Releases > Releases June 2015

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The Slender Promise
Banshee Music BANMUSCD2000
12 Tracks, 37 Minutes
This is a rare thing from Finbar Furey, an instrumental album, in fact the last purely instrumental record he made was back way before CDs were invented, in the vinyl days of 1972. Now 43 years between albums is something of a record in itself. I wonder would the music on this CD be recognisable to Furey’s young self more than four decades ago?
This album is sub–titled Inspirational Music on the Flute and Uilleann pipes. By flute Finbar means the low whistle, which he co–developed with the late Bernard Overton in 1970. Some say his recording of the Lonesome Boatman established the low whistle in the tradition. Not one for revisiting past triumphs the boatman has sailed away and isn’t on this album. What we have instead is a mixture of melodic masterpieces, some are artefacts of the recording studio where Finbar double tracks himself on pipes and whistle. He is joined by his grown up children Áine and Martin. Carlene Anglim guests on fiddle and Gary Low on percussion.
Sweeping orchestral statements and rousing joyous traditional tunes fill the album from start to finish. He has written half of the tracks here, one Castaway, is from the movies credited to Sylvestri and 20th Century Fox. The other five are traditional. His opening number The Refugee was composed for a movie The Occurrence at Wild Goose Lodge, and is widescreen and cinematic in its ambition. Welch’s jig played freehand takes us back to the tradition, at just over 90 seconds it creates motion and energy and a groove develops to paraphrase Finbar. She Moved Through the Fair, is a simple tune invested here with pathos and melancholy. He has fun too with the Aw De Audi Jig, the album was recored in Germany and there is perhaps another story to tell about this track. Miss McLeod’s is cheeky and irreverent with some diddling mouth music to start it off, Paddy Dear complete with country style guitar rest a moment of modernity on the shoulder of an ancient lament. His Rocks of Bawn has in intriguing spare thoughtful middle section in which he seems to be contemplating the memory of Joe Heaney.
The album closes with a 6 minute tone poem Mangan’s Madness for Roisin. I can see this being taken up by an Irish contemporary dance company, Anglism fiddle drifts towards Bulgaria and ghostly voices are heard in the back ground. Chillingand thrilling taking the low whistle into darkly sublime regions, the pipes come in, is that snatch or Rosin Dubh? Yes it is, keening and crying, dripping with the tears of a hundred poetic disappointments.
Style, attitude, technique to burn, Finbar has had all that for years, now his fans and admirers can have a slice of his music, gathered in one place. It took 43 years but I’m glad he finally got around to making this album. There is no doubt every tune, every press of a regulator key, every trill, has been an inspiration to Finbar and he’s till brim full of ideas and invention.
Seán Laffey

Caitlín & Ciarán
Own Label C7C1,
14 Tracks, 57 Minutes
This album is just a pleasure to listen to. It’s an invigorating partnership on many levels. The pairing of the concertina and fiddle brings out an intricate lightness that refreshes many of the staple tunes of the Irish tradition and the partnership of the syncopated beats of the dance, as the steps craft the story of the tune in tandem with the fiddle, is both joyful and enthralling at any given moment.
Both Caitlin and Ciaran have been a familiar pair on the music scene for the last ten years in a solo capacity yet it is only now they have taken a step forward together musically in recording their debut duet. Each have a strong inherent heritage of musical styles from their own respective areas yet when merged together the style is uniquely their own. Caitlín & Ciarán combines the utilisation of twists on popular tunes, original compositions and uses natural beats of the dance to emulate the unique phrasing of definitive tunes as well as highlighting their solo abilities to stunning effect.
Take the depth of tone in the old favourite Joe Cooley’s Morning Dew as the instrumental pace slowly lifts into an invigorating almost hypnotic cadence that ignites into the uplifting energy of The New Mown Meadows and the subtleties of button and bow take you from the subdued to an exuberance of sound as the pair spark a richness of play with a natural synergy that is intuitively attentive to every nuance of note.
The instrumental focus shifts to the feet in The Shelf where the bow of the fiddle ignites the sole of the shoe with invigorating energy and the solid, interspersed flow between both carry the inflection of the tune with complementary panache. I have to give a mention to Marbhna Luimnigh as the air reaches into the core of sensitivity and captures the essence of the true way a tune should connect to the soul which is why it is one of the many standouts on the album for me.
Stalwart instrumentals from Seán Óg Graham, Caoimhín Ó Fearghaíl and Jack Talty enhance, yet the heart of the album is stamped with Caitlin and Ciaráns’ own inimitable style. It’s a stunning synergy of sound and a musical treat for anyone who listens.
Eileen McCabe

Own Label
5 Tracks, 50 Minutes
The internet tells me this is a rock album. And it probably is - but it’s a rock album born in Limerick and built around uilleann pipes, whistles and flutes as much as guitars, drums and bass. At times Unum is pure progressive rock – close to Bo Hansson’s New Age film scores, or early Hawkwind for example. Other sections are more familiar with recognisably Irish themes and sparse acoustic arrangements. Mostly this CD reminds me of sophisticated instrumental folk rock such as Moving Hearts, Bad Haggis, Millish and Paul Mounsey. But it has its own distinct character too.
In five long tracks, each containing several very different moods, Iron Mountain mix the relatively clean sounds of electric guitar and percussion with a bewildering array of effects on woodwind and strings. The core group is a five–piece: flutes, pipes, guitars, drums and bowed electric bass. The addition of fiddles and saxes on some tracks gives the band a very wide range of sounds, sultry or spooky, West or East, from Black Sabbath to Michael Jackson and more. The chilling end to Bonfires, the blissed–out dreamscapes of Opium, all have that Irish something which lifts Iron Mountain out of the ordinary and makes their music worth hearing again. And again, And again.
Alex Monaghan

Window on the World
12 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Own Label
Declan Sinnott has been a key figure in Irish acoustic music for some 50 years now. He has a very impressive C V: Horslips, Moving Hearts, Mary Black Band, Christy Moore and more have all been served well by his gentle acoustic guitar and his ability to pull a riff from the ether. His own work has suffered somewhat, he’s often just been too much in demand to concentrate on a solo career. His recorded output is small, this album is only his second.
His voice is far younger than his chronological age, clean and clear without a quaver, his guitar playing , especially on electric is subtle and fluid, at times he reminded me of Mark Knopfler at his best, no more so than on Charlie’s Bar with a melodic purpose that you’d find on the Sultans of Swing. He has his own take on the guitar and although there may be passages that doff the cap to other players, Sinnott has a style that sits comfortably with his unhurried vocals. His opening track Walk With You takes on an American country flavour with a dash of banjo. Welcome to Your life is upbeat and optimistic. By the Sound of your Name is the hardest song to deal with on the album, it speaks to the racism of labelling, having the wrong name in the wrong situation can single you out as a victim. All the Way Back has a mandolin backing that hits home right from the first verse. Sinnott plays all the instruments on the album; it not only demonstrates his mastery of several of them but the range of styles he can bring to bear both within and outside of a song. Backing vocals are courtesy of Vickie Keating, the pair tour as a duo these days and on the strength of the CD alone would be worth your time and hard earned cash. If I had to choose a favourite tack it would be Time To Gather In, it appears to be autobiographical. The track in particular speaks directly about life on the road, chiefly the solitude and the emotional distance a troubadour finds on his journey. The song debunks the mystery of song writing; it is full of whimsical advice but is devoid of cynicism. He tells us song writing as a craft is down to some simple rules ¨“easy on the sugar, there’s nothing to it, it’s as easy as it gets.” This is a window on Declan’s world and for the most part it is a sunny vista.
Seán Laffey

River Drivers
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 34 Minutes
For four friends based in South Eastern Pennsylvania, The River Drivers has evolved into a platform for which to combine their various musical influences and instrumental abilities into an energy source of Celtic and Americana soaked sound. Kevin McCloskey, Mindy Murray, Marian Moran and Meagan Ratini are intertwined through friendship and a musical empathy for delivering a strong message through vocal lyricism and they have documented that message with their self–titled debut offering that includes songs of assurance from a variety of ardent artists.
The track choices include one original yet the covers performed within the album are of interest as even though there is a diversity of style in the creative composers, there is a common thread of a strong message within all whether that is for justice, fairness or political reasons. It’s interesting to see Ewan McColl, Dominic Behan and Guthrie interspersed with the Solas lads, Seamus Egan and Mick McCauley and the crafted compositions of Stockton’s Maurice Lennon under the one roof which makes for an intriguing variation.
These diverse songs are sung with a raw conviction and intensity that tell the truth of the passion felt from within the band, revel in the powerful messages that are driving factors behind the lyrical origin of the songs themselves. If you want to rouse yourselves out of the slumber of apathy and get lyrically motivated in united, invasive, proletariat passion then take a listen to this.
Eileen McCabe

Preab Meadar
Own Label DBLM01, 13 Tracks, 43 Minutes
Preab Meadar was never going to be your idea of a typical traditional album. That could be surmised just upon reading the title which is also the derivative source of the descriptive theme of the thirteen tracks within. Preab Meadar is essentially dance metre and Bracken and Mac Mathúna have taken the core of these terms and opened the chasm of exploration through historical interpretation and performance creativity with the utilisation of fiddle and voice.
The synthesis of rhythmic instrumental beats with inflected vocal patterns is one that has its origins in the poetry of the medieval period where the syllabic poetry and structured metre patterns were a part of the early medieval Celtic literature. The pair has taken this concept and re–invigorated it with a modern style of Celtic Influence yet stayed true to the structure of accent and the harmonic inflections that are contrived through the relationship with the voice and the fiddle. This is illustrated impeccably in the opening track, Séadnadh Mór, where the 8 and 7 syllable pattern showcases The Lion and the Fox derived from 1588 and telling of the praise of the Breifne chieftain, Brian Maguire as it portrays a picture of the period in the build up to the nine year war of the time. The rigid structure is followed strictly and strangely pulls you into its sway as the defined beats reach a crescendo of sound.
Preab Meadar is different. It’s hypnotic, educational and compelling. It has a depth and intensity that needs an attentive and respectful ear. Each track tells its own story and is mostly connected to strands of the Celtic past of which the lads have stayed true to the core of yet have brought it into the relevancy of today’s musical soundscape with a respect and insight worthy of the trail of culture it weaves. Fully recommend you read the sleeve notes before each track to gain a deeper insight into the context of rhythm and productive arrangement. It’s an absorbing learning experience.
Eileen McCabe

Into the Well
Own Label Schmooz CD002
10 Tracks, 50 Minutes
The girls are back! Slightly less girlish perhaps, but no less compelling: it’s been six years since their last album, not an unusual gap for this all–star band of busy ladies. Into the Well reunites founders Mary MacMaster and Sally Barker, fresh from success on some TV talent show or other, with fiddler Eilidh Shaw and accordionist Mairearad Green. The Poozies’ celtic spark is still there, although little of the material on this album is strictly traditional.
No guests, no double–tracking as far as I can tell, so this can be faithfully recreated on stage.
All four members sing, and half of this CD is focussed on vocals – but much of the magic is in the arrangements, the see–sawing fiddle harmonies, the accordion riffs, the surprisingly powerful harp chords, and Sally’s percussive guitar. Sally takes most of the vocals too, in her deep transgenre voice – slightly sultry, too wise for pop, too cool for folk. Southern Cross, Ghost Girl and Three Chords and the Truth all get the full Barker treatment, spanning a wide range of popular music. Small Things in the Cupboards is a weird one, and I’m tempted to think Tim Dalling wrote it as a humorous song, but it’s delivered seriously here by Mary I think, and the Gaelic chant Chuirinn is probably also led by MacMaster.
On the instrumental side, two traditional tunes are joined by several from old girl Karen Tweed, plus compositions by Niall Vallely, Liz Carroll (two Ls), and several of Eilidh and Mairearad’s creations. Only an all–female band could have a track called Ryvita – it’s surprisingly tasty in a slightly Scandinavian way! Reels, jigs, something in between in 7/4, and a few other rhythms: from the opening Duchess of Percy to the penultimate Steele the Show, it’s all good. The Polkas is not quite what you’d expect, and The Men Set throws a mouth music melody into the mix, so there’s plenty of smiles and surprises here. Enjoy Into the Well, but don’t hold your breath for the next one!
Alex Monaghan

Linus Entertainment LINUS 270208
13 Tracks, 50 Minutes
Not what I expected, this is a surprise in several ways. It’s true that this CD showcases two of the finest folk fiddlers in the world, certainly the first couple of Canadian celtic music. But it’s not accurate to descrbe One as an album of celtic music, or even of folk fiddling. At times this recording is more Lake & Palmer than Lakefield Ontario, more Nirvana than Nova Scotia, and there are tracks where the drums and bass steal the fiddles’ thunder. However, most of the music is world–class showpiece fiddling, and most of the melodies are drawn from the wider Canadian tradition, embracing Scots, Irish, and Quebec styles. This production, however, leans towards rock rather than roots, farther even that Natalie and Donnell’s previous modern moods. One final surprise is that with two of the finest fiddlers on the planet in the studio, you get one of them to record an unaccompanied song. A bit like asking Pablo Picasso to help out on the face–painting stall: I’m sure he could do it, but it won’t create an enduring work of art. Natalie delivers the gentle Gaelic lullaby Cagoran Gaolach well enough, but she’s no Mary–Jane Lamond or Julie Fowlis, and probably isn’t about to launch a solo singing career. Some of these surprises are explained when you discover that the big–label album producer is more familiar with Pink Floyd, Alice Cooper, Kiss, and Taylor Swift, and may never have done a pure instrumental release. I’m a big Wolfstone fan, so I can cope with the rock band arrangements, but if you want to hear more of the fiddle you may need to turn the bass down a few notches.
There’s certainly plenty of fiddle music here to enjoy. Natalie and Donnell have very different styles, but over years of living and performing together they have blended somewhat. The driving rhythmic Cape Breton sets still tend to come from Natalie – Urquhart Castle, Miss Johnson of Pitworth, her own compositionThe Chase, and a great selection of jigs in tribute to the late Buddy MacMaster. The eclectic showband style of Leahy is evident in Donnell’s performances of The Hiawatha Hornpipe, the Russian–influenced Ellin Polka, and Jamie Smith’s tune Fiddler’s Despair which I fully expected to lead into a version of Johnny and the Devil. There’s lots of excellent twin fiddling too, and a bunch of fine guest musicians. The CD notes are good enough to tell you who plays what, with tune names and composers listed, which I still think is important. A couple of the slower tracks are slightly syrupy – Hector the Hero isn’t played as a defiant tribute to a brave military leader, but rather as a tearful lament, and Joyous Waltz is vibratingly transported from its Quebec origins to the streets of Montmartre. The bite on the bonus Balkan Hills medley more than makes up for this, and One clearly displays the enormous range of styles which Natalie and Donnell have mastered between them. I’m further encouraged by the album title – this should be the first of many recordings by MacMaster & Leahy, maybe showing different aspects of their music, and I think I can already guess what their next release will be called.
Alex Monaghan

Rarities & Old Favourites 1949–1993
Tin Whistle, Flute and Songs from North Clare & Beyond,
2 CD Set, 49 Tracks, PWCD 80007

Many years ago, for a few weeks in the summer I was skulking around the west of Ireland in a Ford Fiesta , carrying a bouzouki and looking for sessions. In those days, I’d guess it would have been the mid–eighties, all trad paths seemed to lead to Doolin and O’Connor’s pub. The rumour had it you’d find an old gentleman who would be happy to have some tunes in the middle of the day and if you could wait unto it got dark the music would get even better, because the lad with the flat cap had so many tunes you’d be hours enjoying his company. The rumours were right.
This album is as good as it gets, as near as you’ll ever get to being in the room with Micho Russell. The CD has taken its compiler Bill Ochs around 10 years to get to this state and fair play to Bill for a truly wonderful production. The 16 page booklet gives us great insights into the tunes, the musical life of Clare and the genius of Micho Russell. I wasn’t the only disciple to seek him out; he was persuaded when in his late fifties to go on tour in Germany where his fame spread and where more disciples came in search of the real thing on the west coast of Clare.
Musically this double album is a treat, many of he recordings wee done around a kitchen table and there is a sense of the vitality of place running through the work. Many of today’s whistle albums are enslaved by technology, this music is grounded in an emotional reality. This is playing is so good because Micho’s life depended on it, as it should be with anyone who takes music seriously, when you get to this level there are no soft options.
So with 49 tacks cover the period 1949–1993 it would be a foolish thing to pull out a few example and hold them up to the light. I love the modal melodies, and tunes that remind me of Clare 35 years ago, The Red Haired Boy, The Road to Lisdoonvarna, The Floggin Reel an unusual setting of Boil the Breakfast Early. But there is so much here that you will be able to find your own favourites and if you intend to learn a tune or two, no better source to draw the water from, with reels, jigs, hornpipes and songs a plenty. This is a modern sighting of one of the brightest stars ever to shine over Fisher Street. If you are a fan of Irish music this is a must have for your collection, if you are learning the whistle, music shops should be compelled to present you with one of these CD’s with every fresh whistle purchased.
Seán Laffey

Didn’t She Dance and Dance
Own Label PBCD2014
16 Tracks, 51 Minutes
A pair of young – or young–ish – Sliabh Luachra musicians on fiddle and button box, Aoife and Paudie have gone back to the deep well of the tradition for most of the tunes here. Sources include archive recordings and manuscripts by Julia Clifford, Denis Murphy, Johnny O’Leary and of course Padraig O’Keeffe. Polkas and slides dominate, with jigs and reels, and the occasional hornpipe, plus the air An Buachaill Caol Dubh which is a box solo and the only non–duet on this album. Aoife and Paudie are accompanied on roughly half these sixteen tracks by Paul de Grae and Ruarí McGorman on guitar and bouzouki. They end with a pair of Johnny O’Leary waltzes new to me, Tom Billy’s and Terry Lane’s.
While much of the music of Sliabh Luachra is deceptively simple, the beauty is in how you play it. Ní Chaoimh and O’Connor’s playing is exemplary, drum–tight duets which are nevertheless full of expression. They put in a lovely end to Danny Green’s Polka, subtle bass touches on The Glountane, fine ringing strings on the title tune, and plenty of ornamentation throughout. There’s a local version of The Frost is All Over, a mysterious polka or two, a variant of The Tenpenny Bit which was taught by Padraig O’Keeffe, a hornpipe called The Rose of Drishane which certainly isn’t tripe (Cork joke there), and two or three tunes which don’t actually have a strong Sliabh Luachra connection but just seemed to fit this album. In short, it’s all good. The recording quality here is remarkable too, clear and bright without any distracting mechanical noise from either instrument. More details, and free samples, are available at
Alex Monaghan