Releases > Releases March 2015

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Own Label
11 Tracks, 54 Minutes

The band’s choice of material and its running order results in an album that even at 54 minutes seems over way too early. They leave no time for boredom. Variation both between and within the sets left me lost to the ticking of time. High praise for the Grouse Lodge studio and the team who made this excellent album. With tracks arranged by Dónal Lunny, the master’s touch is evident but lightly applied. There’s a hint too of the band’s 20 year history with guest appearances from emeritus members Donnchadh Gough and Tom Doorley. The title says it all, translating into English as lasting enduring permanence.
There are Slides, Reels, Jigs, A Waltz and a March, a big piping piece and songs. And what songs they are Lord Gregory, Willie Crotty, Muirisín Deas, Passage West and The Willow Tree. The songs are not incidental fillers either, some meaty ones at 5 minutes each. Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh has never sounded better, even on her own excellent solo album, her voice is getting rounder, her delivery more subtle, more emotional, and sure footed; Lord Gregory is a standard and she has probably made her version the benchmark for this century.
Those of you who loved Dónal Clancy’s solo album of 2014 will be delighted with his Willy Crotty, a new ballad, delivered in classic Clancy style, written by Dónal’s cousin Robbie O’Connell, about the legendary 18th century Waterford outlaw Willie Crotty. A captivating story and a rousing chorus combine with an acerbic contemporary last verse; the song should pass quickly into the ballad tradition.
Ned Doorley’s bouzouki playing is prominent and pertinent, no more so than on the set of slides, opening with a whistle and zook duet and then stepping into the shade when Benny McCarthy’s box takes the lead on Doherty’s, then wandering back into the light as McCauley’s fiddle owns Scott’s Favourite.
Caisleán Rathanáin is a sweeping melodic fiddle air from is in McCauley a real slow burner that glides into a minor Mairse·il na Conrach with the accordion running away after a seamless baton pass. These two tunes were written by Oisin and Donal in May of 2014.
Then there is the piping of Donnacha Gough, only one track but a superb set of tunes; the contagious Tuamgraney Castle followed by The Broken Pledge for a full band ending to rival anything the Bothy Band did in their pomp.
This is the best, most varied album that Danú have produced. No question. After twenty years on the road they still have the passion to make music you want to listen to and learn from. Five word summary? Terrific addition to the tradition.
Seán Laffey

Own Label
11 Tracks, 46 minutes
Innovative fiddler Caoimhín Raghallaigh has released several surprising albums, including his recent recording with the group This Is How We Fly, and this CD is along the same exploratory lines. Instead of following conventional melodies, Raghallaigh and Trueman treat their twin fiddles as flexible sound sources, to be combined and contrasted for maximum effect. They don’t go as far as Eoghan Neff, but stick mainly to bowed strings and Western scales. Nevertheless, the results are surprising and beautiful. The closest comparisons I can think of are the slow airs and virtuoso polskas of contemporary Scandinavian music, but there are clear Irish elements here too. Raghallaigh and Trueman play Hardanger fiddles and violas for extra depth and – to be honest – weirdness.
There are three traditional tunes here, but the rest are compositions by Dan and Caoimhín. The arrangements are original in all cases. Behind its whistling harmonies and ringing strings, The Jack of Diamonds has a strong flavour of Donegal fiddling, so it’s not too much of a change when it drifts into a traditional mazurka. Gollywhopper sounds as though it might be an old Scandinavian piece, but apparently not: in any case it soon loses its recognisable dance rhythms to extended harmonies and drawn–out silences. What What What is more akin to modern North American fiddling, maybe Darol Anger or Natalie Haas, and Leathan na Leathan seems to spring from the same source. Not that it’s possible to compartmentalise this music: there’s too much going on between the twin Hardangers to describe in simple terms. A Central European take on The Eagle’s Whistle, for example, is just a handy label for this arrangement of Tuireamh na nIolar which starts high in the breeze before scraping the ground with its talons, and then soars away to rend its prey.
Every track is different, but there is a unifying sound, the spooky almost ethereal ringing strings, and the ominous rough bowing of both these players. A mix of pre–fall sweetness and almost pagan energy runs right through Laghdú, from the title track through the return of the eagle on perhaps the most traditional sounding piece Fead an Iolair, to the backwoods again with Caol le Caol and the final chilling Aonar.
This recording is not mainstream anything – not even close – so you probably won’t find it in the shops, but you can get a taste of it online. Some of you will be hooked. All of you will be impressed.
Alex Monaghan

Pluckin’ Mad
Own Label AC001
14 Tracks, 60 Minutes

“It’s banjo music, Jim – and it’s exactly as you’d expect!” You won’t find a much more traditional plucker than Angelina Carberry here. And despite her cowboy hat, short skirts and high–heeled wellingtons, this music is pure Irish tenor banjo, with none of that sinful bluegrass influence. Angelina’s tunes have their roots in an era before old–time was even invented: many even have no names of their own, but have borrowed the names of notable players down the years. Paddy Cronin’s, Dan Cronin’s, Martin Mulvihill’s, and of course Kevin Carberry’s and Peter Carberry’s have all passed into the tradition with no other title. Finbarr Dwyer’s is probably a composition by the late great box player himself, and Noel Strange defnitely wrote the tune that carries his name and opens this collection: it’s called Spy Wednesday which doesn’t explain why Ms Carberry eschews that title.
Angelina does rework a couple of Flanagan Brothers classics, which I suppose are not totally traditional: she’s joined by half of At The Racket to recreate that authentic East Coast speak–easy fug, and there’s a hint or two of bourbon in with the porter and poitÌn. The title track is a version of Boys of the Lough with a reel recorded in New York under the name Blind Fiddlers, while By Heck is more like a polka by the Pasadena Roof Orchestra. There’s a delightful slow jig The Limerick Tinker on tenor guitar with a high bass tuning, and even a slow air on the same instrument. Reels, jigs and hornpipes abound, until we come to one more slow tune before a final set of hornpipes. The banjo is augmented at various points by friends and family members on fiddle, box, drum, guitar, bouzouki, sax and piano, so there’s plenty of variety in the hour of music here, and still more than enough pure banjo to drive you Pluckin’ Mad!
Alex Monaghan

Little Lights
Own Label LORRCD03
11 Tracks, 42 Minutes
This Edinburgh harpist and composer is noted for many things, and she manages to combine them all on what is effectively a solo harp recording with a few extras. Ailie’s talent for modern composition is responsible for some very enjoyable and harp– friendly pieces here. Her excellent technique allows her to play a wide range of traditional numbers too, from rippling slow airs to machine–gun reels. Some tracks get close to the group sound of Ailie’s multinational quintet The Outside Track, currently polishing their next release: on Little Lights Ailie is supported by Tim Edey and Natalie Haas, recreating a bit of that box’n’fiddle sound – although with different proportions. Some of their ensemble pieces are surprisingly loud. Indeed there is an enormous dynamic range on this CD, from the quietest tinkling of strings to full–blooded bass notes, so headphones or a good stereo system are probably necessary to get the best out of this music.
On the traditional side, Ms Robertson makes hay with The Kilmovee, Downey’s, The Old Maids of Galway, The Fairy Queen and the gorgeous old harp air The Wild Geese. Her own compositions include jigs, polkas, hornpipes, and the stunning slow piece Glimmer which ends this album. Ailie has also chosen tunes by Shannon Heaton, Liz Carroll, P·draig Rynne, Vincent Broderick, Pat Crowley, and Benoit Bourque who wrote the beautiful opening Valse à Huit Ans. I’ll single out the joyful jig Sailing Down Fulton Street, the brooding French Canadian jig La Gueussinette, and the deliberately funky Lili’s Hornpipe as further high points here.
From start to finish, this is a polished and professional performance which is hard to fault, another fine piece of work by this outstanding young musician.
Alex Monaghan

Honset to Goodness
Own Label CN003
12 Tracks, 45 Minutes

There is a retro homage running through this album like the tell tale grain in an antique piece of furniture. The disc itself has a faux black vinyl cover, as if it were ready to be played on a mini dancette.
The band’s instruments are top of the range; guitars by Lowden, banjo by Cussen, Gaillaird accordions and Paddy Tutty’s fiddle and viola which he made himself. They have Dónal Clancy on engineering and the famous Ring studio. The test of course is not what you’ve got at your fingertips but how you grasp it. Caladh Nua take hold of it and make it there own and hand it back to us as a masterpiece.
This is music infused with the Waterford sound that kept thousands of couples on the dance floors of New York and Boston in the late 1920’s. It lifts the spirits with the vamp of a jazz guitar on Sean Haye’s, deploys a steadily building box intro to Tie The Ribbon/The Queen of May. The banjo jogs The Favourite Fling along a dusty summer road, the box adding turns of melody and bass, honest to goodness yes, simple no. They head north to Fermanagh for the One Horned Buck, kicking it off with a buttery rich bodhrán clip.
They have a tender and accomplished singer, in Lisa Butler, her renditions of An Buachaillin Bann, Soeoladh Na nGamhna and the Comhalts favourite Lady of Loughrea provide a foil to the dance tune s yet stand alone as very fine examples of ballads themselvs. For me the standout song is Lough Erne’s Shore, you may know it from Paul Bardy, here it opens with a moody modal drone on the fiddle and runs with voice and gentle guitar backing with a wash of bass and fiddle as the story develops.
It would be hard to pick personal favourites, I’m a huge fan of the band and this third album will be a cherished CD for years to come. Pushed to decide I might waiver towards The Cracklin’ Radio, a song written by Ger Wolfe, embodying the zeitgeist of Caladh Nua. With an opening that is almost Appalachian it has a feel that would sit comfortably alongside Thom Moore’s Carolina Rua.
An album to come back to time and time again, packed with surprises and tunes to whistle the dawn into dusk.
Seán Laffey

Own Label,
18 Tracks, 57 Minutes
This CD of Rónán Regan and Irene Guckian’s is the happy coming together not only of two of Ireland finest traditional musicians but of graphic design, sound production, photography, and writing (English and Irish). It all adds up to a presentation of high production values, one that is a delight to hold, to read, and of course to listen to. There are more and more Own Label CD’s these days and it is a pleasure to see how so many – like Drumshanbows – reach such high standards. The full title of the CD is Drumshanbows –A celebration of traditional music from Leitrim and the surrounding hinterland and that’s because there is a sharing of the music from neighbouring counties that adds to the nuanced differences and styles in that richly musical county. This comes through in the generous number of tracks (18) of varied traditional and newly composed numbers. There is a delightfully languid style of playing that I love, where Irene and Rónán start unaccompanied at an unhurried leisurely pace– as in Francis John McGovern’s/ Hut in the Bog, for example – and then Mick Blake comes in on the piano chording quietly and rhythmically, making it all so easy to listen to.
Sometimes newly–composed Irish dance tunes suffer slightly from an anxiety on the part of composer to come up with something that’s new and a bit different. That isn’t the case on Drumshanbows where the new pieces are very much ‘in tune’ with the traditional, five of which are by Rónán himself, plus his tastefully crafted version of ‘The Wheels of the World’. He tells us that the title track gets its name from the Leitrim town, Drumshanbo, where the musical heritage of the area is celebrated each year at the Joe Mooney Festival. The richly illustrated CD booklet has copious notes that are full of background information and staff notation is also supplied for five pieces, a nice little bonus.
This is one of those CD’s I shall keep close by for regular listening, and for the pleasure it gives I want to thank Rónán and Irene, their other musical associates Paddy Ryan (fiddle), Ciarán Curran (bouzouki), and Mick on the piano, for music that’s for dancing to and for simple, plain enjoyment. Oh, and we can’t forget the charming recitation, The Touch of the Master’s Hand, beautifully delivered by the golden–voiced Tommy Murray.
Aidan O’Hara

Pagan Irish: Cath Finntrágha
Own Label, OACCD708
12 Tracks, 46 Minutes

With a pedigree of producing top quality interpretive music with a focus on the pipes and low whistle, Eoin Duignan has once again delivered with his latest recording entitled Pagan Irish – Cath Finntrágha or the Battle of Ventry Strand. The portrayal of an episode in the saga of the Fianna warriors and their leader Fionn Mac Cumhail (Finn McCool) which takes us through a soundscape of adventure, anger, love, fear and sorrow in a truly compelling way.
Utilising the pipes and low whistle, Duignan is keeps the quality high as he is accompanied by a stellar line up which includes Trevor Hutchinson, Donagh Hennessy, John Brown, Robbie Harris, Jeremy Spencer, Virginia McKee and Steve White. The music is sometimes fierce and yet sometimes subliminal which ignites the emotive spectrum, rapidly interchanging as the saga unfolds. The strength and intensity of Tuatha Dé Dannan in the form of Jenny Picking Cockles epitomises the fierceness of the intent to protect Finntr·gha as the energy of the tune is driven through the pipes. This is quickly subdued to a mellow soundscape of seductiveness (a representation of the daughters of Terg) in the form of The Three Sisters performed on the low whistle. It’s this example that showcases the scene differentiation through a clever use of instrumental, phrasing and lift. The highlight of Pagan Irish – Cath Finntrágha is the spine tingling Tribute to the Prince of Ulster which cuts straight into the senses and stays long after the sound has ebbed.
This is one of those albums that should be a fundamental of any Irish music collection. A piece of history told without the need for words; the music says it all.
Eileen McCabe

Own label
12 Tracks, 47 Minutes
Kate Crossan originally from Randalstown, County Antrim, first started singing at home influenced by her family. Her mother was from Ardboe, Co. Tyrone and her father, a singer and melodeon player, was from Inishowen, Co. Donegal. She first came to notice as the lead vocalist for Canadian Celtic band Kitty’s Kitchen issuing one album in 1996 while she lived in Toronto. Her second album of traditional standards Celtic Heart with the late Oliver Schroer which went platinum and since returning to Ireland and domiciled in Derry Kate Crossan has released her debut solo album Away. The album produced by Martin Tourish features a number of Irish and Canadian musicians including husband and concertina player Lee Cadieux ex–Kitty’s Kitchen piper, Debbie Quigley and bassist David Woodhead and Irish players Declan Carlin Laoise Kelly and Kieran Munnelly among others.
The source material likewise features her local and adopted canon. Heading off with a delicately poised yet robust version of Siuil a ghra her restrained and delicate vocals easily caressing the songs and their lyrical messages and delivery while Canadian songwriter Alastair McGillivray‘s Kitty Bawn O’Brien continues the migration theme. The Franklin Expedition adds a fuller more rounded narrative to the Lord Franklin story and the rediscovery of one of Franklin’s ships adds poignancy and relevance to the story. She takes some rarely heard songs like My Lovely Irish Rose and mouth–watering revisits to The Coulin and Ardaigh Cuain easily crossing the art song and traditional interpretative canon with relaxed yet commanding ease with her delicate soprano voice shining out. This is one of the attractive surprises of Away as are the attractive yet unobtrusive arrangements and the informative song notes.
Away is a little gem from a singer of supreme talent and virtuosity.
John O’Regan

Life is All Checkered
Own Label GF001, 15 Tracks, 56 Minutes
Two young fiddlers from the American mid west, well Indiana and Wisconsin at least, this duo has adopted the music of the old country with gusto. Surely exposed to old–time and Scandinavian music but brought up in the Irish tradition, Nathan and Laura have been playing together for six years at sessions, festivals, and basically any decent excuse, and it shows. Their duets are precise and powerful, needing little in the way of backing from Brian Miller. The solo tracks are equally impressive, with individual style as well as convincing emulation of past masters. Twin fiddles gives plenty of scope – octave harmonies on Bundle and Go, counterpoint on The Crib of Perches, ringing harmonies on Padraig O’Keeffe’s Polka and tight unison on The Old Wooden Bridge which is a Vincent Broderick composition new to me. There are some inspired tune choices here, and some delicious changes into The Star Above the Garter, The Heather Breeze and others.
Life is All Checkered is honest to goodness traditional fiddling through and through, switching between the earthy and delicate styles of Donegal and Clare, Kerry and Dublin. Gourley and Feddersen stick mostly to the old tunes, from the slightly hackneyed Blarney Pilgrim to classics such as The Berehaven Reel or The Graf Spee. There’s both quality and quantity here, and even with such sparing accompaniment there’s no danger of boredom with this recording. Reels and jigs, airs and hornpipes, polkas and slides: all are played with depth and feeling, and with a freshness which polishes up even the dustiest old melody. There is a slight preponderance of reels, but you can’t complain at that when they are delivered with the brilliance and beauty of the final Road to Garrison. Laura and Nathan were a new discovery for me, and I hope we’ll be hearing more from them in the near future.
Alex Monaghan

Own Label, CRUINNCD002
12 Tracks, 50 Minutes
Stóras is the second release from the sublime blend of vocal that constitutes the Gaelic singing group; Cruinn. The band is comprised of four talented vocalists who have built a career out of singing in their own right, however, when you put Brian “hEadhra, Fiona McKenzie, Rachel Walker and James Graham together, the quality of vocal sound is lifted to another level.
The singers have been diverse in their song selection which ranges from the traditional, with the inclusion of the lament, Griogal Cridhe, to new compositions from both Brian and Rachel in the form of Mairidh ar Gaol (Brian) and An Smerach (Rachel); amongst others. An affecting translation of a Norwegian song, Led Er Din Sang, tells the stark story of Captain Sinclair leading Scots mercenaries to massacre whilst a translation of the familiarly emotional air, Air m’ Anam Chan Innsinn Cò I ,touches the heart from the sound of the first poignant note.
The preservation of the language through the beauty of lyricism is a stunning enhancement to the album yet you do not need to have an understanding of the Gaelic language to appreciate the beauty of the blend of tone in the vocal mix as the carefully crafted harmonies produce a compelling sound that strikes a chord with all. The sound is sometimes sweet, sometimes forthright, in variance with the lyrical mood and this is what makes Stóras a stand out; the diversity in emotion portrayed throughout the twelve tracks. Cruinn have produced an album of stunning vocal quality show– casing the beauty of the Gaelic language through a distinct fusion of sound. It’s a win.
Eileen McCabe

Own Label
16 Tracks, 70 Minutes

There are so many facets to the influences portrayed in Elasticity, the latest release from The Moving Violations, however the focus for these players is on the contra dance flow and this album has this in abundance. Eric Ed–Reiner, Chuck Coman, Ron Grosslein and Van kaynor are the instrumentalists featured on Elasticity and the Western Massachusetts based ensemble showcase the contra music that attracts a multitude of whirling feet at their dances with regular ease.
Elasticity is an apt title for the sixteen tracks of dance music as the eclectic parameters are blurred when the piano begins to weave through the strings on a journey that defies all but the core tune structure. Its brilliance is in the fact that even though the tunes freestyle to the contra beat, each instrument is in tune with the collective mood resulting in a hypnotic sound.
Compositions of originality from most members of the group are included with special mentions for Corman’s Hijaz Waltz and Eid–Reiner’s Westminster Ave. Chaos which showcase the group’s inventiveness. The more familiar Volcanic Jig from Natalie Mac Master and Niall Vallely’s Nina’s Jig get an outing under The Moving Violation’s distinct interpretation. A standout though is the soothing tonal qualities of the strings with a delicate piano on Eid– Reiner’s composition, Fiddle Bottle Waltz.
These guys epitomise contra music and are not afraid to explore the parameters of this type of music whilst keeping it within the foot tapping framework of the dance.
Eileen McCabe

Sidekick Records Kick 142, 10 Tracks, 42 Minutes
Pete Cummins has had a long and chequered career in Irish music circles from his beat group days with The Circle, Grassband and Granny’s Intentions to playing with Donovan on his 1971 Irish tour band with Planxty as support. More recently he has commandeered the legendary Fleadh Cowboys with Frankie Lane, Johnny Moynihan etal through the ground breaking new Country revival in 80s/90s Ireland.
Amazingly Crooked Highway is only Pete Cummins’ second solo album but he has absorbed so much of the lyrical traditions of Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan and more to inhabit the singer songwriter genre convincingly. Nine of the ten tracks on Crooked Highway are forthright lyrically acute compositions delivered with assured ease and conviction from someone who knows his craft. Musically hints of folk, country rock and Americana cruise through the process from the opening Distant Starlight with its Californian Country Rock feel to the reggae flavoured shimmy of Gypsy Rose conjuring up intimate gigs in character filled cubby rooms. Mercedes Keogh adds elements of autobiography in a Steve Earle meets Little Feat shuffle while Sacred Ground remembers departed journalist Eugene Moloney its nakedly forlorn anger eloquently expressed while the sole cover Lisa O’Neil’s No Trains to Cavan blends effortlessly within the canvas.
Crooked Highway is a roller coaster ride of articulately observed lyrical gems delivered with a knowing authority and declamatory skill.
John O’Regan