Releases > Releases July 2016

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Kind Providence
12 Tracks, 53 Minutes

This is another stunning album from Niamh and Graham, they don’t make many of them but when they do they put their hearts and souls into the enterprise and always make an album that will last the course of time. Both are respected masters of their arts, the bulk of this album highlights the voice of Niamh with one tune track The Monaghan Jig from Dunne’s guitar. Playing guitar isn’t all about the fancy fast stuff, and Graham brings both weight and lightness to his backing. Take the opening track Across The Blue Mountains, the guitar has a presence that echoes the sound of a mountain dulcimer, the track developing a keyboard drone and bird song, as if it was recorded on an Appalachian ridge in Pennsylvania.
Niamh sings Daffodil Mulligan unaccompanied, there’s laughter in her voice as she sings this old Dublin favourite, it could have descended into a music hall pastiche, but Niamh brings a folk singer’s sensitivity to this Harry O’Donovan classic.
The Shores of Lough Bran opens with a cello like drone; Niamh is at the strong lower end of her range here on this emigration song, there’s a touch of anger in the voice as if to say ‘I am hopping mad to be leaving Ireland’. That ability to live in the song has been a feature of Niamh work since the early 1990s and on Kind Providence that power is at it most heightened on the a–cappella track Aughrim’s Great Disaster.
Niamh and Graham are not content with the hackneyed, their choice of songs, for example Robert Burn’s The Slave’s Lament, or Briege Murphy’s Lappin hark back to the end of the eighteen century and an age of revolution. The Slave’s Lament is played by Graham with a swing; almost French café jazz in its syncopation, anyone familiar with the Rag Foundation will recognise the vibe. When Fortune Turns Its Wheel has become something of a guitarist test piece after the playing of Aaron Jones, yet here Niamh tackles this sensitive Scottish song on her own and in doing so, brings out its simple moving message. As a contrast the most produced track on the album is the closing Carrickfergus, with shimmering backing and a forthright piano accompaniment from Elena Alekseeva, Niamh’s voice isn’t overshadowed by the lushness here, we believe her when she sings:
Ah, to be back now in Carrickfergus
On that long road down to the sea.
A few years ago I said Niamh’s voice reminded me of a rich Rioja, and her voice is maturing, it has depth, subtle flavours and a kick just where and when it is needed, served alongside Graham Dunne’s guitar this album is a pleasure from start to finish. In Spain they’d call this a VP vintage, or a grand cru as they say in Bordeaux and Malahide.
Seán Laffey

Inspired by Chance
Own Label GSE CD4
10 Tracks, 42 Minutes
A fourth album from a band I’m soon going to have to stop describing as young – they’ve been around for AGES at this point! Inspired by Chance starts as it means to continue, with deep growling fiddle and banjo, followed up on surprisingly delicate piano box, both tracks backed by solid guitar and drum. The line–up is unchanged from previous recordings, and the band’s established chemistry keeps things tight and exciting. Áine McGeeney plays fiddle and whistle, with James Harvey on banjo and Tadhg Ó Meachair on keys. Conal O’Kane’s guitars and Colm Phelan’s percussion complete the Goitse sound. Áine’s high sweet voice delivers three songs, two traditional and one written recently by Finbar Magee: all three are powerful and moving, high themes of human dignity and suffering brought to a personal level.
On the instrumental side, almost half the material here is the band’s own compositions, and they fit comfortably alongside tunes by Tommy Peoples, Paddy O’Brien, Josephine Keegan and Tóla Custy. There’s a handful of older traditional melodies too, mostly clustered at the end of the album. Reels and jigs are the order of the day, with a high tempo throughout: First–Class Bananas is a typical example, driving rhythms with tasty modern reels thrown over the top, played with flair and feeling. Caillte provides a gentler moment, a lovely slip–jig by Tadhg, building to a Patsy Touhey version of Rip the Calico. The final track is an intriguing medley of a fling I know as The Lad with the Plaidie, the Bothy Band slide Rosie Finn’s, and the Sliabh Luachra classic Art O’Keefe’s.
There is at least one track from Inspired by Chance on the Goitse website, so check it out.
Alex Monaghan

Modal Citizen
Own Label JNBS002 12 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Josie Nugent’s album Modal Citizen is a ‘run the gamut,’ through styles, genres, compositions and arrangements. Her sweet and versatile fiddling is a beacon on several tracks and Brian Stafford’s pipe playing is enchanting. On flute, Mary Nugent makes a dramatic appearance in Lisfannon Sundays, which is a great sweep of a melody and an array of instruments. It has an almost orchestral feel to it, with tasty percussive sounds coming from Mark Wilson. Sean O’Donnell is a stellar on guitar, allowing great width and breadth to the layering, in preparation for the exuberant finish. There is a spiritual energy to this tune, a sense of the communal, a rhythmic mystical piece that lives up to its nostalgic title. Jimmy Doyle’s barn dances are spirited as are the jigs, Champion/Matt Nugent’s favourite/jig for Francie Cahill. The innovative and skilful playing is showcased in these tunes – brilliant players in a purely traditional setting, who move easily in and out of the more contemporary pieces. At the brow of the oak grove (Eádan Doire), is a delicately made piece, with hints of rivers flowing, tidal ebbs, serenity and enchanting places.
The final track, Reel for Mary McGuire/Paddy on the Turnpike/Molly Bawn sustains long after the last note is played. Precise and rhythmic playing, accomplished, sure footed fiddling from Josie Nugent. Throughout the album, fiddlers Nigel Boullier, Diana Boullier and Geordie McAdam play gracefully and with the obvious ease of a band of players that have celebrated making music together for years.
Fiddle and pipes are the dominant instruments but the flute, guitar and percussive instruments combine to give Modal Citizen a unique sound. While acknowledging that the roots are in pure traditional music, this album could find itself comfortably placed in the ‘world music’ category.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Grace & Glory
Celtic Collections CCCD1075
12 Tracks, 45 Minutes
(iTunes exclusive has 13 tracks,
Total Duration, 49 Minutes)
Grace and Glory is the new studio album from The High Kings. The compilation comprises 12 tracks, and a bonus track, Ireland’s Call when bought on iTunes. Grace and Glory showcases all that is Irish music. These genuine devotees of Irish music have once again brought out the best in the sing along ballad genre.
From the onset we are taken on a trip down memory lane with our musical heritage. Hand Me Down My Bible, written by Phil Coulter in 1970 for The Dubliner’s Luke Kelly, opens the new album. Coulter wrote an extra verse especially for this High Kings version. And it works.
Grace and Glory also features the track, Schoolday’s Over which the band recently performed on the RTE Centenary Broadcast, written by Ewan MacColl. The album also features such classics as Spancil Hill, Ride On, Grace, The Green Fields of France and more. At no stage are we bored with these often played tracks. The High Kings as always put their own stamp to each tune and a whole new lease of life is experienced in the music.
The High Kings walk–on song for every live show, is Thin Lizzy’s The Boys Are Back In Town. This new album features a folked–up cover version of the 40 year old classic and the band have successfully brought it into the contemporary world with their own musical style.
Even the old bar room chestnut Goodnight Irene takes on a whole new style of its own on Grace and Glory. There’s a real poignancy to this production.
A real sense of newness to this classical list of songs. But one way or another, The High Kings have once again brought our favourite songs and reinvented them in their own way. And it just works.
Grainne McCool

False Deceiver
Own Label
AGACD01–16 10 Tracks, 39 Minutes

False Deceiver is the new album by Kern, a County Louth contemporary folk band. The band comprises Brendan McCreanor (uilleann pipes and whistle), Barry Kieran (fiddle) and SJ McArdle (vocals and guitar). All three members hail from Louth, and this is clearly echoed in this collection which embodies songs and music from all across their county, alongside some new self composed tunes.
The album opens with the head on tradfest that is Misty a vigorous and powerful instrumental feat from the group. The second track Leaving emerges into folk territory. McArdle’s deep, yet compassionate voice, alongside the pipe playing, generating an element of peace and a calming mood. Storytelling is experienced during The Hard Wind and reflects on the trials and tribulations faced by the Irish soldiers during WWI. This is very apt now a centenary later. Displacement by love is explored in Rocks of Bonnie Gibraltar and a very dear tribute to Louth in Louth Set show- cases the uilleann pipe playing of McCreanor and fiddle by Kieran. False Deceiver remains lively and full of musical life to the very end. Haggard Floor creates flamboyant imagery for us, the listener, as the vocals are compelling to the close. False Deceiver finishes as it began with a most enjoyable instrumental in William Taylor/The Tempest.
This album never wavers in its musical flair. It succeeds in combining all three members’ diverse traditions in a very contemporary way.
Grianne McCool

Clear Skies
Own Label ADC 002 11 Tracks, 44 Minutes

The band has expanded into a five piece since I first saw them play live on a dark November night at the Armagh City Hotel. Back then they were a three piece, now with the addition of Dermot Mulholland on vocals, bouzouki, and double bass and Dermot Moynagh on percussion, this Belfast band have become something else altogether.
Their line–up features twin uilleann pipes, whistles, bodhrán, guitar, bouzouki, double bass and vocals. When Réalta initially made a name for themselves, they were unusual, those two sets of uilleann pipes set them apart. Those pipes feature on a popping parcel of tunes from Asturias as Saltón De Meres opens the album in an exuberant burst of joy, and then shifts into a deeply rhythmic Pasacais del Xarreru. The Longford Weaver also known as Nancy Whiskey begins with a duet of pipes and bouzouki, the singing of Dermy Mulholland matches the chopped rhythm of the bouzouki beat for beat, you can hear every word, a must if you’d like to learn the song and who wouldn’t as this is such an infectious tune, the arrangement carries you along with a high–proof spirit. The instrumental tracks take no prisoners, the Rakes of Clonmel is a big tune that would be at home at any outdoor festival, Réalta tackle it without hesitation nor shyness, it’s bold and brazen, with a wailing bridge as the jig curves into the Glenshane Pass, and a nice little hop step thrown in before the set closes on a high revving O’Leary’s Motorbike.
They dive into Paddy Ryan’s Dream, a splash from the cymbals and then a deep pool of solemn piping before the tune moves into dance mode as the whistle takes the lead. The set gets an energy injection as the bodhrán signals Darach de Brún’s Maple Leaf. (If Flook played pipes they’d sound like this I thought.) They bring the pace down with an unusual setting of Tabhair Dom do Lámh, starting on a variation of the tune from the guitar, the melody becoming familiar as the low whistle and bodhrán take up the main motif, then as if to doff the cap to Paddy Moloney the pipes finish the tune in traditional style.
The album closes with Bill Malley’s Barn Dance on harp–like strings and duetting whistles. They keep this combination together as the final minute moves up tempo with John McKenna’s Reel.
This could become one of my favourite albums of the year; on Clear Skies you can see the stars.
Réalta have grown bigger, bolder and braver and this is one of the best CDs to have come out of Ireland in 2016.
Seán Laffey

Fallen Bird
4 Tracks, 21 Minutes

This is a short EP release showcasing this Alternate Folk group from Waterford. With just four tracks they do manage to give us a very good taste of what they have to offer and make us thirst for more. The title track Fallen Bird is probably the strongest on offer here and with some radio play could certainly launch the group. It is a catchy tune with some interesting lyrics. They follow this with Waiting on the Water that again showcases the strong vocals allied to a good instrumental backing.
The all too short CD ends with the appropriately titled Outro. This is a more melancholy offering that bears some close listening to the lyrics. One is left eager to hear not only more from In The Willows but the insert tells us all too little about the band, its composition and the four good songs on offer here.
No doubt all of this will be expanded upon as we hear from the group in the future with no doubt a full album.
Nicky Rossiter

The Revolution
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 38 Minutes

Opening with a powerful song and rendition that is Revolution you will not be able to ignore this very strong album. He slows things down for Mount Street Bridge which sounds autobiographical and as such it is delivered with a loving care that transmits to the listener. All the tracks are from the pen of the performer and show us a very talented artiste who will have much to offer in songs that are strong, personal and thought provoking in turn. Nowhere is this more evident than in Confession, a song that makes the listener wonder about life and indeed the song itself. Similarly Mother will have us wondering about the context. I would really have liked an insert giving us some background on these excellent compositions although they are very enjoyable in all their enigmatic beauty. Raindrops has the feel of an old style crooner ballad in the opening words but then gathers a wonderful powerful delivery that will have your toes tapping. The clear voice is a great asset in delivering the well written lyrics on offer on this album and it is complemented greatly in the guest on Oil and Water, Wallis Bird.
One hopes that Fiach Moriarty stays true to the title of the final track Won’t Lay Down and continues his writing and performing to give us many more such powerful albums.
Nicky Rossiter

Own Label CD, 11 Tracks, 53 Minutes

As I listen to the magnificent Clann Mhic Ruairí’s Súile CD, I can’t help considering Ireland’s lack of success with foreign ventures in song competitions in recent years, and I wish I could tell festival organisers that they could select just about any one of the tracks on this group’s new CD, and people in other lands would be enthralled at what they hear: the utter beauty of song and singing, exquisite arrangements, and appeal of words and harmonies. The fusion of old and modern in Clann Mhic Ruairí’s CD, Súile, is not only something of a triumph, it’s a total pleasure.
Donegal is to the fore among those Irish counties that produce singing family groups like the Rann na Feirste Mac Ruairí family: Clannad are their near neighbours, the Henry Girls are from Inishowen, and the Patterson family from Letterkenny were really big in the late sixties and early seventies. What’s truly unusual about all of them is their being totally at ease in performing both traditional and modern material. Tá an ceol acu ón gcliabhán – they have the music from the cradle.
There are 11 tracks on the album and the appeal for this listener is the sheer perfection of delivery and presentation; there is no straining for effect anywhere in either the singing, the harmonies or in the arrangements. The singers are accomplished performers and their guest instrumentalists enhance the presentation to make this my number one Irish language song CD of this year or of any year in recent times. Throughout the recording, the haunting atmosphere they create through their performance is truly enthralling and as near to perfection, musically speaking, as one can get.
Clann Mhic Ruairí consists of four brothers, Tony, Aodh, Dónall and Seán, and Tony’s daughter, Megan. It’s always a pleasure to hear familiar songs from the tradition and one such is track 1 on the CD, Dúlamán, but in this instance, sung to an air I haven’t heard before; a good example of the group’s ease in blending the old and the new. The titletrack, Súile, is a composition of Tony’s and Megan’s and deals most movingly with a family tragedy in 2013. They also wrote Síbhean which they were inspired to write by hearing of the mistreatment experienced by the Native American Oglala Lakota nation in the 1800s. I loved hearing again the much–loved Donegal songs that include Siobhán Ní Dhuibhir, Thíos i Lár an Ghleanna, and Máire Bhruinneal. This is a CD I’ll keep near to hand to listen to over and over again. Check it out for yourself at iTunes and cdbaby.
Aidan O’Hara

The Final Waltz
Fellside FECD270
9 Tracks, 55 Minutes
Just out of his teens, this Irish style fiddler has already made a name for himself in his native England with singer Greg Russell, winning a couple of BBC awards and playing major festivals. The idea for a solo album came when Ciaran was looking for a gap year project between school and college, and evolved from there.
Initially conceived as an instrumental album, The Final Waltz also became a vehicle for Ciaran’s original songs and his accompaniment skills. Enlisting singer Sam Kelly and a number of backing vocalists, Ciaran has written three songs and arranged a fourth here, providing input on fiddle, banjo, guitars, mandolin, bouzouki and percussion. The other half of The Final Waltz is five fiddle tracks, mainly Irish tunes but with a few outliers. Algar’s fiddling is strong, rhythmic, driving. He lacks some of the polish and poise of many young Irish fiddlers – his slow delivery of Killarney Boys of Pleasure doesn’t really suit his style – but he has bags of energy on Popcorn Behaviour, MacArthur Road and Sheila Coyle’s. Fluter Toby Shaer joins in on his own pleasant jig Josh’s Slip, following on from a tasty rendition of The Luckpenny.
The final Wild Geese is a delicately played air, with minimal accompaniment and cleverly arranged variations in the fiddle part. The Final Waltz is an experiment, and it mostly succeeds. There are some very adventurous moments in the accompaniment, and the mixing levels are surprising at times with the backing vocals and instrumental duets kept at very low levels, but in general this is exciting and enjoyable music. The fiddling is the strong point: the songs don’t have the same level of engagement, and the two halves don’t really fit together for me. Sam Kelly’s very English voice handles the emotions of Ciaran’s three compositions, and the gentler traditional Until We Meet Again, with aplomb, but the mood of these vocal tracks is dark and depressing, even when there is a sort of grey daylight at the end of the story. Ciaran’s lyrics are all printed in the detailed booklet which comes with this CD, so if you need a bit of a downer for your next gig you can learn one of these – they are all well crafted songs, nicely arranged, but now that Ciaran has set foot on the slippery slope of singer–songwriterdom it might be an idea to separate this from his fiddle music. Despite the fact that the songs and instrumentals are constantly interleaved, The Final Waltz is an album of two halves for me, both with their own merits, a fine achievement by a young man with plenty of promise.
Alex Monaghan

Behind Yon Mountain
Own Label AK02 15 Tracks, 56 Minutes
Ann Kirrane is a singer and musician with a pedigree, the daughter of concertina legend Chris Droney from Bellharbour County Clare. She is an accomplished concertina player in her own right and takes up the instrument on this recording too, but subtly, and as this is an album of songs. Working with long time musical partner Gary O’Briain, Ann has created a wonderfully clean sound. Years of performing in stage productions means she has a confidence in her singing and a technique that is at once powerful and emotionally expressive.
Her backing musicians include O’Briain on piano, guitars and his trademark mandocello, the guitarist Seamie O’Dowd and Dermot Byrne on the accordion. With Ronan Greene and Seamus McGuire adding fiddle, Éamonn Cotter on flute and Padraig Stevens on percussion, this is a seriously talented crew to be working with and Ann’s voice shines in this stellar company.
The choice of songs is wide and with 15 of them on the album she gets to showcase her big range, from the jaunty tongue in cheek Headin’ Back to Doolin, to Liffeyside which comes form the Delia Murphy songbook.
There are folk classics to in the ballad of John Condon, and Edward on Loch Erne Shore, a reworking of the Clannad inspired Two Sisters (the intro is very inventive). Her Song of Bernadette reflects her passion for Church music, whilst Mick Curry’s 2000 Years After Jesus is a wry secular comment on modern Ireland. She does a commanding job of Finbar Magee’s Belfast Love and her voice is at its purest on Jimmy mo Mhile Stór, Bheir Mí Ó and Crucán na bPáiste, the accompaniment on the Irish songs is bare, leaving Ann in full control of the song and the story.
The gatefold album is beautifully presented, with information on each track, the whole work, production, choice of material and presentation is excellent.
Seán Laffey