Releases > Releases March 2018

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Before the Sun
Own label FRL 002, 11 Tracks, 48 Minutes
Donegal and Glasgow are the two ends of the see saw on which the Friel sisters play. Big full bodied ensemble playing straight out of the stall, with the selection of Young Tom Ennis, King of the Pipers/ Hunt The Cat, the middle tune starting on a fiddle solo from Clare  Friel, the final tune is more Bothy Band than the Bothy Band. They pare things back on track 8 An Coolin March.
Anna sings a touching version of Kelvin’s Purling Streams, a song of emigration from county Antrim, one to learn, as the melody is quite infectious. The sisters sing together in unison on the slower songs Moorlough Shore; the melody is a close relative of The Foggy Dew.
The Friel family originated in Dóire Na Mainsear the next townland over from Ranafast. They pay tribute to those roots on the sets Ranafast Jig/Statia Donnelly/My Former Wife. It opens with a fiddle solo from Clare Friel, with the pipes to the fore as we reach the second tune. There’s some deceptively simple accompaniment on A Stór a Stór A Ghra. The backing musicians on the album are Hajime Takahashi (guitars) and Cathal O’ Currain (bouzouki) and a fine job they do of sitting in with the three sisters.
The liner notes are beautifully presented, with the many family links explained and much careful research into the background of the music. Engineered by Jack Talty and produced by Ciarán Ó Maonaigh, this is Donegal music in the hands of accomplished musicians. The album comes with the blessing of both Triona Ni Dhomhnaill and Tommy Peoples, praising the Friels’ sensitive, tasteful and authentic mastery of words and music.
Seán Laffey

Searbh Siúcra
Own Label, 18 Tracks, 74 Minutes
There are many unsung heroes of Irish traditional music: so much of the tradition consists of local activities, teachers and composers and musicians who often don’t stray far from their own hearth but whose music can spread across the globe. One such is fiddler, accordionist and composer Eddie Kelly, a native of East Galway, living in his adopted hometown of Castlerea in County Roscommon since 1958. Éilís Crean was one of Eddie’s pupils for many years before she moved to Tennessee. She is dedicated to preserving East Galway fiddling, and has released this recording of 21 Eddie Kelly compositions in collaboration with several well–known musicians. If like me you are not familiar with Eddie Kelly’s tunes, Searbh Siúcra will hold many treasures for you.
The music here includes jigs, reels, hornpipes, and four delightful slow airs. Éilís has also added a few East Galway standards which Eddie would have played regularly: The Freize Britches, Pull the Knife and Stick it Again, The Jug of Punch, The East Galway Reel of course, and a number of compositions by the prolific Paddy Fahey. That lonesome bittersweet mode so familiar from the playing of Paddy Fahey or Lucy Farr is also present in Eddie Kelly’s tunes such as The Meelick Team, Caught in a Cobweb, or The Cloonlish Hornpipe. All the pieces here are taken at a moderate pace, giving Kelly’s compositions space to breathe. Crean’s fiddle is supported by John Regan on button box, Mike McGoldrick on flute, and fiddler Kevin Burke who also wrote a fine introduction to the CD. There’s also guitar and keyboards from Geraldine Cotter, John Doyle, Jeff Taylor and John Mock. As well as some lovely new tunes, this album offers a chance to appreciate and absorb some of the East Galway fiddle style.
Alex Monaghan

All in Good Time
Own Label, 14 Tracks, 54 Minutes
A fiddle album in the old Sligo style – not such an unusual thing, you might think, but with so many players today blending different styles and inventing their own, it’s actually quite rare to hear a major recording which recreates that seventies sound of Fred Finn, Paddy Ryan, Charlie Lennon and a young Frankie Gavin. I say seventies rather than fifties or thirties, because this is music of the revival rather than a return to the 78s of Coleman and Killoran, or the dance band style of the Irish showbands. Declan throws in one track of ensemble tunes, adding swing sax and banjo to the more traditional flute and concertina, and there is a fine relaxed duet with fluter Damien Stenson on Johnny Henry’s Reel, but otherwise the fiddle alone carries these grand old melodies, with discreet and dependable accompaniment from a few well–known hands on piano, guitar or bodhrán.
Folan’s playing is delicate but firm, capable of sweetness on some of the hornpipes and barndances, but more suited to the crunchy rhythmic playing of jigs and reels. Slower tracks don’t really feature on this CD, which I think is Declan Folan’s first official solo album, a major landmark for Sligo fiddle fans after a long wait. The fiddling here is mature, masterly, moulded by tradition but also showing strong individual character. Declan finishes on a version of Lord Gordon’s Reel with his own variations, a captivating performance.
Before that is a rake of reels and jigs: Tilly Finn’s, The Maid on the Green, Music in the Glen, The Golden Keyboard, George White’s Favourite, Tell Her I Am and The Drunken Landlady among them, classics every one, handled superbly on Folan’s fiddle. There are some Michael Coleman tunes, The Old Grey Goose for example, but much of this music wasn’t written until after Coleman’s famous recordings: compositions by Martin Mulhaire, Brendan Tonra and Charlie Lennon for instance. Declan Folan puts them all together flawlessly in an exciting and energetic album, some fast, some slower, All in Good Time.
Alex Monaghan

Chewing the Fat
Sleight of Hand Records. SOHR1702CD, 10 Tracks, 53 Minutes
Music that echoes and maps traditional migration paths between Fermanagh and London. Fascinating debut concept album from musician and composer James Patrick Gavin. Exploring complexities of emigration through instrumental tracks, and songs both original and traditional, music shaped by a uniquely specific ode to place, family, belonging.
Acclaimed fiddle–player and guitarist James grew up steeped in traditional music around Holloway Road, while retaining links with his Irish grandmother’s Fermanagh home–place.
“The road to Damascus on a red London bus” – this line from J Eoin’s song Lady–O–Dreams’ about a once legendary music pub in London’s Angel, is a lyrically apt reflection of Gavin’s concept. James was taught by fiddle mentors like Karen Ryan, (herself a recipient of an Unsung Hero teaching–award). Gavin’s multi–dimensional influences are gathered on this CD in a very reflective sense. London–Irish vibrancy evident in the collective musicianship of James’s outstanding folk–music contemporaries, Orlaith McAuliffe (flute), accordionist Tommy Black–Roff (accordion), Banjo–player Hugh O’Neill, (banjo), Dominic Henderson and Paddi Benson (Uileann Pipes), Jez Hellard and Adrian Lever (guitar), J Eoin (song composition, vocals, guitar).
His grandmother Mena Gavin features in the spoken–word element, but linked also to stand–out tunes like Gavin’s composition Standing Stone, tune as ode to ancient landscape, but significantly also the name of Mena’s Fermanagh cottage.
‘London, Ireland, and the music in–between’. And it’s that limnal in–between which seems to create a musical fearlessness, tenderly moving aspects in compositions like The Old Keady Dog, glimpsed also in the poetic quality of the liner–notes, the meticulously storied maps. Great London–Irish edge to Gavin’s music, and that feels linked to a quirkiness in his father Seamus’s surreal story behind his Fermanagh blues song London Town. (Which began one day in the 80s after falling headfirst out a building–site window onto the wrong side of a crowbar!). Poignant note in how looking up at a muddy London skyline evoked a mountain–cairn in Fermanagh. Tae, is another gorgeous song, an emotionally strong tribute to his own father. Chewing the Fat ironically breaks new ground in how it honours family, across the ley lines of an ancient landscape. This music feels real! And all the better for that.
Deirdre Cronin

Live and Well
TOC 120 917, 13 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Tony O’Connell is no stranger to concertina circles or indeed traditional music aficionados. This album is his first solo recording, following the successful release of three duet albums previously in collaboration with Ben Lennon, Andy Morrow and Eamon Riordan. The opening track features a beautiful selection of jigs played seamlessly in a duet with the brilliant Bríd Harper on fiddle. These are two striking newly composed jigs from the pen of John Dwyer. The playing is effortless; a natural lilting flow is further enhanced by contemporary style accompaniment from guitar stalwart, Arty McGlynn. The style is pure and simple, traditional music at its best, allowing those wonderful double octaves to sing through.
Moving on, there is music sourced from the Cape Breton tradition paired with South of the Grampians a great intricate tune Tony learned from the playing of Frankie Gavin. There are tasteful harmonies here producing a very sweet, melodic sound. A set of slides provide that unmistakable lift and joy of Sliabh Luachra music, proving once again that O’Connell is indeed a master of his craft on this album.
His Cailín na Gruaige Doinne, is a lovely sweet tune played in a simple yet effective arrangement, with drones & chords used to great effect. One of the most impressive aspects of this collection of tunes is the vast range from which they have come. There’s lots of references to the greats that have possibly influenced O’Connell on his musical path, and lots of newly composed tunes from artists including Tommy Peoples, Tommy Potts, Richie Dwyer and Peadar O’Riada, and there’s also lots of references to his native Munster music.
Track 11 treats the listener to a lovely set of jigs spirit and a deep love of the tradition, complemented with lots of tasteful yet subtle variation to enhance the melodies. There are fantastic chordal progressions here with an unmistakable drive from Arty Mc Glynn.
Track 12 highlights O’Connell’s finesse when it comes to polka playing. This time the accompaniment is in an unassuming traditional vein on bouzouki from Cyril O’Donoghue. The final set opens with Carraigín Ruadh a beautiful composition of Brendan Tonra’s, played with Bríd Harper on fiddle. This presents a highly impressive musical drive and swing from this duet pairing; this is music from the heart.
Genuine, unassuming, gorgeous music. Highly recommended.
Edel Mc Laughlin

A Note Let Go
Ulaid & Duke Special B076FLY8ZJ, 10 Tracks, 50 Minutes
Duke Special is one of those musicians who’s helping carve out new channels for the musical energy of this island. His style echoes vintage Vaudeville as well as contemporary ballad. But his accent comes from somewhere more ancient than that. Ulaid are straight down the line traditional Irish artists, but who are also prepared to experiment with other sounds and settings. What could be a finer blend than that?
And so it was that these four musical forces got together and decided to explore old texts for some new life. And why not? It was a perfect decision – to dive into poems and documents collected by antiquarian and historian Francis J Bigger, which had ended up at Belfast’s Central Library. This was serious stuff – Bigger was the guy who restored some of the fabric of old Ireland. So Duke and Ulaid were not playing about here. They were tapping into deep roots – and bringing various art–forms together.
In the hands of expert players, Bigger’s texts developed into a musical tribute to Belfast. In a bid to capture the spirit of collaboration, the artists recorded the tracks live over two nights at Analogue Catalogue studios in the Mourne Mountains.
And here is the result. It’s a magical excursion into other realms. Of course, there is lament, such as the achingly beautiful Shipyards Of Belfast and the sorrowful On Account Of My Dog Fido. But there is freedom in the flamenco dance tune El Garrotin and jubilation in The Poet’s Mission. Emotions are explored, feet are freed and roots are laid bare for all to see. What a wonderful, life–enhancing moment.
Clive Price

Never Say Goodbye, Say Good Luck
12 Tracks, 44 Minutes
Here we have a fine new recording from concertina and pipes duo, Caroline Keane and Tom Delany. From the opening bars, this album establishes itself as a solid recording of pure, traditional music. There’s a wide range of tune types on display here moving from the usual jigs and reels to the more unusual setting of hop jigs, hornpipes, a slow air, and an O’Carolan tune. One of the most appealing aspects of this collection for me is the depth and range of musical sources that have contributed to the music on this recording. There are references to greats such as Willie Clancy, Joe Cooley and Paddy Taylor, for example. The main focus is duet playing, and there’s a couple of solos thrown in for good measure as well.
There’s a healthy mix of ‘newly composed’ tunes stemming from the pen of various composers including Richie Dwyer, Paddy Keenan, Maurice Lennon, Seán Ryan, Ed Reavy & Joe Liddy. There’s even a couple of tunes from the artists themselves, creating their own unique stamp to the recording. Coupled with all the warm traditional melodies, there’s even a French composition from Michel Bonamy adding a unique melody to the album. There’s even tunes sourced from the Goodman collection.
It’s refreshing to see so many of these wonderful tunes in one place – and the playing doesn’t disappoint either. If it’s rich, solid traditional music played to a highly polished finish – look no further than this highly impressive debut recording. Recorded by Donogh Hennessy & Martin O’Malley, it features a high calibre of guest musicians including Hennessy on guitar, Cyril O’Donoghue on bouzouki, Laura Kerr (fiddle), Brian O’Loughlin (flute) and Robbie Walsh (bodhrán and bones).
Edel Mc Laughlin

Own Label, 12 Tracks, 55 Minutes
An All–Ireland senior champion in various categories on pipes, flute and saxophone, Richard Neylon should be a familiar name. Neylon’s playing is memorable too, old style, grand tunes, big sets of powerful piping, and a few flute pieces to lighten the mix.
I’m not sure if An Buailteoir Aerach refers to a hurler or a beater, but either way it’s a belter of a reel to open this debut album. Catalina is a much gentler track, the flute intro layered with pipes and saxophone on Maurice Lennon’s Waltz. Richard also provides drums, with accordion from Stephen Doherty and fiddle from Fiachra Hayes. More reels, including Finbarr Dwyer’s Hollybush and the great old Cameronian, really show off the pipes in a flowing yet rhythmic performance, a touch of wildness combined with some tight closed fingering and staccato triplets.
The pace and control are exciting, exhilarating, and the accompaniment from Conor Early drives the tunes along. Relaxed low whistle delivers a gorgeous version of The Kilnamona Barndance, and I’d have kept the pipes and sax back until the punchy shift into Lucy Farr’s. Neylon does a fine job of being a one–man Irish skiffle band in the vein of At the Racket, sticking a snappy Jim Ward’s Jig on the end for good measure.
Having run through most of the colours in his repertoire on the concert pipes, Richard switches to a Rogge low B set for a pair of classic piping jigs, regulators and drones providing the only accompaniment, a real virtuoso performance in the bygone style of fairground pipers. And then round we go again: a set of reels, the slow air An Spéic Seoigheach, three very familiar slip jigs with concertina from James Frawley, plus a few more reels and jigs.
The title piece is by Neylon, perhaps combining his Irish and jazz influences, and starts a trio of jigs with a more modern feel and a surprise ending on the old favourite known variously as Father O’Flynn or The Top of the Cork Road.
On the other hand, the final lament Cumha Mhichil Breathnaigh on solo pipes is stately and moving, a wonderful piece of piping and a melody, which will stay with me I’m sure. Look out for the name Richard Neylon, and expect great things.
Alex Monaghan

Bring Back Home
Story Records STREC1701, 14 Tracks, 51 Minutes
Ange Hardy began these songs on her kitchen table, and that homely beginning has blossomed into one of the most beautifully crafted folk albums to come out of England this millennium. She is joined here on this her sixth album by Lee Cuff (cello), Alex Cumming (Accordion) Jon Dyer flute and whistles, Lukas Drinkwater (bass), Evan Carson (percussion) and veteran fiddler, the seventy year old Peter Knight.
Her original work is lyrical and on occasion liturgical, and whilst much of the album has a distinctly English accent, there’s a Celtic underlay providing a melodic cushion and no small amount of pathos. On Once I was a Rose, Ange’s voice chimes like a bell over a double tracked hummed harmony. Summer’s Day is a bucolic stroll through a mid–summer meadow of her native Somerset, she pairs this with the tune: Little Wilscombe. Peter Knight closes this on fiddle, rambling towards an Irish tune, as if it is a distant shore to which the walk might take us. There are two traditional songs here, both with Roud Numbers, Hardy’s version of Claudy Banks stays true to the original lyrics, to which she has added her own melody. On The Water of Tyne she opts for the traditional melody, words and music fitting like a tailored glove.
Bring Back Home; her title track could easily be mistaken for a traditional folk song such is her deftness with phrase and meter. Ange has an acute and critical ear for the empty polemics of politicians which she applies to What May You Do For The JAM, about those families back home who are just about managing in these austere times. Bring Back Home casts sparkling shards of music over the twinkling dewy grass of a summer sunlight morning. The liner notes are works of art thanks to the illustrator Michael Cook. The Folk scene is the spiritual home of Ange Hardy and this album is a love letter to her nearest and dearest.
Séan Laffey

Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine
Warner Music Ireland MM112, 13 Tracks, 64 Minutes
“The songs in this project are an attempt to bring fresh air to an unhealed wound, and to remind the Irish people of what we have overcome, through the examination of what has lurked just below the surface of collective memory for a long time.” That statement is included in the CD notes of Declan O’Rourke’s new recording, Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine, and one assumes them to be his own words. Indeed, all through the CD notes to the songs, Declan leaves us in no doubt about his desire to explore the Great Famine tragedy through the songs he has composed, all but three of them his own, Eugene Donegan, Jack Maher and John Spillane his collaborators. Thankfully the words to all 13 songs are supplied.
What he calls the ‘project’ has been fifteen years in the making, and it combines the traditional Irish music and modern song–writing to present a series of heartrending true accounts Declan came across through his readings. He was particularly affected by John O’Connor’s The Workhouses of Ireland. “My grandad was born in a workhouse in 1916,” Declan states. “Discovering that was the catalyst for my journey into this chapter of history, and consequently the whole collection of songs.” Declan’s choice of melody for each song is impressive and along with the sensitive and mood–setting arrangements the effect is quite moving. Indian Meal deals with American corn known by the people as ‘Injun male’ and often referred to as ‘Peel’s Brimstone’ after the British Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel. It was difficult to cook, hard to digest and caused diarrhoea. Mary Kate tells the sad story of 4,000 adolescent girls who were taken from the workhouses and shipped to Australia between the years 1848 and 1850.
“They’re sending workhouse orphan girls, Across the world to New South Wales, They’ve picked me out. But won’t allow my little sister come.”
Declan does well to note the work of the extraordinary American
woman, Asenath Nicholson, who was on a self–appointed mission to bring the Bible to the Irish poor in the hungry years. In the CD notes she is misleadingly identified as a Quaker; she was an independent ‘Bible Christian” unattached to any church. But she had several Quaker friends whom she admired for their selfless work in helping the poor and the starving. She did outstanding work for the starving people, and in The Connaught Orphan, Declan sings movingly of how she helped a recently orphaned boy in County Mayo.
Asenath was not a passive observer of what she witnessed. She was openly critical of much of the relief provisions she observed and reprimanded many people for failing to do more.
Her targets include (not unexpectedly) the British government, relief officials, and absentee landowners, and she details her experiences in two books that make for compelling reading, Ireland’s Welcome to the Stranger and Annals of the Famine in Ireland. In his notes and through his songs, Declan urges us to read her books, and learn about the great work she and other brave people did for the Famine poor.
Aidan O’Hara

No Time Like The Present
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Limerick born Mike O’Donovan has been part of the local music scene for more than three decades. He was very prominent on the early 70s local folk and rock scene featuring on the Exposure concerts around in Limerick that were in the Colosseum (now known as the Belltable). He has also spent time in London at the cusp of the 70s progressive rock explosion. Back in Limerick he pursued various bands and groups on the local live circuit and while noted as a solo performer, guitarist, and singer songwriter his work was never exposed to a mainstream audience until now.
With the release of his debut solo album No Time like The Present his talents get full airing and prominence. Someone listening to it will find diversity in the music and they will find a mix of influences. Musically the grab bag is a rich and full one including everything from acoustic folk/rock songs with sensitive lyrics delivered in a restrained manner to full–tilt rock songs in the mould of Van Morrison, Paul Brady and betimes Robbie Robertson. The quality of musicianship is without question including Van Morrison’s rhythm section of Dave Keary (guitar/production) and Paul Moore (bass) with excellent keyboards from James Delaney, Richard Nelson on pedal steel guitar and the brass section of Michael Buckley and Ronan Dooney while an uncredited guest spot from Horslips’ Johnny Fean lights up the closing rocker Strangest Situations and pushes it into AOR heaven.
The opener Underground hits at a late 70s Van Morrison type edge and echoes of Steely Dan and Richard Nelson’s pedal steel adds haunting atmosphere to Ghosts and the gently wistful If there’s a Time. On a Night like This with a Mariachi brass arrangement hints at Ry Cooder territory. The diversity and overall quality No Time Like the Present speaks volumes for Mike O’Donovan’s artistic integrity and introduces a major talent centre stage.
John O’Regan

Own Label DMM01CD, 9 Tracks, 42 Minutes
This man has played with the chart–topping Red Hot Chilli Pipers for several years now, and travelled the world performing traditional music, rock and pop on the Great Highland Bagpipe. Composed is a departure from the big stage in a few ways: the sound is smaller, more intimate on most tracks, Dougie is the only piper, and as you may have guessed from the title most of the music is McCance’s own.
Not that there isn’t a degree of Chilli Pipers mayhem about this recording: the pounding cross–beat of In the 128, the jarring bass line on Wee Michael’s March, the electronic weirdness and mixed rhythms of The West Highland. The bulk of this album is more in tune with contemporary piping than the RHCP crowd–pleasers: jigs, reels, marches and airs, high octane and lavishly arranged, but basically good traditional tunes. Leaving Home reminds me of the Shotts & Dykehead classic airs Piper Alpha and By the Water’s Edge. The final funky set of McCance reels is similar to a Battlefield or Mànran set, folk rock on pipes and fiddle.
As well as his own fine compositions, Dougie has included a couple by fellow pipers Kyle Warren and Alasdair White, as well as the MacKenzie sisters from Lewis, Graham Rorie from Orkney, and John McCusker from Bellshill. Rorie guests on fiddle, with piper Ali Hutton picking up electric guitar, Gus Stirrott on bass and Matt Arnott on drums. Acoustic guitarist Pablo Lafuente seems to be on every Scottish CD at the moment, and deservedly so. Katie MacFarlane provides Gaelic vocals on Kingston Road, and McCance magically plays harmonies alongside his own melody lines. There’s plenty to enjoy on Composed, and McCance’s website has videos too, with dancers and everything: click over for a taster and see if Dougie’s music blows your chanter.
Alex Monaghan

JOANNA HYDE AND Tadhg Ó Meachair
One for the Foxes
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 42 Minutes
There is a wealth of musical diversity and creative spark in this new duet album One for the Foxes. As is often the case with solo and duet albums, the main protagonists Joanna Hyde and Tadhg Ó Meachair are joined by a number of guest musicians to give a bigger feel to the overall sound. The result is a fine balance of tunes and songs, which reflect their rich musical experience. The album opens with a rich vocal harmonic Prelude. Joanna Hyde and guest Róisín Ní Ghallóglaigh invoking the words and spirit of WB Yeats, with the gentle accompaniment from Ó Meachair in the backdrop.
Tadhg steps to the fore for the second track, Snowy Eldora being one of his own compositions, as Joanna’s fiddle and Tadhg’s piano accordion combine over a bed of keyboard. There is more at play than just a smattering of tunes and songs for the sake of it, with Joanna and Tadhg layering each track with great thought and expertise in their use of rhythm, harmony and dynamics.
Those familiar with Tadhg’s work as part of successful touring group Goitse, will be pleased with the set Joe Cassidy’s, a lively burst which puts the tunes to the fore backed up by Dermot Sheedy on bodhrán and with the much-favoured driving off-beat rhythm of guitar, provided capably here by Seán Óg Graham, who just happened to be also in the role of producing the album at his County Antrim studio, Big Banana Studios.
The eclectic nature of the album draws from both Tadhg and Joanna’s backgrounds, with Tadhg of Irish stock and Joanna hailing from the US. That influence can be found on the emotive Storms on the Ocean, a song from the western side of the Atlantic ocean, given a very contemporary feel with Joanna’s soft commanding vocals. The duet is joined by a full band sound here, with vocal harmonies and mandolin coming from Dave Curley, along with Double Bass from Conor McGreanor.
The title of the album comes from a dual composition from Joanna and Tadhg, and follows a richly diverse version of Junior Crehan’s Her Long Hair Flowed Down Her Back, with American old time fiddling style complimenting the west Clare hornpipe played in reel time. There is a much bigger sound than just two people on this production, and One For the Foxes is a rich collaboration and exploration of styles and mood that packs a multitude of ideas on every turn over the course of 11 tracks.
Derek Copley