Releases > Releases July 2024

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Gone Jiggin’
LHM Records LHMO77, 12 Songs, 43 Minutes
Our dear departed colleague Aidan O’Hara made a number of Radharc documentaries on the Irish of Newfoundland on RTE 1 in the 1980s. I’m sure he would have been delighted with Gone Jiggin’ from Rum Ragged. Having seen the band play on numerous occasions at the Milwaukee Irish Fest, I know they are determined to tend to their living tradition.
Rum Ragged consists of Mark Manning (lead vocals, guitar), Aaron Collins (vocals, bouzouki, mandolin, tenor banjo, accordion, whistle, harmonica), Zack Nash (tenor banjo) and Cape Bretoner Colin Grant (fiddle, step dancing). The album was produced by Billy Sutton (who also plays with Irish based Miscellany of Folk). Billy contributes bass bodhrán, percussion and vocals.
The Road to Lushes Bight (Island Stock) is an homage to home, a commentary on the pulling power of Toronto, the inevitable doubts and ennui of comfortable middle age, where “all they’ve started ends” and the longing for roots “this place you are leaving is always your home”.
Collins plays box on Ray Head’s, Harry Eveleigh’s and Mrs Belles.. the first a slow tune, the latter two are Newfoundland singles, similar to a Kerry slide. Each name in the selection referring to tradition bearers from whom the band learned the melodies. Comical songs are popular in Newfoundland and the album includes: Kelly and the Ghost, Thomas Trim, and Riley. The habitual drunk Kelly is scared into sobriety by meeting a spirit on the way home; I won’t spoil the twist in the tale, it’s there where the comedy lies.
The Dewy Dells of Yarrow is a standout ballad from Manning. And for rarity, the traditional song Paddy Hyde has its first recording and what a good job Rum Ragged do with it. There’s an unknown Irish provenance on The Green Shores Of Fogo which was first collected in 1952 by Kenneth Peacock from a Mrs John Fogarty.
Box and banjo are to the fore on the Viking Jig and this smoothly transitions to West Bay Centre as Colin Grant joins the fun. Hailed by many as the finest band to come out of Newfoundland in a generation, Gone Jiggin’ is an album for the ages. Highly recommended.
Seán Laffey

The Magic Roundabout
Raj Records RAJCD 006, 8 Tracks, 40 Minutes
Loved for their mischievous humour as well as their high-quality music, this magnificent seven-piece has been among the most popular bands on the Scottish folk scene for quite some time. Each member is a star in their own right: drummer Dave “Chimp” Robertson, pianist Brian “Beard” McAlpine, singer and guitarist Marc “Colonial” Clement, and fine fiddlers four. Adam Sutherland from Inverness, Gordon Gunn from Wick, Kevin Henderson from Shetland and Charlie Mckerron from Speyside play the fiddle pieces which are the hallmark of Session A9, mostly their own compositions here. Although this is a studio recording, that humour is evident from the album title to the final frantic reel Eroticon VI - named for a conference which Adam attended, I think!
The Magic Roundabout opens with a punchy Sutherland strathspey introduced in cinematic style with ominous pounding chords, and quickly moves into a pair of delightful reels by Gunn and Mckerron. Waltzes from McAlpine and Mckerron provide a sweet contrast, artfully arranged to make the most of the band’s prodigious musicianship. Friday the 13th is a contemporary slow air with no filmic references, cool jazz and carefully jarring cadences behind some superb fiddling. Billy Peace’s joyous Orkney saunter Rachel’s Graduation Day has a touch of that American swing which spices so much Northern Isles music. Speaking of Americana, the other two slower tracks here are songs with a transatlantic pedigree: Tom Waits’ Heart of Saturday Night and Robbie Robertson’s Twilight which predates the movie by a few years. Both vocal numbers are backed with all the verve of Vegas or Nashville, lush without turning syrupy.
After some very precise driving on the title track, our heroes close this classy CD on a selection of happy tunes: a jaunty fling and two lively reels, no sharp objects, just smooth bowing and solid accompaniment.
Alex Monaghan

Way Out West
Baroda Music, 11 Tracks, 42 Minutes
Stephen Gormley, aka ‘Moon Looks On’, has released Way Out West, a much anticipated album of original compositions, themes that tackle ordinary human conundrums, celebrates the natural world and explores relationship dynamics with maturity. He is an articulate lyricist, drenched in the wonders of the natural world, well connected to our mountains, land, rivers and island seascapes.
Genre-defying, he is a fine singer, versatile, emotional with great range. The title track Way Out West celebrates his youth, a man who was “born to roam and born to ramble”, rhyming couplets to a catchy melody, “love is always such a gamble”, (is there a west of Ireland hint of Saw Doctors in it?).
A relationship explored in a song inspired by the ocean, ancient mythology, the fish-creature, temptress turned woman in Selkie, in first person, the writer falls under the spell of a girl, like the pull of the ocean, “she carried me home”, great pace in Cabin Fever, a swing, a fling, a gin with Rosie, storytelling to music. The Mist from the Mountain takes him back to the Ox mountains where life began, and like Seamus Heaney who called his place of origin ‘a cherished territory’, Stephen Gormley’s Sligo is just that.
Raising the Roof is a standout, a song of loss, memories, “of youth come alive dancing in the early morning sun”, best to “raise a glass to those who’ve gone their way”, celestial references, spirit soaring, clouds parting, tenderness; “I hear you sometimes whistling in the breeze”, and the listener is treated to a blast of whistling, most unusual, charming.
With a host of musical luminaries as guests, the album is on the Baroda Music label, recorded and produced by Bill Shanley, also featuring Stephen O’Dowd, Aisling Bridgeman, Seamie O’Dowd and Emma Gormley among others, an excellent piece of work.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Immigrant Songs
Off Hand Productions, 12 Tracks, 54 Minutes
Wolf Loescher is a singer/storyteller based in Longmont, Colorado, who has had a long association with the Celtic scene in Texas and will tour Ireland with the Piper Jones band in summer 2024. Wolf sings songs and tells stories from the Old World and the New, accompanying himself on his custom Irish bouzouki, tenor guitar, bodhran, and foot percussion.
A highland pipe lament opens the album on Runrig’s A Dance Called America, a song about the enlightenment’s capitalist ideals and the colonization of Anglophone America, and how that idea still fuels the draw of the USA for the poor, disposed and ambitious. He invests Robert Earl Keen’s Mariano with a staccato beat, with Mari Black’s fiddle playing knitting the track together as the song tells of an immigrant who works illegally in the southern USA. He takes us into Irish Celtic rock on The Elders’ American Wake, a song that deserves a wide appreciation and would work in a number of acoustic contexts.
Steve Earle’s City of Immigrants, it is a multicultural urban experience with a bravado intro from Tim Britton’s uilleann pipes playing a zydeco riff, upbeat and strident, the drums and bass creating a place for Frances Cunningham’s harmony vocals. More uilleann pipes and some gorgeous guitar playing from Scooter Muse on Brendan Graham’s Isle of Hope. Wolf’s voice here is at its most emotional and fragile on the album. More strings on Pat Byrne’s The Hills of Killedmond, a look back at the home an immigrant has left in Ireland; the language here locates the story in the recent present and yet it is a timeless reminder that nearly every family in Ireland will have an exiled daughter and son in their family tree. Economics and opportunity push emigrants into immigrants and there is no more explosive propellant than discovery of gold by John Sutter which resulted in the Californian Gold Rush which Wolf sings about on Dan Fogelberg’s Sutter’s Mill.
The final track is Loescher’s version of Willie Nelson’s Living in the Promiseland, with its initial verse:
Give us your tired and weak, And we will make them strong
Bring us your foreign songs, And we will sing along
Running parallel to the main song is This Land Is Your Land written in 1940 by Woody Guthrie. In these times of isolationism and border walls, Immigrant Songs reminds us of the power of an idea to make the best of us and of all new worlds.
Seán Laffey

Fair Freedom
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 47 Minutes
Wordsmiths come in a variety of flavours, some are verbose, others doodle in the verbal margins of meanness. Peter Morton’s writing is literate, liberal, and often funny, he obviously delights in the cadence of syllable and the allure of  alliteration. The opening track, The Rivers of the Isle would test any O-Level geography student in the UK, its rivulets of rhyme here as deft as the Derwent, the Dee and the Don. Things get a lot more environmentally serious on Newton’s Parakeet, the extinction of keystone fauna is a warning of our own species’ vulnerability:
And the weeds would fill the street,
When we fell in our defeat,
Non existent, not a tweet!
Like Newton’s Parakeet.
The Ghost of a Sailor, is the longest track at 7 minutes, delivered in talking blues style. He imagines a friendly ghost in your local pub. The apparition can be seen when the filter of modern life is lifted by a surfeit of drink. The ghost reflects, cogitates and considers the hundreds of years of history that have played out in the bar. The monologue is interspersed with verses of songs such as Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy, All for Me Grog and My Bonnie Lies Over The Ocean, each plucked from the ages the spirit has witnessed passing before him.
He considers the current situation in Gaza in his song Sharing The Land, a call for a peaceful two State solution, which seems so difficult from this current point in history. He offers us advice against the tribulations and trolls of spending too much time on social media in The Genuine You:
Don’t let this modern life break your heart
You’ve been perfect here from the start,
Away from the likes, the dislikes, the pressure and fear.
This world’s got bullies who can be so cruel,
Technology can take us all for fools
Pete Morton frequently takes on the jester’s motley and tells truth to power. Check out Fair Freedom on Bandcamp and discover the potential of his lyrics for yourself.
Seán Laffey

As the Trees Have Always Known
Own Label, Single, 4 Minutes
W.B. Yeats found inspiration in the woods at Coole Park, where he saw “an entrance to another world”, similarly the Australian singer-songwriter Melanie Horsnell draws deep inspiration from trees. From her forthcoming album Gold and Carnelian, she has released a single, As the Trees Have Always Known, composed while touring Northern NSW, a reflective time as evidenced in the melody. On route to Dorrigo, she watched the trees “leaning into each other”, mutually supportive.
Rich in poetry, the voice ethereal, in meditative mood, the trees are being carefully observed, as if in a trance, the writer engrossed with nature, watching the limbs reach up, their “heads touch the sky”, during “the season of growing”, she asks, “can we live this life together”, as vegetation flourishes in the wilds of the Australian bush. “Take me down to the river, come and watch the water flow”, a sweet, repeated refrain.
There’s great synergy between the voice and instrumentation, accompaniment feels natural, organic, ebbing and flowing like the river, with Colm Mac Con Iomaire on fiddle, Jonathan Zwartz on double bass, Bill Risby on piano and Hamish Stuart on drums, a tasty sample of what’s to come in the album.
Anne Marie Kennedy

On My Way/Ar Mo Bhealach
Own Label, 18 Tracks, 70 Minutes
Living in Nashville, staying close to her Irish roots in her recent album On My Way/Ar Mo Bhealach, Clare Cunningham has already established herself with a solid reputation as a fine vocalist and songwriter. An outspoken, empathetic, advocate for mental health, she has worked with Garth Brooks, Steve Earle and Vince Gill among others. This album, with twenty-three guest musicians is a prayerful tribute to Ireland, a repository of love-filled memories and an emigrant lament.
Irish Dad written with Steve Dean and Bill Whyte is a tribute to her own father, “my dear old Irish dad”, his devotion to the Irish parenting cliche, lines taken from An Irish Blessing, dovetailed with older generation wisdom, “money comes and money goes”, a father’s blessing for his daughter. Until We Meet Again is a tender love song, for the one love, the only love, perhaps the distant love, the writer vowing to “sing through all the bad”, until they are reunited. Gather All Ye Rosebuds has a hint of Nashville, a strong country vibe, written with Wood Newton, the message is to Carpe the life out of the diem!
Reminiscent of A Stór mo Chroí, there’s a trilogy of tributes to Ireland, Eireann i mo chroí, like all poignant emigrant songs, a celebration of the birthplace and homeland, the longing for home, “when I dream I dream about the days gone by”, sad but warm, lovely. Paired with Dear Ireland, epistolary, a letter to home, “if I could take you here with me”, an evocation to always remember her as the exile, also Home Again, in homage, the poet counting down the days until the next visit, “tell her I’m on my way”, the last line, fittingly in our native tongue, “tá mé ar mo bhealach”, tuning in with the title.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Two Halves
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 46 Minutes
A native of Cornwall, Richard Trethewey is a singer, cittern and fiddle player who has a deep understanding of the region’s folk tradition, and he has devoted a lot of energy to researching the local history, presenting music with his own individual interpretation of various events, contemporary in feel while deeply respectful to the area’s rich heritage. As well as his solo work, he is a member of several groups and ensembles as well as working as a music therapist. On this album he is joined by some exceptionally talented musicians, including Freya Jonas on piano and Neal Jolly on double bass, as well as using niche instrumentation such as a wonderful brass quartet on The Sounds Of The Mine.
The album, as its title suggests, consists of two sets of five tracks; the first five are inspired by stories associated with Cornish rivers, the remainder focus on Cornwall’s industrial history. All music is composed and arranged by Richard, and he displays a wonderful sense of harmony and dynamics while retelling the various stories he is so familiar with. The ensemble playing is very special and all participants are clearly deeply invested in the various themes.
He has a relaxed and pleasant vocal style, so the songs flow very naturally. Queen Of The Cornish Rhine has a nice medieval feel, while The Lonesome Track has a nice insistent rhythm. The second half includes material specifically associated with mining, Trethewey Mine relates a true story of members of Richard’s family who emigrated to Canada seeking their fortune in the 19th century. There are also two excellent instrumental pieces - Ruan Lanihorne Castle builds slowly from a solo harp before developing with beautiful harmonies.
Overall, this is a fine album from an artist who is obviously deeply committed to his work.
Mark Lysaght

Helio Records, 9 Tracks, 33 Minutes
I’m reviewing this album in the week after the controversial 2024 Eurovision Song Contest, which was held in Malmö, Sweden. This album is the best antidote for the over produced glam pop pantomime we often associate with that competition.
Thomas Eriksson (composer / guitars), Helga Myhr (Hardanger fiddle) and Anna Malmström (clarinet / bass clarinet) are MOJNA, a Swedish/Norwegian trio playing newly composed, Nordic folk music on guitar, Hardanger fiddle and clarinet/bass clarinet. Their debut album För Sola Skin’ På Tak (2022) was nominated for both Manifestgalan (2023) and Folk & Världsmusikgalan (2023). MOJNA’s music has credence and credibility within the cognoscenti.
Thomas Eriksson is a Swedish guitarist, cittern player and composer who works mainly with traditional and contemporary Nordic folk music. He is currently living in Oslo, Norway. The music on V​ä​nten​ä​tter has a tendency to be glowering. and deliciously so; MOJNA’s darkness has a charm all of its own. The trio performs newly composed, inventive Nordic folk. The clarinet in particular brings out this music’s sombre qualities in tracks such as: V​äv, especially the first half before the Hardanger fiddle which is in the same tonal range, joins in, adding subtle trills and tremolo. Spegling is a minimalist four minutes of breathy flute and resonant clarinet coupled with an atmospheric guitar and a gentle hum of a breeze. Svirra is a dance tune which makes the most of the drone DNA of the Hardanger, the music working round and round; there’s a break in the fiddle melody as the guitar briefly takes up the main tune.
The title track V​ä​nten​ä​tter, which Google translates as ‘Wait Tonight’ does indeed take a long time to build into its circular crescendo, this pattern of a considered beginning is a hallmark of Eriksson’s composing talent.
Irish listeners will have no problem with the material here as this ground has been harrowed by Altan’s Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh with her adoption of the Hardanger fiddle into Irish traditional music. MOJNA’s
V​ä​nten​ä​tter will bring you into a mystical world of new Nordic music, this is one for the musically adventurous.
Seán Laffey

Ditto Music, 10 Tracks, 37 Minutes
A trio of ladies who sing in close harmony, Odette Michell, Karen Pfeiffer and Daria Kulesh. They are also multi-instrumentalists, playing bouzouki, guitar, accordion, bodhrán, shruti box, percussion and woodwind (Irish flute and recorders). Produced, mixed and mastered by Jason Emberton, the album features the impressive instrumental talents of Jason Emberton (drums, strings, keyboards), Katrina Davies (violin), Phil Beer (violin on The Cossack’s Bride), Jonny Dyer (guitar on May Colven) and Marina Osman (piano on Those Were the Days).
The title track Flowers is about sisters who each say, “in the bracken, I met a strange man, a lust in his heart, and a knife in his hand”. This is a murder ballad, but it is the three sisters who do the deadly deed!
Other songs include My Love’s in Germany and Pete Seeger’s Where Have All the Flowers Gone?, the melody was from a Ukrainian folk song. It came to Seeger by way of a melody from an Irish lumberjack song, “Johnson says he’ll load more hay.”
The unique musical dimension that Michell, Pfeiffer & Kulesh bring to this art form is their ability to sing international songs in European languages. For example Those Were The Days My Friend, that Mary Hopkins classic takes on a whole new suit of clothes when sung in German. Similarly The Cossack’s Bride, which was the trio’s debut single is set to the familiar tune that Dion O’Brien used for the Seekers’ The Carnival is Over. It began life as a Russian Folk song, which you may know as Stenka Razin. Michell, Pfeiffer & Kulesh help us discover, it’s a dreadful tale of a Persian princess being thrown off a boat in the Volga River in a moment of drunken macho chest beating by the Cossack leader Stepan “Stenka” Razin. An event that may have actually taken place.
Another real event was the creation of the song Peatbog Soldiers, which was written in a German political prisoners’ concentration camp in 1933. It is without doubt the most well known folk song in Europe and their version is a chilling juxtaposition of despair and hope.
Passion and poignancy mark this as a debut album that is surely a curtain raiser for a long career ahead.
Seán Laffey