Releases > Releases July 2023

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Farset Records FARSET20231, 14 Tracks, 46 Minutes
At 74 Gabriel McArdle proves it’s never too late to release your debut solo album, and what an album it is. Gabriel sings and plays concertina and is accompanied by Dónal O’Connor on harmonium, guitar & tenor guitar, Ciarán Curran on bouzouki, tenor guitar & mandolin, Jim McGrath on button accordion & 12 string guitar, Pat McManus on fiddle, and by Darragh Murphy on uilleann pipes & whistles. The album was produced by Dónal O’Connor.
Emigration and the cavity it creates in the lives of couples is a recurring theme on this album. The first track Erin Grá Mo Chroí sees an emigrant fondly recalling his native land whilst sitting on the banks of the Hudson in New York. On The Banks of Kilrea the narrator is interloping on the conversation of two young people who are considering emigration (how times have NOT changed in Ireland).
Gabriel has an easygoing style, without artifice, histrionics or showmanship, his clear diction allowing the listener to absorb every nuanced phrase. This is a master class in how to sing traditional Irish songs in English. Having said that the title track is an instrumental piece; the harmonium sets a sombre mood as the fiddle draws into the scene with an achingly beautiful slow air. Gabriel joining later on concertina as the blackbird takes flight.
Bessie The Beauty describes the pleasures of a bucolic excursion from the shuttle-tied toil of the loom, the dander finds our singer entranced by the beauty of Bessie from Rossanure Hill. Gabriel conjectures this song may have been written by Peter McGuinness who was a schoolteacher and poet from Boho, County Fermanagh. Gabriel brings us another instrumental on track 7: I Buried my Wife and Danced on her Grave & The Drumshanbo Jig, a nice shift there from the major to the modal. He is backed by guitar on Far From Erin’s Shore, in which an Irish emigrant meets a rich Texas beauty in Boston, but finds her no comparison to the charmers waiting back home near Enniskillen. He plays a selection of marches on the concertina: The March of the Clan Maguire, The Pikeman & Daniel O’Connell’s Visit to Parliament, upbeat and intoxicating, we need to hear more Irish marches on traditional albums.
The final track The Waves of the Silvery Tide is about the murder of Mary, her lover’s search for and subsequent discovery of her attacker and his execution. Gabriel had this song from his father. It sounds a grim story but the way he sings it with Ciarán Curran’s backing would make you want to hear it all over again.
Hailed by many as a singer’s singer, this is a legacy recording that will still be fresh and appealing in 100 years time.
Seán Laffey

Big Man Records BMANN005, 10 Tracks, 39 Minutes
It’s hard to know what to say about Ímar that I haven’t said before. Pan-Celtic prodigies packing a powerful punch, penning passionate yet pensive pieces, performances which are pretty much perfect, and that’s just one letter of the alphabet. Their third album is more of the same, but fresher, feistier, furiously fast, and full of fine new compositions. Here is a band who can change up a gear from a reel to a jig or vice versa, and who keep the tension building through ten tracks without breaking a sweat. It does take a heavy toll on their jeans though. The front line of Mohsen Amini on concertina, Tomás Callister on fiddle and Ryan Murphy on uilleann pipes and flutes emphasises the Irish and Manx characteristics of the band, but there’s a Scottish aspect too, and even elements of the darker p-Celtic traditions. In the engine room are Manxmen Adam Brown and Adam Rhodes, there’s no better team on bodhrán and bouzouki, or indeed in a three-legged race.
Puns are on the menu for the opening mash-up Bangers, the Scotsman abroad with Legal Tønder, and the very irreverent Neachtain’s Wing, which is the only track here without a composition by Murphy, Callister or Amini. A couple of other traditional favourites raise their heads: Paddy Kelly’s and Rose in the Garden (lovely girl, I knew her mother) but the rest of Awakening comes fresh from the fevered imaginations of these three heroes. Not that this is immediately obvious: listen to the set of island-scattering slides on Splinter O’Neill’s and you could be set dancing in Sliabh Luachra, while The Gift Horse is not far behind with its red diesel polkas. Things slow down occasionally: Callister’s Imagine a World is a moving slow air, Waterhorse ripples in rhythmic flux, and Eoghainn’s hides a melancholy edge under its slow velvet march. The final Tree of Life is back to unbridled horseplay, galloping away over the horizon like the mythical figures, which inspired the album cover.
Alex Monaghan

TRAD Records, 9 Tracks, 36 Minutes
An album full of strings, from the Flemish trio Snaarmaarwaar, all of the music was composed by Maarten Decombel and recorded at Studio Trad by Jeroen Geerinck. The gatefold cardboard sleeve lists very little information about the trio, but does have Flemish and English notes on each track. For those in the know, Snaarmaarwaar are one of the top folk bands in Belgium. Playing mandolin, mandola and guitar they are champions both of their native tradition and adept at writing new pieces of music, which neatly fit into the folk music culture of the Low Countries. For this album the trio shared one microphone, and played into it old style, which gives the album a live patina. They say the music reflects the river Lys that meanders between France and Belgium.
The trio are Jeroen Geerinck (guitar), Maarten Decombel (mandola) and Ward Dhoore (mandolin), and that’s it, three lads playing strings standing around one microphone. But what a sound they make. Black Frost recalls the arctic air-ice that can capsize a ship, a riff softly underlays the track as the mandolin is handed the top line melody. The mood and tone changes halfway through when the guitar lifts the load of the tune. Planchemouton imagines the sheep country of Limousin in France, with two bourrées in a two-handed conversation between the mandolin and its big brother the mandola. Track 6 Julos was written in honour of the late Walloon singer Jules-Beaucarne; it’s a continental waltz with a thoughtful middle section as if sadly remembering someone who has meant so much to them.
The album closes with Fugenzo, named for the first cherry blossoms that tell the world that winter is over. A gorgeous intertwining of perfectly pitched strings, simple and self-possessed, a quiet way to sign off. Like the river Lys the music flows effortlessly from the strings of Snaarmaarwaar.
Seán Laffey

Speak of the Devil
Own Label DLHN004, 10 Tracks, 44 Minutes
Jack Badcock (guitar/vocals), Ciarán Ryan (banjo), Benedict Morris (fiddle) and Andrew Waite (piano box and backing vocals) make up Dallahan, and that’s all you need. Quite a change from album number two where every track was laden with guests, but this band has increased in confidence and coherence through their last release Smallworld, and now their fourth chapter is chock full of the solid Dallahan sound. What does that actually mean? Well, I’m pleased to say that the emphasis is still on instrumentals, which is not surprising with three of Scotland’s most talented and innovative players on board. Ryan can hold his own on both sides of the Irish sea, while Benedict has a huge reputation as a fiddler in multiple groups and genres. Andrew takes the humble accordion to new heights: his chameleon chords and textured  melodies are key to the character of Dallahan’s music.
Six sassy tune sets span contemporary hornpipes and reels, jazzy waltzes and airs, Latin and Balkan rhythms, the three front men mightily backed by Badcock’s guitar to give a full and rich sound throughout, not overproduced but overwhelmingly powerful. Four songs add to this intoxicating mix: the compelling Marina hints at an old Mexican tale of love and politics, the melancholy Picture on the Wall portrays grief and loss, Rude Spanish Soil might tell the romantic revolutionary side of the same story, and the gritty last song brings us back to Mexico in perhaps more recent but no less bloody times.
Speak of the Devil is an album on the glittering edge of folk, all original but weaving in threads from so many traditions, yet never pulling the fabric out of shape. The final funky jig sums it up for me, wild and wonderful.
Alex Monaghan

Where from Here
Own Label GAR002CD, 10 Tracks, 45 Minutes
There’s an echo of 1980s Glasgow-based band Ossian about some of this second album from top Scottish instrumental trio Assynt, which is quite a compliment. The instrumentation is similar: Graham Mackenzie on fiddle, David Shedden on highland pipes and whistles, and Innes White filling out the sound on guitar, but it’s the purity and freshness of the music which really makes the connection with seminal recordings of forty years ago. Where from Here is mainly new compositions by the band, Mackenzie and Shedden with a bit of input from White, so it’s no surprise that they get the best out of these tunes, assisted in places by the versatile Charlie Stewart on double bass.
It’s easy to lose yourself in Assynt’s music, the melodies are very engaging and the rhythms rock you gently, but they do rock! The opening John Morrison of Assynt House gives way to a trio of gently swaying Mackenzie pieces on Gordon Stewart’s, picking up speed before Shedden’s dreamy low whistle on St Andrews Drive. Tracks on this album have a way of building in volume and tempo, so that what started as a gentle float on a lilo suddenly turns into a white water rafting experience and you’re just waiting to go over the waterfall: The New Normal is a good example, and Rescues is another. Maybe the clue is in the names. The title track provides an island of calm, misty tranquility on pipes and guitar, before a final blast of new traditional tunes in the piping idiom, a gripping end to a great selection of music.
Alex Monaghan

Sheffield Park
Grimdon Records GRICD007, 11 Tracks, 47 Minutes
George Sansome is an English folk singer and guitarist, noted as a member of the bands Granny’s Attic, Queer Folk and Captain Bullhead, also for his ability to explore the essence of traditional and folk songs. Matt Quinn is a multi-instrumentalist and singer originally from Brighton, but now based in Sheffield, with lots of experience on the English folk and trad scene. For this album, the two have joined forces to produce a collection of their favourite songs.
Accompaniment is deliberately sparse with the focus on the vocal delivery, but both are skilled players with some lovely deft touches on guitar (Sansome) and mandolin (Quinn) complementing the singing, both harmony and solo. The opener Tyne of Harrow (collected from John Faulkner) is acapella, followed by Tailor In the Tea Chest and the title track, both of which feature lovely interplay between guitar and mandolin.
Their voices blend in a very satisfying manner, instinctively finding appropriate and natural harmonies, and the sound is expertly captured by producer Tom Wright, with the emphasis clearly on letting the songs and stories flow. There’s a gorgeous version of The Night Visiting Song sung by Matt, who also excels on My Son in Amerikay (also recorded by Andy Irvine). Thornaby Woods allows George to shine, with a nice arrangement complementing the vocal perfectly.
Overall, the album is relaxed and thoughtful, and the songs are effortlessly delivered by two vocalists with a deep connection to their chosen material. Nothing is forced, and there is wonderful use of space in the instrumentation. Lost In A Wood features simple mandolin accompaniment at the start and then gradually ebbs and flows with instrumental and vocal harmonies. The Death of Andrew closes the album and expertly draws the listener into the sadness of the lyric. An inspiring collection from two stalwarts of the English folk scene.
Mark Lysaght

Flow Country
CDO11BSR, 9 Tracks 42 Minutes
Glasgow based Westward the Light are: Charlie Grey (Hardanger D’Amor and fiddle), Sally Simpson (fiddle and viola), Owen Sinclair (guitar) and Joseph Peach (piano and harmonium).
There’s almost a bond villain theme on the opening bar of the first set The Rearrangement Reel, the fiddle plays an agile riff, the backing is low and thunderous and continues in this fashion into O’er Bogey until there’s a shaft of sunshine in the warp into The Humours of Carrigahalt. Joseph Peach is a find when it comes to new writers, his Flow Country could well become the Josefin’s Waltz of this decade, and their interpretation of it on the fiddle will be a benchmark for years to come.
They go back to the start of the 19th century for a version of O’Farrell’s Welcome to Limerick. This is a tour de force of restrained playing and features long notes on the fiddle that enhances the looping phrasing that this tune is famous for. There’s something similar on the selection they call the Dornoch Links, its middle tune is guaranteed to be an earworm. Track 8 is called the C Jig on their Bandcamp page, an amalgamation of an unknown jig with The Lads of Mull and Elizabeth’s Big Coat. There’s a mature dynamic sensibility at work here, they hold back on the massive ensemble sound until the final tune in the selection, which adds to its impact.
Sally’s soulful viola talks to us on the final track The Braes of Rannoch, a tune which defines the phrase ‘a haunting air’. Westward the Light have taste in abundance, with the viola and Hardanger adding a depth rarely heard in traditional albums. This is a recording that will never become dated, this is a keeper not a sleeper.
Seán Laffey

Own Label, 11 Tracks, 38 Minutes
A promising first album of 5 tracks in 2019, it was a record that called for more. That task is now completed with the publication of this excellent album of 11 tracks entitled Breton, named because this young musician and singer’s roots are in Brittany, yet the contents reflect the fact that he lived in Ireland for more than ten years.
No surprise then that he combines the two musical cultures that have cradled him since his childhood in Brittany. His musical style is the result of a clever mix of traditional Breton, Irish and folk music influences.
Whereas on his previous album, which was purely instrumental, Charlie called on three musicians to assist him, this time he has teamed up with pianist Ryan Molloy to present us with a beautiful musical album, on which he alternates Breton tunes and Irish melodies, as well as several songs, thus revealing a beautiful warm voice.
Eight Breton songs and seven Irish tunes are delicately alternated in three suites.   Although Breton and Irish traditions are present here, Charlie offers us several personal compositions. In particular the songs: Lorient and Ar Redadeg (The Race) and the tunes An Hent Treuz (The Sunken Path), Annaïg or Hanter Louar (The Half Moon). A tribute to Alan Stivell with a cover of Ev Chistr ‘Ta Laou (Cider Song), a very popular song in Brittany. And of course the Breton anthem Bro Gozh Ma Zadoù (The Old Country of my Fathers) set to the same melody as the Welsh national anthem.
Through an acoustic folk repertoire that nevertheless preserves the energy and dynamism of traditional music, Charlie Le Brun offers us an intimate glimpse into his own musical universe. A superb album that highlights the strong musical links between Brittany and Ireland.
Philippe Cousin

Glenshee Music 2023, 9 Tracks, 36 Minutes
A new album from this husband and wife duo, Fil from Belleek in County Fermanagh, and Tom from Belfast. Fil’s 1992 debut album The Light Beyond The Woods set her off on a career as a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist. I recall meeting Fil at an IMRO songwriter’s week in Maynooth University about 20 years ago and it’s a pleasure to see that she still registers each of her compositions on this album with IMRO.
The duo augment their sound with invited guest musicians: Nicky Scott (Bass), Rod McVey (Keyboards), Ciara McCrickard (Fiddle), Nuala Curran (Cello), and Steve Cooney who plays guitars and bass on First of February and guitars on People.
The title track Shoreline has Tom’s djembe playing a reggae Caribbean beat, he whispers his lines, “Are We There Yet?” A phrase many of us have heard from back seat toddlers on a day trip to the seaside, The fiddle is heard prominently on People, the vocals delivered in short phrases, the lyrics blending rhythmically on the message People is all we have got. This album is full of gentle folk songs that anyone can be at home with, accessible and humane. On Don’t Let The Old Man In, a deep bass resonates over the guitar, Tom’s voice is stronger here, a song about mortality and ageing, the crux of the message is that although we may clock up years of time and our bodies are weathered and worn, keep a young outlook on life and realise you wouldn’t know you were old if you didn’t know when you were born.
Fil takes the lead with a breathy vocal on First of February, the tune here has a medieval modal resonance, perfect for the days of an Irish winter, just a hop to St. Bridget’s day and the smiling lifted heads of daffodils. Fil reflects on the future on the rocking, The Days Gonna Come, keyboard and a walking beat drive the song with a swagger. The duo swing towards trade-jazz on The Devil and The Deep Blue Sea, a song composed by Harold Arlen with lyrics by Ted Koehler. It’s a classic and why wouldn’t it be; Arlen wrote the song for the Wizard of Oz. Fil and Tom do keep good musical company.
Seán Laffey

Twenty First Century Fool
Broken Car Recordz BCR-005, 9 Tracks, 44 Minutes
This album was made between lockdowns and curfews with its final iteration on the Isle of Skye. Driving drums lace this album of alt folk rock from Montreal-based Ewan Macintyre. Listen carefully and you’ll detect a Quebecois zeitgeist here, no wonder as seven of the Province’s finest young talents are Ewan’s backing band. Electric guitars play repetitive riffs and an Acadian sounding box adds a counter melody in Horizontal Man, Ewan repeating the phrase: “No one knows just what’s on the horizon”. A sentiment we owned when the lockdown kicked in and the only future we had was uncertainty. Things are a little less stressed, in fact positively languid and dreamy on Fall in Canada, there’s no sense of rush in this track. Track 3 is an Irish jig, which he calls The Saturday Blues Jig, played on mandolin with a fiddle weaving in and out. A bass rounds out the sound and there’s direction and purpose in the playing here.
The Maritimes have a strong Gáidhlig tradition and Ewan adds to it with his original song A Bhith Saor (To Be Free is to Be Alone); the opening lines are more Morricone than Benbecula. The song starts with Ewan’s solo voice but soon the piece fills out when Katrine Bouchard’s Celtic fiddle adds an echo of the old country. The theme of the song is the paradox of the end of the age of oil and the fact that cheap transport made emigration possible. As our petroleum era comes to a close he ponders: “Our roots and heritage will be smashed against the rocks”.
He tackles the theme of loneliness on another Gáidhlig song, the raucous Seóladair nah- Inntinn (Voyager of the Mind). This switches between the discordant and the pensive, its message is don’t get lost in the static cadence of sitting, get up and enjoy each opportunity for action. The final track with guitar and fiddle, Ode to The West was inspired by the thought of a cold February in Thunder Bay when car failures and cancelled gigs plunged him into financial ruin. He ends with a positive up-tick, ruin is only temporary: “Trouble may have hit you hard but my heart sings to see you smile.”
Seán Laffey

All My Days
The Recording Booth TRBDBCD2301, 9 Tracks, 34 Minutes
The new album from singer/songwriter/producer David Edward Booth features a host of talented guests including Texas founding guitarist Ally Mcerlaine, Suffolk singer/songwriter Kelly Bayfield and Northumberland producer/multi-instrumentalist Ian Stephenson.
The album was recorded by David and his collaborators in Suffolk, Northumberland, London, Essex, West Sussex and Sweden over an 18 month period between late 2021 and early 2023. There’s an inherent melancholy in some of David’s lyrics, and in fact the album was finalised a few weeks after his mother’s passing; he says that the grief actually gave him the required motivation to finish the project.
The album is inspired by places, notably the Peak District of his native Derbyshire or the wide expanses of the Suffolk coast where he now lives. This bubbles to the surface on Another Me which he prefaces with “Old, familiar landscapes have the power to take us back into our past, but also help us reflect on who we are now.” His song resonates with blow-ins and immigrants in the telling line: “I don’t know anyone but I know these towns.”
He considers the paradox of parenthood in the song Run, it’s the key single released from the album and it is on his Bandcamp page. Echoes of a guitar’s vibrato from Ally Mcerlaine, Ian Stephenson’s double bass holds the beat in check, Kelly Bayfield’s chords on the piano mirror the drama of the lyrics. The conundrum is what is the balance between freedom and tough love, at what point have you let your child run free?
Perhaps David is best known as a producer and recorder of other people’s songs, however by any measure, and by the yardstick of this album, he is a master of song writing and a compelling singer of mature, reflective adult folk.
Seán Laffey

Own Label, 9 Tracks, 39 Minutes
A four-piece based in Brittany playing mostly Irish music, Antoine Pihier on whistles and flute, Corentin Quimbert (guitar), Konan Gore (fiddle) and Anthony Debray on various percussion. Reading the liner notes (in English) they cite influences for each tune within a set and they are influenced by some of the greats of the tradition: Arcady, Vincent Broderick, Karen Tweed, Johnny Cunningham and many more.
Phoenix is a set of slow reels; the fiddle has a drawn-out sweetness in the long notes as if they’ve been drinking at the same fountain as Martin Hayes, not for long though as the whole shebang joins in with the whistle and bodhrán kicking up a dust storm. There’s no let up as they blast on to the end with the Galway Rambler. The next track Hervetimon begins with Niall Vallely’s 30th Anniversary Slip Jig set of slip jigs, a warbling bodhrán under an interception of whistle and fiddle moves us into a frenzied Herman the German and closes on an emphatic bodhrán with Antoine Pihier’s Hervetimon. They reference Sarah Allen and Flook for the slow reel Gone Fishing, here played on a low whistle, complete with chime bells and a high pitch frame drum. At over 5 minutes they have enough space to develop the tune into Lead the Knave on acoustic guitar.
There’s a wonderfully earthy sounding flute on Eye of the Fox; initially paired with the bodhrán, it all too soon shifts into a full ensemble sound, the fiddle kicking in over a percussive guitar backing. Sparks are flying at this point, there’s no let up until the final unison note from the fiddle and flute. They take us to the tropic of Mullingar with Alan Kelly’s Salamanca Samba, an aperitif before Milonga Para Missoes, the trills on the whistle herald in some Latin fiddling as hot as a pimientos de padron. The Frailach hornpipe is like a sunny donkey ride, flopping from side to side, certainly a different take than Kevin Burke had on the tune. They follow it with Ne Ke Short, which they say is influenced by Les Pires. The album is rounded off with a set they call McGoldrick’s, a selection of Michael McGoldrick’s Reels and Lúnasa’s Kalyana.
There’s a welcome authenticity about this album, a little raw in places - that’s more of an accolade than a criticism, Phoenix has energy and character, Moher cites many influences but in the end they’ve a recognisable sound and that’s a hard feat to pull off.
Seán Laffey