Releases > Releases July 2015

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Boy In A Boat

10 Tracks, 42 Minutes

Own Label

Barry Kerr has been around the folk scene all his life, born into a family who ran a music pub, as a young teenager he was a frequenter of sessions, fleadhs and sing–arounds. The music is in him and like many before he has taken it with him on his journeys.

The essence of travel is the idea of no matter how far you go away, there is still a hand holding you firmly at home. This is a theme often unravelled in folk songs and Barry Kerr brings a twenty–first century perspective to bear on that idea here.

The sound of his late father’s Mandolin wraps itself around the track California To You, a gentle moment when Barry seems at peace with the world, but it isn’t a happy clappy calm we get here, there is a sense of resignation, served mostly without the sauce of resentment or recrimination. This could be a motif for solitude but Pauline Scanlon’s backing vocals, which are understated, adds a coda, the company of others blunts the edge of sadness, the memory of loved ones far away eases the pain of distance.

Exile and immigration often leads to xenophobia, and this is certainly the case in the traditional song Erin Go Bragh. A generation ago Dick Gaughan made that song his own, Barry Kerr has taken the torch and is carrying the flame for the new era.

Roots and the rootless are themes explored in The Leaving Song, the familiar story of a singer off on another tour, we might think it an exotic lifestyle, but at its heart it is economic migration. Of course there are some for whom life on the road is the first choice and that option is the default setting for people of the travelling community. Barry pays homage to traveller Margaret Barry, the girl with the banjo and the strident voice, on his Woman Of No Place.

He breaks the album with just one selection of tunes, playing flute on Saely Kelly. Bunting  said it was by the Sligo harper Thomas Connallon (who also composed Fainne Geal an Lae /The Dawning of the Day and Molly MacAlpin). Backed by Donal O’Connor on piano and Conor MCreanor on this is a track that stands alone on the album and will be much copied I am sure.

Migration isn’t always easy and in the song Illegal Barry confronts the modern day plight of those who got into the USA under the net, only to be caught up in a system that won’t allow them to come home. Half way into the track we get a spoken interlude, as if we are listening to some vox pop commentary in a documentary on radio, this is an effective device here for sure.

There is much more, and if I have painted a gloomy picture, fear not the music here isn’t at all depressing or sombre, the colours are neither muted nor drab , there is much to lift the spirit. Crucially Barry comes home to the shores of Lough Neagh in his affectionate postcard to his home place Return To Castor Bay. Maybe that is the metaphor we need, Castor is the Beaver, an animal known for both its industry and its home, holding the dam against inevitable floods with the skin of its teeth.

This album works on any level you care to mention. When Autumn Comes ends the album with the sense of it’s time to be on the road again, the time for the folk singer to wander off and entertain us all. If Barry wheels into your town this Autumn, treat yourself and go and see him.

The North of Ireland has been a rich vein of both singers and songs, Paddy Tunney, Sarah Makem, Len Graham, Robert Cinanmond, all carriers of a wonderful English language tradition. Where you might ask are today’s song makers who can tell us something deep and lasting about Irish experience? Go North and listen to this album from Barry Kerr, it is an exceptional, original, artistic and enduring masterpiece.

Seán Laffey


An Caitín Bán

Own Label DEBCD001,

13 Tracks, 39 Minutes

Memories merged with a musical family flair are a mainstay of this delightfully personal album from the combined talents of the De Barra and Thuama Clans. In muintir De Barra there are a medley of harps, flutes, whistles, guitar and vocals are delivered from Cormac, Fionnuala, Ruairí, Fionán, Éamonn, Mánus and Dónal which is mixed with vocal and whistle from Nessa, Séamus, Róisín and Seán of the muintir Thuama. This extended family have taken the songs and music that has been passed down through the generations, from within their own family and from historical documentation, and added their own reflection, sentiment and, indeed talent, to craft the thirteen tracks that makes An Caitín Bán.

The album opens with the title song, an endearing lullaby that was brought down to them from a Great Aunt in Cork and passed to two generations of family as an aid to get a codladh sámh (sound sleep). From this we are taken to a combination of whistle and strings that flow seamlessly through the jigs, Pipe on the Hob and Port an Deoraí which swoop and soar through the air. Breton influences abound too with the structured definition of the song of Breton Independence, An Alarc’h giving rise to guttural yet compelling harmonies twisted around disciplined beats. The Breton flavour stays in the form of Me zo Ganet e Kreiz ar Mor, written by the poet Yann–Ber Kalloc’h picked up by Róisín whilst living in Brittany. These influences are interspersed with the more traditional that include excellent renditions of the popular Chicago and High Reels and the fabulous Flowers of Red Hill and Mulhaire’s reel and that’s what makes this album work so well. The variety allows the ability to dip in and find something new and intriguing at each listen.

This is most definitely a musical family of talent.

Eileen McCabe


The Tunes Foundry

Own Label, 11 Tracks, 36 Minutes

What I really like about Áine Heslin’s release, The Tunes Foundry, is that all of the eleven tracks contain tunes of her own composition. The Clare based flautist has captured tunes she has composed over the years and played in many sessions in her native Clare where she names the likes of Pete Haugh’s pub in Doonbeg and Daly’s in Ballynacally as being focal memories of her play.

The tunes reflect the music Áine has absorbed and played and through this pure absorption she has re–established the style and the simple focus of the note and melody, its phrasing and syncopation on beat. This means that the tune itself takes centre stage over the play and makes for an engaging listen. Take the upbeat opening track that includes two lovely jigs, the first is the bright and lifting Walking the Dog which sets the lilting pace for A Tribute to Michael Tubridy, the original flute player of the Chieftains, which flows with a melodic simplicity and edge.

What caught my ear throughout the album are the tune names and the stories behind them, which are personal, witty and reflect the sensitivity and emotion underpinning the composition process. Seabed is a perfect example of this where she describes the pain and anguish of loved ones of the fishermen lost by the sinking of the Tit Bonhomme on the Cork coast in 2012.  The slow air mirrors the pensiveness of the event and the drawn notes have a reflective impact long after the tune subsides. It’s not all pensive though, The Chicken Wrap (love that name!) is set at an unadorned, defined pace and whilst I can’t say it reflects the personality of a chicken, it certainly is a lovely listen.

That’s The Tunes Foundry all over, a lovely listen and a chance to absorb and pick up some nicely composed tunes from Áine Heslin.

Eileen McCabe


Between Two Ways

11 Tracks, 55 Minutes

Own Label TM001

The Chieftains harpist for the past decade, with a classical harp career before that, Triona Marshall is long overdue a solo album. She quickly establishes her trad credentials with Street Reels, a set of tunes recreated from a late night doorway session with Tim Edey (on guitar here) and piano box maestro Martin Tourish who alas is not on this track. Martin’s touch is evident elsewhere though, as co–producer, as composer of most of the music here, and as guest accordionist on the penultimate track. Other guests include: Martin Hayes, Seamus Begley, Sean Keane, Paddy Moloney, stepdancer Nathan Platzke, oldtime fiddle and guitar duo Deanie Richardson and Jeff White, and cellist David James – quite a gathering, used sparingly, with two solo harp tracks. The first of these is a Tourish march and two traditional jigs: The Silver Tear is a sombre affair beautifully harmonised on the harp, leading into the old slip jig Comb Your Hair & Curl It and the bright Donegal tune Jimmy Boyle’s Jig. Triona’s second solo is the final track here, her surprisingly gentle version of O’Carolan’s Farewell to Music.

There’s a more contemporary sound to Aisling Na hEalaí, another Tourish tune arranged with a slow cello line, and to the spiky March of the Three Ravens with Keane’s vigorous bowing. The Seventh Degree is more like a classical étude than an Irish jig, while Planxty McGowan’s approaches ragtime with its honky–tonk harp riffs.

For the more traditionally minded, there are excellent versions of Irish reels and jigs including a splendidly dexterous rendition of The Boys of Malin, several slow airs by Martin Tourish which suit the harp perfectly, and even a bravura performance of the Canadian classic Reel du Pendu complete with Ottowa Valley stepdancing.

The technique and arrangements are flawless throughout, and the whole album is full of musicality. Between Two Ways is the first time I have heard much of Triona Marshall’s music – I must confess I haven’t paid much attention to The Chieftains since their 1996 Santiago release – but I’m very impressed with this solo CD.

She may feel she’s Between Two Ways, but I’d say Ms Marshall manages to span both roads with ease.

Alex Monaghan



Own Label CD1907

11 Tracks, 42 Minutes

This is one of those albums that I began to write about after playing it a number of times and when I started writing I had to stop again to listen, distracted by the enthralling layers of intricacy that abound. Their strings weave, curl and dance around each other in a way that is mesmerizingly brilliant; just listen to The Rollicking Goldfish set and you will know what I mean. That set is playful and uplifting and no sooner does the last note linger then you are plunged into the dark auspices of Asturias which takes you on Andalusian reflective folk journey with the harp arrangements igniting the key of E minor for that edgy, suspense filled Spanish guitar impression.

This emotive soundscape progresses with compelling twists and turns of which Port na bPúcaí is a stand out as the Kerry air draws you into a world of mysticism and the string definition is captured; both by the musical pauses and the clarity of each note delivered.

It’s not all about the emotion either; listen carefully to Sir Festus Burke by Carolan and try and guess how many of the other Carolan tunes are threaded into the sophisticated harp arrangement which is so cleverly executed.

Cormac de Barra and Anne–Marie O’Farrell are no strangers in delighting and intriguing listening audiences with their vocal and style of play that cross weaves the Classical and the traditional with exciting effect. The pair manages to pluck every ounce of emotive energy from the strings and into the every soul of the listener.

Playful, pithy, pensive or poignant … the harp, as an instrument, is stretched to its emotional capacity and the result is an outstanding album of engrossing sound that keeps you constantly captivated.

Eileen McCabe


Spinning Yarns

12 Tracks

TwoTap Music TTM016

Travel is said to broaden the mind, in the case of Norah Rendell it has expanded her repertoire.
Possibly best–known to Irish music fans as a member of the Outside Track, Norah has a Masters in Traditional Music performance from the University of Limerick. She now lives in Minnesota where she is the Executive Director of the Centre for Irish Music there. She came to Irish music via the session scene in her native Vancouver and things just grew from there.

Those travels across Canada with the Outside Track brought Norah into contact with singers who still had songs that had come over with 18th and 19th century immigrants. Some of those songs became localised, other were remarkably resilient. The dozen songs here hint at a very rich oral tradition that was kept alive in Canada, she pits it down to those cold winters and the big move indoors. Norah has taken pains to ensure that we can find the sources for each song, the liner notes are excellent, concise yet detailed. There are necessary references to those giants of Canadian folk song collecting, Edith Fowkes and Helen Creighton. Indeed she dips into the songs of one of Creighton’s informants Angelo Doran, from field recordings made in the mid–1950s. Then there is St.Patrick’s Day, first recorded in 1951 on the Avalon Penninsula in Newfoundland from the singer Cyril O’Brien.

Norah has a clear alto voice, her diction is just what you need in a folk singer, emotional, engaged yet never affected, you can hear every word and this will have singers poring over every phrase. With a number of the tracks having close connections to Ireland there are no excuses not to learn a number of those songs. The Pinery Boy is related to the Sailor Boy (you may know that from the Bothy Band) she does an excellent job on Pretty Susan the Pride Of Kildare, another song she had from Dornan. She also sings the comic Biddy Rooney from the same singer. Melodies are often intriguingly familiar, for example Forty Fishermen, collected in 1951 from Mike Molloy of St. Schott’s Newfoundland is sung to the air of the Boys of Bar Na Sraide. When I Wake In The Morning is melodically almost identical to Bridget O’Malley, on this track Norah plays a melancholy flute.

Instrumentally this is a delicious album. Norah has assembled a first rate string band around these songs, Brian Miller on guitar, bouzouki and mandola, Randy Gosa on guitar and mandola, Ailie Robertson on Harp, Daithi Sproule’s guitar and Andam Kieslings Bass round out the sound. There are some samples on her web page, but they are not a patch on the quality of the CD, sounding almost like unmixed first takes. Her argument for putting the songs together, runs like a river through this collection. It is a tribute to the thousands of émigrés who left these shores, folks who landed in the Maritimes, chopped lumber, rafted rivers and eventually crossed over the border as they made their way down the great lakes to Wisconsin and ambiguity in the industrial maelstrom of Chicago.

History, music and superb singing, this is one for many spins on the old CD machine.

Seán Laffey

Own Label CDBOG007
10 Tracks, 60 Minutes

Probably the closest thing nowadays to an Acid Croft supergroup, the Peatbogs have half a dozen albums under their sporans and a cult following wherever they go. Slightly less hairy and unwashed than in their early days, these six respectable members of the Scottish music mainstream deliver a powerful combination of fiddle, pipes, highland rock, and general weirdness. The tracks are long – an average of six minutes each – and tend to revolve around a single piece or a couple of riffs. Not for these lads the rigourous discipline ofsession tunes played three, or at most four times! The trance–like nature of their endlessly reborn melodies, with slight variations and shifting back lines, is a big part of the band’s appeal. The other key ingredients of this music are the Celtic cadences and rhythms, and the raw energy which comes through on almost every number.

The Peatbogs (only their mothers call them the Faeries) write most of their own material. Nothing here is truly traditional, although piper Peter Morrison and fiddler Ross Couper compose in a very traditional style at times. The opening track Is This Your Son? has all the hallmarks of an old fiddle reel, and Tom in the Front will no doubt be part of the pipe band repertoire before you can say Cabar Feidh.

The final Strictly Sambuca, once it gets past its six–minute New Age introduction, is more obviously contemporary but no less Celtic. On other tracks, such as Jakes on a Plane and The Chatham Lasses,other influences predominate and the addition of guitars, keyboards and drums make Blackhouse feel more like a progressive rock album than a wholesome slice of Caledonian culture. Which is completely deliberate, of course. I should also mention the role of the ebow, a wee instrument which has been creeping into Scottishmusic for years but has never quite cracked the session scene: it’s basically a jaw harp for guitarists, and makes some amazing sounds here. Also worth a nod is the catchy wee tune The Dragon’s Apprentice by young Archie Maclean from Skye, a hint of great things to come.`

Not much more to say really: the Peatbogs seem to get better with every album, and their live act is simply astonishing, so if you’re not a fan already it’s time you checked them out.

Alex Monaghan


The Falkirk Music Pot

Greentrax Records CDTRAX383D 2015

22 Tracks, 97 Minutes

Scotland wins again in its designation of Creative Places that help to foster and nurture its unique music and traditions. Falkirk is the Creative Place showcased on this excellent double CD of 22 tracks fronted by Brian McNeill a writer of high esteem who has gathered a wonderful band of performers on the project. The opening track The Lads O’ the Fair is from McNeill’s pen and sets the scene with a beautiful pen picture of the history of Falkirk. The majestic The Kelpies Suite follows showing that a school orchestra has a valid place in the performance of traditional music.

The new diversity of so many towns and cities is brought to life with the wonderful harmony singing of the pupils of Bandawe Girls Secondary School on a song written and fronted by Mercy Nyirongo. To bolster the diversity track four features that stalwart music tradition of the brass band represented by Bo’ness & Carriden Band on a tune called Stirling Brig.

Being Scotland of course we cannot neglect the bagpipes and the track called The Terror Time provides an excellent example. The Boys that Broke the Ground recalls the essential but often reviled navvies who built most of the industrial world. From that era the songs move to modern times and connections between Scotland and southern Africa on Tae Feed a Hungry Child.

Our confidence in the future of traditional music is bolstered on track two of the second CD as The Falkirk Youth Trad Band entertain us with The Great Wheel. Even with a great double CD there is always a truly stand out song and on this offering one cannot fault The Men of Twenty Three a poignant tale of a coal mining disaster in 1923.

The Carron River reminds us of the essential need of good folk songs to remind us of our history wherever we may live. Where would a Scottish album be without Robbie Burns and the brass band arrangement of My Love Is Like a Red Red Rose will bring a tear to many an eye Scottish or not. With The Best o’ the Barley we get McNeill at his humorous and singing best recalling an uncle who emigrated to America.

All in all this is a tribute to Falkirk, Scotland, Greentrax and to folk music in all its diversity and essential qualities.As ever there is a beautifully produced booklet with lyrics, credits and history – lavishly illustrated.

Nicky Rossiter


The McCartney’s Of Pennyburn
11 tracks Running Time 38 minutes
Own Label

Falls Road native, piper and multi-instrumentalist Brendan McAuley has produced a stunning new album called the McCartney’s of Pennyburn. He plays ALL the instruments on the CD, uilleann pipes, concertina. bouzouki, flutes, banjo, whistles and the bodhrán.

The McCartneys were Catholic gentry who established Pennyburn Mills near Derry in the 19th century. The work looks at a slice of time from 1865 to 1912. Brendan tells us that “Patrick McCartney (1804 to 1874) was my great, great grandfather. This year will mark150 years ago since he bought the lease for the 66 acre Pennyburn estate in Derry at an auction for £1505 in 1865 just after the ruins of the windmill were demolished .The old Pennyburn windmill dated back to the middle of the 17th century and was a strategic stronghold for the Jacobite troops and can be seen on ‘The Neville Map’ of 1689.”

Patrick McCartney restored the remaining flour mills (water mills) to their former glory and Pennyburn again became a thriving business. The music on this album is inspired by events mainly from the period 1865 until 1912 when John McCartney JP died and Brendan’s grandmother Catherine McCartney left for England.

The music on the album follows events in the history of the McCartneys, such as John Takes on the Railway named after a famous court case, and the most modern sounding track on the recording;  Cassie’s Farewell to Parnell,  a reference to the flawed statesman who was a frequent visitor to the house where Cassie McCartney entertained him by playing the piano.

The whole work is an original re-imagining of life in late 19th century Ireland, and being centred on the fortunes of one family it has not only a ring of truth but also an air of poignancy to it. The work is held up by two pillars of piping tunes, the opening lament The Last McCartney’s of Pennyburn and the closing John’s Victory a jaunty multi-instrumental melody complete with 19th century banjo and a peel of bells, that tune in particular deserves to be shared around the traditional music community. If I had to recommend a track it would be the complex and menacing The Pennyburn Windmill, a big waltz, harking to the Catholic Mediterranean for its inner momentum.
Brendan is also an excellent singer, his rendition of the traditional When My Love and I Parted is melodically close to the better known May Morning Dew. The album contains a booklet which goes into detail of the McCartneys history and the impact they had in Derry.

There are 11 tracks each with notes on the musical interpretation, it is being promoted in the UK by Alan O’Leary of Copperplate and is one of the most interesting pieces of original music to appear this year.

Seán Laffey


Padraig Rynne’s Notify & Pauline Scanlon

Own Label, PRCD003,

4 Tracks, 18 Minutes

Notify have been busy touring this collaboration with Pauline Scanlon around Ireland at the moment and it’s well worth taking the time to go to see them.

The tour and this four track EP is a specially commissioned project that has been six months in the writing and planning with the aim being to explore the breadth of fusion between modern electronic soundscapes and the tapestry of traditional sound with a view to broadening interest in Irish music.

Padraig Rynne’s conception, Notify, is an ensemble featuring of Cillian King on guitar, Eoin Walsh on electric bass with guests Jeremy Kittel and Donagh Hennessy on strings along with Shane O’Sullivan on percussion. Together with Pauline at the vocal helm they personify the creativity that can be unleashed when given the space to breathe musically and this is a major part of the first track, The Carrington Event, inspired by the solar storm of 1859, where the individuality of instrumental movement surpasses expectation as the group fully immerse themselves in a languid backdrop beat with an overlay of a fusion of genres ignited in sound.

The Advanced Knowledge Set again maintains a structure whilst allowing for individual creativity to shine. Rynne’s concertina takes the lead in this stunning piece that has so much distinctive detail that you could put it on repeat and still find a new gem within.

It gets even more interesting when Scanlon adds her vocal layer of lightness to the dark echo of the instrumental backdrop on the remaining tracks. That contrast is exquisitely powerful in its presentation in The Limerick Rake which, I have to say, is one of the most stunning, immersive versions of that song I have heard to date.

That hypnotic vibe remains right through to the fading notes of the last track, Bog Braon, where a softer instrumental accompaniment still maintains a striking contrast to the light, fluidity of the lyricism.

A compelling new landscape of innovative sound that lures you into its intriguing musical fold and, believe me, you won’t want to leave.

Eileen McCabe