Releases > Releases June 2023

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Peggy’s Dream
251 Records, 9 Tracks, 42 Minutes
The use of the word Ensemble in the new CD of Martin Hayes and his group hints at something different in what’s in store in the renowned fiddler’s new album, Peggy’s Dream. The producers tell us: “His playing places the tradition within a wider contemporary context with his unique and insightful interpretations of Irish music.” And so, among those playing along with him is cellist Kate Ellis, Artistic Director of Crash Ensemble, a group described as being “innovative, adventurous and ambitious”.
We’re somewhat surprised to hear Martin say that music isn’t about perfection until he explains himself. “For me it’s more about heart,” he says, “feeling, trust, freedom, communication and true aliveness in the moment.” This new recording project of Martin’s features musicians from a variety of musical backgrounds: Cormac McCarthy (piano and keyboards), Kyle Sanna (guitar), Brian Donnellan (bouzouki/ harmonium/concertina) and the aforementioned Kate Ellis (cello). Their common ground is Irish music. This is a popular album in Ireland, a quick look on the internet and we found Golden Discs had sold out of stock within a month of the album’s release.
Lovers of Ireland’s traditional music worldwide who are familiar with Martin and his mesmerising skill as a performer know how he can take a well-known dance tune and present it in a new musical garb that is exciting and almost new, but still true to the original. This is true in all nine tracks, and exemplified in Toss the Feathers / The Magerabaun Reel. The track opens with Martin’s distinctive fiddle style and a lively guitar accompaniment followed by a freewheeling jazzy piano leading into The Magerabaun Reel and leaving one reeling from the dizzy excitement of it all.
The recording includes the hornpipe Johnny Cope, the reel The Longford Tinker, that some will recall from the Bothy Band’s 1975 LP; Garrett Barry’s Jig that features a Kate Ellis and Crash Ensemble freelancing performance, and a delightfully languid rendition of Aisling Gheal superbly suited to the opening lines: “A vision bright beguiled in sleep me.”
Peggy’s Dream will intrigue you with its variety of novel arrangements and at times incredibly bold presentations of old tunes made new, and that makes this an exciting and unforgettable album of delights. The recording is dedicated to Martin’s mother Peggy and his recently deceased long-time friend and collaborator, guitarist Dennis Cahill.
Aidan O’Hara

Voice of Ages
Claddagh Records/Craft Recordings, 14 Tracks, 63 Minutes
Hailed as “the world’s most celebrated Irish band” The Chieftains celebrate their 60th anniversary with the first-ever vinyl release of their 2012 album, Voice of Ages. This imaginative collection of songs sees collaborations between The Chieftains and an impressive array of like-minded musical visionaries from the worlds of indie-rock (Bon Iver, The Decemberists, The Low Anthem, Paolo Nutini), country and americana (The Civil Wars, Pistol Annies, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Punch Brothers) and Irish folk (Imelda May, Lisa Hannigan).
The late Paddy Moloney said he had the idea of involving young bands “to bring this ancient music up-to-date and they loved it”. One of the groups was The Decemberists from Portland, Oregon, performing the Bob Dylan song, When the Ship Comes In with the Chieftains. “I gave it a new kind of kick you might say,” Paddy said, “and composed a little tune to lift the whole song.” So pleased were The Decemberists with it all, they now perform the song in their concerts.
The American duet The Civil Wars, Joy Williams and John Paul White, composed a song called Lily Love for their recording with the Chieftains. “It worked out fantastic,” Paddy said, and he’s right. There’s a delightful rendition of Thom Moore’s Carolina Rua by Imelda May, and another Irish singer, Lisa Hannigan, gives a soul-stirring performance of My Lagan Love.
The Punch Brothers, originally from Brooklyn, New York, provide a bluegrass version of The Lark in the Clear Air and follow it up with the air to the popular Irish language song, Olaim Punch – no surprise. The Chieftains have great fun with the contribution of NASA Astronaut Cady Coleman in The Chieftains in Orbit! Carlos Nunez has played in many of the Chieftains’ past recordings and is heard with them in Voice of Ages performing in Lundu.
Of course, the Chieftains are no strangers to collaborative efforts and have played with such notables as Luciano Pavarotti, The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Sinéad O’Connor, Roger Daltrey and Van Morrison. This 2LP record is available on 180g vinyl from in partnership with Craft Recordings.
Aidan O’Hara

Live in Oriel
Lughnasa Music
LUGCD967, 12 Tracks, 46.57 Minutes &
These two have enjoyed a strong personal and musical friendship for over thirty years, as guitarist Gilles Le Bigot joined fiddler Gerry O’Connor in the early 1990s on the Lá Lugh albums alongside the late singer Eithne Ní Uallacháin.
Gerry hails from Dundalk in County Louth (North-East of the republic) and the former Kingdom of Oriel, formed in the 7th century, an area that spanned the present counties of Monaghan and Louth. It is precisely in this region, in Inniskeen (County Monaghan) that they recorded their second duo album. The first one, dating from 2006, was recorded in Douarnenez (Brittany). Meeting once again in public, hence the name: Live in Oriel. An album recorded and produced by Gerry’s eldest son, Dónal O’Connor, an excellent fiddler too.
The result of this small-scale concert is a dozen tracks and twenty-four instrumental pieces that showcase the virtuosity of these two talented musicians. More than half of the album is built around previously unreleased tracks by the duo, and the majority are Irish tunes. With five Breton tunes brought by Gilles. We can recognize here Anna Cloarec composed by Herri Léon in the 50’s, Jesaïg Nevez written by Gilles in 1978 and An Den Yaouank borrowed from the Gwerz repertoire.
Then there are a few numbers already present on previous recordings by Gerry or Lá Lugh: The Rose in the Gap (Lá Lugh 96), Úr Chnoc Chéin Mhic Cáinte (Journeyman 2004), The Cottage Set (Trio 2011).
In almost 50 minutes, everything is spidery lightness, sensitivity, majesty, in a word a real musical lace woven by two of the best fiddle and guitar virtuosos. A musical bridge between Ireland and Brittany that delivers a message of happiness.
Philippe Cousin

Own label, 9 Tracks, 50 Minutes
Available on digital download & on CD
When I spoke with Síle Denvir a few weeks ago I had to confess I didn’t know the meaning of the word Anamnesis, the title of her new album. “The idea of anamnesis is something that we all have within us,” said Síle, “and I think that’s what these songs are, it still touches on human experience.”
There are copious notes that come with the recording, and they enlighten us further on the nine songs from Síle’s Conamara tradition that deal with all those aspects of the human experience she referred to. The background notes are provided in Irish and English, and the song words are provided in Irish with translations by poet Dairena Ní Chinnéide available on These add hugely to the pure joy of listening to one of Ireland’s finest young sean-nós singers. Síle is blessed with a rich alto voice and a delivery that is engaging and indeed quite mesmerising.
A meditative electronic soundscape of drones by producer John Reynolds along with the cello playing of Caroline Dale, created what Síle said was “a beautiful depth in the electronics that I could sing to, so that I could focus completely on the songs.” The songs include Contae Mhaigh Eo (“Ar an Loing seo Phaidí Loingsigh”), Eleanóir a Rún, Dónall Óg, Seoithín Seo-hó and Amhrán na hEascainne (Lord Randall). Síle’s song notes reflect the extent of her scholarship in the field of Irish song.
“In my work as an academic when teaching about these songs you get a better understanding of it yourself,” says Síle. “I often teach thematically and try and fit that in with the historical story as such about how people would have made an t-amhrán grá (love song), suantraí (lullaby), emigration, all of those aspects of the song tradition.”
I’d love to share with you several of the song notes but I leave you with just this one example, the background to one of my favourites, Contae Mhaigh Eo “This is a song about a man who enlists in the army, attempts to abscond but is captured. The song lyrics are mainly about the importance of place as the raconteur describes how much he misses his family and his homeplace, County Mayo … it is said that Mícheál Ó Bruadair, a captain of a pirate ship, composed the song.”
Aidan O’Hara

Linus Entertainment, 13 Tracks, 47 Minutes
Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy together with talented guests have released Canvas, the highly polished product of creative time granted because of the pandemic, a blend of several musical genres: modern, classical, even pop flavoured. Mostly original work, the fiddle playing Mesmeric as always, arrangements top notch, the inference of ‘blank’ before Canvas no longer relevant, this canvas is drawn and coloured out over the edge.
Tommy Peoples said that music was in the blood, that the fiddle could express joy, terrible loss, hope, love and defiance – all apparent in this album.
Woman of the House with Rhiannon Giddens on vocals is a haunting melody, mouth music, Scots Gaelic vowels, a tribute to MacMaster’s powerful ancestral matriarchs. Choo Choo written by Mary Frances Leahy (apples not falling far from trees?), is a fantastic tune, lively, playful, train sounds, journeys invoked. Dance Arnold Dance invites the listener in to the middle of a great hooley, musicians up on tables, rhythmic dancers, the definition of lively, the fiddle playing exquisite, a fantastic tune.
The opening track Canvas, unique, short, snappy with lilting and a sudden stop, a twin for the final one Voice Memo, orchestral, ideas & musings captured, swirling in the notes, inspiration waiting for the canvas to be unfurled.
Wish You Were Near with Robyn Cunningham’s elegant voice, Kyle Burghout on fiddle and Mike Manny on piano, is a thoughtful exploration of what just happened to the world, an original composition, excellent on all fronts. The Laird O’Bemersyde is outstanding, swoops and soars, perfect ornamentation, fiddle and cascading piano just right, emotional, lingering.
Canvas is a rich tapestry, from multi-award winning musicians and singers, creative, full of energy, musicians that have toured, travelled and recorded for decades still keeping their sound new, fresh, a brilliant achievement.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Dusk Moon
Own Label, 9 Tracks, 42 Minutes
Scottish band RURA are: Jack Smedley (fiddle), Steven Blake (Highland pipe, whistle and piano), Adam Brown (guitar) and David Foley (bodhrán and flute).
The album opens with Blake’s Journeys Home, the piano tapping out a steady stream of single notes, the guitar adding a lingering bass note at the end of a bar, a dreamy flute. Then more commitment from the guitar, a short patch of playing that echoes and India Raga, the track coming to a conclusion with some majestically mellow piping.
Dusk Moon, the title track is number two on the disc, featuring running piano beats over a tipper-ticking bodhrán, ushering in the rise of Foley’s flute, a relaxed first half segues into a more serpentine end game as the whole band relishes McClure’s Reel.
The Soft Mist Over All written by David Foley starts with a rasp on the fiddle and an awakening flute taking us into a calmer space. Foley’s flute has a delicious low end; the tune itself is built on a repetitive motif, giving way to extemporised fiddling as a bridge to bring the full band in to weave the music to a final droning flute ending.
The Grove is a set of two tunes, the first Usual Time Usual Place written by Adam and Jack, with its hand-claps and a melody that wouldn’t be out of place at a Breton Fest Noz. The pipes are to the fore on the second element in the selection, El Capitain, a co-write from Blake and Smedley.
The last track A Minor Emergency begins with a hearty guitar riff, Foley’s whistle takes on the lead melody in Billy on The Bodhrán joined a few seconds later by the pipes. Those pipes are with us to the end, behaving themselves on The House on the Hill and getting all up in your grill on the kicking The Reel O’Garten.
RURA prove they can be lyrical and lash out the dance tunes, no wonder their album launch tour was a sell out.
Dusk Moon is available at and the usual streaming sites.
Seán Laffey

A Family Odyssey
TVB Production / ODY001, 20 Tracks, 55 Minutes
After many years of playing, singing and touring with Taxi Mauve and Dirty Linen, Michael McDonnell and his sons Simon and Kevin formed the McDonnell Trio in 2006. Over the past fifteen years, they have released three albums: Songbook in 2009, It’s a Long Way to Tipperary in 2014 and SongBox in 2018.
They are back in 2023 with a new opus, A Family Odyssey, a superb album once again. In five days of recording the three McDonnells have brought out 20 songs from the Irish tradition, arranged with taste and originality. From the outset, we are struck by the dominant vocals, supported by a host of instruments played by the father and his sons. Let’s see: guitar, mandolin and banjo for Michael, guitar, banjo, tin whistle, uilleann pipes and bodhrán for Simon and accordion for Kevin.
And then there are the three voices, sometimes solo, sometimes in unison, sometimes in harmony and a cappella, the real cornerstone of the trio. While on a track in Irish, Tráthnóna Beag Aréir, the talented Donegal singer Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh lends them her airy voice.
The album is based on an old photograph of Michael’s parents from their honeymoon, a photo that symbolises the beginning of their family odyssey. This new album, the fourth, invites us into the McDonnell family world. All the themes dear to the Irish tradition are present here, from exile and return to the hard life of the Travellers on the Thirty Foot Trailer. Our three friends skilfully mix original compositions by Ewan MacColl, Tim Russell’s Gallo del Cielo or Sinéad O’Connor’s This is a Rebel Song with traditional songs, real gems from Donegal and wider Ulster but also from England and the Appalachians.
From start to finish, the accuracy and warmth of the voices compete with the vocal harmonies that illuminate the Irish repertoire in a luminous way. The sensitivity is pervasive, the timbre of the voices combined with the instrumental complicity, gives this family odyssey an unparalleled emotional dimension.
With each of their albums, the trio has demonstrated a certain talent. With this new opus, they prove once again that their reputation for excellence is not usurped. They are fêted in France, it’s time for Ireland to warm to their charms.
Philippe Cousin

The Madeleine Stewart Trio
MSTCD01, 13 Tracks, 59 Minutes
Set for release on May 5th 2023 in time for the Edinburgh Trad Fest, the Glasgow based fiddler Madeleine Stewart (The Routes Quartet and Eriska) is joined here by Rory Matheson (piano) and Craig Baxter (bodhrán).
Beatrice (it was released in April 2023 as a single) opens with piano with a chirpy Scandinavian-style tune, enhanced by Madeleine’s classical violin bowing. They move the piece into the minor, the piano accompaniment becoming less florid, until it evolves into the Quebecois Reel Beatrice with Baxter’s bodhrán stepping in to fill the shoes of the traditional foot percussion.
Matheson’s piano is lyrical with little trinkets of triplets on Polliwog, Madeleine’s entry on fiddle allows the track to grow by stages until it ends on a full ensemble sound. Joseph Boseph’s jazzy piano is backed by bodhrán; the track opens quickly and shifts with short bursts of gas to keep its engine running. MSR is slower, the most Scottish sounding tune in the album, the delicate fiddle rising over the low chords of the piano, Madeleine holding long notes at the end of phrases to glissando into the next snap. The Bodhrán Set has an Irish feel to it, modal fiddling establishes the groove, a change of tempo for its last quarter with a bodhrán solo and an intense interchange between the drum and the fiddle. If you are a bodhrán player this is the track for your mix-tape.
A big slice to end the banquet: Neil Ewarts, fast fingers and determined piano work, virtuosity from everyone for this joyride along a shiny new-trad highway.
The trio took just three days to record this vibrant album at Gus Stirrat at Solas Sounds. You get a sense of a band playing live and enjoying every minute of their music making together.
Seán Laffey

Own Label LEVCD06, 10 Tracks, 51 Minutes
The cover shows one eye of a young hare peeping out from the long grass; a hare’s nest is called a form. Hares of course are potent animals in folk music and the Leveret Band are a potent group of musicians, a trio with impeccable folk credentials: Fiddler Sam Sweeney, the 2015 BBC Folk Awards Musician of the Year, directs the National Youth Folk Ensemble. Melodeon genius Andy Cutting, a three-time BBC Folk Awards Best Musician, is a compelling solo performer and currently works with Blowzabella, Topette, June Tabor, and Roger Daltry. Concertina wizard Rob Harbron leads the English Acoustic Collective summer school and is known for his work with Emma Reid, Fay Hield, Jon Boden and others.
Forms was recorded by Neil Ferguson in Lummen, Belgium in October 2022 and is the 10th anniversary album from this trio. Their opening Bass Hornpipe was written by Reverend Thomas Cowper of Westmorland around 1770, a pulsing continuo with the reed instruments stepping in and out of the limelight. Filberts is a slower piece, written for Boss Morris, who use hazel sticks in their dances (filberts are commercially harvested hazels). They go back to 1750 for four tunes in an 11-minute medley which begins with Woodstock Bower with the fiddle carrying the main melody. Cotillion begins simple as pairing of box and fiddle with a high drone; the tune was found in John Johnson’s 1758 collection. The concertina comes to the fore on the Untitled Waltz found in Thomas Wrigley’s 1755 manuscript, which is teamed with the relatively recent Derby Hunt of 1823.
The liner notes are excellent with the provenance of the band’s tunes being researched back to the 18th and 19th century collections, given in succinct but fascinating detail. A trio of master musicians mastering music from bygone days, with modern spell-binding arrangements and magical melodies.
Seán Laffey

Before I Knew What Had Begun I Had Already Lost
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 47 Minutes
Also well-known as a journalist, Jon Wilks is a singer-guitarist specialising in folk and roots material, particularly songs originating in the Midlands of England. This is his fourth solo outing, and he takes the opportunity to explore some of the songs he loves best, as well as adding in three originals. The album evolved during a period when Jon became quite ill and had to spend three months recovering at home, so there is a strong element of catharsis evident here, as he acknowledges the help and support of his key collaborators. These include Jon Nice on keyboards and guitar, Jackie Oates on viola and backing vocals, and Lukas Drinkwater on double bass.
Jon has a pleasant voice and his guitar playing throughout is accomplished. Apart from song accompaniment, he tackles some tunes on Gallons of Brandy/Fox Tell. He references some interesting sources for the songs, particularly Sam Larner who recorded Lofty Tall Ship and Will Watch in the 1960s. Jon has interpreted both with great attention to the lyrics, even though the musical backgrounds used for them are very different, the former a delicate solo outing, the latter a full-blown electric band interpretation.
His two original songs are very autobiographical - the album title is a line from Greek Street, where he fondly remembers a past love affair. Tape Machine describes his early morning observations in various countries and is dedicated to his wife. Erin, Sad Erin is a gorgeous song of emigration with beautiful violin from Akito Goto. Some of the arrangements are very reminiscent of English folk-rock bands of the 1960s and 70s, usually keeping to the folk side of things, which makes pleasant listening. Banjo Therapy is a nice coda, where Jon displays his prowess on the 5-string banjo, an instrument he learned to play while ill.
Mark Lysaght

Friends For a Day and Age
Own Label, Single, 4 Minutes
Nashville based singer Nancy Hays is something of a singing and dancing phenomenon in her native city. Like many creative people in the music business, she took time out to be creative and reflective during the covid pandemic. Listening to a recording of fiddler Liz Carroll playing Friends for a Day and Age, Nancy began writing lyrics to the tune, taking stock of all the good things she is grateful for and number one on the list were the good friends she has in her life.
On this lushly produced track Nancy clearly spells out what friendship means to her and I’m sure this will hit a chord with all of us who are now enjoying being back in society after the lockdown years. Nancy is emotionally honest and musically accomplished and saying things we should all be saying to friends who stuck with us when times were at their darkest.
Seán Laffey

The Best Of
Reveal Records, 2023, 36 Tracks, 154 Minutes
Now in his mid-forties the Glasgow based, Orkney born guitarist and singer songwriter, has produced a collection of three dozen of his finest songs from a career that began with his first solo album Black Water in 2006. The intervening years have seen him hailed not only as a fine solo performer but a valued member of the bands Lau and Fine Friday, and praised in award-winning collaborations with Roddy Woomble & John McCusker, Éamonn Coyne and Boo Hewerdine.
No surprise to anyone then, that Kris Drever regularly plays with the folk aristocracy of Scotland, for example John McCusker and Donald Shaw on the traditional Farewell to Fuineray. The backing from Lau (Martin Green accordion and Aidan O’Rourke fiddle) adds a dangerous moody answer between the vocal verses. He is joined by Heidi Talbot on O’ ‘a’; The Airts, a traditional love song featuring Andy Seward on the double bass. His anti-war song Scapa Flow recalls the scuttling of the German fleet in the Scottish harbour in 2019; written from the losing side’s perspective, it asks what was all that war for anyway? “Our only flag was a linen rag as dank and dirty as our hair…”
Ghosts is perhaps his most famous song, which he made with Lau; it’s the 19th track on the double album and marks a natural midway point in his career having been on the 2015 Lau album, The Bell That Never Rang. I particularly enjoyed The Isle of France. The story is about a returning Irish convict; on his way from Australia he is shipwrecked on the Isle of France (the pre-1810 name for Mauritius). The song was printed by Brereton of Dublin in the early 1850s. That’s a song for singing sessions all over Ireland from now on.
This review is but a snapshot of the two and half hours of wonderful music from Drever. His fans are already raving about this carefully curated collection and he is sure to gain many more followers when they hear the quality of his songs and his singing.
Seán Laffey

Stretching Skyward
Blackfly Records BFLY05CD, 11 Tracks, 38 Minutes
Gnoss was formed in 2015 by Orcadians Aidan Moodie (vocals, acoustic guitar) and Graham Rorie (fiddle, mandolin, electric tenor guitar). Now a five piece with Perthshire’s Connor Sinclair on flute and Clackmannanshire’s Craig Baxter on bodhrán and percussion. Their latest addition is Braebach’s James Lindsay on electric and double bass.
Orkney was once the centre of a Viking world that stretched from Norway to Limerick; Gnoss sense that Norse wanderlust on Hammavoe, with the line “we sing the songs our fathers did and we carry all their hopes”. They bring a cathedral like majesty to this track reminiscent of Runrig in its regal pomp.
Stroma opens with a pulsating siren, hot low whistle and thunderous bodhrán, somewhere in a zone favoured by Lúnasa and Flook. The tune is a killer, dropping into free form whistle playing that itself segues into a rhythm section. Aidan Moodie’s voice (which reminds me of the timbre of Dave Howley’s from We Banjo 3) inhabits Honey Wine, with an almost Americana vibe, the song is about the life of travellers in modern Scotland. The instrumental Keefa Hill begins with bodhrán and keyboard chords, then the fiddle strikes up a Scottish reel. Listen, there’s a high-pitched counterpoint in the background. Then a break with a throbbing bass that gets us primed for an energetic re-entry of the whistle. A tale of a shipwreck, something all too familiar in the Northern Isles, is the central focus of God’s Land with the line: “Some call it God’s Land some call it death”. Where the only mark on the landscape to indicate the tragedies is nothing “but graves left where the land meets the sea…”
Graham Rorie’s fiddle takes the main role on Audrey’s before the whistle joins in a sweet combination. Vore Tullye, its finger picked palm damped electric tenor guitar sets the feet tapping and hips swivelling. It’s a groove monster. With Dirt and Bone there’s an end of holiday or is it a start of emigration feel to the song with its message that romance doesn’t need blue skies to shine. The last track Hard Times with its simple acoustic guitar and vocal is not the Stephen Foster classic. Here the message is affirmative and empowering “Hard times ain’t gonna rule my mind”.
These twenty-somethings are looking skyward, look up with them and share their bright future.
Sean Laffey

Own Label, 13 Tracks, 40 Minutes
A self-titled album of classic Irish songs from Californian singer Erin Ruth Thompson shows that Irish songs travel so well around the world. Radio stations are already noticing the album across the USA and no wonder, as it is a collection of what you might consider to be the essential core of any Irish ballad session. Such as The Rocks of Bawn, Raglan Road, Boolavogue, She Moved Through the Fair, Bold Fenian Men and The Lakes of Pontchartrain, songs that have been a constant in the singers’ chapbook for half a century. Modern songs too, Shane MacGowan’s razor sharp A Pair of Brown Eyes and Vince Keehan’s Working the Streets about the desperate fall into vice of homeless émigrés in London.
She adds Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby from the American tradition with an A cappella burst of harmony singing. A Lady in Her Father’s Garden, a broken token song, the guitar here is held back giving Erin the full vocal spotlight. The guitars of David Chadwick and Richard Mandel add a blitz of rhythm on The Foggy Dew. There’s New World enthusiasm in her voice here, a different more positive take on the ballad than we’d know at home. She visits a song from the same period, the rebellious decade that culminated in the 1922 partition of the island on the Bold Fenian Men.
I love her version of her Mantle So Green, it’s an allegorical tale of Irish freedom. Steve Gardner’s fiddle adds an extra dimension and works extremely well when Erin’s voice hits the pedal note of the minor chord. The backing on The Lakes of Pontchartrain is particularly well done, the strings sing as they are perfectly matched to Erin’s voice.
Erin’s Irish songs come with a dash of Californian sunshine, what’s not to like?
Seán Laffey

What Will We Be
Own Label
13 Tracks, 42 Minutes
There’s a bucket load of adult alt-country music on this fine recording from the Galway based duo of Niall Teague and Padraic Joyce. Their music embraces Nashville style country, permeated with McCartneyesque arrangements, which brings this album to another level. There is urgency and a pile of questions in the music here. Long Gone Girl contrasts the high-pitched vocal with a low-pitched bass, as the mandolin and fiddle move in to conjure an Appalachian sensibility. The duo has a way with words, melding the folksy with the profound. Long Gone Girl is a warning not to fall in love with a woman who is inclined to ramble.
What Will We Be asks the question what will become of us “If we have nothing?” Here the question is underscored with a gypsy fiddle break and a string section that clanks like a railroad bell.
The duo in one song are reflecting on their good times in the business and delighting in the performing impulse that keeps gigging musicians active. They package this in the song Guitar Gold, joyously toasting the vagabond life of a working musician. I’ll paraphrase their sentiments: Here’s to the band and here’s to the road….life on the road never grows old. Guitar Gold was released as their showcase single on the 24th of March, it’s the Rock and Roll Kids for the 2020s. There is also a simpler track, Beloved, almost a nursery rhyme in its uncomplicated refrain. They are perhaps at their most poignant on Achill Island, an interplaying of clarion guitars tells the story of a woman who lives the simplest of lives on the sea-edge of Europe.
What shines out are the vocals, beautifully resonant, accurate and eloquent, equally melodic on the low tones as on the high notes. Musicianship of the highest quality, songs with meaning and voices that are mellow and mature, a touch folk, a touch country and most of all, a touch of class.
Seán Laffey