Releases > Releases June 2018

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The Gap of Dreams
Compass Records 747082, 13 Tracks, 59 Minutes
For bands with the longevity and stature of Altan, reinvention is key, and on this CD they have consciously returned to their roots. Recorded on location in Termon, County Donegal, the album oozes authenticity and a deep understanding of source and interpretation. That’s always been Altan’s trademark since the heady early days of the late 1980s, and there are enough musical treats here to fully satisfy their many admirers.
Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh is now a lone fiddler in a band which once boasted three, and the addition of Martin Tourish on piano accordion has bestowed a well of diversity and fluidity on the front line. But the hidden strength in the formidable rhythm section of Ciaran Curran (bouzouki), Mark Kelly and Daithí Sproule (guitars) is here in abundance, three musicians who have mastered their craft, and understand fully the subtleties of dynamics and voicings to fully showcase the sets and songs. Mairéad’s vocals are brilliantly recorded and the songs shimmer with beautiful arrangements, always an Altan hallmark.
The eponymous opener is remarkable in that the tunes were composed by Mairéad, her daughter Nia, and Mark Kelly’s son Sam; a nod to the next generation of musicians, and they show real promise here. Martin Tourish also contributes tunes written in the Donegal style, which fit effortlessly into the overall context. Mark Kelly wrote his beautiful solo guitar piece Port Alex for his nephew. The band wants to develop their compositional side and this is a welcome development.
There are some beautiful songs on the album; Dark Inishowen has a wonderfully sparse sadness, while Cumha an Oileáin tells a tale of irrevocable loss, beautifully interpreted. An Bealach Seo’Ta Romham (co-written by Moya Brennan) conveys a more hopeful message and the closing song Fare Thee Well A Stór is a nice farewell to a lovely CD.
Mark Lysaght

Ten Thousand Miles
Own Label Danu2018, 10 Tracks, 39 Minutes
Danú’s new album, Ten Thousand Miles consists of 10 tracks. Each one as catching as the next. There’s a fabulous balance and lucidity about this album. With its combination of fast slides, reels, jigs, hornpipes and song, this has such vibrancy from beginning to end. The variety of instruments on this album showcases traditional music at its very best. Their loyalty to the tradition is very much evident on this collection.
The album opens with the song Master McGrath. A vibrant story, which leads nicely into a set of reels, The Poor Man’s Fortune/The Long Grass/Reel Gan Ainm. From the reels it’s a set of Hornpipes followed by beautiful song, Ar Maidin Inné. Nell Ni Chroinin sings this song beautifully as with all the songs, conveying the yearning, wistfulness and joy of all. We then hear a number of slides before embarking on the second half of the album. The title track, Ten Thousand Miles is an English ballad from Nic Jones. Another ballad telling the tale of a lover saying goodbye before setting off on a long journey. Nell’s voice again stunning throughout.
They show their Waterford roots in Cutting a Slide and the Fiddle Cushion, summoning the ghosts of the Flannagan brothers from the 1920’s. This follows on through a number of slip jigs, song and reels. Finishing with the timeless The Foggy Due. Nell Ni Chroinin’s haunting rendition commemorating the Rising is only compelling. A fitting end to a very fitting album. The new arrivals have certainly made a mark on Danú. Ivan Goff as a full-time piper with the band has given the group a bigger, deeper dimension, evident in the track On Troth an Soul, and the joining of Nell Ni Chroinin to the band in 2016 is very poignant on this new collection. Her voice adds a depth to the music and compliments the tunes brilliantly. Both Nell and Ivan play flute which has brought back that Danú sound of their earlier albums.
Ten Thousand Miles showcases the virtuosi playing on flute, tin whistle, fiddle, button accordion, bouzouki, guitar and vocals brilliantly. Tunes are faultless and the singing equally so. The album is poetry, it’s story and it’s music at its best. With over 20 years’ experience Danú have excelled with Ten Thousand Miles.
Grainne McCool

The Next Chapter
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 42 Minutes
Within the first few seconds of Connla’s new album, The Next Chapter, you know you are in for something special. This is the group’s second album. The Next Chapter was recorded at Sean og Graham’s studio in Portglenone. This is a group highly focused on their music, as music. Four of the quintet have music degrees, and that is also important. Very.
The Next Chapter is wildly entertaining, varied Irish music. These tunes are not “up-and-at-‘em” session favourites. This is all impeccably thought out, beautifully crafted and movingly played. Comparisons are odious. That being said, more than one reviewer has compared the group to Lúnasa. There are parallels. Connla is Irish to the bone. The tradition runs deeply through this music. At the same time, like Lúnasa, it is completely innovative. The very best can do this, be new and deeply traditional at the same time.
Ciara McCafferty is on vocals and bodhrán. Her voice is deceptively strong, highly varied and nuanced, all at the same time. Emer Mallon on harp is another of that new breed of harpists, totally astonishing in their musicianship. Paul Starrett is the best new guitarist in Irish music. There are plenty of great guitarists, but Paul is unique in this all. Ciaran Carlin on flutes and whistles is jaw-droppingly good. Conor Mallon, pipes and whistles, is a superbly gifted musician.
Flat out. Wonderful. There is a full mix of original tunes on offer. The songs are perfectly arranged and presented. The keys here are the group’s musical abilities, each of them is really, really good on their instruments, Ciara’s voice, their youthfully driven love for the music, and VERY importantly, those music degrees. These arrangements are wonderfully world class. Connla is the true north for the future of Irish music.
Bill Margeson

Own Label, 11 Tracks, 73 Minutes
Cara are Gudrun Walther, lead vocals, fiddle, diatonic accordion, Scottish singer-songwriter Kim Edgar, lead vocals, piano, Hendrik Morgenbrodt, uilleann pipes, flutes, Jürgen Treyz, guitars, dobro, backing vocals and Rolf Wagels on bodhrán. To celebrate their 15 years on the road, Cara arranged for a set of live recordings to be made on their German tour in 2017, the result is this stunning album. The big news from the band is a banner headline of piping that opens this album; the track is There Will Be Fog, composed by the band’s fiddler Gudrun Walther. Here the pipes take the first two minutes of an expressive slow air, before guitar and piano pick their way into jigs and reels, with modern guitar riffs and a matching bodhrán lightly changing the direction before a final climax.
Cara weave new tunes together on Emmet’s Hedgehog (Niall Vallely), The Arm In The Cow (Gudrun Walther) and Handsome Young Maidens (Charlie Lennon). There is some great interplay of pipes and fiddle here with a driving piano backing and audience participation as Gudrun’s fiddle becomes front and centre. Cara have selected some classic songs here, Little Musgrave, Twa Magicians, and Lord Gregory. The album full of Cara’s standout performances, for me the high point is Morgenbrodt’s slow air Trip to Blarney, which draws every last ounce of emotion from the pipes. Indeed his devotion to Irish and Celtic music matches that of the rest of the band, he even made the pipes he plays so expressively on this album.
Gudrun moves the music across the Atlantic with a bluesy Isn’t It Time to be Worried, showcasing Jurgen’s considerable guitar skills. For complexity there’s The Naked Man in the Whirlpool with its understated Dobro. For sheer joy the track Heroes is a dance between the pipes and fiddle. With detailed liner notes and dozens of photographs from the live shows this album cements Cara’s reputation as the leading Irish band in Germany.
Seán Laffey

Live from the Art Farm
Own Label TFCD004
Having interviewed Karrnnel Sawitsky about this recording I was eager to hear how this adventure in front of a live audience had turned out for this Canadian string quartet. If the word quartet conjures up images of stuffy classical music, forget any notions you may have on that score. The Fretless take the fiddle family of instruments and put them through a high temperature wash cycle. What comes out is a special kind of traditional music.
Recorded in front of a live audience by Sean Boyd in The Art Farm in Upstate New York, The Fretless produce a fast moving kaleidoscope of sounds, familiar passages from jigs and reels dance over beats from the cello, new measures emerge, peak and pale as another motif has a moment in the shafts of sunlight. Take a familiar tune, The Killavil Fancy. The fiddle walks it out as the cello gently pulses in the background, a few measures in and the sound becomes mellow as the melody is handed to a sinuous viola. The tune meanders jazzily, the cello’s pulse holding it all in check; there are little pauses as if for breath, until it fades to a quiet end. On Holton Alan Moore’s they wring every ounce of melody out of a low-pitched foray into Ben Plotnik’s tune: in contrast The Templehouse is full of energetic hesitation. The Pipe on the Hob is a rolling dander co-joined seamlessly here with Sawitsky’s own Bixies. The album’s opener partners Donald Shaw’s MacLeod’s Farewell and Joe Liddy’s Palmer’s Gate, a tour de force in its handling of Scottish and Irish tunes, with long bowed passages on Palmer’s Gate. There are wilder bowed rhythms on the Star Monster, a set of improvisations and variations on the Star of Munster, with a real North America feel to close this thrilling album. Remarkably familiar yet stunningly original, this should be on the Leaving Cert Curriculum.
Seán Laffey

HTIECD001, 10 Tracks, 42 Minutes
With a name like HighTime, this album could have easily swung in any one of a number of wacky directions, but it turns out to be the well-refined voices of three Connemara lads, which come to the fore across this well-produced album, Sunda. Drawing from a range of influences across the folk sphere (and not a hint of reggae to be found) HighTime cite folk heavyweights like Richard Thompson and Tim O’Brien as influences, alongside an array of Irish traditional stalwarts including Joe Einniu, Marcus Hernon, Danny O’Mahony and Michael Rooney. The album begins with Don Stiffe’s emigrant-themed Village of Cloch Bhuí, with vocal harmonies infused with harp, flute and guitar accompaniment, setting the groundwork for the tone of the album.
A confident, textured start leads into An Maolín which effortlessly fuses the ‘Monaghan Jig’ with the ‘Man of the House’ reel, kicking off with a deceiving heavy guitar intro, which then pulls back to allow harpist Seámus Flaherty to take the mantle on the Monaghan Jig.
The trio of Seámus on harp and bodhrán, Conall Flaherty (flute and whistle) and Ciaran Bolger (guitar) all share vocals across the album of five songs and five tune sets, the close harmonies of the trio adding a rich depth to the overall recording. Interspersed between the songs is some solid traditional playing with contemporary guitar accompaniment, with popular tunes like the aforementioned Man of the House or Maids of Mount Cisco on the track Iorras. The well-known sea shanty South Australia puts emphasis on the strength and ability of HighTime as a whole, with sensitivity in the voices that give a new slant to the shanty.
The album as a whole produces some fine moments of music, but none compare to the careful arrangement and powerful singing in the performance of Joe Heaney’s An Tiarna Randall. In keeping with the trio performing as thus, no individual is credited with taking the lead on any of the songs. However, for the next album and no doubt there will be more from this fine trio – more of this sean nós style would be most welcome, which proves to be the hidden gem of the recording.
Derek Copley

Various Artists
Columbia Records 32-B5-0001, 12 Tracks, 72 Minutes
Contributors featured are; The Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem and Eamon de Valera, also the Abbey Tavern Singers, Sean T O’Kelly and Ruairi Brugha. This is a special de-luxe re-issue of the album first brought out in 1966 when nationalism was fashionable, and old songs were resurrected. Most of the album was recorded live in Dublin that year and I believe the original CBS vinyl recording claims narration by Walter Cronkite (though the sleeve-note to this CD says it’s Charles Kuralt of CBS). Apparently, around this time CBS brought out a legacy collection featuring freedom fighters in Ireland, Russia and Israel. (Don’t be so suspicious!). Columbia Records is now a division of Sony Music Entertainment, of Madison Avenue New York.
This recording is very much a thumbnail Irish history, with minimal mention of Connolly or the Countess, though the lavish booklet does have a couple of pictures of General Collins. It’s straight PH Pearse to DeValera (the Lanky Spaniard as he was called in Clare) and centres on national self-determination. Only it wasn’t that simple. Never is, but we all found that out when we celebrated the 100th two years ago. So there is more than a hint of the old hurling tactic in this recording, get your retaliation in first and make sure of the final score line. And to continue that analogy we have to remember some of the players from 1916-1922 were still very much in the game in 1966.
Musically, not every song is credited. I’d argue that more kudos should be given to Thomas Davis, and to Thomas Moore, for preserving national identity. It was in the parlours where they sang the Snowy-Breasted Pearl and the Coolin that leadership was often found. But nobody ever accused the Clancy clan of being parlour singers, so this album is very much a snapshot of the leading edge Irish folk music of its day. This is a fine production: the 32-page booklet features a long essay by Frank O’Connor, underlining the parallels between Ireland 1916 and the USA 1776. Now as the centenary of the happenings is upon us, we have to acknowledge that some heroic and unselfish deeds were done 100 years ago, and some we would prefer to forget. Our culture and religion have greatly changed and it gets hard to understand the motivations of times past. So it becomes very important to get hold of the living voices of those who shaped our history, and to thank those who have made this treasure available.
John Brophy

The Last Days off Fall, Coop Breizh CDGLAZARD01,
12 Tracks, 43 Minutes,
Storming flute, and the cittern is no slouch either: these two Breton musicians are well known across the world for their performances of traditional music from Ireland and Brittany. The Last Days off Fall is mainly Irish tunes old and new, with one set of Breton gavottes and a final Brazilian choro as is the fashion nowadays. Reels, jigs, hornpipes and slides are taken at a challenging pace, and things do get a little hectic in places, but there’s no mistaking the skill in Barou’s handling of these melodies on flute, uilleann pipes and whistle. The opening slip jig Kitty Come Down to Limerick is as good a place to start as any, a well-known tune given a distinctive treatment here with flowing ornamentation and virtuoso variations. The dark tones of Breton music come through on The Lone Bush Hornpipe, and also on reels such as Terry Crehan’s and Sweeney’s Wheel, as well as the medley of four modern gavottes by Pellen, Barou, Job Fulup, and the legendary guitarist Dan Ar Braz.
The slower tracks on The Last Days off Fall are just as impressive, if not more so. Barou switches to pipes for the familiar Tomgraney Castle, somewhere between a march and a hornpipe, and also for the Scottish-born air Dark Lochnagar which gets a full solo piping interpretation with regulator harmonies and wild melodic improvisation. The classic Irish lament The Wounded Hussar gives Ronan a chance to play solo, his deep resonant bouzouki evoking all the distress and despair of this sad story, before Sylvain’s flute takes over the melody in weeping tones. Elsewhere, Pellen underpins the woodwind with a mix of finger-picking and strummed chords. The final Apanhei-Te Cavaquinho from Brazil is a little different, calling for very rhythmic accompaniment and delicate fingering by turns as the flute melody whirls and spins, sinks and soars, a fitting finish to an exciting and varied album with quite remarkable power for a pure duo recording.
Alex Monaghan

SHCD002, 11 Tracks, 38 Minutes
Shane Hennessy’s Marrakech invites the listener into this accomplished musician’s world, describing the 10 tracks (as well as a prelude) as ‘visual music’. Once past the prelude, the music varies in rhythmic styles, creating a diverse world of sound on guitar, teasing the listener and leaving you wanting to see the performance in action, such is the range of fret board work at hand on the album.
The title track Marrakech slaps into action with eeriness that creates an edge, with hints of redemption throughout. The titles alone help paint some pictures, with the aforementioned Marrakech, through Quentauo and Cortadito and Koramantra, along with more easily navigable titles as Through the Woods and Higher Love, the latter with a reggae groove behind some nice arpeggio runs.The whole album is comprised of compositions from Hennessy, which chart his travels as a musician, which by the titles alone have been wide and varied. His musicianship is equally as varied with an ability to move between styles and genres with ease, very much in keeping with guitar heroes like Davy Graham or Eric Clapton.
Through funk, reggae, jazz and more, the album’s description of ‘visual music’ creates a vast vista for the listener to imagine over the course of its 40 minutes.
Derek Copley

Freedom’s Pioneers
Own Label. 16 Tracks, 66 Minutes
Freedom’s Pioneers, the call-to-arms, title track from Mary Courtney’s CD is a poem by the renowned Irish rebel and scholar, James Connolly. Set to The Mountains of Pomeroy, it leads the Kerry born singer in fast marching tempo, through the sixteen tracks, appropriately unifying her poetically with Connolly in the final song, a social conscience narrative, Words of Freedom. Themes of conflict, division, unification, loss and longing resound throughout the album. Her rebel songs are wisely chosen from across religious divides and communities. She is a strong song-soldier, a solid guitarist, her bodhrán playing rhythmic and experimental.
James Connolly is sung unaccompanied, a haunting version, the singer making it her own with unique phrasing and vocal inflection, a resounding, echoing rendition, more poignant for its bareness. Using minimum guitar strums on Grace, Joseph Mary Plunkett’s deathbed marriage proposal is sincerely delivered. The solo and layered bodhrán on O’Donnell Abú is innovative, fast paced, confidently handled, uplifting, no doubt a well requested one at the live gigs.
Kerry born Courtney goes back to her native county with a sweet and soulful take on Sigerson Clifford’s Boys of Barr na Sráide. Nicely paced, she infuses the lyrics with passion, the lament for place of birth appropriate for the New York based songstress, the voice in the poem speaks of ‘the rebel homes of Kerry,’ the friends of his youth scattered in ‘London town or over in Broadway.’ The material is carefully chosen, well mixed and there is good variety here. Freedom’s Pioneers is engaging for the listener and good performance material, a worthy showcase for the breadth of her talent as a singer and musician. The album is dedicated to ‘Sligo’ Anne Holmes and ‘Irish’ Billy Briggs.
Soon to be available on CD Baby, see
Anne Marie Kennedy

BBC Folk-Award-recipients Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar
2018. RootBeat Records. RBRCD40. 11 Tracks, 49 Minutes
There’s beauty in this music, and strong yet subtle lyrics that hold grace and complexity. Greg Russell’s powerful song Line-Two makes for a terrific Track-One, passionate vocal expression “thunders” through the UK countryside, exploring thorny issues of HS2, high-speed trains, and Ciaran Algar’s brilliant fiddle ramped-up to match. The astonishing range and maturity in Greg’s voice belies his age-status of 24. Ditto the artistic chemistry between the duo; 22-year-old Ciaran Algar’s own Warwick Road jig a melodic reflection of both his native Stoke-on-Trent, and All-Ireland-fiddle accomplishments.
Scope and breadth on every level across the CD, not least in Algar’s haunting emotional song about Kensington’s Grenfell Towers Disaster, We Are Leaving: Utopia and Wasteland: both stand on the same ground, united by their border, divided by the pound. In another Russell original, written in Denmark about home in Sheffield, Greg digs deep into his Seven Hills with unflinching reflections on place, belonging, and responsibility. With songs shaped around aspects of life often lost in the speed of progress, the CD is a melodious showcase for how artists can evolve and honour BBC Young-Folk-Awards.
Lock-Keeper: a stunning interpretation of Stan Roger’s beautiful song. Greg’s imaginative re-working of broadside freedom-ballad 1908 renders it timeless and relevant, testament to the key sense of social justice throughout. In Russell’s love-song All the While, Algar’s fiddle straddles both a soaring quality and understated tone, aptly reflecting Greg’s lyrics as more emotionally evocative for their low-key pitch. If folk-music at its best involves instrumental eloquence, both local and universal held in lyrics that aspire and bear witness to the bigger picture, then this is a keeper!
Deirdre Cronin

Brother Wind
Blackfly Records, 4 Tracks, 17 Minutes
They’re all clever lads, are Gnoss. Yes, they enjoy the benefits of being current and former students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. But this four-piece folk band makes sure the performance isn’t just professional, it’s also pretty good fun. And so on their new EP Brother Wind, Graham Rorie, Aidan Moodie, Connor Sinclair and Craig Baxter offer a lively treatment of the Scots classic I Will Set My Ship In Order – a song that’s been covered by the likes of Capercaillie and June Tabor.
They also provide their own interpretation of Tim O’Brien’s tune Brother Wind, and give it their all with a set of reels starting with a tune from Orkney, The Moul Head. A highly captivating track The Closet Bodhrán will ensure you’ll stick with this listening experience. It’s great!
Their skill, creativity and playfulness have produced a fine EP that will boost their appeal. Gnoss are already getting the gigs and attracting the attention, so this most enjoyable recording can only help.
Phoebe Roze finishes off the whole package with a lovely cover. She’s an artist who gathers memories of a Gaelic childhood to present a playful version of tradition. Kind of sums it all up, really.
Clive Price

Welcome To Sweeney House
Sweeney House Music, 4 Tracks, 15 Minutes
Quite a surprise, this one. A new EP from American acoustic duo Sweeney House offers a cover of Breakeven, the old hit by Irish rock band The Script. But you know what? It’s arresting and attractive. Sweeney House know how to curl those notes in a delicate fashion alright.
The rest of the tracks are composed by the duo themselves. The players are Mary Fielding and Patrick Russ. They come from Livermore, California, which they claim is an inspiration for their material.
This band does minimal backing because, well, the vocals are so good. They have crooner’s confidence in bucketloads. Sweeney House say they perform a mix of originals and covers – which obviously explains why they’ve created their EP in this way, too. They could try adding a traditional Celtic tune or two, though perhaps they do that at gigs. Individually, they pursue other creative and community projects. Patrick is singer/songwriter for the band Plastic Paddy and Mary has launched a literacy programme for young schoolchildren. What isn’t there to like about this pair? Have a listen.
Clive Price

Punch, Own Label, Schmooz CD003, 9 Tracks, 45 Minutes
A new line-up has given this all-girl band something of resurgence. It’s not that long since their last album Into the Well, but this new release is full of fresh polished material. I think I’m right in saying that harpist Mary MacMaster is the only remaining founder member, with long-time Poozie Eilidh Shaw on fiddle, and this may also be the first Poozies album without an accordionist! Newbies Sarah McFadyen and Tia Files are both multi-instrumentalists, giving the possibility of a fiddle trio amongst other sounds. All four ladies sing, of course, and there are five vocal tracks here, but the traditional Gaelic Ailein Ailein is paired with a Swedish slingpolska so there are five instrumental tracks too!
The Poozies mix and match Nordic, Celtic, Balkan and other material. As well as a feel for powerful songs and tunes, some of which they write themselves, this group really goes to town on the arrangements. The vocal harmonies are strong and seductive, and the instrumental backing is full of invention: you’d hardly know there’s no accordion.
Leading with Shaw’s Punch in the Fèis, fiddles dominate for a couple of tracks including Liz Carroll’s Form your Circle. McFadyen’s Soaking in the Bathtub is a tragi-comic modern ballad which also pulls no punches, riding a country arrangement on clawhammer banjo and bass harp. The stateside vibe continues through Isabel, a soulful song by Jim Sutherland, but is thoroughly dispelled by Thomas Kinsella’s The Chase, modern trad and no mistake. Files’ dark drag Plecthumb, appropriately fronted on finger-picked guitar and harp, swings into the slightly lighter Kopanitsa and then Niall Vallely’s positively cheery After the Silence. The contemporary Canadian song Easily Led provides a surprisingly sweet ending, high wistful vocals and dreamy fiddle showing that this new incarnation of The Poozies is on song and tuned to perfection.
Alex Monaghan

Fourth Moon Records, 9 Tracks, 51 Minutes
A new band of four heavenly players: Mohsen Amini is such a star that he’s running out of sideboard to display his many awards, while Géza Frank and Jean Damei are fresh from their astronomical Event Horizon project, and David Lombardi brings stellar qualifications from Ireland, Italy and Sweden. Concertina, flute, guitar and fiddle: almost a session line-up, but Ellipsis is not your average local pub fare, not even in the best of Irish or Scottish pubs. This is modern, masterful mayhem delivered with all the firepower of centuries of tradition. Every piece here is new, every one is intricately constructed or deconstructed, every part is played to perfection. Ellipsis means the omission of something unnecessary, the missing out of what can be inferred: there’s certainly nothing missing on this CD, and very little that’s unnecessary either. Fourth Moon have all they need to launch their music into orbit, and their musical baggage has been kept to a minimum for this journey.
Modern reels, strathspeys, marches and jigs jostle with gentler pieces such as False Proof and For Yann. All four players can take the lead or provide layers of accompaniment, giving the group a wide range of textures. Lombardi’s delicate fiddle on Sails is worlds away from the driving Last Leg. Damei’s polka Celestial lifts the Kerry rhythm aloft, and Amini’s Cherry Blossom skips a beat with its lunatic 7/8 melody. Most of the material on Ellipsis comes from the band, and the rest is taken from Brian Finnegan, Calum Stewart and Ali Hutton, outstanding contemporary tunesmiths. A couple of numbers have been adapted from Frank and Damei’s duo work, but Fourth Moon has its own voice and claims its own place in the firmament of modern folk bands.
Alex Monaghan

Sheevón Live Thirty-five, Errigal Records MGCD 680,
13 Tracks, 60 Minutes
The German group Sheevón has been performing Irish music on stage with notable success for 35 years, and they have celebrated that achievement by issuing this new CD. Their leader is Harald Juengst, known in his second home in Donegal as Harald Mór and Big Harald, and he says, “We did this live recording from just one concert, eleven live tracks plus two studio recordings. It includes ballads, tunes and some original material.”
Harald is not just a stage performer playing bodhrán, keyboards and other instruments, he’s also a storyteller and visits schools and libraries in Germany, Austria, and as far afield as Australia. He sings and plays for his listeners, and tells stories about Finn McCool, the fairies, and all things to do with Irish folk belief and practice. He’s a one-man ambassador for Ireland. When he’s not performing on his own, Big Harald and his fellow musicians in Sheevón do about half a dozen concerts a year, and this recording is from one such performance in Germany.
I like how the CD notes give the sources for Sheevón’s material, and the opening track is a good example: it’s a set of three tunes, The Otter’s Holt (Junior Crehan), Windbroke (Mike McGoldrick), and then we’re taken by surprise as they move seamlessly into Eleanor Rigby (Paul McCartney), and out of it again and back into Mike’s tune. Otherwise the tracks are mostly Trad and include familiar numbers like The Kid on the Mountain, Gravel Walk, Jenny’s Chickens and Julia Delaney.
Eva Silvia Fechner sings Woody Guthrie’s migrant workers’ song, Pastures of Plenty, and Rares Hill – a Scottish broadside often called Reres Hill – and her colleagues provide cleverly arranged accompaniment for her on fiddle, flute, keyboard, guitar and an instrument I’ve never heard of before: a Handpan. When you check it out on line you’ll see that it is indeed pan-shaped but played with the lid on – sorta! But the sound is beautifully distinctive and played, yes, with the hand. For all these many years, Harald Mór and Sheevón have been providing audiences at home and abroad with elegant and tasteful renditions of Irish traditional music and this 35th anniversary CD captures beautifully their pleasing performance in concert that leaves the audience happy and obviously appreciative. Comhgairdeas!
Aidan O’Hara

Art of Forgetting
TUGCD1109, 12 Tracks, 54 Minutes
Kyle Carey is a very accomplished writer and performer and displays both such traits over the dozen tracks on offer here. She opens with the title track Art of Forgetting a wonderful introduction to her song writing talent that will haunt the listener’s memory for a long time after even a cursory listen. Her take on the well-recorded Siubhail A Ruin is revelatory in her jaunty rendition as well as the bi-lingual lyrics that give this old tune a great lift. There is always a need for a “stand out” track for an album and without doubt the song Come Back to Me fits the bill on this CD. Her notes on the composition cite the previous track and the fantastic Farewell to Tarwaithe as inspirations and on this rendition her composition deserves as high a reputation as either.
Carey’s wide ranging knowledge of the folk and traditional canon as well as her wide reading of poetry continues to show through to great effect in the inspiration she acknowledges on tracks like Opal Grey and Tillie Sage both of which are excellent examples of her delivery as well as her writing. Puirt a Beal is probably one of the most difficult of the genre to capture the ear of the casual listener but Kyle Carey gives us a version that seems to bridge the gap between being a “sound” and an actual song. Having impressed us with her excellent writing she closes the album with a demonstration of her power in interpreting a song that most of us picture as being belonging to Nanci Griffith and truly making Trouble in the Fields her own through the arrangement and performance. The CD comes with a beautifully produced insert that gives us the lyrics and also recounts the inspirations for her own compositions. Kyle Carey is certainly a force to be reckoned with in her writing as well as her performance and one looks forward to hearing a lot more from her.
Nicky Rossiter