Releases > Releases March 2024

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Raelach Records RR023, 14 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Three names on the album’s title and four lads on its cover. Curious? There’s a brace of McGormans: Ruairí and Fergus, the former playing Greek bouzouki and guitar, the latter flute and bodhrán. The quartet is completed by Pádraic Keane on uilleann pipes and whistles, and Aidan Connolly on fiddle and melodeon.
This album took three years from, as they say in their liner booklet ‘conceptualisation to realisation’. The production is by Jack Talty whose Raelach Records is the Wagu beef of traditional music labels. Every track has gravitas, each selection is accessible. I can see many tunes here being shared amongst players, the music is uncluttered and precise, something which is essential if tunes are to be passed on by ear.
Jack Talty ensures that every instrument is present, each one is clear to hear, in his balanced production. For example, there is a very tasty shift from the pipes to full ensemble as Tir Na Flúirse changes to If All The Young Maids Were Like Blackbirds and Thrushes
Noreen O’Donoghue guests on harp on the planxty, Robert Jordan. Plucked strings introduce the first measure, then they are joined by the fiddle and lastly the pipes; the arrangement reminded me of the early Chieftains. More harp on La Cinquataine, a 19th century French melody that Fergus learned from a demo track on an electric piano; how tunes move into the tradition is always fascinating. This track is dominated by the interplay of flute and harp.
Jack Talty joins the lads on track 13, two waltzes, The Shannon and an old Scottish dance band number The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen. They end the album with a selection of tunes beginning with Love Will You Marry Me (a version of the Braes of Mar), then the late Gerry Holland’s Cape Breton setting of Glengarry’s Dirk before concluding with The Boyne Mist.
Like I said before, this is trad-Wagu, lovingly nurtured over time and delicious at every bite.
Seán Laffey

Seven Daughters of the Sea
CE73, 11 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin’s most recent work is an album of original songs in the Irish language, themes brought from Irish mythology, folklore, land & seascapes, mother nature and the seasons.
From pre-Christian to the modern day, Ní Uallacháin’s work is an elegant mix of new lyrics and extant material, newly invigorated in song and chant. Her vocals as ever tender, lingering, intricate arrangements, the album is also a brilliant showcase of her scholarship in Irish language, heritage, history and culture.
Her guest musicians, world renowned, elite, bring brilliantly diverse musical input: Steve Vai on guitar, Rajat Prasanna on classical Bansuri, string wizard Steve Cooney, Macdara Ó Graham, Fin Moore and Donal O’Connor who also produced.
Using the dawn chorus, Colm Bán na Siochána is a delight, Ní Uallacháin herself echoing ceol binn na n-éin, Brigid Buach, another important female in Irish mythology and folklore. With bells and birds she is celebrated here. Caoineadh Cine stands out for the layering, brilliantly arranged for voice, fiddle, viola, harmonium, guitar and drones.
From the Oriel singer, this is an important album in the Irish canon, academically, historically and as legacy, a fine body of work that ties pre-Christian Brigid and other mythological figures and events to the modern day, using our ancient language, scripts, the endurance of the natural world, all delivered with unique expression and in the sean-nós style for which Ní Uallacháin is well revered.
Seven Daughters of the Sea occupies a liminal space, a connection between the ancient and contemporary, between the real and other world, between our concept of the then and now, told in songs of love, loss and separation. Deities are celebrated, the importance of ritual underlined and all the sovereign goddesses remembered in song.
This comes with a 28-page booklet of lyrics and translations on her website.
Anne - Marie Kennedy

Own Label, 14 Tracks, 65 Minutes
I attended the UK launch of this album in October 2023 at the Return to London Town Festival and had no hesitation in buying a copy - it’s a keeper. Impressed by the trio’s live performances, not just their music but also their wit and warmth, I was delighted hearing the CD, because, as the title suggests, this is indeed a live album. Recorded at a number of their gigs between November 2022 and April 2023 at: the Ennis Trad Fest, Tionól Nioclás Tóibín, The Crane Bar in Galway and Maureen’s Pub in Cork City.
Percussionist Jimmy Higgins joins them on 5 of the 14 tracks to add a little extra bass from his bodhrán, but this is predominantly music on Pádraic Keane’s uilleann pipes and Páraic Mac Donnchadha’s low tuned banjo (to accommodate the pipes in B) with Macdara’s bouzouki adding accompaniment that never detracts from the music nor pulls it into other dimensions.
Let’s consider a few tracks: the first is called the Ennis Crowd Suggested Set, and it’s a phenomenon I witnessed in the Crown pub in Cricklewood. The audience shouts out names of tunes and the lads respond by making up an instant medley. Most of the tune sets are in threes, stacked with energy, which both feeds and is fed from the audience’s reaction. For example on Lucy Campbell’s/Templehouse/Wise Maid, recorded in the Crane.
I must mention the superb liner notes. The live context of each set is explained in detail, the history of the tunes outlined and key carriers of the tradition mentioned and honoured. The font is legible; this album will be with you when you reach your Specsavers dotage, you have a gift of great reading and even better listening for years to come.
If you want to know what real Irish music sounds like live, then Beo is a must-have album for your collection.
Seán Laffey

Celtic Sea
ARFOLK, 14 Tracks, 42 Minutes
Carlos Núñez has been at the forefront of the music scene since 1997, when he released his debut album A Irmandade Das Estrellas - Brotherhood Of The Stars. Since then, several albums have followed, all of them highly successful. After a long period without recording, he returns this autumn with his tenth album, Celtic Sea.
From the outset, the tone is set. Carlos is back with a bang, offering us nothing less than a symphony dedicated to the Celtic Sea. Over the years and in the course of his many collaborations with musicians from Celtic countries and beyond, there is one strong element that has been of paramount importance to him: the Celtic Sea, which links the Celtic nations together. Carlos has chosen to drop anchor in this ocean so dear to his heart, with an opus inspired by Celtic music past, present and future, in a symphony composed during his peregrinations on the shipping lanes of Brittany Ferries, queen of the Celtic seas.
A collaboration between Carlos and the Breton shipping company, this is an opportunity to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Brittany Ferries with music, a business that also has another thing in common with Carlos, the year of their birth, 1973.
This beautiful album plunges us into the heart of timeless melodies, creating a musical bridge across the mystical waters of the Celtic Sea. In 43 minutes, we travel from Galicia to Ireland, via Wales, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Cornwall and Brittany. There’s also a stopover in Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country, neighbouring regions of southern Celtic.
For this great journey, Carlos, as usual, has surrounded himself with the cream of Celtic music, the members of his band of course, then the Bretons Hervé Le Floc’h, Steven Bodenes and Bleuenn Le Friec, the honorary Irishman Tim Edey and a few Galicians.
This magnificent album opens with the masterly Mare Brittanicum and closes with Finis Terrae and, on a note of hope, Dihun. From first note to last, this is a total success that will make you forgive Carlos his long musical silence.
Philippe Cousin

Occupational Hazards
Own Label, 9 Tracks, 44 Minutes
Ciarán’s highly acclaimed debut Banjaxed was released 2019, this is the first as the Ciarán Ryan Band. The group are: Donald Hay (drums), Bev Morris (bass), Chris Waite (guitar) and Andrew Waite (accordion and keys). Billed as “Irish Trad in its roots…laced with a range of styles…teasing the listener with lashings of pop and post-punk.” And it does exactly what it says on the tin. The title track lays down a lively marker, shuffling accordion and stuttering triplets from Ryan’s banjo, add a Celtic-Rock backbeat on the drums, a final section with the bass taking over the pulse, a twist and twirl of Americana in Ryan’s picking, and is that a Hammond organ breaking in on the closing bars?
More organ on Wild Card, a country blues start with accordion and banjo tricking out the tune. Moments later the organ fills in the background; don’t get complacent, there’s dramatic swing away, the tone dropping as the bass ploughs the ground to let the banjo back in, furious and fractious. Ciarán’s Irish trad roots show themselves in the middle section of State of The Art, and like the other tracks there’s no time here for Celtic mysticism, this is hard-driving, full throttle music.
A touch of techno on Brechin Bad, which switches abruptly to a full-on Irish set. Things get much gentle in Barbara’s, an atmospheric opening, chords on the banjo and a lyrical melody. This is a tune that should have traction, well the first half, as the second part is pure hands-in-the-air dance music. And what an ending, as clean a cut as a three bladed razor.
Occupational Hazards is a trip, where all the shiny parts of the crew’s Hi-Vis vests keeps this newly made work gleaming. It’s late night Celtic Rock, ready-made for those big summer festivals.
Seán Laffey

Own Label, 8 Tracks, 38 Minutes
Hirondelle (French for ‘swallow’) is a fusion of English, Provencal, folk and world music. Their debut album, like the migratory bird of the title, brings poetry, music, theatre and songs that touch on several sounds and cultures, dipping into classical. Exotic influences abound.
O’Carolan’s Cup, great tune, swirling fiddle and strings in intricate flow, a captivating melody. Northumberland is a two-hander, spoken word, unusual metre, leading into the song of the same title, the listener is brought to the forest, “around the ferns”, to the rugged mountains of the Scottish, English border in a thunder storm, “among the dripping stones”, metaphors for sadness and loss, for the “deep pools of grieving”, wonderfully achieved.
I Drew my Ship, their version of The Night Visiting Song is a fine one: harmonies, drones, a tragic love song, the speaker adamant he will recompense, promising to “put my ship in order”, alas, too late.
O Ventour is an operatic piece, full of drama, intrigue, call and answer. These six minutes of highly imaginative vocal orchestration are playful and rhythmically punctuated with verse, choruses and dialogue. As a suite of modern world music, it stretches itself across language, cultural and musical divides, a tremendous achievement, the melody given time and space to engage the listener.
Recorded and produced by Tim Lane, excellent musicianship throughout with the Brothers Gillespie, Sophie Renshaw on viola, violinist Lucy Russell and Ruth Phillips on cello.
With incredible vocal prowess, the polyphonic Occitan trio Damien Toumi, Marie Madeleine Martinet and Mario Leccia bring originality. Also, considering their Provencal/Occitan language, 12th to 14th century, a language that was widely used for poetry, some dating to the 10th century, no wonder this album has the mood, style and quality of one that will be listened to for many years.
Anne-Marie Kennedy\

Bridge to Avalon
Own Label, 15 Tracks, 54 Minutes
Back in 2019 Karin Leitner released a CD called Music of Irish Drawing Rooms, it was a sumptuous flute and harp album. It wasn’t her first foray into Irish inspired music, her debut album in 2001 being The Gardens of Birr Castle Demesne. Her music sits well in our big houses.
Born in Austria, Karin first visited Ireland some 35 years ago and has lived here on and off; she now calls Vienna her home. Karin’s music is hugely popular, her Titanic theme played on the low whistle and keyed wooden flute attracting 35 million YouTube views (and counting).
On Bridge to Avalon Karin and Jaron create a Celtic-Medieval atmosphere that references Avalon and Mort D-Arthur as its inspiration. The title track is a duet for flute and fingerpicked guitar. The tune has a taste of Scarborough Fair both in its tempo and some key phrases, Karin carrying the tune through a number of variations without losing the innate beauty and rhythm of the piece.
In The Runaway Jaron’s guitar sets the tension with a riff that is cut by a repeated two note cadence. Karin’s flute brings in another level of complexity, arching, high flying jazz before the guitar takes hold again and the piece comes to an end on unadorned notes.
On Sunkissed the duo step away from the ancient to an interlude of lyrical jazz as if it comes from the 1950s. Imagine the soundtrack to an upmarket travel documentary by Alan Whicker (look him up, young folks).The percussive pluck and strumming of the guitar on Connollies Dream is a technique to master; here it’s the foil to the flute which once again tilts its lance towards the medieval.
Technically, both guitar and flute are flawless on every track. The result, Avalon is a masterpiece from two virtuosi of the genre.
Seán Laffey

This Is What I Want To Say
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 44 Minutes
Continuing to write great songs, Martyn Joseph’s latest album This is What I Want to Say, has very fine lyrics, observations on life, love, reflections on modern society, warts and all.
As a song maker, chronicler, minstrel, Joseph’s voice-of-experience is a trusty one. With forty prolific years in the music industry, this album reflects the years spent honing his craft. Known for passionate lyrics that support social justice, world peace and equality, he also delves into the mysteries of the human condition, the great riddle of our existence and the wonder of love.
The opening track Folding, a song of surrender and hope, “from a vast goodbye to a small hello”, comparing world strife to a kite lost in the wind, the poet realising the “grandeur and carnage of these days”, acknowledging the futility of war perhaps, political upheaval, knowing that “ours is not to bargain with the Divine”, superb guitar accompaniment with Liz Hanks on cello.
I’d Take You Out, a personal and powerful anti-corruption anthem, and Grateful, written with Stewart Henderson, a list poem, sentimental, nostalgic, clear-eyed watchfulness; “grateful for your cherished breathing in the early hours”, for the “long gone chapel Sundays”, and the “spider’s silver shawl on a graveyard wall”.
You’re Still Here, echoes of Springsteen in voice, words and melody, a celebration of enduring love, “you’re still here though you know me now”, maturity, life-lessons learned, “with you I feel worthy”, despite “a whole lot of heartache, you show me the way, my love”, enchanting.
Joseph is also a multi-instrumentalist, the guitar his mainstay, also deft on bass, piano, chimes and pump organ. Wal Coughlan, Nigel Hopkins and Steve Lawson also feature with Antje Duvekot on vocals, mastered by Denis Blackham at Skye Mastering. Pick up a copy, you’ll like what he has to say.
Anne-Marie Kennedy

Dear Ruin
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 50 Minutes
We know from our Irish History that the Gallowglass were a warrior class of blow ins, the Norse Gaels, outsiders with a grá for their adopted culture. On this album we discover that Gallowglass is a contemporary Celtic folk band from Bellingham, Washington. The band was formed in 2014 by Jan Peters (vocals, harmonicas), Zach Bauman (bouzouki) and David Lofgren (bodhrán). In 2018 they were joined by Mishon Kirkland (vocals & flute) and this, their debut album, was launched on the 17th December 2023 at The New Prospect Theater, in Bellingham, Washington State.
Two things to note from the get-go, and they are connected - you’ll probably know every song on this album, but you’ll be surprised by some of the melodies that the band have found to fit old chestnuts, such as: Wild Rover, Pride of Kildare and As I Roved Out (the ribald version). Other tracks stick to well-trodden tunes: The Bonny Ship The Diamond (with an interesting snippet of an Irish reel stitched into a break between a couple of verses) and Farmer Michael Hayes with its Christy Moore style bodhrán.
The band’s arrangements centre around the deft bouzouki work of Zach Bauman. Arpeggios, open chords and melodic runs introduce and carry many of the songs here, and not having a guitar in the mix opens up the melodies to a gentler, more leisurely interpretation. I particularly liked Now Westlin’ Winds, the Robert Burns song, performed here by Mishon. Her vocals are true to every word, which is not always easy when some of the stanzas feature Lowland Scots dialect. Mishon duets with Jan Peters on Pretty Susan the Pride of Kildare, the latter’s high tenor voice adding an attractive upper register harmony; the flute break in this song is also beautifully considered.
Jan Peters closes the album with Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms. The melody is not quite what we know over here, and this fresh approach to song tunes has paid dividends for Gallowglass on Dear Ruin.
If you are looking for new tunes for old songs, then this thoughtful reworking of beloved songs is an inspired approach to the tradition.
Seán Laffey

History Before It Happens
Own Label, 9 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Matthew Robb was born in the UK and now lives in Cologne, Germany. This is his fifth album, each one informed by his love of old-time country blues, each a showcase for his poetic vision, his social conscience and his mastery of the folk phrase. All these come together on History Before It Happens.
A drum kit and reverberating electric guitar give this album its spirit of Americana. Robb’s voice can meld to the shape of Leonard Cohen on Sacred Heart with its simple one-line phrases, each delivered individually, or bring us a talking blues on Throne of Blood with its disjointed fractals of melody. On The Wanderer and His Shadow, he drives us into the myth of the American interstate road-trip, hours spent on straight, traversing forever-highways under blue cloudless skies, in dry air and a dusty car, “coast to coast no license plates”. A keenly observed journey, where he and his travel companion are “nomads singing the world into being…”
Song writers of the best calibre have an economy with words and ideas. I took great pleasure in teasing out a few phrases from Matthew Robb’s songs. He paints a bleak picture of our modern times: “techno credit feudalism, the drift into transhumanism”. He carries on the message relentlessly, there’s no Disney salvation at the end: “In the land of the blind, fear rules when the devil drives…” Check out his website for a dystopian mono chrome video of this song.
One of his happiest tunes (think Texas swing) is called Little Black Train. We are invited to ride a railroad that ends with the inevitability of our own mortality, the train stopping for us when we have a ticket on that final platform.
I might have painted a gloomy picture. Yes, some of Robb’s songs deal with the darker truths of our times, but he delivers them with an echoing guitar and the snap and snip of a snare drum. You can dance but he makes you think.
Seán Laffey