Releases > Releases July 2014

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Tall Tales and Misadventures
Own Label, GSE CD3
11 Tracks, 42 Minutes

For those who have avidly followed the musical growth of the band Goitse from their conception in the University of Limerick’s Irish World Academy of Music and Dance to the stunning potential shown in their self–named debut album might have thought they had then peaked when they garnered well–deserved acclaim with the shoot through success of their, Donal Lunny produced, second album Transformed. Well those peaks have now been smashed to pieces as the innovative quintet move musical mountains on their imaginative, new album Tall Tales and Misadventures.
The group have forged a reputation for inventive arrangements and the attention to detail with regards to the instrumental conversation is evident from the opening throes of the first track Tall Tales where the driving energy and precision of beat instantly captivates before changing tack with an effusive, percussive frenzy as the melody soars frenetically over an anchored base. The exquisite combo of bodhrán, piano and strings on the intro to 619 denotes homage to percussive timing that flavours an almost orchestral collaboration of sound. The marriage of piano with the ethereal tones of Áine McGeeney’s vocal on Ye Lovers All is delivered with emotional sincerity and the backing vocals of Kieran Munnelly add to the captivating flavour as the instrumental backdrop highlights the intriguing lyricism of Carrick–a–Rede.
With guest participation from the double bass of Martin Brunsden, the talent of Áine McGeeney on fiddle and vocal, Colm Phelan on percussion, Conal O’Kane on guitar and banjo, James Harvey on banjo and mandolin and Tadhg Ó Meachair on both piano and piano accordion shines through individually but what makes this a standout is the band’s ability to utilise the best of their individual creativity to intuitively break new barriers with their instrumental. With Tall Tales and Misadventures, Goitse have taken their expressive landscape of sound to a whole new level.
Eileen McCabe

Port na bPúcaí
Gael Linn
ORIADACD07, 25 Tracks, 60 Minutes

This new Seán Ó Riada CD from Gael Linn, Port na bPúcaí– Previously unreleased keyboard recordings, will take a special place alongside my much–valued collection of the composer’s recordings; it is a companion volume really to Ó Riada’s Farewell, an LP of his performance of Irish traditional music on the harpsichord, recorded in 1971, two weeks before he entered hospital where he later died. I was at the LP launch in Tailor’s Hall, Dublin, on November 28th, 1972 and still have the press release.
There are 25 arrangements of Irish airs (recorded in 1966 and 1971) played on piano and harpsichord on this new CD and a 12–page booklet gives valuable background notes to all the tracks. Titles include Sliabh na mBan, The Rights of Man, Aisling Geal, and Carraig Donn. Seán’s son, Peadar, states that his father was a storyteller. “It was his habit to play for us in the sitting room, in the evenings,” he writes in an introductory note. “It was our task to decipher who, which character or what he was communicating with us through his musical notes and colour. He is storytelling again in these recordings. As with our own private family exchanges, these recordings present a personal window between Seán and you, the listener.”
The note on the title track, Port na bPúcaí (the tune of the fairies) tells us that this haunting air was largely unknown until Ó Riada performed it. He related that the music was first heard by Pádraig Ó Dálaigh, a fisherman, while sheltering in a hut on the deserted Inis Mhic Aoibhleáin (Inishvickillaun), off the Great Blasket. “On hearing the air, Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney was inspired to write his poem The Given Note in which the origins of the music captured the poet’s imagination: ‘So whether he calls it spirit music/ Or not, I don’t care. He took it / Out of wind off mid–Atlantic.”
Former Irish Times music critic, Charles Acton, wrote that through his musical scores for films like Mise Éire and his work with his group, Ceoltóirí Chualann, Seán Ó Riada brought his compatriots to take a new pride in their musical heritage, and that he was justified in claiming to have changed the sound of traditional music in Ireland. This most welcome CD shows us how the great man went about that task.
Aidan O’Hara

Martin Connolly and Maureen Glynn
16 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Own Label

What a treasure to be able to get your hands on a copy of the recently revived Fort of Kincora, a trove of tunes performed by the stalwart of the Kincora accordion brand and master of the instrument, Martin Connolly. Originally released in 1987, the recording captures Martin and his late wife, fiddler and pianist, Maureen Glynn Connolly in full flight as they unleash an array of instrumental with a respect and assuredness that mirrors their musical contribution to the tradition.
The blend of the piano as it serves as an anchor to the free flowing accordion is a constant throughout the selection of tunes on the sixteen tracks and it works to create an exquisitely unadorned sound. The resounding tones intertwine in the lovely hornpipes in The Monroe Gardner set as the distinctive enunciation of both instruments accentuate and give value to each note. The raw lift of The Old Road to Garry is belied by the clarity of note in Callaghan’s which is augmented in the performance on the title track, The Fort of Kincora, where the tone of delivery excels.
There’s more. The defined flow of the slip jigs of Paddy O’Snap and The Night Before Larry was Stretched competes with the other sip jig pairing of Give us A Drink of Water and A Fig for a Kiss before The Garden of Daisies set dance opens with a beautifully syncopated piano introduction that shines beautifully through the smooth range of the box.
Matt Purcell ahs digitised the original recording with great skill and Martin Connolly has given shape to music both through his creative crafting with instrumentation and his ability to let that instrument talk the tune. What a delight to bring this album, Fort of Kincora, to a whole new generation of music lovers.
Eileen McCabe

Tuning the Road
Cló Iar-Chonnachta CICD 196
14 Tracks, 43 Minutes

Coming from a very well–known musical family, this fluter and piper has lived and breathed the music of Limerick, Clare and Kerry her whole life, recording several albums with her family. Studying in Dublin, and touring the world in recent years, Louise has acquired a very broad experience of Irish music and related traditions which stands her in great stead for this debut solo CD. She’s accompanied by her equally talented sister Michelle on harp and piano, and by Colm Murphy on his sensitive bodhrán, but this album is Louise’s masterpiece from start to finish. Rousing reels and jaunty jigs, an air or three, and the occasional hornpipe or slide make this a varied feast of mainly flute tunes, with three piping tracks and two selections on the humble tin whistle (often retailing for several hundred dollars these days).
Louise gets a wonderful mellow tone from the flute, rich low notes and a pure clear upper register.
She achieves great volume without overblowing, and has the breath control to take things at her own pace. The Early Breakfast set is a fine example beautifully rolled and perfectly phrased. There’s pace aplenty in Padraig O’Keeffe’s Jig and the two that come after it, as well as in the trio of slides which starts with the traditional If I Had a Wife and adds two compositions by Peadar Ó Riada.
Most of the tunes here are from the tradition, but there are a few modern compositions, including several by fluter Paddy O’Donoghue, and a lovely reel by Michelle played on Bb whistle. The Carolan piece Kean O’Hara is a rarity with its unusual metre, not one I’d heard before. There’s a delightful flute version of the air Port na bPúcaí too, but I think I most enjoyed Louise’s lilting jigs on flute and whistle. Her piping is flowing and rhythmic, more in the Clancy mould than Ennis or Doran I’d say. With a set of hornpipes nicely dotted, and a terrific trio of classic pipe reels, Louise shows great style on both chanter and regulators. The slow air The Bold Trainer O, in a version adapted from Liam O’Flynn’s playing, is powerful and elegant, soaring up to the top notes with ease, over simple but effective harmonies. With fine accompaniment, excellent sleeve notes, and photos which make the most of this photogenic performer and her seemingly constant smile, Turning the Road is an all round success.
Alex Monaghan

Traditional songs from County Louth
22 Tracks, 71 Minutes
Rossendale Records

This is one of the most interesting and deeply musical archive recordings to come to light in recent times.
The original recording was made in 1974. The singers are members of the Usher family, gifted singers and musicians from the Hill of Rath and Tenure areas near Drogheda in County Louth. They were first recorded by the song collector Seán Corcoran in 1966, this album is made largely of field recordings made some eight years later and is released on Donal Maguire’s Rossendale Records.
This is a recording I have known about for a long time, and it is a great pleasure to listen to these old style voices, singing unaccompanied.
Sometime before 1975, I recall that my father had great time for the young Donal Maguire, we were all living in Rossendale in the north of England then and Maguire and my old fella had an interest in Irish songs. I had heard stories of a longhaired banjo playing youth who was recording the old singers back in Ireland. Forty years on and I am delighted to tell you that the work by Maguire and by Seán Corcoran before him has captured a time and a music that is as fresh as the day it was sung in 1974.
The singers are Mary Ann Carolan, her brother Pat and cousin Petey. Mary Ann is the most technical and confident her voice has a lovely clarity despite the old recording technology. She has an inherent sense of rhythm in all the songs she sings. Thirteen of the twenty two tracks are by her.
The choice of songs is wide and the metres varied, hinting at the depth of the family repertoire. If you are looking for a new song for your group or ballad session there are some wonderful finds here. Collon’s Sweet Plantation, is sung to the air Brighton Camp/Spailpin Fanach, Pat’s version of the Wild Rover is local to Louth and has been covered since by Seán Corcoran and Cran. Their cousin Petey is represented on one track, the well–known Johnny and Molly.
There is light the heated song Nobody’s Coming to Woo and the more sombre Highland Mary. There are sparse liner notes and the project would be well–rounded off by a website where more biographical information was available and where the histories of the songs and the recording process could be explained. In a recording of this importance I would have like to have seen Roud numbers for all the songs that have them, something for a website to address perhaps?
A lovely collection, one for singers and for groups looking for new material, this is by its nature old stuff , but like gold it never lost its lustre.
Seán Laffey

Love and Havoc

12 Tracks, 46 Minutes

On the face of it you’d be forgiven for thinking this is some kind of pure drop bluegrass outfit, a quick look at the album sleeve and you’ll see it was recorded in Nashville. Dig a bit deeper and you’ll discover Rackhouse Pilfer is actually a band made up of half a dozen musicians from Sligo, listen and you’ll notice Bright Lights has an Irish accent from Fiachra Cunningham’s’ fiddle.
There are a dozen tracks on this CD, 11 originals and a traditional tune (more on that one later). So to the judging, there are three questions when it comes to an Irish country album, how authentically American does it sound, how derivative are the songs and thirdly is there anything here that makes the band stand out from the crowd?
Well it’s good news, yes it’s built around a formula, 5 string banjo mandolin, lapsteel guitar, county fiddle, but we could, say the same thing about any modern day Bothy Band clone in Traditional music. It’s what you do with what you’ve got that makes the difference.
The band have an energetic easy going style, they play with the music like a puppy with your favourite slippers, lots of frantic energy full of bouncing enthusiasm. Dust On the Road is a punchy number that sets the tone, some wild harmonica work on that track by the way. Sometimes that enthusiasm gets the better of them and the arrangement seem a bit haphazard, some tracks have a strong centre, where a banjo fiddle on slide guitar takes the lead, on other tracks it sounds like the lads are jockeying for a chance to be heard and as such they don’t feel that co–ordinated.
If there is a weakness in it’s that the vocals are fighting to be heard over the thunderstorm of the music on the up tempo tracks. It is on the slower more thoughtful tracks that we get to appreciate the quality of the voices, such as Loraine. Two Oceans, their Fallen Leaves is the best track for me, flavours of the Everly Brothers and understated banjo.
If there is a litmus test, it’s the traditional song Shady Grove, think of it as the Pigeon on the Gate for Country music. There are two schools of thought on the tune, do it old mountainy style, modal and best on a dulcimer if you have one to hand, the other is play it fast and furious in the style of Doc Watson. They go to the doctors, and as with most bands following that road to Harlan, the vocals lose their way fighting to keep up with the blistering pace of the music and the wall of sound this version throws up.
So did I answer my question? Almost, do they stand out from the crowd, well yes they do, high energy, high pressure, high velocity and a high regard for the music of the high country whether that be the wooded Appalachians or the windswept lonesome plateau of Benbulben.
Seán Laffey

Echoes Of Home
The Most Glorious Celtic Melodies
15 Tracks, 48 Minutes
Shanachie SH 53022

The piano is a strange phenomenon: more a status symbol and unmoveable lump of furniture (family photos on top) than an instrument, and insofar as it betokened industrial power and rigid top–down conformity it wasn’t on the trad wish–list. From about 1750 (the year JS Bach died) it took over: the plan with Mean Temperament, much advocated by JSB, was that none of the keys would be com pletely in tune, but none would sound totally out, the way things used to be since Pythagoras. But the big advantage with playing keyboard is that you have to learn to harmonise and arrange music, and with that come the keys to the cash–box.
Enter Phil Coulter, and it would be hard to imagine the world without him. From Eurovision hits to television spectaculars, he has proven himself a master craftsman and a very successful arranger. He has a whole series of recordings on the theme of Tranquility, and this offering could fit well among them. It’s a model of how to adapt simple melodies and how to supply left hand and harmonies. As such, it deserves study by everyone who is learning keyboard and hoping to write the next Riverdance.
It’s called Celtic melodies, because a couple of the tunes are from Wales and a few more from Scotland. The remainder are our own, or close to adoption. Not all are ancient or traditional: Mná na hÉireann is a poem by Peadar Ó Doirnín (12 verses) with tune by Seán Ó Riada, but it’s a tradition going long before Haydn and Beethoven to grab stuff from the folk world. Business musicians see nothing wrong with this, and can’t understand why there would be objections. Nonetheless, the theme for Braveheart is duly credited to James Horner (his film score for Titanic has been a huge best seller). There’s a couple of tunes which have a whistle added in, but since it’s by way of encouragement, nobody’s objecting.
John Brophy

Chapter 2 Boots
12 Tracks, 43 Minutes
Own Label

Readers of this magazine will be acquainted with the Willis Clan by now. Twelve children who are exceptionally gifted, tutored by Maurice Lennon, their debut album was an all original exploration of Irish music. Its folk songs were written as if they were 150 years old. If we had a debut of the year award it would have won it hands down.
Now comes another side to the family, their Boots album, exploring the bluegrass sounds of their home State of Tennessee. They thank Stephen Mougin for introducing them to Bluegrass and the Dollywood resort for giving them an opportunity to play there on a regular basis, talking of regular gigs, they play Nashville’s Grand Ol Opry almost once a week. They are dedicated, professional, creative, constantly working, what is not to like about that ethic?
A dozen tracks, opening with a very commercial sounding What Can I Say, a song that would easily translate to day time country Radio in the US. Opening with a fiddle and banjo riff, adding mandolin chops in the background as the vocals kick in, close harmonies on the catchy chorus; this could be a huge hit. The rest of the album is just as polished, Bright Lights with finger picked guitar and national steel adding washes of authenticity. Fair Weather Love is a darker song, written in a minor mode, the fiddling here is lonesome and restrained. The younger members of the family shine on Butterfly with its undertow of children’s laughter. Wild and Free is built around a punchy finger picked guitar and arpeggio mandolin. There is one instrumental track, Grandpa’s Waltz, a lovely tune that could become as well– known as Ashokan Farewell. For sheer fun the spoken word Ode to A Toad is hard to beat and the tune bookending the poem is worth learning in its own right. The album closes with the Plowin Song, a down home number complete with dance steps, there’s some mighty fine clogging in Nashville!
Another winner, and a lesson in how to make an album, let the vocals shine and give the instruments shoulder room to sing. It is all down to dynamics, they understand that concept in spades.
Seán Laffey

Own Label HGR142
11 Tracks, 51 Minutes

The debut CD from five relative youngsters who have been gigging together around London for a year or so, this is a very polished and technically accomplished recording, as you’d expect these days from a totally professional outfit. It’s also musically impressive, and very entertaining: a good mix of tunes and songs old and new, with all that freshness and energy which young players bring to their music. CrossHarbour (with a capital H to avoid confusion with the East London tram station) combines the considerable talents of London Irish musicians Órlaith McAuliffe, Sam Proctor and Tad Sargent, with the eclectic musical background and arranging skills of Philippe Barnes fresh from a traditional music degree in Limerick, and the English folk singing of Rosie Hodgson. All five have performing careers outside CrossHarbour, and consequently the material on this album draws on a broad palette of styles and influences, but the core is clearly Irish traditional.
Rosie opens with the first of four songs, a strongly American flavoured ballad of everyday life and love. Her next two numbers are Rosie’s own, continuing the theme of love and intimacy. The last song is the traditional Blackwaterside, a tale of false love in Rosie’s own West Sussex accent. With a powerful clear voice and an engaging style, Rosie Hodgson is able to deliver all these different songs convincingly: I’m not often impressed by singers, but this young lady is something special. I still feel she holds back a little, especially on the high notes, perhaps because of the studio setting. The same is true of the instrumentals, which are excellent but don’t quite erupt in full–blooded passion. Sam’s fiddle in particular is a little muted, tucked behind the flutes and whistles: it comes into its own on the slow jig Afterhours, and on the leisurely intro to Turbulence, but if I was remixing this CD I’d certainly crank it up a notch elsewhere.
Not that I have anything against Órlaith’s flutes and whistles – I could listen to those all day, and it’s great to hear this multiple champion on a full–length album. Some people win All–Ireland titles for technical ability without having the spirit and soul to convey the music to a wider audience: not Órlaith McAuliffe. Her playing with CrossHarbour is rich and expressive, well able to front fast and slow pieces, both her own compositions and the generations of older music from the Irish and Scottish traditions. Chicago and Trigonometry show the best of modern Irish reels and jigs, compositions by Barnes and Proctor as well as Niall Vallely and Joe Liddy.
The Surprise Package starts with a slow air on twin whistles, McAuliffe and Barnes I assume, before slipping into a lovely little jig, both McAuliffe originals. The Higher Drive ventures into Northern and Scottish music, pipe tunes given a flute and fiddle twist, while the final Voldemort’s is a suitably eclectic climax flitting between French and Irish influences. Guitar and bodhrán accompaniment is almost perfect throughout, so good you’d hardly know it was there most of the time.
CrossHarbour have a great sound, and I’m sure it will be getting out into the wider world as a result of this recording.
Alex Monaghan