Releases > Releases January 2017

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The Seven Suns
Compass Records COM4673
10 Tracks, 46 Minutes

They say there’s a fine line between genius and madness. In John McSherry’s music, I’d claim that this line doesn’t exist. Or if it does exist, it’s more elastic, a curtain perhaps, which can be pushed back to allow access to the other side, to glimpse otherworldly possibilities. McSherry seems to have a foot on both sides of that curtain. If a man sees what others do not, is he a madman or a visionary? Many pipers of legend, and fiddlers and harpists too in the stories of Ireland and Scotland, have stepped beyond the veil that separates us from other worlds, and brought back strange tales and music full of magic. John is one such, who also seems to be touched with eternal youth, and whether his music is stolen from the faery realm or a gift from the gods, his is an exceptional talent.
On this second solo album – with a little help from his friends, John McSherry paints a pan–Celtic picture of heroes and giants, queens and kidnappers, standing stones and sun–worshippers. Reels, jigs, airs, marches, waltzes and other traditional forms are joined by some more modern rhythms. John’s pipes and whistles are the focus of this music, and all bar two of the pieces here are his own compositions, but the sound is filled and framed by the versatile Seán Óg Graham, the fiddles of Niamh Dunne, the cello of Sean Warren, and Mike McGoldrick’s Manchester flute on the enchanting slow reel The Whisperer. From the opening Dance of the Síog full–tilt jigs, through the formal grace of Sunrise at Bealtaine and the virtuoso piping of The Sunflower to the final traditional reel Jackson’s Favourite, this is the pinnacle of contemporary Irish music. John’s notes on the stories behind the tunes, the importance of Irish megalithic culture before the time of the pyramids, and the connections to Egypt, Greece, Spain, and even Atlantis, are fascinating and informative. Don’t just brush them off as visions from the far side of the madness–genius line: some of the fascinating things we now know about ancient Celtic culture are hard to explain without pushing aside that curtain.
The Seven Suns certainly exemplifies the kinship between these different cultures, from the distinctly Spanish sound of the title track to the eastern mysticism of Sunset Land and all the way west to the Mississippi delta with The Atlantean. Incidentally, some of this music has been set to gorgeous animations: you can find them on–line. Whether you watch the videos, imagine the prehistoric scenes in your head, or just listen to the music, this is a wonderfully entertaining and varied CD which keeps John McSherry firmly at the forefront of modern Irish piping.
Alex Monaghan

Between the Jigs and the Reels, A Retrospective
CD and DVD
Universal Catalogue Number 5720582
Running Time CD 77 Minutes, DVD 120 Minutes
CD 17 Tracks, DVD 36 Tracks

A hand picked selection of tracks on the CD and live performances on the DVD, this will have fans salivating for sure. The archive DVD alone will be a clincher when it comes to buying this package.
Planxty were a busy band yet short lived, the initial four–piece lasted from 1972 to 1975, and a reprised version came together in 1978 only to dissolve by 1983. The tracks Sí Bheag, Sí Mhór and Follow Me Up To Carlow are from their first album (the famous Planxty black cover from 1973). The CD also contains material from the later stages when the studio band was effectively an 8 piece.
The CD gives us a glimpse into the exciting new paradigm of folk/trad that Planxty pioneered. The opening track True Love Knows No Reason is from the middle of the band’s second tenure, taken from the 1980 album The Woman I Loved So Well, the track is a sophisticated Celtic take on a country song. Liam O’Flynn’s solo contribution begins on track 5 with the big jig The Gold Ring, track 13 sees the piper become absorbed in a set of jigs: Ride A Mile / Hardiman The Fiddler / The Yellow Wattle.
The DVD is made up of a number of live performances: from 1972: Live from the Late Late Show before their debut album came out; 1973’s The Music Makers, Live from the National Stadium, essentially a live version of the Black album. Their second coming begins with the 1980 Live from the Abbey Tavern, a mix of songs here, including the Hackler From Grouse Hall by Christy Moore first aired on the proto–Planxty album Prosperous. The 1980 recorded Live Aisling Gheal Special with O’Flynn to the fore on East At Glendart/Brian O’Lynn/Pay The Reckoning, The Lady On The Island/The Gatehouse Maid/The Virginia/Callaghan’s; and Irvine and Lunny trading licks on Smeceno Horo. The final selection is from the 1982 Festival Fold, Live from the National Stadium 14 numbers here including Time Dance and the Cliffs of Dooneen.
The earliest material on the DVD is in black and white, it is raw Planxty at their exciting best, Dónal Lunny plays the Greek round backed bouzouki and you can see here why his style was so attractive. Liam O’Flynn sits quietly by as the lads play what is effectively an Irish take on an American string band. As we progress through each video we can see how like many other musicians they are investing their earnings in better gear.
The round back zook is replaced by the famous Abnett semi–flat backed model (with its original rounded tail piece) then as we progress Lunny shifts to his experimental Blarge, a ten stringed beast, somehow he doesn’t look as relaxed or spontaneous with it. We have the English music hall song Three Drunken Maidens, which was Planxty’s first release as a single in 1972, a year before their debut album came out. There is a wonderfully spontaneous moment when they try to sing Sally Brown, Lunny has a fit of the giggles whilst Irvine soldiers on gamely.
This package goes a very long way to explaining where our current commercial folk/trad music came from. Planxty might have burned on a short fuse, but they exploded in a number of directions: The Bothy Band, Moving Hearts, Brady and Irvine, a springboard to the solo careers of Christy Moore and Andy Irvine, this legacy has continued to today with Dónal Lunny working with Sylvain Barou, Padraig Rynne and most recently Zoë Conway, there have been the almost–Planxty bands of LAPD and Usher’s Island. So in short this package is the seed that was sown and has been harvested time and again over the past 44 years. It should be in the possession of anyone who has even the slightest inkling of forming a band or singing ballads.
Seán Laffey

Gael Linn CEFCD 213
11 Tracks, 51 Minutes

There is a special pleasure in getting a new CD that has notes providing us with a generous amount of informative detail, and is richly illustrated and beautifully presented in a layout that is visually appealing. Of course, it all promises much, and so expectations of a rewarding music experience are high. And so it proves with Ónóir, a new CD from Peadar Ó Riada and his line–up of gifted musical friends: Cór Chúil Aodha, the group, Téada, Mick O’Brien (uilleann pipes), Oisín Morrison (harp), and Cór Ban Chúil Aodha. They were chosen by Peadar to perform in an album of his compositions, which he says, commemorates the sacrifices of our Nation builders and attempts to re–focus today’s thinking on their aims.
Peadar is one of Ireland’s leading composers and it is indeed appropriate that the son of that other great composer, Seán Ó Riada, should mark the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising in music, song and poetry. Seán Ó Riada’s most famous work was the music he composed for the soundtrack of the Gael Linn film documentary on 1916, Mise Éire. The opening track of Onóir is Patrick Pearse’s poem, Móra dhuit, a thír ár ndúchais, in which, Peadar states, Pearse expresses his love for Ireland, and from it we learn what it was that drove him and others to go out in 1916. Peadar set the poem to music for Cór Ban Cúil Aodha who are heard singing it in a delightful arrangement for voice and instrumental accompaniment.
A piece entitled Fianna Éireann – An Tosach is there to emphasise what Peadar regards as the need to express ourselves freely and openly. He said that he put a friend of his faoi gheasa (binding obligation) to write it. He was the late an tAth. Pádraig Ó Fiannachta, priest, poet and scholar, who died last July.
He had had a stroke, said Peadar, and so in response to my demands, he went home, lay in bed and thought about it. It started to flow out of him and within a short period of time he had written over 5,000 lines. It brought together in a coherent, cohesive narrative the finest attributes of Na Fianna – of the Irish people and our culture, if you like – and it stood as a bedrock of what is best about us. If we had stuck with those qualities, we wouldn’t be in the awful mess we’re in today. The words and music of Fianna Éireann – An Tosach and the strength of conviction that comes through in its performance by the men and boys of Cór Cúil Aodha is altogether inspiring.
The talented members of Téada are in top form in Mairseáil Mac Mahon, and with Mick O’Brien and Oisín Morrison in Ríl Laichtín, Ríl Ghael Linn, Ríl an tSathairn, and all the musicians are heard in a stirring rendition of Mo Ghile Mear. Peadar Ó Riada’s Onóir is a CD of high production values in music and presentation and is a fitting salute to the men and women of Seachtain na Cásca 1916.
Aidan O’Hara

Christmas in Ireland
Own Label
15 Tracks, 70 Minutes

‘Tis the season for Christmas albums and who better than the delightful Cherish the Ladies to supply us with a bumper fifteen tracks of festive musical treats. Recorded in County Clare, the core group of Joanie Madden, Kathleen Boyle, Mirella Murray and Mary Coogan are joined by a wealth of musicianship including Nollaig Casey, Donnchadgh Gough, Trevor Hutchinson, John Madden and Hughie Boyle, with singers Hannah Rarity, Don Stiffe, Bruce Foley and Bridget Moloughney to add the lyrical tinsel to the musical Christmas tree.
No better way to kick off than a tastefully rendered Good King Wenceslas instrumental before diving straight in to a main whistle and bodhrán drive in Thrush in the Storm then a rousing full instrumental of The Hot Water Bottle and Liz Carroll No 1, that will surely get the grumpiest of relations dancing around the seasonal kitchen table. The transition from Carol to traditional on the instrumentals is a core theme throughout the album and all are tastefully arranged for fluidity of change yet incorporate enough variation to keep the listener enthralled. It’s shown in the beautifully languid O Christmas Tree intro that flows into the Road Dust jig aided by a hypnotic string arrangement where Joanie’s whistle soars over two uplifting slip jigs and the instrumental chorus ignites. Other instrumental standouts include a mesmerising piano and strings on Errigal Beauty and the tender reflectiveness shown in American Wake.
Hannah Rarity’s vocal notes ring with a pure truth on the Maurice McGrath penned modern carol All The Valley Down and Don Stiffe’s voice never fails to stir the emotive landscape on the lament of the past; The Christmas Letter. Many other seasonal favourites abound where the flavour of Christmas is delivered with a tasteful Irish musical treat.
The Cherish ladies have put the spirit into the festive season with this album. Most definitely one for the Christmas stocking.
Eileen McCabe

Wait Till The Clouds Roll By
Own Label 9 Tracks, 46 Minutes
On this debut CD multi–instrumentalist Fintan McHugh bravely goes for a single recording take for each track, this adds a live and dangerous feel to the album. Fintan was sensitively recorded by piper Joe McKenna at his Scarr Mountain Studios in the forested Wicklow Mountains and those wood–lands feature heavily on this album’s art work.
Fintan digs deep into the traditional song chest for many of  the tracks on this album; Anachie Gordon, The Rocks of Bawn, You Rambling Boys of Pleasure, The Blacksmith, A Stór Mo Chroí  (a-capellla) and Edward on Lough Erne’s Shore, all tried and tested songs. He writes too with his Puppet of Disaster and Holding On being featured here. On Ananchie Gordon, made famous in Ireland by Mary Black, he accompanies himself on the cittern; there is a very sparse string accompaniment on his version of the Rocks of Bawn, taken slowly and deliberately in a sean nós style.
Pacing is a pleasure on this album, and as he is self accompanied, he can take his time to explore the melodies and the emotions in these songs. His own Holding On is a lively song which he leads in with the harmonica. His voice lies in a space between Bob Dylan and Sean Keane, and the title track Wait Till The Clouds Roll By written in America by Fulmer and Wood in 1881 it has a Dylanesque gloss to it with his harmonica and guitar slowly building the melody, it closes with emphatic brushes of his fingers across the strings. He channels the spirit of Andy Irvine, in his cittern and harmonica work. On the English song The Blacksmith, there are some lovely deep runs here on the cittern. If I were to select a favourite track it would be Edward on Lough Erne’s Shore, here his voice is at its strongest, his guitar at its most expressive and the melody is addictive. 
Seán Laffey

Hello World
Own Label, JJCD222, 14 Tracks, 49 Minutes

Hello World, how d’you do? That’s the greeting from the slick new JigJam record. Never mind the world, this is how JigJam do it: well–polished, well–crafted…and that’s just their suits!
Their music is cut from the same cloth, though, tailor–made for the most discerning music consumer. But enough of the couture puns, Hello World is the second album from this dynamic outfit that match boy–band looks with top quality musicianship, blending American and Irish tones that have justifiably drawn comparisons to the like of the Punch Brothers, who are noted influences on the County Offaly outfit.
The opening song on this 14 track album, Hello World, sparkles with optimism as five–string banjo, mandolin and bass elevate the band’s sound, with lead vocalist Jamie McKeogh urging the listener to Rise! in the opening lines. The rising theme continues into the second track with Pick Me Up, a sentimental pop song with choral harmonies that would give the Everly Brothers a run for their money. A more contemporary track is Why Oh Why, with five–string banjo accompanying a very polished recording, broadening the group’s scope and, no doubt, marketability. The song choice gets a bit more traditional with lamentable 18th century Ireland’s Green Shore, though with more jump than its haunting lyrics might assume, and subtle movements no doubt influenced by Tim O’Brien’s recording of same.
Keeping in theme with the railroading album cover, Cherokee Shuffle gets going with that all–familiar train sound of the fiddle, this bluegrass classic in capable hands, including tenor banjo into the mix. With the tenor in hand, it’s no wonder they move from Cherokee Shuffle into a set of jigs on the same track, with five string banjo impressively negotiating the 6/8 rhythm, no mean feat though no trouble to accomplished five stringer Daithi Melia.
The album, the second from JigJam, includes a rendition of Alison Krauss’s Dustbowl Children, with the singing at its strongest of the whole record. In the first track, Hello World, Jamie McKeogh pronounces: ‘I don’t wanna come down!’ Perhaps he is talking about the past few years which have seen the group rise and rise, earning respect for flawless live shows and productions. JigJam are only getting started and this, their second album, exudes energy and precision which will no doubt lead to many more fine albums to come.
Derek Copley

Cavan Bucks
Nyah CD7, 14 Tracks, 44 Minutes

It never ceases to amaze one how so many young musicians keep coming forward, skilled in the art of making music and masters of their chosen instruments. Co. Cavan is certainly to the fore in producing all that’s best in traditional music and this new CD from a trio of the county’s best is an example of the phenomenon. The Cavan Bucks are Zoran Donohoe (concertina), Barry Conaty (flute & tin whistle), and Ellen Grant (button accordion), and they are joined on the recording by guest musicians Fintan McManus (guitar & bouzouki), and Jack Grant (whistle).
Zoran is one of a famed Cavan family of musicians, and her father, Martin, a master of the button accordion. She has been playing since early childhood and has performed at home and abroad in concerts and recordings that include her father’s The Lady’s Plaything (2012). Barry Conaty is from near Ballyhaise, County Cavan, the place where my oldest sister and brother were born. Barry, too, has been playing music from his earliest years and besides flute and tin whistle, he plays piano, as well. He has won Ulster and All–Ireland titles on all three instruments. He has developed a keen interest in composing tunes and is inspired by the likes of Michael Rooney, Ciaran Tackney and Joanie Madden, one of whose compositions, The Conspiracy reel is performed by Zoran and Ellen.
Ellen Grant is from a musical family in Drumalee, Co. Cavan, and while she danced from an early age she was so inspired by Cavan town’s hosting of Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in 2011 that she took to playing the button accordion, encouraged to do so by her grandfather, John. She and her young companions on this CD treat us to a glorious selection of traditional numbers and newly composed ones and do themselves and their families proud in their playing of music they have served up in their own delightful arrangements. They have total mastery of their instruments in playing dance tunes and slow airs and they are a pleasure to listen to.
Aidan O’Hara

Feels Like Home
Tailor Made, 13 Tracks, 53 Minutes

The opening track Everything I Needed is written by Brendan, he sings over a repeated run on the guitar with some sweet fiddling from Andrea Zonn. The song itself is a play on objects that mean so much to us in childhood. If you need a label to describe his style, think John Denver at his very best. Reflecting the fact Brendan now lives in Michigan, he looks back again on It Feels Like Home, a co–write with Thomas Jutz, it has a new country–feel to it, with Justin Moses stepping in on fiddle.
He considers the isolation of making a life in a new land on his ballad Something to Hope For. His Deise Town–The Ballad of Thomas Francis Meagher tells the story of the Waterford patriot who played such a prominent role on the Union side during the American Civil War, a history lesson in four minutes. He looks at that conflict again on the final song Four Men, a tale about the Irish at the Battle of Bull Run.
His five originals are interspersed with songs that speak to Brendan’s own family roots in Ireland and Scotland: Caledonia, Homes of Donegal, Carrick Fergus, The Sally Gardens, The Galway Shawl. Like many exiles he has a deep love for the old country. He says in the liner notes he made this album so his children would know where their dad came from and where their own roots run deep. He can be proud of this album; I am sure his children will cherish this recording for years. For the rest of us it’s a gentle reminder to keep the faith, be proud of what our people have achieved on foreign soil and realise we too are part of that bigger story.
Seán Laffey