Releases > Releases March 2016

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Songs From The Seas
Own Label Amps Factory Music, 11 Tracks, 59 Minutes

Dublin Born, Anne Wylie is now based in Germany where she has established herself on the Celtic circuit; indeed a look at her website and you will see Anne on a big tour of the country in February and March. This new album is thematic to a point, fittingly as Anne does come from an island nation and a city where the sea and river have played an indisputable part in its 1000 years of history.
Anne touches on some of those themes on this album for example with the first track Dragon Sands about the fragility of the moment, as a sand is washed away on a beach, this is a Celtic Rock opening with an electric guitar riff driving the song on. The Bonny Swans is from Loreena McKennit, its a version of The Two Sisters. Anne takes a new look at it and puts her own mark on this Child ballad, and it’s a big number running to over 6 minutes. The drums are a constant throughout the track. There’s a great bit of guitar playing from Uwe Metzler on Nead Na Locahn with Hendrik Morgenbrodt adding some chunky breaks on uilleann pipes, Anne closes the track on a big anthemic phrase.
The pipes are a key feature of The Jeannie C another long song at over 6 minutes, whereas the Nightingale is the most laid back, most gentle track on the album. The whole work is a bit of a modern classic of Celtic rock. Not afraid to experiment the closing track features Anne singing Open the Door over a minimalist piano counterpoint. There’s no doubt about it, she brings a sense of drama to these new songs and has a band behind her of Uwe Metzler guitars, Henrik Mumm bass and cello, Maike Mohr piano, Markus Faller drums & percussion, Helge Andreas Norbakken percussion, Hendrik Morgenbrodt pipes, they are more than capable of the task in hand. There is a 3 minute mini–documentary on You Tube taking us through the making of this album.
Seán Laffey

Crow Valley Music CVCD0005, 12 Tracks, 64 Minutes
Irish concertina genius Niall Vallely is back with brother Caoimhín on keyboards and a few friends fleshing out the brilliant and stylish supergroup Buille. This is their third CD, and it’s every bit as exciting as the first two, showing a degree of flair and musicality which most of us can only wonder at. But then, that’s what I wrote about their debut album, so it’s no surprise really. Niall kicks off with one of his trademark finger–blistering reels, shaking that hexagonal magic box like it was a Bond martini. If your soul is not stirred by this music, you must ask yourself if you’re alive at all – or merely a spectre. Caoimhín’s walking piano bass line is the perfect backing, with percussion from Brian Morrissey. Ken Edge chips in on soprano sax, reminding me of Spillane somewhere between Shadowhunter and East Winds. Ed Boyd’s Gloucestershire guitar completes the picture.
There’s rather more of a group vibe than the early Buille, which really was all centred around Niall’s concertina. Here the bulk of the material still comes from Niall’s head, but the second half of Beó contains more of Caoimhín’s compositions. In an album full of high points, a few stand out. The Balkan twists of Bloomsday, the piano and sax parts in Whatso, and the exquisite poignancy of In a Silent Way, which is the only new piece here not written by the Vallely brothers. There are two trad tunes too – the venerable Yellow Tinker given a facelift by Niall, and the radical surgery of Cloudy Moves which reinvents Neili Boyle’s jealously guarded tune. Both are spectacular transformations. This recording was made live, at a small concert in January 2015, and the audience adds appreciative applause without going wild. That needn’t stop you, though!
Alex Monaghan

The Green Branch
Ceol Productions CPCD004, 14 Tracks, 52 Minutes
Sligo based fiddler MacDiarmada is well–known from his work with several line–ups over the past decade or so. He now spends a lot of time in
the USA, with his American wife Samantha Harvey who accompanies him on piano here and also step–dances on one track. The Green Branch is mainly Sligo style, intricate fiddling with fingerwork and bowing combined to give rich ornamentation. Grand old reels from Jackie Coleman, Ed Reavy, Johnny McGreevy, James Kelly, and several by Charlie Lennon are interspersed with older tunes from O’Neill’s collection or simply handed down across the generations. Mayor Harrison’s Fedora, The Avonmore, The Reel of Mulinavat and other familiar names are delicately fiddled over a gentle piano line. There’s a flamboyant version of Miss Monaghan, always a favourite of mine, and some more unusual tunes including The Green Branch itself, a curious tune with similarities to Come West Along the Road but more complex in its cadences.
Sligo music does make some space for hornpipes and jigs, but not a lot. There are one or two sets of each here, plus a few set dances tacked onto the reels. To add variety, Oisín plays a couple of old reels at a slower tempo
: Bright May Morning and Fowler in the Glen, both great melodies. A medley of MacDiarmada compositions completes the picture, a hornpipe and two reels dedicated to the memory of James “The Professor” Morrison who emigrated from Sligo in 1915. This track also benefits from Samantha’s dancing feet, dubbed over the piano I assume. There’s a lovely lyrical take on Duncan the Gauger, a rare fiddle version of The Ace and Deuce of Piping too, and a fine finish with The Woman of the House. The fiddle tone and intonation are superb throughout this recording: you’d be hard pressed to find a finer player in the Sligo style, or a more sensitive accompanist.
Alex Monaghan

The Clearing
Own Label DM001, 14 Tracks, 63 Minutes
A new grouping of uilleann piper Eliot Grasso with fiddler Brandon Vance, supported by Glen Waddell on several instruments, Dréos play a mixture of Irish, Scottish and their own music in a very traditional style which embraces North American influences as well as the purely Celtic. Take the pair of jigs by Brandon – Erin’s and Caitlin’s – leading into the traditional Brown Ale. These new compositions are clearly not from the Irish or Scottish tradition, yet they fit the traditional style and dovetail easily with older tunes. The same is true of Eliot’s reels Weaving to Friday Harbor, Andrew Dewberry’s and Ellie’s New Hat, which suit the uilleann pipes perfectly but still have the distinctive quality of recently–made music. Both Eliot and Brandon have recorded several CDs separately, and that experience shows in Dréos.
Of thirty tunes here, twenty are new compositions by Grasso or Vance. Reels and jigs, strathspeys from Brandon’s Scottish repertoire, marches and airs, and a couple of charming new waltzes fill over an hour with some of the best music of 2015. Vance breaks into song to introduce the old Shetland air Da Day Dawn, and sings the traditional ballad She Moves Through the Fair just to show he can, but the rest of The Clearing is strictly instrumental. Grasso switches to flute on half a dozen tracks, and fiddle and pipes play solo passages, but this debut duo recording is mostly pipe and fiddle duets, lovely tight playing with the musicians sparring and bouncing off each other to give a very lively and natural sound. Starting with Devil in the Kitchen and Tie the Bonnet, and ending with The Clumsy Lover, Dréos have picked some great melodies and made the most of them.
Whether you’re looking for old music or new, give this group a listen.
Alex Monaghan

Music from East Galway
COEN Productions, 20 Tracks, 55 Minutes
Followers of Irish music in the New York area would mention one name when it comes to being a constant catalyst for the tradition, East Galway born Monsignor Charlie Coen.
st year he had relatives visiting him and Catskills Irish Week Director, Reidin O’Flynn got the family together to play a few tunes in the old style. This album is all the good stuff from that recording session. Monsignor Charlie on the concertina, playing flute, and singing in Irish & English, his brother Anthony Coen adding fiddle and also singing in English, his sister Margaret King plays fiddle, & nephew Jimmy Coen, brings his guitar to the fireside.
The album opens with Amhrán Na Bhfiann. The first verse sung in its original English by a choir made up of pupils from St Pauls, St Thomas and St Josephs in New York. For good measure it closes with the same group singing The Star Spangled Banner. A choir appeared on Fr Charlies’ 1979 album Father Charles Coen – Father Charlie , so it is lovely to have the continuity here.
Tony Coen sings the Galtee Mountain Boy and Fr, Charlie adds a version of An Clár Bog Déil, which he had as young boy in Portumna from his schoolmaster Paddy Felle. Songs aside the great joy of this album is in its easy going East Galway trip around a dozen selection of dance tunes. Many are well–known such as the TeeTotaller, Boys of Tandargee and the Donegal Reel . Then there is the Key in the Cill which Fr. Charlie learned as a ten year old boy and it is still with him. There is a hint of the modern tradition with Jimmy playing the reels Move in Decency and the Flagstone of Memories on guitar (both of which go back three generations in the family). With the hands of Vincent Crotty and Doctor Mick Maloney laying their blessings on the project it should come with a sticker reading “Authentic stuff”.
It is not overly produced, the arrangements are straightforward, the sound is as close as you can get to a Galway fireside in New York and to add to it all Fr. Charlie sings The Old Turf Fire, one of the most infectious melodies in Irish music. If you are starting a slow session this is the go to album of the year. The melodies are played slow enough to appreciate every note and yet not too slow as to tie your feet to the floor.
This is a keeper and one to share with all those generations coming down the turnpike. A wonderful reminder of the music a family makes together.
Seán Laffey

Yet We Sing
Artes Records, ARCD4050, 13 Tracks, 56 Minutes
One of the most established German Irish bands, Cara has produced several fine previous albums and this one maintains their high standard. Ex–pat Scot Kim Edgar is the only non–German as far as I can tell, although Gudrun Walther’s vocals are very convincing with a Leinster accent maybe picked up from Christy Moore. The six songs here are evenly split between Edgar originals, Walther originals, and traditional ballads. I confess I far prefer the last category – I struggle to understand the message of A Leaf for a Sail or Cain’s War, but these versions of Little Musgrave and The Elfin Knight are expressive and delightful. Anchor in the Sky and Yet We Sing are new songs with more to say, at least to me, and their arrangements are quite enchanting. In fact, all Cara’s music is beautifully arranged.
But it’s not the arrangements, or the songs, which would make me, listen to this album again. It’s the instrumentals, and specifically the virtuosity and skill of piper Hendrik Morgenbrodt, guitarist Jürgen Treyz, and bodhrán player Rolf Wagels. There’s nothing in the seven tune tracks here to suggest that this band is anything but pure Irish. Credit should also go to Gudrun’s fiddle and Kim’s keyboards of course, especially on the gorgeous air Land of the Midnight Sun and the Heroes medley, both Walther creations. In fact, most of the tunes were written by Cara – reels, slides, strathspeys, airs and more, all excellent, especially when the pipes cut loose. Schottische Kerlou by Calum Stewart sees Gudrun strap on the accordion, and Jürgen’s Wee Dobro Tune introduces another lead instrument, but pipes and fiddle rock on The Legend of Lisnalway and The Exploding Case. I’ll gloss over The Naked Man in the Whirlpool in case there are children listening.
A very enjoyable recording, Yet We Sing showcases a world class band in top form.
Alex Monaghan

Frontline Music, 12 Tracks, 59 Minutes
Karin divides her time between Vienna and Birr in Offaly. She plays (amongst other things) classical flute and whistle and is a composer, this album is her master piece.
The title track and the opening number set the tone. This is a big sound from a big group of musicians, here the harp and the brass section provide a cinematic panorama, this is music for a large concert hall or perhaps a baroque Cathedral in Salzburg of a Basilica in the West of Ireland. Our first hint of a Celtic theme comes on the second track Rainbows of Ireland, with the pipes of Eamon Galdubh opening the main motif, Karin adding high flute and whistle, the melody is a variation on Robert Burns’ My Love is a Like A Red Red Rose and ends with a shimmer on the harp. Track three brings back the brass on Heart of Gold which develops into a flute and harp duo, the flute underscored by a continuo on the harp with strings in choral washes until the end shifts to an almost discordant close.
For Night in Pompey the rhythms are strident and far more Eastern Mediterranean with the violin taking up a theme over the pulse of a cello. By contrast Firefly Summer starts as smaller piece, again led out by Galdubh’s pipes and evolves into a conversation between the pipes and flute. On Celtic Stone Leaner soars above the orchestra with a high pitched whistle. We travel to bohemia for The Lone Gyspsy and there are snatched of bird calls on Earthsong, the jauntiest melody on the album and one that will, in a simplified version no doubt be taken up by budding flautists.
The album closes with Tibetan Incense, a chant runs through it is interleaved with the sound of the sitar.Sixty years ago classical musicians would ham up The Irish Washerwoman. This is light years away from that sort of thing. Karin takes both material from the traditional idiom and the idiom itself, and uses it sparingly, always with taste. I could see this album selling out in a live performance at the National Concert Hall.
Seán Laffey

King of the Mountains
Smoky City Press, 79 Minutes Audio Book
Strange indeed are the offerings which hover into our ken from time to time. From the title I’d thought that this could be a lively collection, or at least a bit of homage to the puck goat in Killorglin, But no! It was something far more exotic, a spoken word album, co–ordinated by Dan Possumato the Irish–box player from Alaska with deep Italian roots, he is now based in Pittsburgh where he worked on this album. Here we have the tale of a famous Italian outlaw, Musolino, who hid out in the mountains of Calabria for years in the period 1899–1902. He was dubbed the Italian Robin Hood, and newspapers like the Boston Globe and The Times in London followed his exploits. This is narrated by Edoardo Camponeschi who recounts Dan’s words. The audio book is also available on line as a Kindle download or can be bought in old fashioned paperback format.He was eventually convicted of murder and put in solitary confinement until he went insane, but he lived on until the 1950s (which is well within living memory) and there is a familiar echo to the way his great grand–nephew trawled through forgotten archives to get this fascinating account.
Any Irish person should have a great sympathy for someone fighting the evils of landlordism and the tyranny of aristocracy, and it provokes the thought that it’s a pity some–thing similar was not done for Irishmen caught in similar circumstances: Éamon a’ Chnoic, Seán Ó Duibhir a Ghleanna or the Connerys from Sliabh gCua or more recently the ballad of Willy Crotty.
Musolino had many songs and poems written about him, and it prompts the question: isn’t there a collection waiting to be made of all the Irish people who lived out on the hills on the run? Come all y gallant balladeers, Google this one if you can.
John Brophy

Round Tower Blues
Tony Reidy Music TRCD04, 12 Tracks, 49 Minutes–Reidy–Music
Where to start – well, how’s this? I’m playing a tune on the mandolin; It’s an old reel I only half learned. I’m slowing down to get it right – I wish I’d done that with the rest of my life, And I must not be too hard on myself.

But it’s good to be alive, I can walk another mile,
And watch the sun go down. See the berries on the briar,
The starlings on the wire, And the spring come round.

That’s the opening verse of a thoughtful and plaintive song – with a sprinkling of humour – called, It’s Good to be Alive, from Tony Reidy’s new CD, Round Tower Blues. Tony is open and honest in what he writes and a very real and appealing person Emerges through it all. Like, for example, in another verse in that song: I’ve lost my religion down the years, I’ve wrestled with it ever since. They say the faithful have better times, But I cannot live another man’s life, and I must not be too hard on myself.
This album of 12 songs by Tony Reidy is a total delight from a master songwriter and a composer of effective and often catchy melodies. Tony presents us with a touching Melange of mirth, mischief and poignancy in this song collection. In answer to those who might ask if he’s changing direction in this new CD, he told The Mayo News, “Thematically not so much, but musically, yes. This album is more homely – it’s all myself really; a home production. It has a nice feel to it. Restricted in instrumentation – me with the guitar, mandolin and harmonica.” And do you know what? I agree with his summation completely. Couldn’t have put it better myself.
Tony explains what he had in mind when he wrote Round Tower Blues, the title album of the CD. “The song’s about living in Aughagower and feeling the urge to get out every now again; about growing up there in the ’60’s and thinking of far–off worlds, like San Francisco and free love,” he chuckles. He’s been awarded folk album of the month by MOJO Magazine for past efforts, and this powerful new recording of Tony’s is again worthy of consideration for further honours. It’s one of those special CDs one lays aside for a while and comes back to again and again – for the felicity of the experience, doncha know!
Aidan O’Hara

The Great Irish Songbook
Wrasse Records WRAS336, 12 Tracks, 47 Minutes
Ranagri the London based quartet has established itself as one of the foremost new Celtic bands to emerge from the Thamseside scene. Radically different to Crossharbour and The London Lassies, musically its line–up of Jean Kelly (harp), Eliza Marshall (flute), Tad Sergeant (bouzouki/percussion) and Donal Rogers (vocal/guitar) leans to the melodic and lyrical end of the musical spectrum. This combination with the acclaimed Tony Christie is more than your average experiment.
Sharing Irish roots, Tony himself is of Irish extraction, his real name Anthony Fitzgerald of Mayo stock and the amalgamation with Ranagri bears the testament of a long labour of love. The blend of Tony’s tenor voice more often heard in pop circles blends itself well within the acoustic canvas and the selection includes the more obvious art songs as well as popular ballad classics such as Raglan Road, Spancil Hill and Cliffs of Dooneen the latter graced by Jens Komnick’s uilleann pipes.
The treatments are generally restrained and sensitive, befitting the lyrical qualities of the songs and Tony Christie’s voice which is a revelation in the emotional attachment contained within his subdued delivery. His voice seems made for the lyrical flow of The Banks of the Lee and When You Were Sweet Sixteen which sound like they were written for him. His gentle vocal touches are light years from the pop punch of Amarillo yet the performances are no less compelling and evocatively poignant. Coupled with Ranagri’s languid sounding yet highly evolved arrangements the results are subtly thought provoking and powerfully resonant.
John O’Regan