Releases > Releases July 2018

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Whirling Discs WHRL019, 13 Tracks, 53 Minutes
Ok folks, here’s my little version of heaven; a lazy day in a west of Ireland pub, sitting around playing tunes and singing songs with a few mates, no TV, no loud chat from the punters and their calls for more pints, no distraction. Dream on you say. Get yourself a copy of Payday from the Unwanted, close your eyes and imagine a panelled bar in Sligo, you have a seat at the musician’s table; you are in the circle from the very first track of this album. Sip away and listen.
There is a retrospective zeitgeist at work in the tradition at the moment, songs from the 1960s and 70s are being rediscovered, Daoiri Farrell and Radie Peat are exporting them at the double new time and so are The Unwanted. The Unwanted are living ambassadors for that older music, they never lost it, they’ve kept it in their carpetbags for years.
Cathy Jordan, Seamie O’Dowd and Rick Epping, bring along the five string banjo, guitar, concertina, fiddle, bouzouki, ukulele, and more, to give this album a folksy down home flavour. Even on tracks that might seem to belong elsewhere: Phil Lynott’s It’s Only Money or Rory Gallagher’s Don’t Know Where I’m Going. They dip into English Morris music with Old Molly Oxford, hit the Irish dance floor with Memories of Ballymote and the Gurteen Cross, and have a chuckle and a cackle with the classic old-timey Who Broke the Lock. Cathy delves into the darker side of folk song with the gothic re-imagining of Scarborough Fair that is The Tri Coloured House. Seamie O’Dowd brings us youthful bluesy Americana with Wedding Dress and Kitchen Girl, whilst Rick Epping, not shy about his advanced years, sings Weevily Wheat and Whoa Back Back delivered in song-catcher style. Cathy has What Will We do When We Have No Money? (Check out its backstory in issue 273 of IMM), it is a gentle song from the travelling community. There is an equally gentle ending when Cathy sings Sweet RoSeánne, a parting shanty from the Menhaden fishery of Virginia; it is as if the blinds were down and the music is taking us into the magical after hours of the lock in. Payday was made in Sligo, and it is as near to a heaven as most of us sinners will get.
Seán Laffey

Fiddling without a Bow: Irish Traditional Music on Button Accordion
13 Tracks, 51 Minutes
Traditional accordion aficionados must hear this debut recording from Sligo accordionist, Daithí Gormley. There’s a rich collection of tunes on this recording; each played with consummate ease and flair. The rhythm is exceptional, a very solid, competent musical flow throughout. I found myself drawn to the rhythmic drive of this music; it’s uncluttered, yet controlled and stylish. It bears a strong reminiscence to that of Joe Burke. In fact, Burke endorses this album in the sleeve notes as does P.J. Hernon of South Sligo.
The notes are very well researched, detailing repertoire sourced from a myriad of sources, notably Sligo stalwarts Paddy Killoran, James ‘Lad’ O’Beirne, James Morrisson & Andy Davey. A lot of the tunes come from known composers, from Ed Reavy to Paddy O’Brien, Paddy Fahey & legendary Cork composer Finbarr Dwyer, with whom Daithí had the good fortune to play with on many the occasion. There are lesser knowntunes too, a few gems carefully chosen to be on this album. There’s an inspiring modal feel to many of the tunes, which flows effortlessly throughout. The piano accompaniment is subtle and effective as it complements the tunes tastefully.
There are also some well-known tunes including the Lord Mc Donald’s set displaying very solid, crisp ornamentation and subtle variation to great effect. The Sligo polkas set provides a welcome contrast including a rare polka learned from the melodeon playing of Daithí’s great grandfather. Lots more gems follow on this album, played with a consistent lilting musical flow. The result is captivating and enthralling, the choice of key often lends itself very nicely to the tunes. One of my favourite tracks has to be the waltzes, beautiful tunes marked with a striking simplicity. The latter showcases the dexterity of the playing, lots of nimble triplet runs up and down the keyboard with some tasteful notes added in for good measure. The hornpipes are equally impressive. To conclude, this album really is a must have for all box players, or indeed lovers of pure, solid traditional accordion music.
There’s a mature, polished style and a fine balance of repertoire from the newly composed to the classic box tunes such as The Yellow Tinker. The Sligo box tradition is certainly in safe hands & I’m sure we can expect to hear much more from this talented musician. Brilliant playing – indeed, there’s lots of fiddling here, without a bow.
Edel McLaughlin

Deliriously Happy
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 48 Minutes
Old tunes, an old fiddle, old memories, from one of North America’s top young Irish fiddlers. Dylan Foley is still in his twenties, yet his style, his repertoire, his astonishing technique, but most of all his command of pure Irish traditional music marks him as one of the leading players of his generation. Schooled in the Sligo style that has become almost the default setting in the New York area, from the time of Michael Coleman walked off the boat, Foley has absorbed it all. On this album he looks back to his own familial roots and his grandmother Maggie Smyth, the tunes are played on a fiddle she gave to him and in return he chooses a number of her favourite melodies, Hector The Hero, Jackie Coleman’s and Lady Anne Montgomery. Guests are two and tastefully employed, Matt Mulqueen on piano and Josh Dukes on 12 string guitar and bodhrán.
Dylan is not only a fine interpreter of the old repertoire but is adding to the new with his own composition, in particular the Discontented Man a co-write with Eamon O’Leary. The Liner notes acknowledge the known composers and those notes are a credit to the designer, beautifully legible, succinct and like the album itself tonally balanced.
Dylan coaxes a deep growling throaty sound from his fiddle on the opening medley, which leads off with the Glass of Beer a classic fiddle and piano duet this. There is a lighter touch on the hornpipes: DeDannan’s which effortlessly becomes the minor O’Malley’s March, the set concluding with Conway’s reel, watch out for the bowed burls here and some passing long notes. Dylan’s own hornpipe The Discontented Man has a rhythmic pattern reminiscent of Percy French’s Little Bridget Flynn, and is teamed with, Crabs in the Skillet and the jig Dancing Eyes. He closes the album with a set of three raw tunes, officially bonus tracks, accompanied by the bodhrán. I can see these settings of The Cup of Tea, The Mountain and Lane to the Glen keeping young fiddlers up all night until they have the chops well cooked. With music this good we can all be deliriously happy.
Seán Laffey

Nae Sweets for Shy Bairns
Own Label HBRCD01, 9 Tracks, 42 Minutes
Heather Downie is a young Scottish harpist with an impressive pedigree, having studied the instrument at the Royal Scottish Academy, and she was a finalist for BBC Young Traditional Musician of the Year in 2015. On this CD she is joined by Tia Files on guitar and percussion; together they create a tightly-knit weave of melody and rhythm which can be captivating and hypnotic, always capturing the attention of the listener by the strength of the arrangements, and Downie’s effortless virtuosity.
The opener For The Love Of Levers features two original compositions, one each from Heather and Tia, and includes some impressive bends on the first tune Lady Muck McKay, using the harp levers to change the pitch. The bar is already set high, and as the tracks progress there is more than enough to engage you; Midnight is an impressive selection with thoughtful combination of harp and guitar, William and Wizards is delightfully jazz-tinged, and Messed Up Marches rolls along nicely with its relaxed syncopation; the second tune Midtown March is another impressive self-penned Downie composition.
The album is carefully produced by Heather’s musical mentor Corrina Hewat, who also sings on her own composition Stronger Than You Know which is a particular highlight. Another song, The Best Of Us, co-written with Alisdair Downie, also impresses. Heather is using a top-class Ulysse harp on this recording, and there’s a wonderful depth of sound, which is very engaging. Of the slower tracks, Niel Gow’s Lament For The Death of His Second Wife is filled with emotion, perfectly capturing the inherently raw sadness of the piece. A traditional air, The Field of Gold explores the use of piping techniques on the harp, with an unexpected vocal introduced towards the end. Under The Stars is a wonderfully atmospheric original, which closes this very impressive and enjoyable debut CD.
Mark Lysaght

Much Blindin’ Down the Marsh
LLM02914 Tracks, email:
Jim MacArdle takes us on a musical jaunt round Drogheda on this lively album mixing traditional and new as well as vocals with instrumental. Opening with music only on The Two and Sixpence Girl/The Maid of the Spinning Wheel, he reminds us that these are old tunes, you need only look at the titles. Both will put you in the mood for more. He then brings us a very nice version of Love is Teasing, a song not often heard in these modern times. He hops over the water for Georgie, which he notes as having heard in the 1970s and he seems to have kept it alive ever since. It is a classic story song.
The title track is quintessential Drogheda song as it was written by a local man about unemployment in the area in the post war years. It is one of the   “stand out “ tracks in its jaunty delivery and being a piece of social history. Richard Thompson’s Poor Ditching Boy is a very welcome entry on this CD being one of the best songs to come from the folk revival. Its lyrics bear close attention and are well enunciated on this album. Mrs Merry’s Ball appears to be the local opponent to old Phil the Fluter and it is a worthy competitor. Johnny Sands is another of those wonderful story songs with that wilful Irish sense of humour that must go down very well in live sessions although the story and sentiments have been applied to every county in Ireland. Having said that, the performance here is excellent. He closes with a very interestingly titled Ally With the Long Nose. There also are a number of lovely instrumental pieces culled from performers from Scandinavia and closer to home. This is an album worth your attention and I have no doubt that Jim is an act to seek out in a live setting.
Nicky Rossiter

EP: Can You See Me?
Own Label, 5 Tracks, 16 Minutes
Billow Wood is a relatively new group; four vibrant young musicians from Ballina, some terrific video work show-casing this EP, and an interesting story about how the band evolved from their previous collaboration as popular group Flat Out. From a traditional Irish music background, the group comprises cousins Ciara O’Donnell and Mark O’Donnell, and friends Bríd O’Donnell and Harry Lawlor with an impressive array of instruments between them, fiddle, accordion, guitar, harp, bodhrán, flute and tin whistle. Touring internationally, the intensity of being on-the-road fuelled a deep focus on song-writing and Billow Wood was formed.
With distinctive vocal harmonies, their songs were fast to gain traction. Turn Out the Light is the first track on the EP, an apt reflection of Billow Wood’s explorative music – the official video a stunning illumination of a song highlighting mental-health issues. The Game contains lyrics both pleasing and strong, lines like  “Lift me up so I feel lighter…the wings of a bird, or the tip of a feather” might well describe musicians who still share a love of the Irish Trad session while following their natural draw towards a broad artistic sky in the neo-folk genre.
Deirdre Cronin

Ceol na gCarad
Own Label AJ2018, 11 Tracks, 45 Minutes
This duo eschews the baroque complexity of some established ensembles, opting instead for a cleanness and simplicity in their music, which draws comparisons with Hayes and Cahill amongst others. Fiddler Agee and guitarist Sousa deliver slow, gentle Irish tunes, and some more up-tempo numbers, with little fuss and much sensitivity. Bobby Casey’s reel Porthole of the Kelp is tuned down a tone for extra resonance, as is The Morning Thrush which becomes a fiddle showpiece, starting almost as a slow air and gradually morphing into a graceful slow reel. Ceol nagCarad strides boldly forward with a firm grip on Irish music.
Adam and Jon have been plying their tunes in and around Colorado for a decade and a half now, and built quite a reputation. Their mix of Irish classics, Scots standards and North American novelties keep things interesting, and the pair throw in a couple of their own compositions too. Sousa’s Farewell to Belfast is a whimsical melody deftly picked on guitar, and a good opportunity to appreciate Agee’s delicate bowing, which generates subtle harmonics akin to whale song. Agee’s own Heather Island ends this album with a tug at the heartstrings, almost a lament. In between are new takes on many old favourites The Foxhunter’s Reel, The Man of the House, Coppers and Brass, The Flowers of Redhill, Scotland’s Drummond Castle and Monymusk, and indeed The Old Favourite by Paddy O’Brien. Sousa adds a spot of tenor banjo, and someone steps in with Quebec-style foot percussion to put the final touches on a fine recording.
Alex Monaghan

Fly to Las Pampas
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 44 Minutes
Los Paddys’ summer 2018 album Fly to Las Pampas resounds with a sunny festival atmosphere, hot-bloodedness, brimming with youthful verve, energetic love songs and passion in a cross-cultural musical marriage between traditional Irish and Argentinean folk.
Hammer Train uses exotic flute and pipes with enchanting fusion, while Sin Rumores is a spoken word poem, also exotic in tone and delivery, the Spanish words and instruments are given equal volume, the music of the words beautiful alone, layered here very effectively, fiddle playing sweet and uplifting. The Irish Rumba is a smorgasbord of sound, dubbed in running commentary, a call and answer song, percussive, timely, the wolf whistle unashamedly celebrated by a mixed chorus of powerful singers. There are themes of climate, landscape, relationships and the evolution of the aural song and dance tradition of the indigenous Argentine people with their colonial settlers, Europeans and the droves of Irish who went there in the 19th Century. The band has a revolving door policy for membership criteria, borrowing talent from Ireland, Argentina, France and South Africa among others.
The core members are Paddy Mulcahy, Kirsten Allstaff, James Sheppard and Angelo Heart. The almost enigmatic track is the Boys of Ennistymon, a tragic song, familiar local language and cadence, colloquialisms, with South American rhythms that work perfectly. The title track Fly to Las Pampas has ethereal harmonies, conversational style with refreshingly irreverent direct speech ‘shake your ass for me’, and superb timing and tight rhythmic playing. The arrangements throughout are well done achieving a uniqueness of sound.
If Jimmy Buffet was Argentinean, and in his heyday met a youthful Jackie Daly, they’d probably be caught ‘drinking tequila to the sunrise…dancing with the maid behind the bar’, and making an album that sounded just like Fly to Las Pampas.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Hò-rò Music, 11 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Everything but the kitchen sink has been thrown at this project. This six-piece band play bagpipes, border pipes, accordion, fiddle, whistles, guitar, keyboards, drums and bodhrán.
Hò-rò have a big sound and big talent. They’ve all been playing music since childhood, and it shows. The musicianship is excellent, of course, but it’s more than just technical expertise. Hò-ro’s music flows like a crystal clear highland stream, an achievement that comes through heart as well as head knowledge.
From what they describe as ‘a humble beginning’ in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, Hò-rò already show a bright confidence of a much more established outfit. And this is only their second album, having released their self-titled debut back in 2016.
They play gigs across the UK and Ireland. They were awarded ‘Up and Coming Artist of the Year’ at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards in 2017. Just a few years before they were the Danny Kyle Awards Winners at the 2014 Celtic Connections festival. That saw them secure a slot at the festival in 2015. And so here, 11 tracks show off the band’s ability to deliver catchy instrumentals and captivating songs. Let’s dip in and share a taster. The track Nuggets is amazing, mixing contemporary dance sound with the much more ancient dance music of the Celts. It’s energetic and yet stately at the same time. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, this is followed by the even faster Big Dog Collections. Then the band takes a breather with a beautiful ballad Muinntir mo Ghráidh, a tune found by lead singer Lucy Doogan in her granny’s attic.
The beat comes back. And Hò-rò pump up the blood pressure with the fast-paced Mornington. Here’s an album that has to be played loud and proud.
Clive Price

In Praise of Home
Own Label, 9 Tracks, 45 Minutes
On Rura’s In Praise of Home, there’s a pared back laudatory grace in the title, which is perfectly reflected in how the spoken word works so well across the CD. Four outstanding instrumentalists: Steven Blake (pipes, whistle, Rhodes, piano), David Foley (Bodhrán, Flute), Adam Brown (guitar, electric guitar, electric bass & Moog) & Jack Smedley on fiddle. This music is beautiful, let’s get that into the intriguingly oppositional harmonious mix right away, a steely rootedness in tradition and the kind of reaching outwards from that into a natural music progression that’s only possible with superb musical accomplishment. In the title track, a pivotal moment as Jack Smedley’s beautiful fiddle music wraps itself around his granddad Jim Russell’s words  “I’m going home”. Something brave, real, and complex in the simplicity of that vocal sentiment set against the immediate and gorgeous rush of brand new music rooted in place and tradition.
Rura’s diverse musical backgrounds are celebrated, it’s intrinsic in the music itself. Take the brilliant and aptly named track Forged, began as a riff brought to the band by Adam, himself inspired by a Gorillaz song; Jack and Steven combined forces to write the beautiful melody. And in a lovely traditional enfolding, David Foley’s composition Catriona’s is a tributary present for Orcadian fiddler Catriona Price.
In David Foley’s evocative composition I’ll never Forget, David’s granny Sheila Littlejohn speaks with such a distinct and indeed distinctive tone about emigrating from Jamaica to Scotland as a child. 87 years later, her grandson composes this tune for her. The two-part-track Horizon holds both a reflective tone and a strong progressive pulse, illuminating how the heartbeat of this album is the music itself. Music as it’s held in, and by, its own strong roots. And also encases real lives and stories, past and present.
Deirdre Cronin

Own Label SHOUTYCD04, 9 Tracks, 34 Minutes
Four hands working piano accordion, bagpipes, guitar and fiddle, sometimes all at the same time, plus one song. Farran is the third album from the duo of Mairearad Green and Anna Massie whose first names are now used up and down Scotland in the same affectionate way as Phil and Aly’s. This CD is a few minutes shorter than their last, which was two minutes less than their first, so at this rate Mairearad & Anna will run out of time altogether after another five recordings or less! Most of the material here is by known composers, six pieces from Mairearad & Anna themselves, and eleven by others, but all in the traditional idioms of Scotland and Ireland. The three old tunes fit right in: Thadelo’s Slide from Ireland, La Rachoudine from Quebec, and Ghile Dubh from the Scottish highlands.
Farran opens with a set of pipe tunes by Norman Gillies, a pipe major and composer who died just a decade ago. It continues with a Green composition, the punchy accordion number Wee McGhee’s, leading into a delightful Liz Carroll tune Lizzie in the Lowground. The middle piece of The Merton Set seems to have been lifted from Shaun Davey’s Water Under the Keel, with Mairearad adding her own second part: thus the tradition evolves. JP Cormier’s song Molly May mixes the seafaring and sentimental sides of Cape Breton, an engaging story sweetly delivered here. The ensuing trio of polkas combines composing talents from Mairearad & Anna with Eoin Begley’s, and Brewery brings in tunes from harpist Rachel Newton and fiddler Kevin Henderson in gentle mood. Anna’s fiddle is a delight on Willie McRae of Ullapool, a retreat march which is both proud and sad. The twentieth century air Mo Chailin Dileas Donn by singer Hector Mackenzie ends this CD on a surprisingly sombre note: just skip back to the first track to raise your spirits.
Alex Monaghan

Fru Skagerrak
Go Danish 0318, 12 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Three ladies here, in a pan-Scandinavian fiddle ensemble. Fru Skagerrak refers to the sea, which touches the shores of their respective countries, Anna Lindblad’s Sweden, Elise Wessel Hildrum’s Norway and Maja Kjær Jacobsen’s Denmark. The album’s title is self-explanatory, what do you do when you drop anchor? Have a dram to celebrate a safe harbour.
From the Go Danish label, a recording project that is exerting an increasing influence on acoustic music. Some would say of course that is nothing new. Orcadian music carries Nordic echoes as does the dance music of the Appalachians and Louisiana two steps, in the USA where it mixed with Irish and Scottish and German traditions; here it’s more raw bar.
Fru Skagerrak are masters of this fiddle driven folk music; the liner notes pay attention to sources, with the Norway’s Vestfold archives being the most important. The liner notes are in Danish and English; that’s helpful.
They begin the album with a Halling, a Norwegian dance form that was a European sensation at the 2009 Eurovision song contest (remember Alexander Rybak’s Fairytale and his energetic halling dancers?). Here Fru Skagerrak have anchored their halling in the calmer bays of tradition. If your only introduction to Nordic fiddling has been Josefin’s Waltz, then have a listen to Brudevals (it’s from the same family of tunes, wedding waltzes). On this waltz Hildrum plays the recorder, she carries the melody on top of the string accompaniment. There’s a humorous diversion of discordant bow work towards the end, like a bridegroom having a couple of Carlsbergs too many, probably.
The girls sing too, their Kong Vallivan from Denmark’s Himmerland is a tour de force of restrained a-capella singing; their voices have a musical purity rarely heard in folk music. The final track is a lullaby, Sorens Far, a fiddle adding a metronomic pizzicato to hush the baby off to dreamland.
One wonders if Linblad’s own composition the New Couch Two Step was inspired by the wonderful every day of IKEA? Maybe this album should be on continual loop at the big blue store in Ballymun? Yes Ankedram is a bit different from the usual Pigeon on the Gate fare you might have in your collection, but it will reward your ears. It is another way to appreciate the wonder of the fiddle, and like Danish akvavit it could become addictive.
Seán Laffey

Vickers Vimy
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 40 Minutes
For those of us who do the local pub quiz, how about this question? Who on earth are Vickers Vimy? Wasn’t that a vintage British bomber, a plane from World War One? Famous in its day, not just for keeping the Germans awake at night, but for landing in Clifden after the first transatlantic flight. Yet, fear not. This isn’t a musical plot to get the Imperial War Museum into the charts. It’s actually a bit of a marvel.
These four blokes from Mayo, Ed DreaFintan Hanley, Eamonn Mulderrig and Ciaran Byrne play guitars, mandolin, drums, percussion, piano, accordion and bass. They reflect the wide-open spaces of their vast home county with their easy-flowing tunes punctuated with themes of loss and yearning, blending romantic echoes of old European movies, tasty instrumentation and reflective sounds. They have made something special. Really special. Okay, it may not be trad. But it is contemporary Irish folk with a touch of Americana. Imagine the 80s hit Irish band The Adventures teaming up with REM and you’ll get Vickers Vimy. Something like that, anyway.
It’s obviously paying off. Atlas Of Hearts is their second album. Their songs carry references to myth and legend, exotic cities and the biblical story of Jonah, there’s even a whale on the cover.
The opening track Bonfire Of Dantes has a Latin atmosphere, with Spanish trumpets and lyrical references to the Mediterranean. The song rolls along nicely, like the evening tide. Chicago has an off-beat feel. But is the ‘wireless’ they’re singing about, the old school or high tech version? We’re left wondering. And there’s some nice violin to serenade us, too. From there we’re taken to Budapest, with its delicate melody and sensitive vocal. It’s like watching an old romantic film. The whole album is an exotic journey.
There’s something quite profound about these chaps, and it’s not at all pretentious. You could call it authentic. Dreamy, even. They will do alright. I hope so. Like their illustrious flying predecessor they should make more than a dent in the West.
Clive Price

Méabh Tiarnán Smyth
Own label EP, 6 Tracks, 23 Minutes
A sibling duo from Armagh and that inevitably means they have connections to the Armagh Pipers Club. It is the Alma Mater of a number of the top talents in traditional music: the Vallely brothers, Connor Mallon, Jarlath Henderson, Brian Finnegan and the wonderful Connla. The Smythsare in good company.
On this EP the duo play 5 sets of tunes and deliver one song John Williamson’s Australian bush ballad The Diamantina Drover on which Tiarnántakes up the singing duties. Méabh plays the fiddle and she has a strong Ulster flavour in her technique and sound. Influenced by the Donegal repertoire they choose The High Fiddle Reel by Mairéad Mhaonaigh as their opener, the selection filling out with the Jolly Tinker and The Hawk.
Like many attentive young players, they have learned directly from senior musicians. The Hen’s March taught to them by their sister Aoife, it’s an infectious lifting tune on fiddle and concertina. They got Larry Reynolds Fancy from the playing of Brid Harper. They pair Minnie Foster’s Clog with The Newcastle Hornpipe, Tiarnán walks the clog out with some very tasty guitar playing.
The recording closes with Moran’s Return one of the most lilting of melodies in the tradition, which they learned from Nollaig Casey and Arty McGlynn’s album Lead the Knave. They round off the recording with Tommy People’s Black Pat’s reel, leaving us in no doubt that Armagh has more serious young talent, fully fit and ready to play.
Seán Laffey