Releases > Releases July 2022

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Twelvemonth and a Day
Own label, 11 Tracks, 52 Minutes
Modern-day compositions, Irish tunes, Gaelic, and experimental harmonies grace every track of Wolf & Clover’s third album. They are Julian Chalon (guitar, bass); Shellie Murphy DeBruyn (voice, piano); Jessica Bennett French (violin); Matthew McCabe (tenor banjo, bouzouki, button accordion, bass, cello); Caroline Richards (accordion, piano); and Chris Walton (whistles). Featured musicians: Wildman Steve Bronson (washboard) and Chris Reichmeier (pandeiro) on track #4, and Russell Brown (clarinet) on track #11.
The Columbus Set (Georgia Belle/River Skimmer/Winter in Columbus) grab listeners’ attention before the sextette fully engages their innovative masterminds. The Animal Set (Crested Hens/Emmett’s Hedgehog/ Gathering Sheep) seamlessly flows from a waltz and a jig to a reel. A Hammond B3, tritone harmonies, and haunting vocals highlight an English ballad on track #3, The Unquiet Grave. The group turns to funk in The James Carville Set (The Congress/Funk the Cajun Blues).
An Rógaire Dubh combines stunning vocals with Wurlitzer and Fender Rhodes keyboards and guitar backup. Melodies go from tranquil to turbulent in The Whistle Set, then back to serene in An Eriskay Love Lilt before rolling into a love story tone poem in The Suitor Set (Emma’s Waltz/Lonesome Eyes/The Four Kisses). The Bedroom Set (Snug in the Blanket/Behind the Bush in the Garden/Wallop the Spot) is cleverly self-explanatory. Their cover of Morrison’s Into the Mystic deftly weaves in a reel (The Gypsy).
Twelvemonth and a Day closes on a reflective lament on track #11 in O’Carolan’s Farewell to Music. Wolf & Clover’s musical versatility brilliantly shines from one track to another.
Anita Lock

Northern Landscape
Own Label BCB002, 12 Tracks, 43 Minutes
Four fiddles, two accordions, flute, drums and piano - what could possibly go wrong? Certainly very little when the Blackwater Céilí Band won the All Ireland in 2018. These lads and lasses did Tyrone proud, releasing a fine album the following year, and have now followed up with Northern Landscape. Nine tracks of tunes, and three guest singers with a song each make up a very varied offering - one or two fresh local pieces, but mostly tried and tested treasures from the Irish tradition.
Farrell O’Gara’s, The One that was Lost, Master McDermott’s, Tom O’Dowd’s Favourite, The Trip to Athlone, O’Keeffe’s - the opening tunes from each set read like a who’s who of Irish Music, and the Blackwater Céilí Band make a great job of every one on Northern Landscape.
Rising star vocalists Ciara Fox, Niall Hanna and Jack Warnock add touches of trad and contemporary song, skilfully backed. I particularly enjoyed Mary and the Soldier, but I’m sure the newly penned Hills of South Armagh will appeal to many. The Tailor’s March is also worthy of special mention, composed by the band and gallantly played here, a fine addition to the limited list of upbeat Irish marches. It’s great to see slides played so far from the Kingdom too - I don’t think I’ve heard a recording of The Kings of Kerry since Begley and Cooney’s 1992 album Meitheal. Reels and jigs are, as you’d expect, polished and punchy. The waltzes feature a solo by lone fluter Michael Coney on The Old Claddagh Ring and a lovely strings arrangement on Sunday’s Well by the multi-talented Caitlín Nic Gabhann.
The Blackwater Céilí Band cap it all with Old Mickey McKiernan’s, a new one to me, and a pair of classic reels nailed in grand style.
Alex Monaghan

Cosán Ceoil
Own label COC001, 13 Tracks, 55 Minutes
I remember Cathal Ó Curráin at the age of 7 singing a few Donegal songs in a lovely clear voice in the middle of the crowd in the Huidaí Beag pub in Bunbeg. Having started with the banjo he changed to bouzouki aged 12 and then onto fiddle two years later. Now some 15 years on, he has made his own way.
Originally from Gaoth Dobhair, Cathal has come a long way from his start at the An Chrannóg, a music school. From an early age he was immersed in music alongside such famous musicians as Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and her nephew Ciarán Ó Maonaigh. Added to that he was born into a family well-known for their singing, he learned his songs and style from his aunts Caitlín and Bríd Joe Jack.
After cutting his teeth on other musicians’ albums, The High Seas with Ciarán Ó Maonaigh and Caitlín Nic Gabhann, on the Friel Sisters’ second album, Before The Sun, with Aoife Scott, and finally in the band The Conifers, which he helped to found, he has shifted into high gear with the release of his first solo album, Cosán Ceoil.
And for a first, let’s be honest, it’s a real success. Thirteen tracks, equally shared between songs and instrumentals, almost all from his native Donegal. Whether it’s The Green Fields of Gaoth Dobhair or Two Sisters borrowed from Clannad’s repertoire or Paddy’s Trip to Scotland played by Altan, An Saighdiúir Tréigthe by Skara Brae, Dooish Mountain by Tommy Peoples or songs learned from his great-uncle Jimmy Dinny Ó Gallachóir: D’éirigh an tuile ar Labhrás, The Star of Donegal and Mo Shean Dún na nGall. And Brenda Stubbert’s, learned on a New Year’s Eve from the Shetlands band, Fiddlers Bid.
As Cathal exercises his talents on fiddle, bouzouki and banjo, and with a delicate voice, he is ably assisted by his friends Marty Barry on guitar, Ryan Molloy on piano, Megan Nic Fhionnghaile and Ciarán Ó Maonaigh on fiddle, Conor O’Loughlin on concertina and Felix Morgensten on bodhrán.
From the first note to the last, this is an excellent album that reveals a talented young man with a promising future.
Philippe Cousin

Leaving Lurgangreen
Own Label SMM001, 10 Tracks, 52 Minutes
Irish flute from the outskirts of Glasgow, Leaving Lurgangreen harks back to Sarah’s roots in County Louth just across the Irish Sea. In eight tracks of tunes and two songs, this debut album spans the traditions of Ireland, Scotland and Spain as well as a handful of distinctive Markey compositions. The flute is foremost in both quality and quantity, joined by a gaggle of Glasgow-marked musicians on pipes and fiddle, bouzouki and banjo, double bass and keyboards, bodhrán, guitars and more. Ms Markey adds lead vocals, and deft solo harp on her own Estrellas, which I assume, is named for the constellations in Spain’s night sky rather than the beer from Barcelona! This graceful highlight is followed by a full-blooded set of Asturian tunes unashamedly dedicated to alcoholic beverages.
The Star of Sweet Dundalk and The Spark Among the Heather show the romantic side of Ireland and the ruthless history of Scotland. Though Sarah’s voice is soft and sweet, I actually prefer it on the powerful ballad of highland evictions - there’s a steel core, which comes through strong. My overall preference is still for the instrumentals though: The Spider’s Web, Reel of Rio, The Chicken’s Gone to Scotland, Lady on the Island and other classic Irish tunes, supplemented by lovely new pieces such as Brighter Days, Blackrock Wall and Bethany’s Jig. Flute tone is excellent, breathing is a little hurried but not too distracting, and the arrangements are delightful - the change into Chicago Jig, the relaxed treatment of Marcus Hernon’s waltz The Beautiful Goldfinch, and the final reel-jig-reel medley stand out for me. I hope to hear much more from young Ms Markey.
Alex Monaghan

Songs From The Beautiful City
Free State Records, Double CD, 27 Tracks, 95 Minutes
Jimmy Crowley loves the songs of his native city and he couples this with a magpie curiosity. For over twenty years he has been publishing a song and its back-story in the Saturday edition of Cork’s Evening Echo paper. These have been collated into two volumes, the most recent of which also Songs from the Beautiful City: the Cork Urban Ballads, came out in 2014. For those who purchased it there was a digital link to some 27 selected songs.
Delayed a number of years by the pandemic, those songs are presented here as double CD, standing alone outside of the very scholarly printed work from the bard of Sunday’s Well, and they are beautifully re-mastered by Jack Talty. You can get a flavour of the printed book from the liner notes where the songs’ stories are interlaced with some evocative photographs.
Initially intended as solo album the project gathered pace once musicians became aware of the scale and importance of the work. Jimmy accompanies himself on a number of double course instruments, octave mandola, mandocello bouzouki and Dordán, the liner notes have a page devoted to their history and notes on their luthiers.
John Spillane joins him on The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee (that partnership has since blossomed into a touring show). On Let’s All Go Down the Marina there’s a brass section courtesy of lads from the Barry Street Brass Band; you can almost see the straw hats and parasols of happy couples walking by the water in Edwardian Cork.
Some of the songs from the book needed a bit of melodic medication, and working with Pat Daly they have created a new tune to fit the words of The Gaol of Sunday’s Well. Daly not only resuscitates aging ballads but also writes new ones too. Jimmy Crowley is his angriest on Daly’s Ruddlesome, Rancy O, a polemic against the creation of meaningless suburbs in a once storied Gaelic landscape.
One song that has had a great deal of traction since the book appeared is The Doll in Cash’s Window. Now with more people being able to access Jimmy’s double album who knows where his songs might end up next? There are centuries of songs here, from a city and a singer, both of whom are proud of their urban roots.
Seán Laffey

We Have Won The Land
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 44 Minutes
Power discrepancies are common historic factors across the Celtic nations. Our collective psyche is coloured by the Famine, and in Scotland the Highland clearances gave the native Scots both a sense of self and one of grievance. At the heart of each case is the relationship between land and people; for crofters and tenant farmers, land is a source of food and a touchstone of identity, in contrast landlords and lairds calculate the cash value of their thousands of acres.
An historical thumbnail yes, but in 1989 some 21,000 acres of land in Sutherland (in the North of Scotland) was sold to a Swedish speculator for only £1 Million (less the fifty quid an acre) and that speculator subsequently went bust. What followed was an epic triumph of people power as 13 townships across the region formed the Assynt Crofters’ Trust and were able to buy back the land at a discount of just 1/3 of the original price.
That is the back-story of this album from Matheson (piano and keyboards) and Rorie (fiddle, mandolin and tenor guitar). The tracks are predominantly instrumentals, and the two principles have a talented crew to bring those new compositions to life, Tiernan Courell (flutes and whistles), Charlie Stewart (bass), Anna Massie (guitar), are joined by Kristan Harvey (fiddle), Craig Baxter (bodhrán) and Fraser Stone on percussion. James Graham sings on the two tracks on the album, songs sung with piano accompaniment both in the Gaelic: Áirigh a’Chúlchinn and Currie Dubh an Rópa, the latter featuring very plaintive fiddle break.
There is a foreboding tension in the opening tack The Whitbread Case; the main melodic elements are carried by an interchange between fiddle and flute. A key question is posed in the piece Who Possesses The Land? It’s a sombre slow air on piano and fiddle. The Winning Bid is a far rockier number placing the narrative in the late 20th century. The story is indeed a triumph and much of the compositions here are full of the sunshine of success, such as The Second Bid and the final emphatic title track.
The CD is worth the price for the tri-fold centre image alone, shot on a sunny day in late winter, white puffy clouds in a cold blue sky and the empty acres spreading as far as the eye can see. This is the landscape that the Assynt Crofters’ Trust now own. You can hear the album on Bandcamp, where you can find out what the ACT is doing with the land it now owns. You will be inspired.
Seán Laffey

Songs & Tunes
Own Label, 14 Tracks, 52 Minutes
This is a treasure of an album from Cahir singer Eddie Costello, where he reworks some well-known folk songs, discovers new ones and accompanies some of the best piping I have heard this year. There is a well-considered flow between songs and tunes; most of the songs are contemporary but are spiced with Irish elements, notably on the whistle and the accordion accompaniment, and there are some stunning selections of traditional tunes.
Recorded at Benny McCarthy’s Doon Studios in Waterford and co-produced by Billy Sutton from Newfoundland. Eddie is joined by major players from the region: John Nugent, Brendan Clancy, Ailbe Grace, Shane McGrath, Donnchadh Gough, Billy Sutton, Benny and Joey McCarthy. A big surprise was that Ailbe Grace plays a lot of bass on the album, as he would be well-known in traditional music circles as a box player.
Eddie opens the album with a fresh Americana take on Bob Dylan’s Kansas City, and from working with Billy and Benny he discovered the work of Newfoundland’s Ron Hynes, his No Change In Me is a standout song. Eddie is attuned to modern versions of songs such as his upbeat interpretation of Dirk Powell’s Waterbound, originally written in the 1920s. He steps back another century for Katie O’er the Gowrie inspired by Dave Gunning’s modern version. There are songs about place, Believe Me Sligo by Tom Moore and Liscannor Bay by Mick Flynn, he covers Ed Sheeran’s Perfect with his daughter Katie Bo, where she takes the high lead and dad comes in on the low answer.
Those tracks in themselves would make a very fine album, but wait till you hear what Eddie and Shane McGrath do with traditional tunes; McGrath’s piping is wild and free, Eddie’s guitar backing solid and supple. Then to cap it all off there’s one final flourish, the whole band playing The Legacy/Paddy Fahey’s & The Handsome Young Maidens.
Variety and variation between songs and tunes makes this a very enjoyable album to play over and over.
Seán Laffey

The Rolling Waves
Gourd Music, 14 Tracks, 56 Minutes
William Coulter is an American Grammy award-winning guitarist, originally from New Jersey but now based in Santa Cruz, California, who has been exploring traditional music for over 40 years, performing on his own and with various ensembles. This album was started before covid, finished in late 2021, and consists of solo guitar, spanning various well-known tunes and airs, along with some more obscure favourites of his. He even includes a couple of his own compositions, which sit comfortably alongside the rest of the tracks.
The title track introduces the album and is a beautifully understated version of the tune; an air, Sliabh na mBan, which is paired with the Waterloo Hornpipe, follows this. The first surprise comes with his interpretation of a song made famous by the late Louis Armstrong What A Wonderful World is a timeless classic and sensitively performed here.
William also explores his repertoire of Scandinavian music on a number of tracks – Polska efter Nylandspojkarna is coupled with Mitt’n (described as a Hamborgar walking tune), an endearing piece with distinctly baroque cadences. His superb technique is a joy to listen to and admire, a heady combination of precision playing combined with a deep understanding of the material, exemplified by a wonderful rendition of Aisling Gheal, with tasteful hammer-ons and harmonics.
Elsewhere, he combines a beautiful Welsh air with Carolan’s Lament for Owen Roe O’Neill, capturing the sadness magnificently. His original New Morning Rain has a lovely rhythmic feel, while his other composition An Daingean is more reflective – both demonstrate his ability to distil his own reflections into solo guitar studies of real artistic depth. He even tackles a classical Fauré piece, Pie Jesu, with aplomb. William Coulter is a masterful player with impressive innate sensitivity, who effortlessly displays his eclectic approach on this remarkable collection.
Mark Lysaght

Own Label CAN001CD, 9 Tracks, 43 Minutes
Banging - this trio pumps out great tunes, hammers home several of their own compositions alongside other modern and ancient pieces, and hits many of the sweet spots for folk and traditional music these days. Celtic, Scandinavian, a bit of jazz and the regulation piece by Turlough Carolan, the 17th century blind Irish harper. The Canny Band is driven by drummer Callum Convoy while pianist Michael Biggins controls the keys and Sam Mabbett pushes all the right buttons on his accordion.
These musicians have not come from nowhere. Biggins and Mabbett were instrumental in Tyneside band Northern Company a few years back, and Convoy was in Glasgow-based Baile, but all three have performed as The Canny Band for a while now, winning awards and wowing audiences from Drumchapel to Deritend. Their debut album, mixed and mastered by Northern Company compadre young Scott Turnbull, is the culmination of a lot of experience and creativity.
Biggins and Mabbett give us three reels for starters, sharing the melody lines over a bodhrán beat, juggling chromatic runs and clever riffs as they celebrate Granny’s 93rd. Box-players Dave Munnelly and Julian Sutton provide the raw material for Blind Harbour which again shifts from keys to buttons and back again, in jig time with lovely counterpoint on both tune and rhythm. This is a band of few words - just one burst of vocals and almost no sleevenotes - so forget the rhetoric and strap in for the ride.
It’s not all fast and flashy - there’s a dreamy 5/4 waltz, a graceful piano solo on Helen’s Song by Hamish Napier, and the delicate Jacob’s Waltz before a couple more jaunty jigs. Mostly this is high-energy music though: Marit’s is a galloping polska with the piano pushing hard, the European-sounding Musette à Govan combines sultry French café accordion with the sweetness of a Glasgow kiss, and even Jack Badcock’s song The Canopy strains at its leash to take wing. The final medley of Irish and Scottish classics is a hurricane of notes, Carolan’s Concerto thrown to the four winds and gathered again, precise percussion and virtuosic box, before Biggins brings in The Maids of Mitchelstown and Mabbett leads Skye Tune over pounding accompaniment. Phew! Quite an adrenaline rush, this is one exciting album.
Alex Monaghan

From Above
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Jon Sousa is an American guitarist and composer based in Boulder, Colorado, who is well-known as half of a traditional/folk duo with fiddler Adam Agee. This is not a traditional music album, it’s a collection of self-composed original pieces, almost entirely played by Jon himself on electric and acoustic guitars, tenor banjo, voice, piano, harmonium and virtual instruments. He has eclectic influences, starting out playing rock music and citing diverse influences ranging from Slash to Pierre Bensusan.
The music can be described as thoughtful, spiritual and reflective – it’s almost all instrumental with occasional vocalisations, but no lyrical content. The title track begins with strident major and minor chords before the overall theme is introduced, reflecting his thoughts when observing the world while on a long-distance flight. The Long Journey is a longer piece, which is enlivened by a beautiful cello part played by Joy Adams, with some very low notes providing an emotional depth – this could easily be used as a piece of film music.
Jon’s guitar playing throughout is beautifully played and always perfectly in context – there is no ego at play here but it’s always sensitive and appropriate. Various percussive effects are employed – on Standing Still, he uses a steady bass drum doubled with guitar-tapping, and Catherine Hutchison vocalises superbly over an organ figure with lovely guitar ornamentation. The album is tirelessly inventive, and invites very favourable comparison with others who specialise in thematic instrumental music.
I Miss You is very tender and emotional with nicely empathetic guitar, while Rainy Day uses a nylon-string instrument for a softer, more reflective effect. The album is very spiritual and relaxing; To Heaven really does bring you there if you immerse yourself! Overall, an enjoyable recording from a musician who clearly puts a great deal of thought into his work.
Mark Lysaght

To Keep the Candle Burning
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 37 Minutes
Fiddler Joanna Clare is part of that stretch of Irish music culture from Maine to Maryland on the east coast of the USA. Influenced by many of the greats of Irish American music, To Keep the Candle Burning is her debut attempt to pass on the music she loves, to be part of the living tradition, to contribute to its evolution. As she puts it in the liner notes on her website, “There is really a creativity in Irish music that belongs to the players just as the players belong to the music.” A new voice, a new turn, a new tune even, is as necessary to the tradition as the tradition is to the players. Here we have great examples of all three, supported by some of America’s finest Irish musicians.
Paddy Fahey’s Jig and The Mist Covered Mountain, Reel with the Birl and The Ormond Sound, this is music from the heart of the Irish tradition. Joanna opens with her own reel Annie on the Front Line; a box tune if ever there was one, duetting with Billy McComiskey whose wife inspired the tune. Four more of Ms Clare’s compositions cosy up to Ed Reavy, Carl Hession, Liz Carroll and Paddy O’Brien, together with many pieces by unknown composers. The grace of Planxty Hugh O’Donnell, the emotion of An Buachaill Caol Dubh, the punch of The Brown Coffin, all are superbly handled with crisp technique and clear tone. The McComiskeys chip in on accordions, as does Brian Conway on fiddle, Myron Bretholz on skin drum, Josh Dukes and Matt Mulqueen on accompaniment, Liam Presser with some steps on Frank’s Reel and Catherine O’Kelly for the vocal number Erin Grá mo Chroí. This is a grand CD, and a great way to keep ‘er lit!
Alex Monaghan

In All Honesty
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 47 Minutes
Since bursting on to the Irish folk scene ten years ago, taking it by the scruff of the neck, the Whileaways continue to mesmerise with the new album In All Honesty. Songs that will work by the campfire or in Carnegie Hall, on a drive through Montana wilderness, under a vast Californian sky or on the Wild Atlantic Way, the music composed here by Noelie McDonnell, Nicola Joyce and Noriana Kennedy is enchanting, genre-defiant and something else!
To be expected from these professional musicians, the instrumentation and arrangements are high-calibre, the songs lyrical, thoughtful expressions of the skill and creative imagination shared by the trio.
Noriana’s ethereal voice in Home is perfect, knowing home as a balm against life’s rigours; “come back on in, be yourself again”, the voice of the loving nurturer, provider of “quiet and healing”.
All throughout the profound experience of love is explored; in relationships, over a loss, awareness of the natural world and human sensuality. Noelie’s Milking Parlour Bar has it all, a refreshing stream-of-consciousness narrative, the sleepy devoted lover “so happy” he “could weep”, gorgeous, non-sentimental.
Tough As Nails by Nicola, pays homage to the much loved mother, in memoriam, in admiration, she had “a heart that could take break after break”, powerful imagery.
Toss the Bobbin is a standout, a personal, cultural and historical document of four lace-making women from Headford in north Galway. Their story is universal, an intergenerational intricate craft handed down through hands, through necessity, for little reward; “I make my living here a few pennies at a time…” Mary says, “they call me widow since he died,’ oh for that back-story? The merchants of the aristocracy come but “hardly pay” for the lace. Nicola’s voice is a delight, the instrumentation flawless, the magic in the melody lingers.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Running Out of the Black
Cauldron Music, 5 Tracks, 20 Minutes
Kevin Morrow is an accomplished singer/songwriter, originally from Northern Ireland and active on the Dublin music scene as a solo performer for many years now. Previously, he served his time with various bands covering blues, jazz, country and rock - so he’s extremely eclectic, and this is reflected in the five original songs comprising this EP.
Kevin himself sings and plays acoustic guitar and harmonica, and the inimitable Bill Shanley contributes guitar, bass, keyboards and drums, as well as producing. The results are very impressive; well written material with great arrangements and playing, while Kevin has a fine voice, soulful and engaged with a wide range. Running Out of the Black opens the EP and is a reflection on how to stay positive and not give up during dark times, featuring some tasty guitar fills.
On Harry’s Coming Back, Kevin plays some nice harmonica throughout, and the song itself is a soulful tune with an extremely catchy chorus – here he sounds like a top of the range soul artist.
1981 harks back to his teenage years in Holywood, Co. Down where he grew up, and is a remembrance of a more carefree existence, his various escapades recounted with affection. October Moon is a nicely paced reflective song, with harmonica featured again, and the vocals have echoes of Chris Rea to my ears – his voice is very adaptable and rich, and he carries each track effortlessly.
The closing track Your Shadow Will Always Be With Me was written in memory of a friend’s wife who died tragically on their wedding anniversary, but is delivered more as homage than a lament. Each song on this album ticks all the boxes – Bill Shanley has placed each of them in an appropriate setting and Kevin has a very listenable voice, making this an extremely enjoyable collection.
Mark Lysaght

Auf Wiedersehen, Me Duck
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 48 Minutes
Auf Wiedersehen, Me Duck is the cross-cultural title of an album from the Anglo-German duo, Paul Walker & Karen Pfeiffer, with stellar accompaniments from Paul Hutchinson on accordion, Ciaran Algar on fiddle, recorded and produced by Ed Bersey at Sylvafield Studios. It is a charming, varied and fun piece of work.
The playfulness in the title continues in some of the original compositions; No Time (The Facebook Blues), is a modern, sarcastic little poem lamenting the wasted time spent on screens while the house falls down! The Rejected Songwriters Club is Paul’s tongue-in-cheek(ish), lament about the drudgery of the creative life; “write a song or two, it can’t be that hard…” as for the muse, “I get a lot of mine down at the pub”, comic hints at plagiarism, this one has a lovely swing melody, Algar’s fiddle perfectly tuned to the artist’s predicament.
Under That Old Clare Moon from John Spillane’s pen is beautifully rendered, a song journey, vocal ramble round the traditional music centre of Ireland. Karen’s voice is perfect, the minimalist guitar and tight harmonies making for a fine version of the song. The Peat Bog Soldiers is given a suit of new clothes, bi-lingual, effortless layering and a lively march beat. Diamonds and Rust (Joan Baez), is a highlight, the jilted one remembering the lover who “burst on to the scene already a legend”, past regrets, the good and bad aspects of memory.
Finishing with the title track Auf Wiedersehen, Me Duck, recorded live, an interactive experience, the audience singing the lively chorus, the duo celebrating the end of the festival circuit; “that’s it for another year, goodbye my friends, good luck, we’ll see you in a field somewhere, Auf Wiedersehen, Me Duck…”
If you hear of them coming to a field near you, don’t miss them.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Bound to Rise
Big Sun Records, 10 Tracks, 32 Minutes
There are definite echoes of Nick Drake and John Martyn in this album from Yorkshire based Chris Brain. What initially stands out is his mastery of the finger picked guitar and especially his choice of alternate tunings, a different one for each of the 10 short tracks. If you are an improving guitarist there is much in this album to whet your appetite, moreover it’s an excellent modern introduction to classic English folk -guitar. Accessible in the way he sets up the tracks, his intros establishing the undercurrent that will be the accompaniment to each song.
Of course that style needs a voice to complement its harmonic and melodic complexities and Chris Brain is not wanting in that department; his manner is easy going, laconic and never angry, his songs are delivered with a respectful reserve, allowing their words and meanings to resonate and endure. Part of the charm is in the recording itself by engineer Tom Orrell who captured the acoustic ambience of the The Nave in Leeds aligning it perfectly with Brain’s vocals.
Chris is tastefully and sparsely accompanied by Simeon Walker on piano and Mary Jane Walker on violin. Both complementing Brain’s work, their most arranged track being Flying On Time. On Born to Rise he sings: “I want to feel the sun on my eyes”, his plea for a bright new morning after a gloomy day. On Peace & Quiet he tells us that “Simplicity is all I desire”. There is a little bit of a studio shuffling sound at the start of Sun Song, giving the song a very live feeling, his voice here holds an extended note on the word came on the passage, “when she came, the day it was dawn”.
This is an album that seeks the pastoral potential of lives re-born, reminding us there is nowhere quite so exotic as our own neighbourhood. If you like your alt-folk gently brewed in bucolic pastures, this is the album for you.
Seán Laffey

To Have You Near
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 38 Minutes
The second studio album by Scottish singer-songwriter, Hannah Rarity is hot off the press, so hot in fact that we got an advance online stream on Soundcloud to bring you this review. Eagle-eyed trad watchers may have caught this Glasgow singer on tour with Cherish the Ladies and her back catalogue and musical biography is well worth a serious Google.
Here Hannah is joined by Innes White (acoustic guitar), John Lowrie (keyboards), Scott Mackay (kit & percussion), James Lindsay (electric and double bass). There’s a string section featuring Seonaid Aitken and Katrina Lee (violin), Patsy Reid (viola) and Alice Allen on cello. The album mixes jazz and blues influences with cinemascope arrangements, whilst never over burdening Rarity’s ethereal and pure voice. On track after track her songs shine out, whether they are heartfelt covers or her original material, she lives and breathes their inner emotions. No more so than on Boo Hewerdine’s I am Always With You, a song for a sick relative or a child with night fright, Hannah’s singing brings a gentle reassurance to the vulnerable when darkness seems to be washing over them.
A cover of Gerry O’Beirne’s Shades of Gloria is a passionate love letter to the countryside of West Clare in autumn. My Friend embraces the importance of keeping in touch, especially during lockdown, when phone calls could go on for hours and there was a genuine need to hear another voice in your head. She sings Stephen Foster’s Hard Times with both clarity and a conviction that is hard to find in other versions. The song has lasted for nearly two hundred years, the perfect pentatonic poem to the privations of poverty, alas it is always relevant.
The fractured fractals of life are coloured in on Kaleidoscope, which came out of her work with elderly care home residents who were living with dementia. A grown up appreciation of her home country is beautifully rendered in a cover of Davy Steele’s Scotland Yet written for the devolution referendum of 1997. The album closes with Comes the Hour, Hannah’s voice standing out over a melodic drone, a simple song with so much gravitas. Gravitas is a good word to consolidate this powerful album. Hannah Rarity, not only has she a wonderful voice, she has gravitas. When she sings, we are compelled to listen, and that is what makes her album star quality.
Seán Laffey

Light Is In the Horizon Yet
Reveal Records, Single, 3 Minutes, 28 Seconds
Scotland’s finest female vocalist, Eddi Reader, has launched a single Light Is In the Horizon Yet, based on her personal experience of discovering the Irish poet Thomas Moore’s poem Do Not Say.
Moore’s talent for versifying is well matched here with Reader’s adaptation. Tweaking the language slightly and repeating meaningful phrases, she has fashioned a refreshingly beautiful song out of a 19th century ‘quiet’ poem and made it her own.
As ever, the vocals are flawless, timely and rich, with accompaniment by Steve Hamilton, exquisite piano playing, Roy Dodds with innovative brush percussion, John Douglas on guitar and Boo Hewerdine, the mood and tempo is either country, swing, folk or Scottish hymn.
Reaffirming her timeless artistry and originality of voice Light is in the Horizon Yet, is a philosophical look at our existence, affirming the power of love, noticing the beauty in the everyday, even with the inevitability of ageing, that ‘beauty hath a grace undying’, and if one has love, then life is so worth living, each day a charm, ‘while I thee love and love remaining, light is in the horizon yet’.
Reader’s voice has a hypnotic energy, flourishing in the high notes, an effortless coalescence of modern song with ancient poet.
Anne Marie Kennedy

A Dark Carnival
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 55 Minutes
Kate Green has released her first album, A Dark Carnival, in 14 years, and it’s one filled with a mix of traditional and contemporary songs, 5 of whom are her own compositions. With 12 tracks in total, there’s a wide mix of stories, poetry and song.
Beginning with a traditional ballad, Lady Diamond, telling the story of the king who kills his daughter’s lover and sends her his heart. Daunting yet haunting with a fun percussion arrangement. This is followed by the much-covered folk-blues track, When the Levee Breaks, focusing on the Mississippi River Flood of 1927. An eclectic start to the collection and it just works. Next up is the first of Green’s own compositions, Renegades (Of Love and Rage). This track features Patrick Walker on a wonderful jazz filled guitar solo. Returning then to the traditional for Robert Burns’ Banks and Braes and the slow march with fiddle and mandolin, of Bows of London. It’s then another of Green’s originals about her childhood in Scotland, Ferodo Bridges.
Next up is the lullaby, the mysterious, Fine Horseman, followed by another original, Maddy’s Leaving, focusing on believing in the self. Rudyard Kiplings’ The Cuckoo Song, sung a cappella precedes the final two originals, Mi amigo, marking the American bomber crash of B17 in 1944. And then Reclaim The Light with the uilleann pipes which proves truly amazing. Shallow Brown closes the album with a fun singalong.
It might be 14 years since Kate Green released an album but it’s one filled with tradition and contemporary music, poetry and song. A Dark Carnival is a mix of old and new, and Kate Green gives each one its rightful place and it all just comes naturally together. Alongside her 5 new compositions, Kate Green successfully makes the others her own too.
Grainne McCool

Ready For The Times
RGBM2201C, 12 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Brooks Williams plays guitar and Aaron Catlow plays fiddle, they both sing, they both sing really well. The album’s cover is a monochrome photograph of a rail line curving through a wooded hillside; a visual promise of the music inside, a journey as they say “around Americana, Old Time and British folk, in all its Trans-Atlantic glory”. The title track has a fuller title: Ready For The Times to Get Better, and like the railroad on the cover, those better times are around the corner curve.
The opening track I’ve Endured tells of the life of folks who live in those Appalachians hills; the fiddle breaks evoking the essence of tunes from the original settlers. Love to Soon swings with a syncopated guitar shuffle, some down home bow work on the fiddle, toned down strumming as the vocals take the spotlight, a trademark technique of the best Americana, where neither music nor ego is allowed to drown out the lead voice or the main instrument in a song. More syncopation on Church Streets Blues, with its easy to remember lyrics, and even a verse about Black Diamond guitar strings, and do check out that free form fiddle break. There’s a telling tale for our time in Snake Oil; is it a parable of the post-Trumpian world, where hucksters have taken the cash and left nothing but false medicine in the bottle? Or am I reading too much into it? They give us authentic blues on CC&O Blues, Catlow’s penultimate number is American fiddling at its happiest. The 12th track Night Shift is offered as a bonus, a pure instrumental flight of fancy, the range of voices that Catlow can summon from the fiddle is astounding, it’s a Professor level lesson in improv and dynamics.
I’d recommend you study the pizzicato blues fiddle on Jackson Greyhound, a song about the segregation of public transport in the 1960s. If you’ve been waiting for your times to get better, this is the tonic for you. This ain’t no snake oil, it’s the proper prescription.
Seán Laffey

Down to the Shore
764683 Records DK, Single, 4 Minutes, 22 Seconds
Down to the Shore is a newly released single from Eva Coyle, it is also the title of her upcoming album; this single was released in May.
Writing to explore environmental constraints, persons being bound to a place or situation, here the speaker addresses the unborn child’s lack of freedom. Despite the jaunty air, brilliant accompaniment by Seán O’Dálaigh, with Eva on piano, there’s a tantalising dark strain running through. ‘I said to thee will you be my bride or be my garden of Eden?’ Will the lover become wife, temptress, the downfall?
Familiar sounding, yet brand new, the possibilities of love or lust being put to the test, the struggles between social class, nods to the raggle-taggle gypsy songs, the lover is ‘but a beggerman’, essential characterisation in the romantic ballad. Using in-line rhyme, confessional tone and dialogue, the arrangements fittingly chaotic, great swells of emotion, ethereal yet solid, she draws out the human conflict of displacement against confinement, choice versus freedom for better or worse. Produced by Brian Casey, Wavefield Studios, with Coyle’s sweet vocals, Down to the Shore might be a theatrical piece, a snapshot into a relationship, with dramatic finish, “she’s gone to the sea”, open ended, fittingly.
Anne Marie Kennedy

The Merciful Road
Own Label TBGC003, 8 Tracks, 45 Minutes
James and Sam Gillespie write on their web page this album was ‘inspired by the grace of life in troubled times’. An intimate sense of spiritual grace seeps through each of the 8 tracks on this album. Their delivery is gentle, points are made calmly. Angst is kept off the boil. The brothers owe this to heritage and their home place; home is the village of Wall, in Northumbria, close to Hadrian’s Wall, a place that has been peopled for 2000 years, and where spirits haunt the fells from which they take their musical measure.
That metric is somewhere between the lyricism of Nick Drake and the instrumental deftness of Nic Jones. Sam playing fretless gourd banjo, guitar, bouzouki and wooden flute, whilst James excels on guitar, fiddle shruti box and tambourine. Sharing the same genetic configuration pays dividends too when it comes to harmony singing. The brothers’ voices blending as sweetly as anything you’ve heard by the Everly brothers.
Their songs are given time to unwind, with Pilgrim Song their most accessible; here the finger picked guitar playing is a delight, their singing pitch perfect. The longest song on the album is a harmonious biography of their relative Great Aunt Katherine who left the Hebrides to settle on the other side of the world in the North Island of New Zealand. Track 7 is a traditional Scottish song which also deals with separation: When Fortune Turns The Wheel, a song that deserves to be sung more often, similar in context to The Parting Glass, the brothers perform it with deep feeling accompanied by harp. The final track Endless Road also has echoes of the lonely emigrant who seeks out familiar faces from the homeland in a maddening city crowd; exile for many is indeed an endless road.
If you need respite from a troubled world this album will provide you with moments of peace; the Merciful Road is a gentle path to take.
Seán Laffey