Releases > Releases July 2017

Want to see earlier releases? Visit the archive.

Musical Bridge
Cordeen, CDN001, 12 Tracks, 40 Minutes
Benny McCarthy and Conor Moriarty from Ireland have teamed up with Newfoundlanders Graham Wells and Billy Sutton. All four play the button box. The title says it in Ronseal style, it is a musical link between the two folk cultures, that although separated by thousands of miles share the same roots.
Irish music came to Newfoundland as the cod fisheries developed in the 18th and 19th century. For a century the accordion has been the main folk instrument in Newfoundland and has a rich catalogue of tunes in its repertoire. Cordeen have done a masterful job of bringing the two traditions together. Not in a crass mash up, where tunes fit neatly, they do so as in Herb Reid’s which they combine with a new Irish polka.
Maire Rua/The Cook in the Galley is a clever pairing of an old Irish slip jig, from the late 1700s, with what the band describe as a big Newfoundland jig in the bright key of A. Other tunes are left to breathe their own air. Eleanor Plunkett stands alone, yet combines all the boxes in one of the deepest most moving interpretations I have heard of the Carolan tune. Equally the rendition here of Roisin Dubh raised the hairs on the back of my head, as simple and as heartfelt as you could wish.
Graham Wells surprises, delights and wins you over as a singer. He sounds Irish, and this is not a faux accent, as ‘Newfie’ has strong elements of the Deise twang at its core. Billy Sutton sings the very funny Mick Relligan’s Pup, while Graham sings the more serious Tickle Cove Pond. The latter song to the melody of Tatter Jack Walsh, it might just be the definitive version of this very popular Newfoundland song.
Some of the titles are intriguing. For example the selection of Bridget’s/ The Lyubov Orlova, I was expecting something Slavic as the second tune, but no, it is a lively Newfoundland reel with a minor tone to it, named after a Yugoslavian cruise ship that was impounded in Saint John’s in 2012 and eventually broke free. Modern legend says it became a ghost ship. This shows how vibrant the Newfoundland tradition is; new tunes are being composed right now inspired by people, places and events.
If you are a fan of accordion music, and certainly if you are a player, there is so much here to immerse yourself in. If this is a new direction in accordion ensembles it is a bridge worth taking, no matter which side of the pond you begin the crossing.
Sean Laffey

Alive Beo
Kíla Records,
KRCD016, 9 Tracks, 50 Minutes

Fans of Kíla will love this CD – capturing as it does the essence of Kíla’s high voltage 2016 tour in differing venues like Vicar Street and Tallaght’s Civic Theatre. And for listeners less familiar with Kíla’s legendary live shows, it’s a rousing musical insight into the power and diversity that defines Kíla’s music, not least on concert favourite, An Tiománaí, with its explosive drive, rich Irish lyrics, ethnocultural tone and a powerful new reel at the pulse of it.
The band is still fronted by Rónán, Rossa and Colm Ó Snodaigh. Kíla’s Alive Beo gives voice to the group’s enduring appeal but also reveals a narrative fearlessness – take the song Raise the Road with its pared back backing and vocal harmonies, all the better to accentuate lyrics with a very real emotional kick. The album includes ALDOC flautist, Alan Doherty, with his exquisite flute-playing lifts, lending a magnificent element. Here is music that reveals itself in the cross-sections and turns – contrast the kinetic energy of Electric Landlady to the sweetness of James Mahon’s pipes on Matatu or the linguistically rich lovesong Babymouse. Contradictory styles that somehow don’t contradict. Skinheads with its deceptively loose acoustic freestyle mellow opening ends in a full force dynamic torrent wrapped in well crafted original arrangements.
Much has been written about Kíla’s multicultural ethos, but this album is also a distillation of the various members’ diverse creative output inside and outside the band – Colm, Rossa and Rónán’s various books and solo recordings, Dee’s college degree in stage design, James’ previous role as AfroCelts piper, Brian and Dave’s wedding and rock bands, Seanán’s Reggae and covers bands coupled with collaborations with the best composers, animators and documentary makers, add to that two new songs citing gold – Ór agus Airgead and Pota Óir. Richness indeed.
Deirdre Cronin

Zoë Conway & JOHN McINTYRE
Own Label,
13 Tracks, 52 Minutes

Another recording soon after this young fiddle and guitar duo’s last release, and this one is just as enjoyable but surprisingly different. Recorded over a short German tour in 2016, the music is showy and exciting, with plenty of crowd–pleasers, stretching the talents of two people but delivering a very polished performance. In addition to Zoë’s sparkling assured fiddle and John’s sensitive accompaniment, the pair deliver three songs (two in Irish, plus Ger Wolfe’s moving Curra Road) and a number of jazz-swing pieces where McIntyre’s guitar comes to the fore with remarkable brilliance.
Starting with Simon Jeffes’ 90s favourite Tune for a Found Harmonium, returned to Irish music a generation after Patrick Street recorded it. Conway and McIntyre next play a set of Donegal and downhome fiddle tunes ending on Mark O’Connor’s Calgary Polka which isn’t a polka at all. The surprises continue with the pairing of Jim McKillop’s country-style Half Moon Waltz and Quebec’s virtuoso Reel du Pendu. The achingly beautiful air Paddy’s Rambles Through the Park opens a complex medley of jigs and reels with John delicately picking out Scartaglen before Zoë joins him and leads into John Doherty’s and the Bothy Band classic Farewell to Erin. Zoë’s high gentle voice is effective on The Curra Road, less so on A Ghaoth Andeas, and the vocal duet Dúlamán is not as powerful as the well-known Altan version although its pairing with a Sliabh Luachra slide is inspired. Part of the problem with these songs is that they seem much quieter than the instrumentals. Eclectic tune choices continue with compositions by Liz Carroll, Mairtín O’Connor and Scottish piper Robert Mathieson, culminating in an absolutely stellar rendition of Tiger Rag with both Zoë and John taking jazz solos to a level rarely heard from traditional players.
Conway and McIntyre sign off with an unexpectedly brief clip of the totally traditional reel Boys of Malin - rumour suggests the recording was cut short when the audience stormed the stage, bearing these two Irish heroes aloft to the nearest Bierkeller to continue a suitably lubricated session well into the Morgendämmerung, but I wouldn’t know anything about that.
Alex Monaghan

Haul Away
CD & DVD, Trad Nua, NFCDDVD03, 10 Tracks, 36 Minutes
Haul Away is Na Fianna’s third live album and they are still re-interpreting some of the best loved ballads. Here we have Bold Donnelly and Hard Times being the bread in the meaty sandwich of ten tracks. However, much of the remaining material is freshly composed by the band. Oh Busker Óg from their banjo player Hugh Finn, recalls that apprenticeship of many Irish folksingers, busking for coppers.
The band’s accordion player comes in with This Little Nation. Beginning with a banjo and accordion duet, its stuttering rhythm setting up the main song that is soon echoing the spirit of the Waterboy’s Spiddal sojourn. My Father an original song by Hugh Finn is a warm upbeat homage to his dad, who loves to sing Sean–nos songs. It ends with a hint of a Kerry polka, very tasty. The title track is from the sea-shanty Haul Away Joe, a favourite of the late Liam Clancy. Na Fianna begin it very quietly, before building up into a pulsing rocking mesmerising anthem. I made a note, ‘that’s a new way to do it.’
The album was recorded in Stable Studio, Kilternan Dublin, and like much of the output from the label, there is a DVD showing us how the songs were performed during the recording session, and yes they really are a band having a blast in a session. This gives the album a piquant zingy freshness. An interesting feature of the DVD is the interview that takes place before each song, giving us an insight into these lads and their music. The CD’s liner notes come with all the words of the songs and background information. An album of fresh takes on the familiar and perceptive writing of songs for this new century.
Sean Laffey

Man in the Moon Records, 12 Tracks, 39 Minutes
Steve Wickham’s Beekeeper, is a combination of traditional, folk and classical musical that defies genre. Opening with a spoken word piece, “and the band played on”, Wickham employs the depth of male voice in contrast with the female chorus. A ballad-poem, written in free verse, it is a captivating piece of original work. Ger Wolfe makes a robust contribution with Song of Lost Things, a nostalgia song, lyrics that seek to ‘find our merry way back home.’ The repeated refrain ‘Rosaleen, where are you?’ is highly effective, the melody captivating. Here, as in other tracks the theme of water, rivers, the tide, sand and nature feature.
The violin and guitar are especially tight, the accompaniment appropriate and sweet. Robert Frost’s line ‘promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep,’ is incorporated in Stopping by Woods, wonderfully rendered by Mike Scott. Fractured by the Lost Brothers has a Willie Nelson flavour, a heart breaking song, where the spiritual, philosophical and profane exist side by side. Here again, Steve’s violin playing is stellar.
The Bohemian is a short snippet of a movie soundtrack, tantalising, evocative, full of depth and emotion, suggestive of a sweeping landscape and cinematography. Bruno Caliciuri’s song Sombres Soeurs de L’Amour has echoes of the Waterboys, in terms of lyrics, accompaniment, rhythm and arrangement. This album crosses urban and rural themes, cityscapes and bucolic idylls, its originality defies categorisation. Wickham’s violin is the gel, the vital ingredient, solid, consistent throughout in this unique representation of contemporary Irish music.
Ann-Marie Kennedy

The Long Walk
Backwest Music, BWMMCD001, 12 Tracks, 40 Minutes
On the cusp of their first anniversary as a group and BackWest are already making waves on the live circuit for their diversity in performance and synergy of style. This isn’t surprising as the instrumental, vocal and dance performance capacity is vast as the band is comprised of Arcady Alumni; fiddle player Maureen Browne, her dextrous box playing brother Brendan, Peter Vickers of the Lord of the Dance line-up and the extraordinary vocal and whistle of Donaghmore’s PJ McDonald.
The vocal might be from a steeped Tyrone legacy, however the music emulates the name as there’s more than a nuance of Galway gizmo at play in their debut album; The Long Walk. They fire into The Galavantin’ Reel set with a tornado twist of phrasing that ably showcases their individual flair. The frenetic pace, although fascinating, would wear the ear out if the whole album was driven this way but no, the group show a mighty respect for each tune which is showcased in the stark, drawn notes of the hauntingly emotive slow air, Amhrán na Leabhair, which Maureen learnt from the legendary playing of Matt Cranitch.
Her fiddle adapts deftly to the sentiment of note throughout the album and dances with definition over the earthy bass tones of the box. The box combines intricacy of note with a percussive underlay, none more so then in the opening bars of Making Tracks where defined pace gives way to a deftness of play before the band provide a lifting backdrop to the percussive steps of Vickers.
There’s a trademark authenticity to the vocal of McDonald and this resounds in the two songs chosen for the debut. The Flower of Sweet Strabane is set to a superlative instrumental backdrop, which entwines with the passion in the delivery of the tale and the second is the much-loved Nancy’s Whiskey (or some might say The Calton Weaver) which, no matter the version or the name, draws you in and keeps you there right to the end. A vibrant articulation of play from instrumental to vocal to step is what you get from The Long Walk. This debut’s on fire.
Eileen McCabe

Another Skin Too Few
Lacken Music, LACKCD006. 12 Tracks, 53 Minutes
Sliabh Luachra honoured, and explored by local musicians. The word ‘Friends’ is what strikes the keynote across this CD but is also at the heart of its concept. I’m not the first reviewer to focus on Tim O’Shea’s longstanding intuition for drawing good musicians together. While Tim’s own guitar sounds and vocals string an element of melodic clarity throughout, the Kerry core is held by Fossa-based Michael D Kelliher (Accordion, Melodeon, Harmonica) and Rosie Healy from Headford (Flute, Whistle, Vocal Harmony) in a blend of beautiful music that slides, lifts, re-imagines tempo, explores Sliabh Luachra’s legacy and ventures outside it as well, songs by Scotland’s Karine Polwart and Robert Burns.
In terms of concept, Friends is also a clue to the laudatory edge of Tim O’Shea’s vision, an artistic wish to commemorate legends like Paddy Cronin (Killarney & Boston), John Cronin (Aghadoe & New York). Lovely slow tempo on jigs like Saddle the Pony. In Dan Leary’s/The Clog Polka. Sliabh Luachra is musically explored in a style showcasing the sultry sensual side of it more than the kinetic energy associated with this music. Tim’s voice has a great melodic tone. His own composition sung to Paddy’s Lamentation has the potential to improve over the years; it began as a funeral eulogy which has provided some great lines for the lyrics. I feel it will get better as a song the more Tim sings it.
The songs sit alongside classic tunes from icons like the Cronins; young musician Stephen Carroll and the late uilleann Piper Con Durham. All friends ‘gone too soon from us’. A beguiling simplicity in the press release reflects the integrity behind this CD. Local music, shaped and influenced by local musicians.
Deirdre Cronin

The Irishman’s Daughter
Roheen Records, RR008, 12 Tracks, 47 Minutes
This album was a long time in the making, with tracks being recorded in at least 3 different studios. Kitty Donohoe is a musician and singer based in Ann Arbor Michigan. She is like the title of the album, an Irishman’s daughter. On this recording she explores her roots and her relationship with Ireland, its lore, its wider culture and its music.
The CD opens with a haunting piano version of Star of the County Down, slowed down, exposing the melody in all its nuanced beauty. Kitty explores her own biography in the songs Working for Mrs O’Leary and Fish on Friday’s, where she looks as an outsider on the Catholic traditions of the Irish Diaspora, balancing the mystery of faith with the envy of those gorgeous communion dresses.
Her son Jesse sings the traditional song Bonny Blue Eyed Lassie, which we know in Ireland from the Bess Cronin Collection. Other traditional songs include The Lark in the Morning and the Australian bushranger ballad Bold Jack Donohoe. The bulk of the album is devoted to her own compositions; these include a historical look at Irish recruitment during the American Civil war in Abe Lincoln’s Army. The middle of the album features a lively tune she composed called Sneaking Up the Hill and the title track is the final track, delivering a round eclectic dozen for the whole album. Her own songs favour the jig rhythm, which means they are easy on the ear and would transfer to any session in Ireland.
She has a fine posse of players on the album and adds her guitar, cittern and piano to a number of tracks. Kitty is making a name for herself in Irish America and you can see why from the high quality of the work here.
Seán Laffey

Falls On You
Own Label, No Catalogue Number, 16 Tracks, 71 Minutes
Larry Mathews is originally from Kerry, and may be familiar as an ex-member of the band Spailpín, but he is now based in Germany, where this CD was recorded with local musicians Ralph Buhr (guitar/ mandolin), Henning Wulf (whistle/flute) and Bernd Haseneder (bodhrán), members of his band Blackstone. All the material is self-penned, and 16 tracks on this CD provide ample proof that he can craft a good song or two. The genre is loosely folk/rock, with more than a hint of The Waterboys and Christie Hennessy appearing to this listener.
The arrangements of the songs seem to be deliberately sparse on many of the tracks, with a standard array of folk instruments underpinning his vocals and guitar – mandolin, fiddle, flute and whistle. Mathews himself is a multi-instrumentalist on guitar, fiddle, harmonica and keyboards, and Blackstone are augmented by guest musicians on electric guitar, bass and drums to beef up the sound. However there is little use of vocal layering and harmonies on the CD, which could have enhanced much of the material, and provided some additional dynamics.
Some of the songs are very well-crafted, and could be re-interpreted by other artists. Precious Love benefits from some additional keyboards, Tell Me Why has a nice energy about it, Water And Love is a lovely reflective song, and Palm Of Their Hands closes the CD on a reflective note.
Other tracks to enjoy on this album are A Little Too Late, Meet You Going Down, and Rock Against the Storm.
The album could have been far superficially sparkling if Mathews had worked with a commercially minded producer. What shines here is Mathew’s honesty in his careful delivery of his own songs and his belief in them.
Mark Lysaght

High Street Blues The Garden Plot EP
Own Label. 2 Tracks, 7 Minutes
Regular readers may know that Mick ‘Citern’ Walsh has been a mainstay at Cleere’s Monday night trad sessions in Kilkenny for nearly thirty years. He’s a bit of a resident bard, and like song makers of old is well able to cast a jaundice eye over contemporary culture.
This short two track EP would make a great souvenir if you are ever in Irishtown Kilkenny of a Monday evening; the two tracks show the breadth of Mick’s writing and musicality. The High Street Blues features Mick on guitar, with Lotta Virkkunen on fiddle, Eva Phelan on cello and Martin Horohan on drums. It’s a homage to the street buskers and to the changing face of the High Street in Kilkenny but could refer to any rural town. The other track, The Garden Plot, is shorter. The music is string dominated with Mick on cittern, and guitar, his son Gerry also on guitar and Alan Hughes on cittern and bass bouzouki. The song is about the coming of summer in Ireland and the need to get outdoors and blow a few cobwebs off your mind. Mick implores us to take the air for a bit of digging, jogging or fishing. His chorus goes, ‘You can have the Television, you can have our only laptop, you can have the house all to yourself, I’m away to the garden plot.’ This could become the theme song for Men’s sheds up and down the country.
Seán Laffey