Releases > Releases December 2021

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Gimme Some Wine
Metropolitan Groove Music, 10 Tracks, 37 Minutes
Eleanor McEvoy is the master of the contemporary song, a craftswoman of impeccable taste and talent. These skills echo on every track on the album; it is profound without pomposity. Those tracks are at once lean yet luscious, little vignettes telling truths in tales that only twice break the four-minute barrier of radio friendly songs. In Eleanor’s hands, lyrics, ideas and melodies cascade together making each number a memorable moment.
If you’ve ever seen Eleanor perform live, you’ll know of the absolute total honesty she brings to each gig. She lives every number, her body language tells as much as her voice does. She brings that same quality to these tracks; many have a deep personal connection to her life story, such as about partner infidelity on Found Out By Fate and Survival and The Man Who Faked (His Own Life). There’s the bitter sweet melancholy of South Anne Street, a story of meeting an old lover from University days, sharing a few drinks and wondering what might have become of us, if only…
Musically there’s city jazz in the brass backing and always a melody to capture our attention, no more so than on the opening number Scarlet Angels, a re-telling of a Woman’s Heart concert and, the solidarity and companionship she finds in other female performers. Being alone is sometimes such a delicious break from the hurly burly, and on Company of One she revels in the ordinary domesticity of having the house to yourself. The title  track Gimme Some Wine is a two-step away from Texas Country and could easily be covered by anyone from the Lone Star State (are you listening Mr Brooks?).
Song after song will resonate with you. For me the one that hit the hardest (and in a nice way) was Fragile Wishes, an ode to an adolescent child, a secular prayer for their well-being, a note to say ‘no matter how big you become, as long as I’m around, I’m here for you’. It should be played at every Leaving Cert graduation in 2022.
Gimme Some Wine is touching, musical, lyrically stimulating, and it says things simply that simply need to be said.
Seán Laffey

Dave Flynn: Irish Minimalism
First Hand Records FHR116, 14 Tracks, 70 Minutes
I have to admit that this is a first for me to review what this new recording calls itself, Classical/Classical Contemporary. The folk/traditional element found in the CD, Dave Flynn – Irish Minimalism, is found in the two musicians, Breanndan Begley (singing and spoken voice in Irish) and Mick O’Brien (uilleann pipes). The rest of the musical input from ConTempo Quartet and IMO Quartet is classical with titles of tracks showing trad elements and echoes of traditional motifs.
However, the CD notes provide us with this useful information: “After years spent as both a composer and performer working in the dual worlds of contemporary classical music and traditional song, Flynn has fashioned a personal musical language by recognising that the differences between those two styles are not nearly as great, and certainly not as useful, as the similarities.” However, I must confess that I found the differences more marked than the similarities.
As for Mick O’Brien and Breanndan Begley, whose reputations are well established - and as the saying in Irish has it, tá said molta dá mbeinn im thost - they deserve special mention here in this magazine that is devoted to Irish traditional music for participating so effectively in this musical exploration of Dave Flynn’s. I was especially taken with Breanndan’s delivery of Stories from the Old World, spoken and sung in his mellifluous Dún Chaoin Irish.
You’ll be intrigued, no doubt, by those sean-scéalta with titles like The Poet and the Spirit that’s followed immediately by If It Was With a Fart I Won Her, then The Piper and the Woman of the Tavern, and finally, The Old Hags. Listening to the first of those four and hearing it in Irish, it has nothing at all of the scatological – as one might expect at first glance – but comes across as almost elegant and uplifting in the telling.
In case you’re interested and require the same background information I needed to understand what is involved in the term ‘Minimalism’ I can share with you the following from the notes. “Minimalism is associated with America and … the hallmarks of the style (repetition, gradual incremental changes that accrue over time, steady rhythms which are often drawn from popular or traditional music, and a restrained sense of harmonic movement) are all compatible with Irish traditional music.”
Aidan O’Hara

Own Label, 7 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Long time readers of IMM will know of the Neffs, a one-time family band from Cork who played the festival circuit, was it twenty years ago? The Neff brothers Flaithrí (uilleann pipes and whistle) and Eoghan (fiddle) produced a solid traditional album Sound Post and Bridle when they were in their early twenties. Then they both went off and became PhDs. Eoghan is now lecturing at the Technological University of the Shannon.
And this is where we come in with Unrecalled, an experimental album, an experience in sound as much as it is about fiddle playing. Don’t let that put you off, it’s not all twiddled knobs, Theremins and white noise, in fact there’s none of that pseudo-futuristic ephemera here. What Eoghan has created is a complex sonic palette, and of course the fiddle being one of the most expressive of instruments, is right at home in the outer folds of the Irish music envelope.
If you buy the full Art box version you get a package of artwork relating to each track of music, such mixed media on canvas works by Ana Colomer, ink and charcoal illustrations by Nóra Neff Mateos, and loose miniature re-prints of archival photographs by Kathleen Price. The CD itself is presented like an old view master card (I had one of the Epcot Center and Serengeti lions back in the day).
Sounds don’t just happen they have to be created and often found (a Dublin car horn for example). Eoghan has a long list of sonic collaborators on this project: LAR Legido (drums & found percussion), Seán Mac Erlaine (the man who found the hooter), Germán Díaz (zanfona), Caoimhe Doyle on Foley (I presume the cinema version not the famous zook), Anxo Lorenzo on gaita galega, Atli Örvarsson on the una corda and Sean Carpio on drums.
Listen hard and familiar tunes appear, or do they? Closer listening proves them to be unrecalled, yet still familiar snatches of melody and rhythm patterns, and Eoghan does base them on traditional tunes such as the 11-minute Masonic Girls, which is based on Jenny’s Chickens or Mud Turf a setting of O’Keefe’s slide. Many of the tunes emerge from the deep geological foundations on which Eoghan has built this work. This is an audio goldmine for animators and video creators, a ready-made modern Irish soundtrack just waiting for a narrative and pictures.
My album came in a quirky cardboard pack, tied up with an elastic chord. Inside there was a puzzle to solve, written on a separate sheet of green paper, curious and compelling contents, which sums up the entire album. A salve for ears that ache for flavours new.
Seán Laffey

All These Years
TF Productions, 3 CDs, 40 Tracks
All These Years is a 3 CD music compilation celebrating 30 years of Tommy Fleming. Each song on the album in turn celebrates the powerful voice that has dominated the music world for this three decades. High powered ballads prevail throughout the collection, as they have done in his career.
The 3 CD compilation consists of a total of 40 songs. A mix of old and new, with many written during lockdown. The old takes us right back and shows that Fleming has never lost sight of his traditional roots. The Auld Triangle, Fiddler’s Green and I Dreamed a Dream on album 1; When you were Sweet Sixteen, You Raise me Up and Danny Boy on album 2. Carrickfergus, Four Green Fields and The Parting Glass on album 3. At no time throughout the collection does one lose sight of those all-important traditional roots. What Fleming does is he takes them right back a notch. They’re slowed down, and every note has feeling. Fleming brings high-powered emotion to them all. Thirty years of Fleming is only serving to refresh and renew much of our musical tradition. Voices of the Irish poetic voice are also present. Raglan Road and Lake Isle of Innisfree bring us back to poetry, but with the big voice of Fleming bringing the poetry alive. Nature and the contemporary world also flood this compilation of music. Perhaps this is rather apt as much of it was written in lockdown when nature filled our days. Tracks such as The World in Union, Bright Blue Rose, Garden Valley, Hard Times and Come What May are just a peek into a time we all experienced collaboratively worldwide. Fleming has magically captured this period in music and is celebrating what were indeed hard times, but he has made it a reflection of life, of a unique time, and turned it into a musical celebration. The album also features world-renowned singer Elaine Paige, accompanying him on Why Worry.
All These Years is not just a celebration of Tommy Fleming. It is a celebration of tradition, of a unique period in life, and allows music to heal what a pandemic has harmed. All These Years is also available as a double-sided vinyl.
Grainne McCool

Fieldish Recording
Own Label, 13 Tracks, 39 Minutes
This collection of 13 tracks from Jason Rouse was recorded on his old Awia cassette recorder. One that’s been a mainstay in his pipe’s box since his childhood. And what a collection it is.
He captures the magic that comes from the Uilleann pipes and tin whistle beautifully. Opening on the pipes with a set of reels, The Silver Spear/Speed the Plough/Miss McLeod’s we really do get the sound of the Northwest. Although based in Wales, Tyrone and Donegal is ever present in this music. A jig, set dance and set of polkas follow Jig: Wallop the Spot, Rodney’s Glory and Tarmon’s & Sweeny’s Polka. After a hornpipe we have a selection of mazurkas on tin whistle, including the Donegal favourite Shoe the Donkey. A perfect change of instrument right in the middle of the collection.
He returns to the tin whistle a little later for The Flogging Reel and The Twelve Pins. He closes the collection with a series of slides and a polka. The album highlight for me is definitely the jigs, The Lark in the Morning and The Atholl Highlands and the mazurkas just before.
Irish music is essentially melodic and the uilleann pipes provide the perfect melody to Rouse’s tunes here. The tin whistle provides the perfect contrast but aligning just right between sets such as Rathawaun/The Hare in the Corn/The Cock of the North/Oh Susanna.
You don’t need to be an uilleann pipes aficionado to enjoy this collection of music. This really is straight up, solo piping at its finest. And to think it was recorded on a good old fashioned cassette player. There’s a story to investigate there for sure.
Gráinne McCool

The St Buryan Sessions
Shovel And A Spade Records, SAASCD002, Distributed by Proper, 16 Tracks, 71 Minutes
The St. Buryan Sessions is the sixth solo album from the renowned singer-songwriter Sarah McQuaid. With lyrics that dip into the autobiographical, she has outstanding dexterity on acoustic and electric guitars, piano and floor-tom drum.
Recorded in a medieval church, it opens with Sweetness and Pain, an intimate sound, brilliant example of vocal range, unaccompanied, strength and purity in her voice, the cavernous ambience of the ancient building adding a beautifully eerie texture.
DADGAD royalty, her guitar accompaniment is mostly light, fitting, allowing space around the story songs. Some of her material is thought-provoking, philosophical, others playful like One Sparrow Down, giving a glimpse into the domestic, the watchful cat and the sparrow as arch enemies, ‘spoiling for a fight’, her rhythmic drumming a battle march if only the window wasn’t between them. Another snapshot into the personal is Charlie’s Gone Home, alluding to the writer’s vulnerability, the ‘party that lasted a week and a half’, with the friend, a musical collaborator, gone just an hour, his loss a huge void, she ‘seems so empty, feels so alone…’
McQuaid is adept at observing and sharing the ordinary, in Yellowstone for example, a tender mothering poem, fretful child and maternal stream-of-consciousness. It ties in sweetly with Last Song, where the singer remembers her own mother’s nightly ritual, guitar playing, old songs, she, the little girl being told it’s the last song, time to sleep, segueing from past to present, reflective, inter-generational, the girl becomes the mother, watching her own child talking to teddy bears at nightfall.
With Martin Stansbury as sound engineer, they have achieved a minimalist instrument-to-voice mix, the songs are honest, confessional in tone at times, emotional letters to a songwriter’s past, present and future self. The Buryan Sessions will reaffirm Sarah McQuaid’s already well-established reputation, her artistry and originality.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Where Are We Heading
Music Without Measure, 8 Tracks, 34 Minutes
Saskia Griffiths-Moore is a London based singer-songwriter, who in a past life was a Harley Street surgeon. Where Are We Heading is the second in a transatlantic record deal with The Susanne Marcus Collins Foundation Inc., and was created by Saskia and Susanne Marcus Collins herself.
This is gentle music for our troubled times. Unquestionably relaxed, with guitar and bass predominating, her lyrics making serious points, posing universal questions, and her soft style making them all the more powerful. Saskia’s song writing combines the personal You Picked Me Up (a thank you to Susanne Marcus Collins) with candid observations of how we shape up as citizens in our paradoxically connected but fragmented world.
In Picture House, she sings of people waiting in line eager to be transported by a few hours of screen-escapism. In Since When, she asks the difficult question, since when is the world not enough? We are challenged to consider our communal compulsion to consume. The track begins with what might at first appear to be a picture of a primal landscape, but soon we realise the setting is a rainy Notting Hill. She reminds us that in our city setting we might be conflicted by a ‘Grenfell tower of grief’. Pondering relationships she asks in If You Couldn’t Lie, what would life be like if people only told the truth? She optimistically answers her rhetorical proposition by saying if honesty ruled we’d all be the happier for it.
The recording closes on an optimistic note in We’re Still Here, still here to lend our support, still a shoulder to lean on, still dependable and as if to underline the fact, the simple line ‘we’re still here’ is repeated.
An urbane album reflecting the current human condition,  particularly the one that the majority of the world now lives with in collective anonymous mega cities. British contemporary folk music always had an intellectual backbone; Saskia’s contribution follows in that tradition and is gently waking the folk movement to the big issues of today, as such it is both diagnosis and prescription.
Seán Laffey

Rå og Usødet
Go Danish Folk 1921, 16 Tracks, 48 Minutes
Neatly averaging three minutes per track, this collaboration between fiddler Steffan Søgaard Sørensen and pianist Kristian Jørgensen fits its title perfectly - Raw & Unsweetened. Their music is unpasteurised, unfiltered, and all the better for it. None of the natural variation has been removed by polishing, its spirit has not been dulled by artificial additives. Jørgensen & Sørensen deliver pure Danish folk music - and it has a surprising amount in common with the traditions of the Celtic countries.
Kicking off with a tune from around 1800 which is a close relative of the Scottish reel Kate Dalrymple, this duo proceeds to jazz up a number of tunes from 18th century Danish manuscripts, adding bluegrass fiddle techniques and honky-tonk piano. 78 is a medley of three old jigs whose melodies will be at least half familiar. Sørensen’s compositions Kevin’s Reel and Mom’s Reel would fit right into the Shetland repertoire, while his Fiddler’s Finest is an oldtime march in all but name. Shetland is explicitly recognised in a medley of three lilting waltzes - Sunset over Foula, Ronas Voe and Starry Nights of Shetland.
There are plenty of pieces unique to Denmark here too - reels and jigs, polkas and schottisches, and a lovely Sønderhoning from the island of Fanø which has its own dance music traditions. There are also a few tunes with an obvious connection to American old-time music - Iversen is not far from the classic fiddle tune Flop-Eared Mule, and Western Saloon Polka speaks for itself. Piano and fiddle share the limelight throughout this recording, a true duo sound. Jørgensen & Sørensen finish with a gentle lullaby from a 1787 manuscript, one of three slower pieces, which show their fine tone and control alongside the high-energy dance music.
Alex Monaghan

The Rhythms Of Migration
Own Label, 14 Tracks, 55 Minutes
This is a generous admixture of folk with classical music, taking the latter’s penchant for the long exposure rather than the quick snapshot of popular music. Folk flautist Eliza Marshall spearheads a migratory musical odyssey along with 7 top-flight folk, classical and world music artists (Catrin Finch, Jackie Shave, Kuljit Bhamra, Donal Rogers, Robert Irvine, Lydia Lowndes-Northcott, and Joby Burgess). The result is a cinematic soundtrack to the major issue of this decade.
Migration is the big social issue of our age, brought on by climate change and the geographical disparity of wealth and opportunity, push and pull factors compel people to move, transplanting and changing cultures in the process. We are more than familiar with this phenomenon in Ireland; what family amongst us hasn’t a relative living outside the state? Yet when our generations moved they created little pockets of music and sport. Culture is the most portable of artefacts.
This is a gapless album, although my copy, which came by a private Soundcloud link was conveniently portioned into pieces for review, the commercial offering will be an uninterrupted audio experience. And there’s a short online film too.
The album opens with Awakenings, a shoo in for a nature documentary, picture murmurations of swallows as the dry season encroaches into Africa, the longer days in Northern Europe pulling the migrants together. On Artic Lament Eliza and the ensemble create a tone poem about the movement south as winter grips the northlands. On Turning Tides a piano and harp interact, the piano playing slowly, the harp quickening the pace.
Then a change of sound in A Quiet Place, a marimba gives us a taste of a 1950s Public information cartoon, then on Rain Coming there’s a series of pizzicato riffs; they ripple through the tracks, but is rain a life giver or a deadly deluge? Other sections move us into the human realm; Brutal features a rasping harsh bow on a cello, there’s danger on the migrant’s path. In Seekers the first half is buoyed up by herd optimism embodied by a confident piano, on the second a lonely violin awakens us to the plight of the individual migrant. Cherish is Elgar like in its ambition, a sweet flute fashioning the freedom of birds in flight. The final track Coming Home is hopeful, a dance of optimism, the journey has been worth it. And that’s the point of migration, it’s done with the best of intentions, it couldn’t end any other way, or could it?
Seán Laffey

Sleeping Spirals
Jigdoll Records JDR003, 12 Tracks, 50 Minutes
I first saw Hannah James a couple of years pre-Covid, at Warwick, doing her one-woman show Jigdoll. Her combined talents for music, song, drama and dance made this a captivating performance, and her exceptional skill in producing a polished and imaginative show meant that despite its small scale this was a highlight of the festival. I was very interested to hear what French cellist Toby Kuhn would add to the mix - a depth, an eclecticism, and the polyphonic possibilities of bowed, plucked, chopped and changed string sounds.
Hannah brings the grim folk of northern England to the softer folk further south, tales of death and despondency, of death and bitterness, of death and rebirth in her own songs and her adaptations of older material. Some of these are set to sad tunes, others to surprisingly sparky melodies. Jealousy for instance is a hard-hitting depiction of a life twisted in on itself, and an offer of a way out, performed to a punchy little polska on plucked cello and accordion, like a Parisian café cool jazz duo.
Faint and Weary Traveller neatly combines a hypnotic dance tune with a plangent song melody to finish this album with a meeting of its extremes. In between are a number of instrumental pieces, which like the song arrangements draw on wider European traditions - Gallic, Germanic, Slavic and Balkan at least. Kuhn weaves magic with bow and fingers, while James alternates squeezebox smoothness and percussive stepping. Sleeping Spirals spreads its net wide, and draws the listener into its web of mournfulness and musicality.
Alex Monaghan