deserves the esteem in which he’s held by peers and fans alike. John wears his reputation well; perhaps because it’s an intrinsic part of him, gentle and refined esteem, a life in music that’s lit by the hallmark of authenticity.
An elegance to the shape and sequence of tune-choices seems to reflect with quiet subtlety the musical chemistry between John and his son James (already a highly acclaimed fiddle musician himself). Duet-fiddles and a gorgeous accompaniment of strings on the first Paddy Killoran inspired Toss the Feathers, the music has a laid-back jubilance that’s so lyrically full of the kind of grace and assurance that only comes from true and diligent mastery.
On The Geese in the Bog, John discovered a rare flute version (via the Coleman Heritage Centre) played by Ballymote native Paddy Healy (b-1937). I’ve heard that version, and what John does with the banjo here is astonishing. I’m often drawn to resonant descriptions like ‘satisfying thunk’ when moved by great banjo - don’t often visualise it as this powerful yet soft musical swirl, but along with James’s incredibly sensitive fiddle, and the fact that Healy’s flute was light as a bird, well, the banjo takes us skywards!
Fiddle & tenor guitar create almost impossibly beautiful tones across tracks like Carolan’s Dream, Jointure, and more. It doesn’t hurt that father & son share traits; true musical chemistry holds a calm groundedness, music wild and refined all at once. Both men know their way around artistic freedom, while contently attuned to the pure beauty in the music gleaned in the echoes of peers and predecessors. Significant storied liner-notes - where the likes of ‘remarkable musician’ Seánín McDonagh is illuminated.
The CD-title is a considered & beautiful tribute to the legendary Sligo master Michael Coleman - John & James have this great story about the phrase Wavy Bow - you’ll find it in the flyleaf of the album you will never regret supporting! Guest musicians: Shane McGowan, Michael McCague, Brian McGrath, Jonas Fromseier, James Carty Snr, Matt Griffin, Micheal McGoldrick, James Blennerhasset.
Deirdre Cronin

Thar Toinn – Seaborne
Own label, 6 Tracks, 27 Minutes
Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh’s new album of songs of the sea is called Thar Toinn/Seaborne, and has four numbers in Irish and two in English. Muireann is one of Ireland’s best-known traditional singers and comes from Corca Dhuibhne, Co. Kerry. While she’s rightly regarded as a leading exponent of the sean nós style, she’s equally at home singing contemporary songs in English. Her distinctive mellow voice enhances any song she chooses to sing and this holds true in this, her new CD.
The first song on the album is Faoiseamh Faoistine, a poem by Domhnall Mac Síthigh, set to music by Gerry O’Beirne. Muireann’s song note states that Danny Sheehy – a version of the poet’s name by which he was widely known – wanted the listener “to connect to land and sea and find solace there”. The sad irony is that Danny, an experienced boatman who circumnavigated Ireland in a traditional naomhóg, or Kerry currach, drowned in the sea off the coast of Spain in 2017.
The mood of sadness continues in the next song, Air Failirinn Iú, an altogether beautiful Gàidhlig number collected in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. “It is told from the perspective of a woman whose sweetheart was drowned at sea, and she sings as if she were watching it happen,” says Muireann.
The story has often been told about the young Irishman on the Titanic who saved many of his fellow 3rd class passengers from drowning. His name was Daniel Buckley, composer of Sweet Kingwilliamstown (now Ballydesmond) in Cork, his native place. He managed to get to a lifeboat and was rescued. He made his way to the U.S., enlisted in the army and, tragically, was the last soldier from America to be killed on the last day of World War I. Muireann’s rendition is exquisitely beautiful.  The other song she sings in English is Blackwaterside, and this version I first heard sung on a 1966 LP recording of Bert Jansch. There are several songs with this title and Muireann’s version starts:
One morning for fair to take the air / Down by Blackwater side.
’Twas in gazing all, all around me / That an Irish lad I spied.
It was originally recorded by Irish traveller Mary Doran for the BBC Archives. This song and all the others on the CD is nicely enhanced by an accompaniment that includes guitars, fiddle, box, and flute, played by Muireann and several of her equally famous fellow musicians.
Aidan O’Hara

Making Sand
Padraig Jack Music, 9 Tracks, 32 Minutes
Aran Islander Padraig Jack has released an album of eloquently bilingual songs. Mostly first person narrations, they tackle with intimacy themes of unrequited love, chance, mental fragilities and family while also celebrating the ruggedness, isolation and beauty of an island upbringing.
A prolific writer, Padraig Jack’s Irish language songs are broadcast daily on RTE Radio na Gaeltachta. He was a worthy runner up at the Pan Celtic National Song Contest.
Short listed for the prestigious Christy Hennessy award, Minnie is a listening delight; young love or infatuation, confessional, a fascinating older woman, whose husband ‘didn’t touch her anyway’, the relationship with the poet/songwriter though ‘just a fling’, has long term consequences; ‘I wanted to love her more…’ Also in confessional mode, Hello Mum, a son addresses the mother in a touching evocation, heartfelt regret; ‘the problem has always been mine…what you’ve done to deserve me as a son’, lyrics written to atone on the occasion of Mother’s Day. Black Drapes, recorded live, addresses the fragility of the mind, sensitive; it becomes restorative with the effective repetition of ‘alright now’, dramatic and compelling.
Produced by John Reynolds on the Good Deeds label, the arrangements are wildly adventurous soundscapes, accompaniment provided by some of his finest contemporaries; Graham Kearns, Claire Kenny and Alan Doherty (injecting traditional vibes), Pauline Scanlon and Nicki Leighton-Thomas provide enchanting backing vocals. Siblings Aisling and Cathal make superb contributions to The Fighting Irish.
The title track Making Sand is outstanding, earthy vocals, a powerful anthem that sweeps land and seascape, an homage to his home. Padraig Jack connects the three islands lyrically to the mainland with vivid, visceral imagery, of ‘Burren bones’, and ‘Connemara blood’, nature beautifully observed, ‘the ocean lives amongst us…’ Great energy in the mood and melodies here, an album that is bound to be well received and sustaining.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Kristina Leesik and Justyna Krzyżanowska
WOOD001, 10 Tracks, 43 Minutes
The Woodlands duo Kristina Leesik (fiddle/vocals) and Justyna Krzyżanowska (harp/vocals), met as students at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Sweden. Both of them later studied music in Scotland, which led them to focus on that country’s traditional music, song and dance, and later extending their interests to Irish music.
Their arrangements of tunes familiar and those not so familiar are delightfully varied and inventive. Kristina’s fiddling ranges through the languid and dreamy right through the sprightly driving, and more that is inventive and exciting. Justyna’s mastery of the strings displays technique and skill born of years of study and practice, that is altogether engaging.
They say that this, their “first full-length album featuring traditional Scottish, Gaelic and Irish music as well as own compositions (is) influenced by the Celtic, Swedish and jazz traditions”. A good example of their imaginative arrangement is evident in their variant of the song The Old Man from Over the Sea that’s similar to that of the English singer Frankie Armstrong’s recording on a 1966 Topic Records LP The Bird in the Bush. Steve Roud says of this song: “The old man’s courtship is an ancient joke of which country folk never seemed to tire.” He adds the one of the earliest variants was published in London in 1730.
Harpist Justyna’s expert and musical fingering trips the light fantastic in the dance tune medley On the Danforth/The Rainy Day/Armstrong’s, and Kristina’s fiddling sounds like she was born to the Scottish/Irish fiddling traditions. I have to say that while I enjoyed all their vocal numbers, I was particularly taken with their rendition of Emigrantvisa, their title for the Scottish Gàidhlig emigrant song Dean Cadalan Sàmhach translated into Swedish: “That in America we are now/ There will be nuts, there will be apples/ And the sugar grows.”
I liked this album for its great musicality and varied moods evident in the traditional and the more recent compositions, some of them by the duo themselves. A commendable and confident first album that offers much promise for the future.
Aidan O’Hara

PFR2004CD, 8 Tracks, 48 Minutes
Garefowl are Stuart Graham (bouzouki vocals), Richard O’Flynn (synth, vocals and percussion), Ewan MacDonald (fiddle viola, harmonium, bowed banjo, synth and vocals), Chris Jones (mandolin, banjo and concertina), Nathan Bontarger (viola de gamba, erhu and vocals), Jess Whelligan (cello, synth and vocals) and Spiff Wiegand (jaw harp).
Named after the extinct bird the Great Auk, which we are informed, was at one time economically and culturally important in the life of St. Kilda. This is explained in a moving essay in the sleeve notes. The band casting the tragic extinction of the Garefowl and the abandoning of the island in a modern light, a world facing climate change, shifting patterns of fish stocks and species loss, the fate of people and birds takes on significance beyond the retelling of history
The music here is complex, many faceted, powerful, much of it refashioned pieces that have been in the Gàidhlig circulation of the Western isles for two centuries.
A Fagaill Hiort is an echoing slow air interwoven with the sounds of whirling sea birds, Pink Sandals on the Street hops and bounces, a basket full of the endless sunshine of Northern summers. Bird from A Rock, a newly composed piece by Ewan MacDonald  is a mesmerising brew of atmospheric fiddling, echoes evoke waves lapping against bird encrusted rocks, Raga like in its compass. Mo Ghaol Oigear A’ Chuil Duinn starts with a pizzicato fiddle, the ticking clock of time, a modal fiddle sweeping in like a bank of black cloud over a dawn sea. The islanders are remembered in the waulking tune Hion Daila Horo Ri Ho Hion Daila La, a contemporary hypnotic rendering, held in place by the ever-present rhythm that kept the work communally tweed tight.
Cliffs distils landscape, place, people, and culture, beautifully realised, aurally rich and environmentally woke.
Seán Laffey

Watercolour Clouds
Opus Asia Records, 11 Tracks, 40 Minutes
This is Jane and Steve Gerrity’s second album. First released in 2017, it was the result of fan requests for covers of well-known songs. It was recorded at Manchester’s Lolipop studios with Lol Harris guesting on the piano. Jane sings and plays guitar, Steve the multi- instrumentalist, shifts between 6 &12 string guitars, banjo, mandolin and 10-string cittern. The album notes thank Roger Bucknall of Fylde guitars, and that signature Fylde sound can be heard on many of the tracks.
Jane’s voice is perfectly matched to her material, which includes James Taylor’s Fire and Rain, Stevie Nicks’ Storms and Joni Mitchell’s prescient environmental warning Big Yellow Taxi. Jane’s voice has a similar timbre and resonance as Joni Mitchell’s, and if you are a fan of that brand of singing this will sit very comfortably in your collection.
The couple include three of their own compositions; Let’s Write a Song, Glasgow and the title track Watercolour Clouds. Jane has the ability to hold an unwavering note at the end of a phrase, which works perfectly on their own songs; these are deeply personal, touching on tough times and emotional troughs. The title track closes with the phrase, “Seems to me everywhere I turn there’s a closed door and it’s getting me down”. Let’s Write a Song benefits from a full drum kit and Glasgow has a country vibe with splashing cymbals and a repeated motif: “We’re all lost and we are trying to find our way home.”
The covers predominate, with the Corrs’ What Can I Do? stripped back to vocals and guitar. Tapestry’s musical imagination glows on Sting’s Walking on the Moon. The final track sums up a generation’s love affair with acoustic rock, Eric Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight. You can see why their fans requested this album.
Seán Laffey

Ross & O’Mara Sunwise Turn
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 54 Minutes
Fiona Ross grew up in Partick, an area of Glasgow on the north bank of the River Clyde, just across from Govan. Shane O’Mara is an Australian musician and record producer. She sings and he plays on their CD, Ross & O’Mara Sunwise Turn, and the combination is truly successful and very pleasing indeed. Fiona inherited a love of Scottish music from her dad, and began singing popular Scottish songs from a young age. There are twelve songs in toto and include a couple of Child Ballads, a few of Robert Burns’s and a Jacobite song or two, as well.
There are detailed notes and song words, making the listening experience all that more enjoyable. There’s a very strong start on track one with The Lowland of Holland (Child 92) that was composed at the beginning of the 18th century, Fiona tells us. The melody is most appealing as is Miss Ross’s singing in a voice that’s comfortable and pleasing from the lows to the highs. We’re told that it was in the 1980s that Fiona truly embraced the Scots song tradition, immersing herself in Edinburgh’s vibrant folk scene and serving her apprenticeship in the folk clubs and memorable singing sessions of the time.
She has immersed herself in the background to her songs, so that she can tell us, for example, that the song, Kelvin’s Purling Stream (that’s new to me) dates back to the 1850s, “a period when large numbers of Irish workers were immigrating to Scotland”. Fiona also points out that as with so many of his compositions, Robert Burns wrote Auld Lang Syne from older fragments, and adding that this song that celebrates the bonds of friendship “has come to mean even more to me since I moved to Australia”. Shane O’Mara’s guitar accompaniment for the song does what he does throughout the album, which is to enhance the singer’s performance, but never to dominate. As I just occasionally say about a few recordings I get to review, the Ross/O’Mara Sunwise Turn CD is one that I’ll keep close to hand for happy listening.
Aidan O’Hara

Saffron’s Well
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 41 Minutes
Saffron’s Well is a newly produced album in the folk and traditional realm, a dashing, confident, snapshot into the music that Harry Thorpe and Sean Morrisson enjoy playing. Recorded by Andie Thompson at Gighouse studios, with Ed Day and Zoe Mattlaer, Saffron’s Well is exquisitely packaged, wrapped in the artistic handiwork of Hannah Berrisford.
Thorpe and Morrisson, mirroring insect activity that adorn the liner notes, both delicately hover and tease out an energetic set of tunes, melodies that marry traditional airs and graces with the contemporary, subtle, stylistic and very effective.
The Caterpillar’s Vengeance shows off stellar guitar playing, competent fiddle, nice and lively, a jaunty little gem of a tune. Composed by Harry Thorpe, The Chester Fiesta is delightful, Mad Matt’s jig a style definer, likewise Lost to the Circus, a showcase of their rhythmic originality. The Late Night Bus hints at a classical waltz, great rivers and valleys of sound, showing off the duo’s musical armoury, lovely, an uplifting segue, could fit with any genre. The Wicker Basket, also a Thorpe original, is a gorgeous melody, tantalising, short and sweet, the sudden end leaves the listener wanting more.
Their version of C. Stout’s Hamnataing is enchanting, sparse sweet fiddle playing with insightfully percussive guitar. Echoes of Martin Hayes resound in and around their breathy version of Lucy Farr’s, delicacy of strings, bowing, ornamentation just right, Pinacle Ridge and The High Road to Linton making a rousing finish. The entire project, the tunes, production, mixing, the artwork, make it an artisan collection, the bedrock for more of similar ilk to come. Thorpe and Morrisson acknowledge their mentor Joe Broughton. They take artistic risks, using minimalist instrumentals, the timing, youthful verve and playing precision speaks of experience and commitment. Saffron’s Well is a charming album, draws in the listener, gently and very pleasantly.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Make Believe, 11 Tracks, 36 Minutes
This is a beautiful instrumental collection from Highland fiddle player Lauren MacColl. With a vast knowledge and understanding of traditional Celtic Music, MacColl has captured all of this in Landskein. The new album explores her countryside, her homeland and combines it all with her life, memory and emotion. This is personal and it has feeling throughout.
The album was recorded high above Lough Ness at Abriachan village hall. Apt in that this was where MacColl first recalls hearing and understanding the power and the call of an unaccompanied fiddle. The landscape here only served to enhance her sense of isolation and inspiration for the music. Accompanied by James Ross pianist (on four tracks) and recording engineer and producer Barry Reid, it took just four days to compile.
Landskein is the term to describe the intersecting of horizon lines, just as the music intersects emotion, memory, and landscape. It all blends and just comes together naturally.
This new music is steeped in atmosphere and that of MacColl’s personal journey. Through this collection she is telling her own personal story, enriched with people and memories from start to finish. Beginning with the sombre love song, Air Mullach Beinn Fhuathais (On top of Ben Nevis) and finishing in the Pentland Hills with Lá Dhoms’s Mi Direadh Bealaich (One Day as I Climbed the Hill). In between we have laments and a lively reel.
I personally loved An Untidy Witch. Not only for the title itself but because of the wonderful images it conjures in my mind. It’s fun and yet steeped in a little mystery.
Landskein has a beginning and an end. It tells the story and celebrates Scotland at its finest: its history, its scenery, its very being. In total it celebrates Lauren MacColl and her life. Instrumentality at its finest.
Grainne McCool

Full Bloom
POE Records POE0800, 17 Tracks, 52 Minutes
The CD opens with a lively version of Garry Owen, with the group in full chorus and bagpipes carrying the recurrent tune, with an echoing whistle that carries over into the third track.
The Wild Irish Roses are a big family band numbering ten members, seven of whom bear the surname Rose, and it’s obvious from the tracks, such as the classic Scottish pipe march The Athol Highlanders, that they are a happy musical family. Evelyn Rose delivers Let No Man Steal Your Thyme with perfect diction, it then segues into a rocking The Adventures of a Young Rose with 1960s pop vivacity, a set of bones and a twangy Jaw-harp. Rumple-Pye the Troll is a flashback to the fantasy folk rock of the 1970s, is that a hint of Davie Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust before the bagpipe break?
Scott Benson and Josephine Rose play a lively bagpipe duet on Jenny’s Nettles, complete with cries of encouragement from the other band members. This gives us a clear hint that the Wild Irish Roses are a party band. Confirmed by A Rogues March with its chorus, “If ever I list for a soldier again, the Devil shall be my Sergeant”. They return to folk rock with a song they call Armstrong’s Last Goodbye, (we know it as The Parting Glass). They close with two versions of All Tomorrow’s Parties, the final version is pure bagpipe-folk-rock, served with a side order of good-natured attitude, summing up the flavour of this family album.
Seán Laffey