Releases > Releases June 2020

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Recordiau SIENCO Records SIENCOCD006, 15 Tracks, 48 Minutes
Having once worked in Wales, I keep an eye out for Celtic talent from the Principality and Calan are always on my radar. This is their 5th album, an incredible feat, considering they began performing as teenagers in 2008. Today their music is urban yet grounded in a lifetime of culture. Proudly Welsh speaking, immersed not only in their native music and language but in traditional dancing too, these are the Celts you want as cousins.
Kistvaen, is old Welsh for a chambered tomb, where artefacts are waiting to be unearthed. Calan do exactly that with tunes, often consulting Merêd, Wales’ equivalent to Francis X O’Neill. Calan bring those old tunes fully dressed into the 21st century, on an album that pops, pounds and pulsates. They have a big range of sounds on hand from Angharad Jenkins (fiddle), Bethan Rhiannon (accordion, kashaka, step dance), Patrick Rimes (fiddle, bagpipes, whistles, Wurlitzer), Samiwel Elias Humphreys (guitars, mbira, percussion) and Shelley Musker Turner (harp). They all sing too.
Jêl Caerdydd (Cardiff Jail) is a strong opener, laying down both a musical and vocal marker, with high production values, layers of sound and harmony singing. Cofi Contd. is a Welsh dance tune, fiddle and piano are prominent here, the title referring to the regional accent of North Wales; it’s a long track that morphs into a jig, which could easily transfer to the Irish tradition.
As the Night Closes In is sung in English, revolving around the question ‘Where is My Love Tonight?’ Mari Morgan begins simply with the vocal to the fore. In Welsh and Breton mythology the Mari Morgan is an enchanted mermaid. Rew Di Ranno, is a choppy chirpy reworking of a nursery rhyme, where the singer envies the carefree life of wild birds. Begging the question how many children’s songs began life as dance music? Aur Yw’r Afon is a tumbling weft of whistles, evoking the title, which translates as The Silver River. Dolig Abertawe is a harp solo, Swansea Christmas in English, and it will no doubt be a feature when Calan begin their rescheduled launch tour in November and December.
Sharp, smart, overflowing with verve and versatility, Kistvaen is open and waiting to be discovered.
Seán Laffey

Live and Kicking
Own Label CDFA3516/7, 2CDs, 24 Tracks, 45 + 43 Minutes
To use a Galway expression, there’s any amount of them in it, that’s the band Shaskeen; nine contented members, seasoned players, all virtuoso musicians, fine singers, composers, a performance poet, lilter and talented arrangers. There are fiddles, flutes and banjo, boxes, strings, percussion and piano. Shaskeen’s audiences are essential to the performances, on record here, live, for posterity, with agent provocateur, the late Pat Costello’s invitation to them, to ‘come on let ye!’
There is an incredibly tight interweaving of instruments here, an effortlessly homespun sound wafting with harmonious delight in tunes and songs. With eight solid sets of reels, one better than the next, the first set a sensational launch into this delightful recording: The Shaskeen Reel, Lady Ann Montgomery and Maude Millar bounces into it, setting the listening expectation high. Tomeen O’Dea’s, Ballykett Courthouse and Lucky in Love showcases the great Eamonn Cotter on flute with Johnny Donnellan’s tasty bodhrán and the piano playing, backbone of the band, Geraldine Cotter. The modest tin whistle is extended brilliantly to full potential by Seán Conway on The New Policeman and The London Lassies.
Deep-stencilled in his DNA, the late Pat Broderick’s low whistle is outstanding, together with Eamonn on flute they make an exquisite version of The Mist Covered Mountain of Home. Geraldine’s playing is a cascade of intricate notes in The Pleasant Rocks and for variety Pat Costello dons the performance poet hat, and his uniquely musical vernacular, delivers Pádraic Colum’s Old Woman of the Roads, a sweet segue into Dan O’Hara.
Anderson’s, Tom Ward’s Downfall and The Mountain Road is high-energy, full speed ahead Shaskeen. Katie Theasby a fitting guest, with Caledonia beautifully collaborated, likewise Johnny Donnellan’s Courting in the Kitchen another gem.
The backbone of the band is supported by stalwarts Patsy McDonagh on accordion and Tom Cussen on banjo, with youthful energy supplied by Dave Sanders on fiddle.
This limited edition, double CD is a keepsake, something to treasure, tried and trusted material played with great energy and enthusiasm. There’s musical alchemy, live recording craic, the material belies the longevity of the tunes given the Shaskeen treatment. As a celebration of fifty years having fun making friends and music, this is uniquely Shaskeen, their solid signature sound, authentic, distinctive and fun and lasting memorial to recently departed members..
Anne Marie Kennedy

Flirting Fiddles
TY4TM1939, 16 Tracks, 57 Minutes
National treasure, fiddler John Sheahan displays a dazzling versatility on this, his first solo album, which is full of musical surprises. As a member of The Dubliners for over 50 years, he was known as “the quiet one”, but as his outside collaborations became more frequent, he has shown his ability to compose across a range of musical styles, including neo-classical and baroque, traditional, bluegrass and swing. He’s perhaps best known for his homage to his birthplace The Marino Waltz that is included here, along with his tribute to local landmark The Marino Casino.
This album features 16 tracks, some recorded over the years and revisited with added embellishments, along with a number of more recent compositions. He finds inspiration to compose in many different ways, and his classical training assists in developing cultured arrangements, which are delightful. Featured on this recording are a number of well-known musicians drawn from various genres, including Gavin Murphy, Michael Howard, Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Eamonn Campbell, Richie Buckley, Mick O’Brien and Kevin Cunniffe.
John moves effortlessly from traditional pieces such as The Winding River played with piper Mick O’Brien to more reflective compositions such as the sublime Farewell To Harstad with beautiful piano accompaniment from Gavin Murphy. Then he showcases some jazz chops on Diminished Swing with some tasty guitar from Drazen Derek, before moving on to bluegrass with Draggin’ The Bow. He has a great ear for a good melody and even harks back to the big band era on Autumn in Paris, accompanied by a full orchestra.
The album is a treasure trove and full of gems; there are very comprehensive sleeve notes with details on each piece. Overall it showcases John Sheahan’s innate ability to compose and perform in various styles while remaining absolutely true to his own identity. Wonderful stuff!
Mark Lysaght

Numberless Dreams
Anisogoma Records ANIS001, 12 Tracks, 39 Minutes
Bristol based, French artist Julie Abbé integrates the romantic poems of W.B. Yeats with folk and traditional songs in this very compelling album. Her unique interpretation of the songs, poetry, stories and customs create a rich and varied tapestry, a unique oral and aural, artist’s impression of Ireland.
Ethereal in pitch and range, her voice is captivating, rhythmically assured, the material widely varied in themes and tempo, influenced by her own background and accomplishments in diverse musical genres.
Her a Capella version of The Flower of Magherally is a standout, backed by Amy Cox, their enchanting harmonies, phrasing and pace breathe lovely life into the well-known ballad. Likewise Claudy Banks, vocally superb, dramatic, innovative, a listening delight.
Julie Abbé as a songwriter has a flair for interfering positively with lyrics, rendering a new aspect to a tale, mixing verses, adjusting the narrative slightly. It is very effective in Courting is a Pleasure, which is given an injection of optimism, Kellswater is also cleverly tampered with. Her confident renditions of W.B. Yeats’ poetry sit comfortably beside classic folk songs, particularly strong are The Stolen Child and He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven. Her version of As I roved out has a lovely quiet pace, minimalist guitar with superb harmonies from Izzy Budd. Recorded by Sid Goldsmith, mastered by Tim Thomas (, with accompaniment from Goldsmith, Dominie Hooper, Amy Cox and Izzy Budd, the artwork by Rosanna Morris, the cover a thought-provoking image.
W.B. Yeats judiciously used magic and symbols in his poetry, likewise, Abbé uses a dragonfly motif, a symbol of change, its movements elegant and graceful, entirely appropriate here, as the artist ‘treads softly’ (W.B.Y), weaving voice, instruments, melody and harmonies effortlessly and effectively throughout.
Anne Marie Kennedy

The Left & The Leaving
AGACD02-19, 10 Tracks, 39 Minutes
Kern is Barry Kieran (fiddle), Brendan McCreanor (uilleann pipes) and singer-songwriter SJ McArdle. Their previous album False Deceiver, propelled them into the limelight, winning the 2018 Temple Bar TradFest Showcase and securing a debut performance at the Milwaukee Irish Fest, international tours and sell out concerts followed.
The Left & The Leaving builds on their mastery of traditional music; The Drowsy Man’s Hornpipe, their Russian Reels selection featuring Farewell to Connaught, and the New Jigs set. Trevor Hutchinson not only produced the album but also lends his bass, rounding out the ensemble sound.
Add in SJ McArdle, a seasoned and well respected songwriter, The Porcupine is his tale of a sea captain who sailed out of the port of Drogheda, Little Things locks onto the longings of a separated emigrant, The Great Hunger is a co-write with Greg McAleer and a bitter Till The Docklands Drown explains why emigration is often the best option. Each song demonstrating SJ’s dexterity with themes, tempo and melody.
Barry Kieran is no slouch in the composing department, his Somer’s March/Daragh Patrick’s set showcases two of his own works, both being valuable additions to the tradition.
Old songs are integral to Kern’s work and SJ McArdle has a new take on Bold Doherty, originally from the singing of Mary Ann Carolan of Drogheda. The album closes with another of Mary Ann’s classic ballads, indeed it’s been called the national anthem of Drogheda, The Bonny Light Horseman, with the words faithful to Mrs Carolan’s 1982 album Songs from the Irish Tradition. Kern are established as ambassadors for the music of Louth.  Louth has a fantastic legacy of music and Kern are a vital addition to this musical epicentre of the North East.
Seán Laffey

New Leaf
Own Label, 15 Tracks, 72 Minutes
Kira Jewett, fiddle player; John Tabb, accordion player; and Adam Braunschweig, guitar, banjo player and vocalist are New Leaf. Based in Western Massachusetts New Leaf are primarily Irish music in tradition but combine elements of New England traditional music and a hint of bluegrass is ever present. Their debut album, also titled New Leaf is a collection of laid back, relaxing music and allows us to switch off and enjoy the music in the moment.
The new collection is a mix of Irish songs/tunes, Quebecois tunes, and of course an American thread of tunes too. A real eclectic mix of music you will find here. There’s a very relaxed feel to this collection of music. Like the modern day amidst a pandemic there’s no hurry to be anywhere. You just listen and enjoy.
Opening with a very firm Irish tradition in Lad O’Bierne’s we then find  a New England tune (Rodney Miller),  The Bluemont Waltz. The tunes just flow and blend flawlessly into each other. What I particularly loved about this album is its nature theme. Not intentional but it just oozes the natural world of Ireland in many of the songs and tunes you find here: The Rainy Day, Hawk, Golden Eagle, Riding on a Load of Hay, Blackbird, Nightingale. It might not have been planned but it just makes the collection very much rooted in Ireland.
With every set there’s a flair of Ireland lurking beneath. The collection finishes by building our listening to a crescendo and keeps us there to the very end.
Rounding off with a medley of reels, The Rainy Day/ The Penny Candle/ The First Year in Buncrana.
On completion you just want to restart once more straight away. This is a perfect collection of music to escape the restrictions and brings us to a place of musical glory.
Grainne McCool

Wat Bleift
Vis A Vis, 10 Tracks, 33 Minutes
Schëppe Siwen are a party band, and if you like your parties peppered with a pinch of Euro-punk this could be your album of the summer. The lyrics, printed in full on the liner notes, are in Luxembourgish. It’s a dialect of German with its own idioms and phrases. If the language evades you, their attitude won’t.
The opening track, 5-7 is an instrumental taster, splashing cymbals punctuating conversations between the fiddles and accordion. The first vocal Loos Alles Zréck includes a verbal section with a Celtic flute under-wash. Song titles appear sombre in translation, yet the album’s music is totally free of melancholy and anguish.
Take for example De Klenge Männchen (The Little Man); it starts with electric guitar, a Luxembourg cousin of the Blues Brothers, there’s Chicago in its DNA. The words set to music were originally from a poem by Pol Putz, inspired by a 1904 nursery rhyme. It is anything but twee. Putz’s concern was the low Luxembourg birth rate. He was fearful that the native culture would fade away if not taught in the cradle.
The title track, Wat Bleift translates as What Remains, pairing Jean-Marc ‘Jojo’ Wagner’s strident vocals with a bouncy melody, the trumpets out front, in a call and answer setting. Schëppe Siwen’s trumpets serving a brassy Tex-Mex tortilla on D’Auer Leeft (The clock’s running); there are screeching brakes and a car chase in Fett Ewech (Get rid off the fat in a figurative sense it means “to get what you deserve”). This is an album that goes far beyond the limited palette of punk, what remains is their quality musicianship, their crisp arrangement and their fast but not frenetic pace. The final track Stärenhimmel,(Starry Sky) comes as the big surprise, slower, lyrical, melodic, a piano introduction, close harmony singing and a children’s choir, a very Eurovision moment in an album that plays its ace of spades in a high stakes game of musical poker.
Seán Laffey

Produced by John Doyle. 2020. 66449 077549, 12 Tracks, 44.83 Minutes
Wonderfully diverse songs from the esteemed San Francisco-based Shay and Michael Black in a CD where the highly-acclaimed producer, musician and composer John Doyle trusts and draws upon the uncluttered flow of emotional meaning in their singing – along with the deeply intuitive intergenerational links with renowned siblings & offspring in Ireland, power of blood harmony so evident from the get-go with the lively spirited Home by Barna. Musicians include Mike McGoldrick, Róisín O, Aoife & Eoghan Scott, Shosi & Ciara Black, Colm O’Riain, Mick McCauley, John McCusker, Duncan Wickel & Rick Epping.
Dublin decades, The Black family from Charlemont Street radiating an unwavering warm light onto how folk-music links and endures – in 1949, when Liberties singer Patty Daly married Rathlin Island musician Kevin Black, theirs was a regional harmony moulding itself around the children like the sea shaping itself around Rathlin; music and song becoming all the stronger in the flow around work, family life, and emigration paths.
The vibrant musical lives of Mary, Frances, Shay, Michael and Martin is testament to that, a collective illuminative quality, and a custodial fondness in how audiences stay so responsive - The Blacks holding a unique yet very Dublin blend of mystique, romance, and irreverence. It’s real! And it’s all there in the great close-harmony singing and bright musicianship, showcased superbly here in The Man from the Daily Mail, with innovative jazz arrangement reflects cool subversive edginess, the lyrically appealing Percy French melody also a scathingly satirical take on tabloid attitudes to Ireland, think fake-news circa 1920! Felim Egan’s accordion stands out on Fiach an Mhadra Rua/The Wonder Hornpipe.
Michael does terrific vocal justice to band-member Eamonn Flynn’s composition Black Coddle, a poignant song moving with true emotional register across history, folklore and poetry; a (literal) gritty quality to the title evoking triumph over poverty where, with true Dublin savvy, a shake of black soot across the coddle-dinner on the fire from a tenement chimney was still deemed good enough to eat. And sing about! Storied liner-notes and artwork evoking the painterly locale of Charlemont Street, the seascapes of Rathlin. All befitting the beauty of the music here.
Deirdre Cronin