Releases > Releases March 2017

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Own Label, 9 Tracks, 43 Minutes
Two young guns from the folky end of Irish music, Loïc and Tad have done the rounds with various bands including CrossHarbour and Carré Manchot and are now touring as a duo. This album is their first together, and combines a very wide range of influences, from Bléjean’s native Brittany to the folk songs of Tad’s London childhood. It’s a bit of a homage to heroes old and new. In fact: McGoldrick’s Trip to Hervé’s, Spillane’s Atlantic Bridge, songs by Jimmy MacCarthy and Richard Thompson, and Paddy Keenan’s lyrical reel Antara are interspersed with a dozen or so traditional tunes associated with great players such as Willie Clancy and Leo Rowsome.
You may have gathered that Loïc Bléjean is a piper, having taken up the Irish pipes like many Breton musicians in recent years. He switches to low whistle for some of the slower pieces. Tad Sargent plays a guitar–bodied bouzouki and a subtle bodhrán, and sings three songs here. Tad and Loïc are assisted on a few tracks by Sylvain Barou on flute, Jean–Baptiste Boclé on Hammond organ, and London oldtime icon Ben Somers on upright bass.
The songs are a nice touch for a wider audience. We have the quintessential Irish emigrant’s misery in Missing You and the sixties street life story of bloody–minded homelessness in Beeswing. John Spillane’s lighter Dunnes Stores Girl was ripe for a new interpretation, and Tad does a fine job of rejuvenating it over a catchy low whistle part and delicate guizouki accompaniment. It’s the tunes that really make this album though: reels, jigs, airs and more, from Frankie Kennedy’s An Grianán to the traditional reel Noon Lasses off Mike McGoldrick’s Fusion album.
Bléjean has a very attractive open piping style, reminding me of Davy Spillane or Joe McKenna, not as wild as the Dorans or as formal as Rowsome or Ennis, but well suited to flowing tunes with the help of Sargent’s steadying hand. Loïc, Tad and Sylvain hit the change into Helvic Head like a steam hammer, punching out the tune as well as any contemporary trio. Sliabh na mBan is played somewhere between a slow air and a song melody, with the pipe regulators supplemented by organ notes. Here Loic’s roots may be showing as Breton music is often played in Churches with binou, bombarde and big pipe organs. The final pair of reels is pure Irish tradition, quick–fire piping with a good solid beat, ending with the classic Jenny Picking Cockles. I’d love to hear Tad and Loïc live, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else they produce together.
Alex Monaghan

In Full Sail,
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 50 Minutes
Faoi Lán Seol to give it its Irish title, this CD unites three of Ireland’s most accomplished musicians, spanning at least two and a half generations in the process. Conway is probably past the epithet of young prodigy, but her voice still has that high clear youthful quality although her fiddling has always shown remarkable maturity. Lunny has accompanied the great and the good of Irish music, and quite a few other people too, for half a century now: few players can claim to have had more influence, or gathered more understanding, and he also brings enviable composing skills to this album. O’Connor is just himself, a genius box–player, duetting perfectly with the fiddle or playing solo on his own eerie slow air Croagh Patrick. Together, this trio produce a sensational sound.
The music here speaks for itself, which is just as well because the sleeve notes tell you almost nothing. No long rambling explanations of tune titles involving lost socks or broken teapots or vaguely–remembered nights of debauchery. No stories of traditional pieces gleaned from wax cylinder recordings found in Seamus Ennis’ loft. No carefully–researched biographical details of blind harpists pipers/ fiddlers spirited away by fairies/gypsies/spinsters and returned years later with new tunes, unreliable memories, and a permanent smile on their faces. There’s none of that on Faoi Lán Seol: just a list of tunes and composers, mostly from the Irish mainstream but with a couple of surprises.
Scotland makes its proximity felt in Robert Mathieson’s great pipe reel Desert Storm, taken at a measured pace here, and in the final Burns song Westlin’ Winds which is also rather slower than usual. English icons Richard Thompson and the late great Dave Swarbrick are honoured in another song, Crazy Man Michael. Zoë’s third song is the classic Irish Coinleach Ghlas an Fhómhair, charmingly sung and beautifully accompanied. Between the vocal tracks are jigs, reels, polkas and more: Paddy in London, The Glen Road to Carrick, Din Tarrant’s, Ed Reavy’s House of Hamill, Darach de Brun’s Maple Leaf Reel, and a good half dozen by the band themselves. Lunny’s mini suite Peadar O’Donnell is a clear highlight, as is Conway’s crooked tune Rounding Malin Head. Zoë also impresses on Mairtín’s mad Trip to Gort, a touch of Latin fire to spice up what is already a very fine CD.
Alex Monaghan

The Tern and the Swallow
Own label, Catalogue Number ASH005
17 Tracks, 70 Minutes
Maurice and his wife Jane Cassidy are great supporters of the folk song tradition in Ulster. To see what they are up to their website is well worth a visit. On The Tern and the Swallow Maurice dips into the darker end of the folk song tradition, his world is one of exile, emigration, divided love trysts and the pain of returning from foreign lands. Economic drivers have been at play in Ulster for 200 years, affecting all sides, whether they be apprentice boys, or as in Paddy’s Evermore, a ballad about a sea crossing to St.John’s in Newfoundland by Freemasons. For a balance we also have a song of exile from the Bogside of Derry called naturally enough the Sweet Bogside. There are songs about fair maidens, The Rose of Moneymore, and Young Kate of Glenkeen. The beauties of nature are praised in The Lurgan Braes.
Some songs are already in the folk canon, such as Farewell to Ireland, The Boys of Mullaghbawn and Green Grows the Laurel. Others will be new to many singers, the title track comes from an excellent song about emigrants longing for home. One of the most attractive things about this CD is the mix of accompanied and a–cappella tracks, it feels like a night in a sing around, and the track listing is such that it held my attention from start to finish. Maurice’s backing band is worth noting, Andy Irvine, Arty McGlynn, Dermot Byrne, Anna Leyden, Conor Caldwell and Michael Clarkson, premier division players one and all. The album comes with some excellent notes providing perspectives on the songs’ provenance and the singers who have carried them. Maurice is a singer’s singer and this is a singer’s CD.
Seán Laffey

Gael–Linn CEFCD 212
9 Tracks, 35 Minutes or www.gael–
This is IMLÉ’s first CD and it appears that in the short time they’ve been together, people are paying attention and commenting on their unique sound. Even as I write, they are planning a nationwide tour having already performed at Electric Picnic, Féile na Bealtaine (Dingle), Liú Lúnasa (Belfast) and IMRAM Festival (Dublin). They have had TV appearances on TG4’s 20th Anniversary show and I Lár an Aonaigh on BBC 2 NI. Ben Ó Faolain of commented, Cúis dóchais do thodhchaí an cheoil nua–chumtha Ghaeilge í eisiúint ‘IMLÉ’, bí cinnte de sin. (IMLÉ’s release is a ray of hope for the future of newly–composed music in Irish, there is no doubt about that.)
The group’s three vocalists have a varied musical background and their sound is described as mixing poetry, rap and pop music. They certainly sound very comfortable in their presentation and their original songs as Gaeilge are assured and mature in words and arrangements. There’s nothing of a faltering ‘first’ about the album and the performers come across as assured and skilled musicians. Líofa ó thaobh focal, cur i láthair agus blas, atá an triúr. Compórdach sa teanga is sa cheol – an–tógalach ar fad.
Agus an triúr? The three are, presenter/manager with Raidió na Life, Cian Mac Carthaigh, the band’s founder and bass player with Wild Promises, vocalist Fergal Moloney whose ethereal vocals blend with Marcus Mac Conghail’s intense punk poetry and the infectious flow of MC Muipéad’s rap vernacular. IMLÉ’s mission statement is to create something different that was uncompromising & honest and their first recording explores the meaning of life, our relationship with the planet and finding hope within despair.
The playfulness of their rap presentations contrasts sharply and poignantly with Marcas Mac Conghail’s Pádraig, verses written for their friend, Pádraig Schaler, who was injured in a traffic accident in America and continues to get treatment in Ireland. His family and friends are there in support at all times: An caoga Spartach cróga / a thaistil Éire ó chósta go cósta / is a thum go domhain i muir an earraigh / is ar bhéal gach duine bhí d’ainm (referring to a group of Pádraig’s friends engaged in fund–raising for him).
Aidan O’Hara

Own label CON001
12 Tracks, 59 Minutes
Mention the name, Sarah–Anne O’Neill, and lovers of what song collector, the late Seán O’Boyle, referred to as ‘the raw bar’ (the unaccompanied song) will immediate call to mind other singers, such as her brother, Geordie Hanna, and that other great Ulster singer, Joe Holmes. Her grandson, Cathal O’Neill, grew up hearing her singing and telling stories. Her rich repertoire and indeed her memory for songs astounded me at times, says Cathal. Her love for singing was a way of life and was not confined to her ability to just sing. Cathal is a former All–Ireland Singing Champion and this recording is a result of years of singing traditional ballads and collecting them over generations. Having heard his grandmother, Sarah–Anne and her brother – his granduncle – Geordie, it is no surprise that he has been described as having inherited and bears with great dignity the legacy of both singers. Hence the album’s title, Inherited.
One of the songs on the CD is The Factory Girl (Roud 1659), one often he heard his father, John, sing. Seán O’Boyle says: In this song, the poetry of eighteenth century Gaelic Ireland joins hands with the love songs of the industrial revolution. The verse has faint reminiscences of the stereotyped Gaelic ‘Aisling’ (vision poetry), the poet, as he walks out in the early morning, sees a maiden more fairer than Venus, with lily–white skin and rose–red cheeks, a Goddess in form and feature. But here the Goddess is on her way to a factory, a poor girl not ashamed of her poverty nor afraid to resist the advances of a young gallant.
Along with the songs, Cathal has inherited the distinctive singing style of his grandmother, a style with minimal ornamentation but always appropriately and effectively applied. Very pleasing to the ear. The instrumental accompaniment by Cathal’s musician friends is also appropriate, enhancing his presentation and never dominating. They supply a set of reels for the CD as a tribute to Cathal’s granny, and named it Sarah–Anne’s Set.
The song notes Cathal supplies are most helpful and emphasise the close family association in his choice of material. Not surprising, songs included are Dobbin’s Flowery Vale, a favourite of Sarah–Anne’s, Rambling Boys of Pleasure, John Reilly, another of Cathal’s father’s songs, and Old Ardboe, one of Geordie Hanna’s favourites. This is an altogether enjoyable album of songs from one of Ulster’s and Ireland’s, finest traditional vocalists.
Aidan O’Hara

The Cat’s Rambles
17 Tracks, 51 Minutes
Veteran Tapes VT160C

This could be the find of the year. Launched last October at the return to Camden Town Festival, Michael Sheehy is a graphic designer from the North of England who now lives in London. His graphic work showing a cat playing an accordion graces the cover of the album. It looks playfully pleased with itself as Michael should be about this new album.
The music here comes from deep within the Sheehy family. The tunes were learned from Michael’s father Mick, who came to Britain in the 1950’s from Kerry. This is essentially an album of Sliabh Luachra music, but it’s not your standard Sliabh Luachra Music. In many respects music from the Cork, Kerry and West Limerick area was the last to be discovered; the boys with their tape recorders didn’t get deep into polka country until the 1950’s and 60’s. The music that emigrated with Mick Sheehy was strange, local and not much in demand in the Irish clubs and bars in Manchester. Consequently what we have here is a wonderful collection of music that has been cherished in the Sheehy family, played at home, in the kitchen and between father and son. Veteran Tapes of Suffolk are a small independent label, best known for their extensive collection of archive and field recordings, this dovetails into their catalogue. Michael plays a piano box, but his style is such that you’d think it was an old push and draw melodeon, it adds to the authentic, vintage sound of the album. The title track is from the slide The Cat’s Rambles To The Child’s Saucepan which Michael teams up with The Boys Of Bunratty /The Templeglantine. There are polkas such as The Weaver’s Delight /Dan O’Leary’s /The Blue Riband, just one set of jigs: I Will If I Can /The Priest In His Boots /John Mahinney’s, a moving pair of waltzes Garten Mother’s Lullaby /We Bring The Summer With Us. Track 12 might be the find of the album in that it is a selection of reels; Mick Sheehy’s and The Glountane. There are excursions in ensemble playing too when Michael is joined by Ed Barrett on fiddle on tracks 3, 9 &17, Alan Block on fiddle on tracks 5 &12 and John Howson on guitar on tracks 6 &15. This is an essential album for anyone who plays Sliabh Luachra music; it is a goldmine of new music over 60 years old.
Seán Laffey

It’s About Thyme
15 Tracks, 51 Minutes

A quartet of ladies from an area of the USA rich in its own Celtic rooted traditions. Mountain Thyme are Pam Curry; bouzouki, octave mandolin, autoharp, vocals, Jan Carroll; wooden and silver flutes, penny whistle, vocals, Libby Musser; upright bass, piano, vocals, and Linda Workman, guitar, djembe, vocals. On this recording and for most of their performances they are joined by Cathy Grant on fiddle.
They have been together as a band since 1982 and have shared their music and social lives for over thirty years, and that shows in the empathy between them on this album. They come from the mountainous ridges of West Virginia, home of a distinctive singing style, which is clearly evident in such tracks as Horo Johnny with its close harmony Appalachian singing or the fiddle led Cold Frosty Morning with it regular beat. They have a deep love of Irish and Scottish material too and they choose it generously on this album.
They make a grand job of Paidraigin Ni Uillachain’s Willow Tree. There’s a steady thrum from an autoharp, which carries the song to its conclusion. On the Little Jing we get a dark modal tune on the bouzouki. It’s an original composition from band member Pam Curry, named after a favourite family Labrador. It has an 18th century barbershop whiff about it, the very place in Colonial America to hear the latest cittern number. The flute shines on Peggy and the Soldier which is a version of a song we’d know in Ireland as Mary and the Soldier. Here the girls slow it down a fraction with a chorus that echoes with clear high notes. The flute features again on The Rolling Waves /Bill Harte’s Jig/ The Ten Penny Bit. These are taken at a much slower pace than we’d be used to in Ireland, giving the girls space to develop the melodies. Bill Harte’s jig pays a nod to Bothy Band DNA with a pulsing blast on the bouzouki. The final song Home by Bearna, gave me goose pimples. The lead singer (who isn’t identified in the liner notes), sings in Scartaglen there lived a lass and every Sunday after mass she’d take a glass before going home by Bearna, as she summons up the ghost of a young Jean Ritchie.
The girls put a West Virginian stamp on a repertoire they have been sharing for years and that fellowship shines on every number. If you are in any doubt how much fun they had making the album, keep listening to the final track as it segues into a spliced outtake.
Seán Laffey

Winsome Ways
8 Tracks, 29 Minutes
A debut album is always an event, but especially so when it’s as aptly titled as this one. Maurice is a Dublin–based singer/songwriter with an obvious love of history, and he’s produced a most amiable and companionable collection here. Topics range from the Shackleton, Antarctic expedition to Benjamin Franklin’s dealings with a pirate from Rush in County Dublin, and the Crown Hotel in Cricklewood. Wide–ranging indeed, he writes strong melodies very much in the song tradition, so they are likely to stick around for along while.
It’s mercifully not over produced: just voice and guitar with low whistle on the intros, and a sniff of mandolin or tambourine, proving very adroitly that less is more when it’s correctly handled. Maurice has a deft way with words and he is being noticed by a number of singers on the song circuit with Niamh Parsons already having recorded one of his historical ballads. For a flavour, here’s a verse from a ballad that should be sung around the Liberties at Halloween:
Eve Of All Souls
Poor young Lady Caldwell she wears a silver gown.
She died of a poison and lies underground.
Barney Wall of Linen Hall a sneak thief he died.
Under the shade of the gallows high.
Though they may rest in peace and all have disappeared.
They rise by the moon one night of the year.
The one thing absent from the album is a satirical ballad. The Dublin tradition wouldn’t go eight songs without a bit of slagging to lift the mood or enhance the annoyance, and Maurice’s songs are so good I’m sure there are singers at the Goilin waiting for a bit of ska and sedition from him. There’s plenty of time for that in the future. Meanwhile we have plenty in this offering to be going on with.
John Brophy

12 Tracks, 57 Minutes

Jane Cassidy’s title track, Silverbridge, is a tribute to the Armagh home of her paternal grandmother. The opening song ushers this much anticipated recording to life with equal gentleness and strength. Her voice is sweet and rich in this collection of songs that are chosen from a rich Ulster tradition or from her own poetry. The two styles sit together comfortably, the modern with the old, all expertly accompanied by Nollaig Casey, Joe McHugh, Barry Carroll and Frank Cassidy. Produced and recorded with Rod McVey, the accomplished harmonies and backing vocals are by her daughter Anna Leyden.
Cassidy’s version of Samuel Ferguson’s Apron of Flowers (1856) is the apotheosis of the recording. Also known as I know My Love, her mellifluous voice and timing lend new breadth to the lyrics and her slow melodic tempo enriches this timeless folk song. Cassidy’s professional treatment of other extant material from deep within the tradition is manifest in all of the tracks, especially in Bird in a Cage and Gathering Rushes. The album features false lovers, as–I–roved–out tales, a lullaby, coming of age stories, deception and conceit. A must for song lovers and collectors, it is available on and for download on iTunes.
Anne Marie Kennedy