Releases > Releases June 2016

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9 Tracks, 40 minutes
Concertina music is something we usually hear played solo or in a group with other instruments. Here, we have a truly unique ensemble featuring five of Ireland’s finest exponents of the instrument, namely Tim Collins, Míchéal Ó Raghallaigh, Pádraig Rynne, Edel Fox & Caitlín Nic Gabhann. The opening track was composed by the group Director Tim in 2014 to commemorate the millennial anniversary of the death of Brian Boru at the Battle of Clontarf. This music was premiered at Consairtín: The National Concertina Convention held in Ennis, Co. Clare in 2014.
We hear a beautifully rich group sound; the melody line is enriched greatly with some fabulous harmonies and a descant. The group sound is notably solid and tuneful, with a consistent, lilting rhythm. The Humours of Ballyconnell features a lovely hornpipe, brought to the group by Míchéal. This track is concertina heaven; a beautiful build up of sound showcasing the many different possibilities from simple drones to more complex harmonies, whilst double octaves are used to great effect. Loftus Jones adds an O’Carolan piece to the mix. Sunday Solitude is newly composed by Tim in 2014. This track displays the creative arrangements of this ensemble showcasing the many different soundscapes and capabilities of the concertina. The music is grounded very much in the traditional genre, but there are experimental sounds here adding a contemporary feel to the overall sound.
The Passing of Life is a haunting air written by Pádraig Rynne. It begins solo, progressing on to countermelodies creating a rich musical tapestry of sound. Floor Shark follows an interesting polka written by Pádraig to challenge the group. It’s full, rich, energetic sound is funky and infectious. Aughty Sunrise composed by Tim was inspired by a dawn chorus after a sleepless night at home with baby Oisín. In this track, lots of sound effects are explored including vibrato and chordal arrangements. A richly impressive sound, the full variety of possibilities is explored on this humble instrument. In a nutshell, it sounds like a mini concertina orchestra. A set of reels follows – a rhythmic arrangement taken at a relaxed pace, allowing all the nuances and subtleties of the music to be heard. One might think the track listing is a tad short with only nine tracks; however the tracks are long and carefully arranged to leave the listener feeling drawn to the beautiful sound of this ensemble and wanting to hear more. Full marks for creating a really rich and sweet sound; full–bodied, deeply musical and bursting with creativity.
Edel Mc Laughlin

Kind Providence
12 Tracks, 53 minutes
Starting off with a tweet and a chirp from a little birdie, so begins an album of music from a different kind of songbird. Kind Providence is the latest recording from Niamh Parsons, the fifth which shares the credits with her partner in life and music, guitarist Graham Dunne.
The first track, Across The Blue Mountain, takes Niamh to the Blue Ridge Mountains in the USA, far away from her beloved Dublin where she has been a proud and regular figure of the capital’s singing scene, including the Goilín singers circle.
Subtle guitar accompaniment paves the way for The Road to La Coruna, Graham finger picking and providing backing vocals for the Maurice McGrath penned song, which depicts a soldier’s plight during the Peninsular Wars. From the outset, the song makes for chilling listening, as the protagonist’s bootless ‘feet were bled out in the winter chill’. This combination of Niamh’s vocals and Dunne’s exemplary accompaniment is much in keeping with Niamh’s performing style, minus her jovial banter of course. Various effects are used throughout the journey of Kind Providence, with echoing sound capes providing a backdrop for tracks like Willy O. With 12 tracks in total, one tune (The Monaghan Jig) makes the album’s cut in between the songs. A favourite of Dunne’s to play solo on guitar, like other tracks it is embellished ‘with some studio treatment’, as the sleeve notes affirm.
The sleeve notes are filled with thanks and acknowledgements to the wide circle of singers and songwriters who obviously influenced Niamh’s choice of song, including Barry Gleeson whose version of Sweet Daffodil Mulligan Niamh delivers… with fresh fish included!
While Kind Providence [may] test the soul of Valentine O’Hara, Kind Providence as an album provides no such test of faith. The softness of voice which can be heard on tracks like the lamenting Shores of Lough Bran, contrasted with the jaunty delivery of Valentine O’Hara help to demonstrate the power and depth still present in Niamh’s voice and reflects a command for song and delivery which helps portray the integrity and depth of each passing lyric.
Derek Copley

Calla’s Waltz
Boston Road Records RRCD1601, 14 Tracks, 54 minutes

The great thing about this business of traditional music and folk song is that you get to meet so many fine exponents of the craft of singing and performing, and those who create and compose songs in the idiom. The other thing that never ceases to amaze me is that having been in the business a lifetime, I can still be surprised, and I mean pleasantly so, to come across performers like Jed Marum who are entirely new to you (sorry, Jed ) and yet have been around quite a while and have a dedicated following. And in Jed’s case, having heard his new CD, Calla’s Waltz, it’s clear that he’s family, one of our own, but of the very talented side of the family. He’s a singer songwriter, and blessed with the most mellifluous of voices, very appealing.
The title track that Jed describes as “a pretty little banjo tune” is a lot more than that, and reminds one of the sort of talent that gave us the soundtrack to the Ken Burns television series, The Civil War: Jay Ungar’s Ashoken Farewell. And, as it happens, Jay and his wife, Molly Mason, provide accompaniment on some of the tracks on Jed’s CD, all to a happy and musically satisfying effect. Jed includes compositions he wrote about The American Civil War, and in a couple of them, the Irish connection. They are profoundly moving, and the music settings carry the words and their meaning just right. Hattie’s Battle of Franklin is based on the true story of a mother and her 9–year–old daughter Hattie’s work in caring for the wounded. One of those who died in the battle that day, 30th November 1864, was Cork–born Major General Patrick Ronayne Cleburne of the Arkansas Confederates.
Not least of the appealing elements of Jed’s recording is his sharing with us what he might call his Total–Celtic connections, and his love of the music of Scotland and Ireland is the real thing and altogether pleasing. But it comes with that American feel and flavour we all love and enjoy. He sings old favourites like Loch Lomond and Carrickfergus, Dumbarton’s Drums and The Loch Tay Boat Song, and you know, they belong there comfortably with the Civil War songs; because so many of the leading generals in that great war were native Scots and Irish, or descendants of the Gael. I can’t say enough that’s positive and complimentary about this CD well, space is one reason, but it’s one of those special recordings I’ll have ready nearby for listening to again and again.
Aidan O’Hara

New Landscapes
Own Label
10 Tracks, 47 Minutes
These five youngsters from Armagh and Tyrone have caused quite a stir since they got together in 2013 to form Cúig. The band name suggests a lack of imagination, but in fact their music is full of creativity and fresh combinations. The recipe of really talented melody players over a base of rock guitars, drums and – well – bass has been tried before, even by Tyrone musicians, in bands such as Tamlin and MPE. The difference here is perhaps that Cúig’s sound is a consistent blend of the newer and funkier side of Irish traditional music with a sympathetic rock beat, and without any vocal tracks to interrupt the flow. There are some surprises, the rhythm section on the strathspey Bo Mhin na Toltean for instance, but in general Cúig stick to this simple recipe and rely on their impressive collective musical talents to produce something very tasty.
Looking at the sources of these tunes, there are many of the usual suspects and several who are associated with the evolution of Irish music. At the traditional end, a John Doherty reel and a jig learnt from Dermot Byrne show more of the Donegal influence. Modern compositions by Sharon Shannon, Allan Henderson, Tim Edey, and of course Niall Vallely keep things interesting, while David Lim’s tunes Edinburgh Rock and The Bunny’s Hat combine technical difficulty with teasing fun. A couple of the pieces here are taken from Canadian players: Seal Island Fiddle and Call to the Dance, both from the Maritime Scottish tradition. Compositions by Michael Rooney, Ryan Murphy and Zoë Conway also feature. Cúig add four of their own tunes too: the sultry Poison the Well by drummer and guitarist Cathal Murphy, the jig A Break in the Clouds by his accordionist brother Eoin, The Pilsner Polka also by Eoin, and the slow reel A Space in Time by Cathal and fiddler–piper Rónán Stewart.
Miceál Mullen on banjo and Ruairí Stewart on guitars complete the quintet. Most tracks on New Landscapes are pure Cúig, but there are occasional guests: Jarlath Henderson on pipes, Seán Óg Graham on box and bass, plus Michael Owers and Bill Fleming adding brass on two numbers. There would be enough variety without these additions, as Cúig alternate fast and slow, reels and jigs, and a few other rhythms, but the extra firepower does help this album build up to the final Napoleon 2.0 set: three traditional tunes brought bang up to date.
I’m looking forward to catching Cúig live at some point in the near future, but until then this CD is the next best thing.
Alex Monaghan

Today is a Good Day
Brambus Records 14 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Firstly let me declare an interest, on the liner notes of Today is a Good Day where Brendan thanks two of the IMM writing team: Eileen McCabe and Josephine Mulvenna for their support over the years. Speaking on their behalf I can say it is always a pleasure to review work from Brendan.
Brendan has a keen eye for the Irish psyche, whether that be emigration and the social scene of the displaced in his The Girl from Westmeath, uncertainty and the necessity of a confessional as a relationship might be beginning in I am Weak. The sense of place which is both universal and particular to Northern Ireland Where I Belong, here he sings ‘I wouldn’t leave here for the world nothing’s perfect but it is my home… this is my land it is where I belong.’
All this is wrapped up in folky-pop with drums and accordion, Celtic fiddle and jangly guitar, and a touch of Hank Marvin style lead on the title track Today is a Good Day. There is a haunting fiddle slow air Tá Mo Chroi in Éirinn too. With bonus tracks including the upbeat song of (temporary) exile, Leaving Portaferry, where the protagonist will be pulled back by the girl he left behind. The album closes with a live reprise of Where I Belong.
Brendan has indeed found his place in music and is very happy to sing about it.
Seán Laffey

Let Me Fly
Own Label 12 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Paula is a new artiste to me but this twelve track CD is a great introduction. She hails from County Tipperary and from her website I note that I am more than a little behind the times. She has amassed quite a following and has a good number of gigs under her belt.
The album is called Let Me Fly and with the quality of the writing and performance on offer here there is nothing that will stop her flying or the CD’s flying off the virtual shelves. She welcomes us with A Thousand Smiling Faces a multilingual song that has a beautiful lilting sound as its lyrics waken us to a thoughtful writer and performer. She continues with the title track that has a lovely light feeling that reflects the sentiments of the title. One cannot but smile listening to this enthusiastic performance.
There is always a stand out track that a reviewer returns to again and again on any CD and with Ms Ryan that must be Suantrai Donnacha and one is delighted to find that we get the song twice once as above as Gaeilge and then in English as Donnacha’s Lullaby. It is fascinating to listen to each in turn hearing the nuances in sound and lyric. Havin the Craic is a song that has a sort of “mouth music” feel that rolls over us like a brook over pebbles. Black Swan has that haunting sense of being an old folk song revitalised and augers well for the future of Paula as a writer of songs with great potential to become standards of the folk scene.
Her song The Funny One is yet another of those excellent songs that while expressing what may be the personal actually give us a sense of the universal because everyone everywhere has their own “funny one”.
This CD is a great introduction to a strong talent in writing and performing and certainly sounds as if her live performances would be worth seeking out.
Nicky Rossiter

9 Tracks, 51 Minutes
Own Label
The CD comes highly recommended, from Padraig Rynne no less, who writes on the liner “One listen will take your imagination to an unexpected magical landscape”. Intrigued I let loose on the stereo system and I can report Padraig was not wrong. I can report to you that Arum’s music is melodic, minimal and yes magical too.
They belong to a younger generation of exceptionally gifted musicians, and like many of their cohort they have deep associations with Limerick. The benefit of having a world class University in the city are being felt like aftershocks in the trad music community. There’s a permission to experiment in the air, and Arum have taken this freedom and come up with an album of original music on 8 of 9 tracks. The exception being one of the finest songs to come out of Ireland in the past 20 years, Ian Smith’s Bright Blue Door.
The rest, all instrumentals, is a collection of music composed by the band, with each member contributing to the writing. On the Not Unlike Waves set from flute player Conor Crimmins, there’s an almost Breton andro here. The string players introduced a new slant on polkas with Alan Reid’s The Kestrel and Martin Barry’s The Keeper Of The Treasure. Reid supplies a punchy banjo throughout the album and Barry’s guitar sets down distinct compelling beats, especially so on the intro to Acoustic Dance. The fiddle of Karen Hickey coming in as the piece develops, she plays a slow drawn bow under the pulse before she runs in alongside the beat which more of a rave than reel.
The fact is each member is writing for the band and not for themselves, so for example Karen Hickey doesn’t take centre stage on her Lakeshore Drive. They are writing music as an ensemble and it is taken to an extreme on the final 13 minute track Geo, more of a palette of sounds, with a tune breaking out around 9 minutes in. It reminds me of what Dolphin Boy was doing with Scottish music a few years ago.
This is an album that will set you thinking, from a band that is making their own path in the experimental tradition.
Seán Laffey

In Concept
Ropeadope RAD 299 8 Tracks, 39 Minutes
Contemporary concertina–led music is something of a rarity, but Pádraig Rynne is tackling this imbalance with his band Notify. Sitting Clare concertina tunes on top of modern jazz–rock might seem like a crazy idea, but it works surprisingly well. This is the second album from Notify, and their style has settled down a bit since the very experimental debut recording: InConcept is less jarring, less clubby, more in keeping with traditional forms, and more approachable for Irish music fans. It goes beyond Buille and Guidewires in its instrumentation and its use of electronic effects, but the melodies are not so far from what we are used to. Rynne is credited with electronic sound design – all the weird and wonderful noises. He’s supported by Cillian King on guitars and very discreet vocals, Eoin Walsh on electric bass, Davie Ryan on drums, and Cormac McCarthy on keys. An entire rock band, with concertina and computer wizardry taking centre stage – and it works.
The gentle jazz of Wagtail would suit a recording by At First Light, or Eileen Ivers, or even Micheál Ó Súilleabháin. Floor Shark is more in the style of Nomos or Buille, a driving spiky reel which demands attention. The twisted rhythms of Lucidity Trap are more about virtuosity than anything else – I suspect Rynne plays this because he can! The lounge music pieces either side are more enjoyable, soothing and hypnotic at times, with cool jazz accompaniment. The final False Awakening is a return to more traditional territory, straight rhythms and satisfyingly resolved melody lines, but still innovative and exciting. Hints of Riverdance, tones of Esquivel and Ray Charles, the single reeds of the concertina cutting through crisply: InConcept is a fascinating cocktail of musical spirits, full of flavour and at times quite intoxicating.
Alex Monaghan

Celtic Collections CCCD1070
12 Tracks, 61 minutes
I’ve been following Mick Hanly’s career now for forty years, from before he was involved in Moving Hearts, before he went a bit country with Past the Point of Rescue. I first heard Mick on his 1976 Kiss in the Morning Early album, a rare classic. Four decades on and we have to ask a few questions. Is he resting on his laurels, is he raking over ploughed ground or is there something new here?
Straight answer, it’s a terrific album, as fresh as anything he has achieved in the past four decades, there are clues as to what has gone before, but nothing is tired or trite. Take Homeland, it opens a–capella, almost a shanty, then in comes the instruments and it becomes an intelligent country rock number. Those instruments by the way are provided by no lesser legends than: Dónal Lunny, Steve Cooney The Voice Squad, Kevin Conneff, Triona Ni Dhomnaill, Fiachra Trench, Ray Fean, Eoghan O’Neill and Mick McAuley, that is some posse.
He hasn’t lost any of his folky–angst, Razors on the Hill is a comment on the prison system in Ireland. We Won’t Miss the Rain takes a melancholy look at the peripatetic life of professional musicians. He has perceptive modern look at contemporary Ireland in Patrick’s Hill and tender touches of the old tradition in Lord Franklin and the Lady of Avonlee. For a personal favourite I’d plump for the Birdcatcher, the tune is related to The Week Before Easter and Hanly creates from it a melody as sweet as summer honey, it even has a mellifluous clarinet. Recorded in deepest rural Tipperary at Joe Gallagher’s GAF studios, a place I know very well, this is the big album Mick has been waiting forty years to make. It is a big pleasure to have and to own it.
Seán Laffey

12 Tracks, 51 Minutes
Edel is well–known as a singer in her native Clare and on this album she has assembled a team of 10 musicians to create a richly emotionally and exquisitely engineered recording. You may know Edel from her many performances with the Kilfenora Céilí band and she brings that sense of perfect professionalism to Spreagtha. Her backing musicians include Fergal Scahill (viola, fiddle), Garry Shannon (low whistle) Tim Collins (concertina) Denis Liddy, fiddle) and more.
With the year that is in it, Edel has a song to mark the Rising, here from the pen of Declan O’Rourke. His The Children of ‘16 looks at the casualties of crossfire in conflict, and sadly as relevant today as 100 years ago. Her choice of material balances towards the traditional in tone with The Kings Shilling, a Miners Life, The Mountains of Pomeroy, Mailí San Seoirse, Rigs of Rye and a song version of Carlonan’s Eleanor Plunkett.
Edel has a wonderful clear and rich alto voice, her diction is gold plated. I was greatly impressed with her version of the late Andy M Stewart’s Fire in the Glen. The simplest and perhaps most moving track is Hallowell. The song has a phrase ‘It is through living that we are cured’ and on this album Edel has proven that her singing life is the best of medicine.
Seán Laffey