Releases > Releases May 2014

Want to see earlier releases? Visit the archive.


11 Tracks, 39 Minutes
Mosco Disc, MOSCD4111

There I was half awake of a Sunday morning and who should, come on the radio but Eleanor McEvoy singing Little Look, doing it a–capella with a Polish sea shanty Crew (they are called the Banana Boat). It was a real wake up call, the album had been out less than three days and some discerning DJ had taken the most unusual track on the album and given it air time. The first minute has Eleanor singing solo and then you think a synthesiser kicks in to accompany her, but in fact it’s the singers, simply magical. Check the cool black and white video of the recording of Little Look on Youtube.
While superstition may state otherwise, Eleanor McEvoy’s latest, and 13th, album Stuff proves to be quite lucky, for her fans. The songwriter’s new release is comprised, mainly, of songs she said which were much requested over the years from her fans.
Lover’s Chapel, for example, had been on the lips of a number of her supporters at gigs, although she had never got round to recording the song she co–wrote with Dave Rotheray.
This is no archive re–hash, the songs have been freshly baked for this album. Recorded between Cauldron and Westland studios, Stuff features mainly Eleanor’s own writing, while a number of others, Whistle for the Choir by the Fratellis, Chuck Berry’s Memphis Tennessee and Milord by George Moustaki, make up album number 13. The Chuck Berry number brings a surprising tenderness to what is an unfolding mystery in the song, nothing like the original and all the better for it.
She is surrounded by a vast array of musicians, including Peter Beckett, Gavin Fox, Ross Turner, Gerry Banjo O’Connor, Garry Hammond and Dave Rotheray, among others, as well as teaming up with Polish outfit Banana Boat for a reworking of Take A Little Look.
Accompanied with electric guitar, Stuff continues for the most part in Eleanor’s signature rock voice, with her take on Memphis Tennessee slotting nicely into her repertoire, while her tribute to the late George Moustaki gives a more cafe style, French flavour in Milord.
In among her acknowledgements, lies the nugget of information that Eleanor drives a Ford Fairlaine (in black), which she said recently was a nod to the black hearse she has taken to using for gigs.
Pushing aside any superstition, album number 13 will no doubt bring luck to both Eleanor and her fans with all its well crafted stuff.
Derek Copley

Two More Hours
Crow Valley Music CVCD0004
11 Tracks, 48 Minutes
It’s been five years since we were privy to a solo offering from the intoxicating voice of the songstress Karan Casey. Known for her transference of emotion through lyricism, her latest release Two More Hours takes this one step further as the eleven tracks develop a realisation of self–awareness that totally enhances her life experience, funnelled through the lens of her song writing and its consequent delivery. This one is deeply personal and every fibre of both lyric and tone tells us this.
Drawn from the sorrow of her mother’s passing, the songs explore the journey through the pain of loss before emerging with an acceptance of the life cycle and a strong determination to be true to each day and most importantly, one’s self. The pain is depicted through the heart wrenching Lovely Annie and Sorrows Away, the anger strikes through in Pacing the Dark and the rediscovery of life shines in the upbeat, lifting, Fishes will Fly and the title track Two More Hours.
The velvet rasp of Mick Flannery introduces the poignant Still I Stay as Casey’s voice soars above the exquisite string arrangement and lingers appealingly long after the song is over. The endearing lullaby Go to Sleep envelops the strings again with harmonic warmth and the vivid imagery in The Heron is both inspiring and sentimental. With guest vocals from Aoife O’Donovan and Abigail Washburn and a stellar instrumental line–up that includes Niall Vallely, Trevor Hutchinson and Sean Óg Graham, the quality of each track is superb.
A listen will have you resonating with empathy as each tonal chord grasps at the very heart of the emotive spectrum. This is what Casey does best; musicianship, lyricism and an amazing vocal delivery. This is her best yet.
Eileen McCabe

Double CD, Various Artists
Liner Notes Written by John O’Regan
Arc Music, 34 Tracks
A compilation album, produced by Arc Music Productions, that incorporates a snapshot of the Irish folk music from the 60’s up to present day. Each of the thirty four tracks in the double CD stand on their own merits but what makes this compilation special is the attention to detail in the liner notes. Written by the respected music journalist, John O’Regan, he encapsulates, the variance in how the music was viewed through the decades, highlights the individuals and institutions that carefully sought to preserve that musical heritage and recalls the musicians and groups who re–invigorated the genre whilst also retaining true to the tradition.
The album includes highlights of the past from The Johnston’s, The Horslips, The Bothy Band and a heart rending version of Lord Baker from Sinéad O’Connor and Christy Moore. It also features the more contemporary in the form of Lúnasa, Caladh Nua and Cherish the Ladies? with highlights also from Michelle Mulcahy and Craobh Rua and the Willis Clan. The list of these gems of Irish folk is endless, and in tandem with the tracks. The bonus is again in the sleeve notes. O’Regan applies his attentive research and knowledge to give us not only the carefully sourced origins of the song and the artists who have recorded them in the past but also interesting insight into the current artists and their musical history.
This album is a keeper on so many levels. As well as a listening pleasure, it is an archival portrait in words. It’s the Ultimate in Irish Folk!
Eileen McCabe


Renaissance Songbook Vol 3,
Keltia Musique RSCD303, 10 Tracks

This is an album production done with a lot of care and attention to composition, artwork and overall presentation. I haven’t seen or heard either of the two preceding volumes, nor am I familiar with Cécile Corbel’s work, but it’s very nice to make her acquaintance on this new CD of hers. Cécile kindly introduces herself: “I was born in western Brittany at the end of the earth… and it left a mark on me forever. Everywhere I go, I have with me fragments, pieces of the landscapes and faces that moulded/made me who I am.” Echoes there of the line from William Allingham’s The Winding Banks of Erne: And not a face in all the place but partly seems my own. That poet live in another ‘end of the earth’ place in Ballyshannon, in Ireland’s far northwest.
The acoustic sound and CD artwork really do draw you into a wistful, Celtic woodland world of harps, cellos and reflective melodies. Songs are in French, English and there’s one in Turkish Cécile found on an old vinyl recording of Turkish and Sephardic music; translations in English are included. The title track Brian Boru (Renaissance) is a song of leaving with lyrics by Cécile. “The melody was inspired by that ancient Irish march which Alan Stivell transcended in the album Brian Boru,” she tells us. Most of the other compositions are hers or jointly with Simon Caby who plays guitars, bass, piano and drums. In the CD notes Cécile says in reference to one of the songs that we very often perform” and I’m assuming she’s referring to Simon. She plays the harp, by the way, and sings in a soft sometimes whispery voice.
Like Allingham who wrote The Fairies (Up the airy mountain /Down the rushy glen…) Cécile sings of the little people, too; there’s a Thomas the Rhymer song called The King of the Fairies in which Thomas the poet is seduced by the Fairy Queen. But Cécile draws on many themes and stories for her inspiration: from history, songs that have echoes of English madrigals, one about Elizabeth Proctor of Salem, Massachusetts who was tried for witchcraft in the 17th century, and one about a Little Soldier Cécile says was inspired by the Irish songs of war. She weaves quite a tapestry of sound and vision, does Mlle Corbel.
Aidan O’Hara


Born to Rottenrow
Greentrax DVTRAX2023 2014
12 Tracks, 53 Minutes
Ian Bruce and Ian Walker have performed individually for years but on joining to produce this combination of a CD and DVD they prove that together they are greater than the sum of their parts.
Many of the songs on offer are new and as such can be more difficult for a reviewer to engage with but there is no such problem here.
Although I Stand Tall the first track has a very unusual opening it soon draws the listener in with the wonderful rhythm and lyrics allied to some the most ‘listenable’ voices on offer today. The style of this CD is impossible to pin down. Every track confounds your earlier categorisation. Miss Salfka Sings has a wonderfully light jazz sound. The Shawl is a wonderfully evocative piece of writing from their combined pens married to a lovely quiet performance that will stay with you long after your first hearing. Similarly Ode to an Old Friend will tug at your heart strings without it being a maudlin offering. The fiddle riff will haunt your waking hours.
No listener with children or grandchildren should miss Lucie’s Song another song that paints mind pictures shaded by our own particular memories.
They take on a country lilt on the track This Road and again paint us a lovely word picture. This leads on to my favourite track on the album which is great upbeat Honest Man that will defy your feet not to tap. But do not be distracted from the lyrics by the great music.
Coincidentally I reviewed this album on February 14th so the track Old Love took on a special meaning but it would be beautiful at any time and again the fiddle playing adds greatly to the atmosphere.
Add to the dozen tracks on the CD a further offering of fifteen different songs on the live DVD you find excellent value on offer here.
Nicky Rossiter

Gach Sgeul
11 Tracks, 42 Minutes
Own Label MACH003
Why do people listen to songs when they don’t understand the words? Billions of pop fans can’t all be wrong, of course, but it’s not usually the case with folk singers. Gaelic songs seem to be an exception – maybe they fall more into the World Music category for many people – but groups like the Afro–Celts, Capercaillie, Altan and others have built an international following of fans who don’t understand the lyrics. Perhaps it’s because their audiences appreciate the voice as an instrument – if so, why don’t the same numbers of people follow fiddlers, or pipers, or accordionists? It’s a mystery, but one that has given Iarla Ó Lionáird, Karen Matheson, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, and now Julie Fowlis a worldwide stage for their talents.
As some of you may have noticed, I’m not a fan of singers in general, and my Scots Gaelic isn’t good enough to follow the songs on Gach Sgeul, but I could listen to this voice for a long time. Julie Fowlis has beautiful tone, control and intonation in her singing. She may not rant or moan, but her voice is expressive and her songs convey a wide range of emotions. I say her songs: every piece on this recording is traditional, from known composers of the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, or of unknown origin possibly before 1700, mostly from the small islands around Julie’s native Uist. Because as well as being an international star, Julie Fowlis is respected at home as a bearer of the tradition, a singer of her people’s songs, and a strand of the unrolling tapestry that is Scottish Gaelic culture.
Okay, enough background. Gach Sgeul (Every Story in English, Gach Scéal in Irish) features sixteen songs. One or two of them did not instantly grab me, but the rest are stunning. Among the expected sad slow melodies of Gaeldom are livelier songs such as Danns’ a Luideagan Odhar and Siud Thu ‘Ille Ruaidh Ghallain, as well as two cracking sets of Puirt–à–Beul or mouth–music for dancing. Sorley MacLean’s poem The Choice has more than a hint of Runrig to it, as does Julie’s rousing version of the ancient ballad Smeòrach Chlann Dòmhnaill. Ms Fowlis is backed by the best in the business, including Mike McGoldrick, Duncan Chisholm, Tom and Éamon Doorley, James Duncan MacKenzie, Donald Shaw, and Karen Matheson on supporting vocals. Not that she needs much support: I noticed one tiny waver in the whole album, recovered in a heartbeat. The arrangements are rich and powerful, especially with the massed female fiddlers of RANT. The sleeve notes include all the Gaelic lyrics, and handy English translations of every song, so you can understand the words if you want to. Gach Sgeul ends on a sublime high, the beautiful and mystical Ann an Caolas Od Odrum, a distinctive and challenging song from the heart of Julie’s tradition, perfectly presented for today’s listeners by a singer who richly deserves her world class reputation.
Alex Monaghan


Turn the Corner
Spring Records SCD 1062
10 Tracks

Colum Sands continues on his solo merry way – his 6th solo album Turn the Corner follows a year long sabbatical from touring. Not surprisingly it wallows in a newly forged renovation of his raison d’etre.
Using a cast of many sparingly he manages to create meaningful vignettes of life and events peppered with insight and humour. Colum Sands writes song bedecked in gentle humour possessing a sage like wisdom. He delights in the everyday and ordinary and manages to uncover some gem of awareness otherwise forgotten or overlooked. It’s this simplicity of approach and a laid back delivery that disarms in its lack of attack but once exposed to and wound in is impossible to ignore.
The Spirit Lives on commemorates the Armagh Train Disaster of 1889 and the crunchy political punch of Annie I Owe You is wrapped in the simplicity of a children’s song. The moves are forever subtle yet betraying an emotive power wrapped in inherent simplicity as practised and mastered by Colum Sands.
John O’Regan

A Treasury of Civil War Songs
Smithsonian Folkways SFW CD40187
25 Tracks, 58 Minutes
Two Irish tunes, When Johnny Comes Marchin’ Home, and The Girl I left behind me, were made popular by the leading bandmaster in the Union Army, Patrick Sarsfield Gilmore from Co. Galway. The first popular song of the Confederacy, The Bonnie Blue Flag, known to every maiden who could finger the keys of a piano and to every street urchin who could whistle or hum a tune, said Professor Lonn, was written by Irish–American comedian, Harry McCarthy. It was sung to the old Irish air, The Jaunting Car. And Dixie, the song that became the unofficial anthem of the South, was written by Irish– American Dan Emmett from Ohio. It was first performed on Broadway in 1859. Toward the end of the war, while acting as parish priest in Knoxville, Tennessee, Fr. Abram S. Ryan, a Limerick man, wrote The Conquered Banner, indubitably the most celebrated war poem produced on the southern side.
That last song and When Johnny Comes Marchin’ Home are included in Tom Glazer’s A Treasury of Civil War Songs, a total of twenty–five altogether, a fairly generous representation of the hundreds of songs written about the War
Between the States, or The War of the Rebellion as the conflict between the Blue and the Grey is also known. When fighting broke in April 1861, American music publishers stood ready to churn out the songs. Over the preceding half–century a sheet music industry had been established and songwriters saw the coming conflict as an opportunity to make a killing, so to speak. This Smithsonian Folkways CD is one of a great many Civil War albums that have come out recently to mark the sesquicentennial of the war (1861–65).
Tom Glazer was born in 1914, a year that marked the start of another Great War – and he died in 2003. He was introduced to the American folk tradition by Alan Lomax and while working with Lomax at the Library of Congress, he started singing with the Priority Ramblers, a group inspired by the famous Almanac Singers and consisting of members of the United Federal Workers Union.
Glazer’s album comes with a 36–page booklet full of photos and background information on the songs and the war. A note on Dixie tells us that the song morphed into an ode to Southern life, and inevitably Northern publishers were quick to parody the song’s lyrics: O! I’m glad I live in the land of freedom, where we have no slaves nor need ’em.
Aidan O’Hara


10 Tracks, 42 Minutes

After immersing herself in the intriguing world of Scottish and Cape Breton fiddle, Katie McNally has proved her mettle with her debut solo release, Flourish. She is also a member of the fusion of cross genre fiddle group, Childsplay, whose latest album, As the Crow Flies, was produced by fiddle legend Liz Carroll. With a wealth of fiddle accomplishment through both teaching and performing, the recording and release of Flourish piles the wealth of her musical credentials into this vert satisfying disc.
Released at the start of 2013, the album opens with the haunting strathspey, Waulking of the Fauld, where the fiddle rides over a beautifully arranged instrumental accompaniment and sprightly saunters into McNally’s self–composed piece, the lively Lillian. A commanding build up into Farmer’s Daughter stands out, as does the defined sweep of the bow on Charlie McKerron’s Bruichladdich. The piano intro and accompaniment throughout Sepal, Petal and Thorn combines beautifully with an emotive fiddle and again the piano is used exquisitely as it guides the bow into the driving tune; The Golden Poppy.
McNally makes full use of the instrumental backing throughout the album with the piano, guitar, bass, cello harmony fiddle and accordion working with the flow rather than under the flow of the temperament throughout the tracks on the album. A highlight of this is the use of Friedman’s cello as it intersperses through the originally composed high end reels Bad Soup and Riff Raff and Widget.
This is a delightful debut that brings McNally’s instrumental talent to the fore. It would have been great to read more detailed sleeve notes on the track pieces, especially as many were composed by McNally herself, however this does not detract from her ability to guide you into her immersive play. An accomplished debut.
Eileen McCabe

Bold, Own Label,
14 Tracks, 45 Minutes
There’s more than one band called Nua, which is of course a Gaelic word for new. This particular Nua is a trio based out of Toronto, playing what is loosely Irish traditional music with a healthy dose of contemporary Canadian influences. James Law’s fiddle provides the lead, confident virtuoso playing all up the fingerboard. Graeme McGillivray and Jacob McCauley build supporting pillars on guitar and bodhrán, creating a sound which is full and varied, remarkably flexible for a trio. This is their debut CD, and the title is fully justified: Nua put their own stamp on the music, most of which is their own compositions, with a couple of choice morsels by Oliver Schroer, Dave Richardson and Michael Ferrie. The up–tempo sets are bold indeed, challenging melodies and rhythms ripped out at an impressive pace, without any loss of definition or detail. I’m reminded of the Tartan Amoebas, the same energy and freshness with a fiddle front line, but to achieve this level of impact with only three pairs of hands takes rare skill.
The fiddle is impressive in its own right. James handles jigs, reels, eastern rhythms and jazz riffs with aplomb. There are one or two slight tuning issues, probably due to the hasty recording process, but the fingerwork is impeccable and the powerful tone never wavers. It’s not all fast and furious: Peter and Michelle’s is a delightful romantic waltz by Law and McGillivray, and Martyn’s Yellow Teapot also shows the gentler side of Nua. The intricate backing arrangements are an essential ingredient of this powerful trio’s sound, and faster tracks such as The Draw or The Hijack make the most of the depth and dexterity brought by McGillivray and McCauley. Original instrumental music can be hard to judge, but Schroer’s Driving Song and Richardson’s MacArthur Road allow a comparison with other recordings. Based on this, I’d say Nua can hold their heads up in any company. Bold is a definite contender for my 2013 Top Ten list.
Alex Monaghan

Longing for Ireland
MHMCD 20 12 Tracks, 47 Minutes

Welcome to the wonderful world of Philip and Pam Boulding, Bay Area musicians and composers whose family group Magical Strings has been at the forefront of things West Coast Celtic. The Harp and hammer dulcimer duo has recorded for three decades and this compilation gathers later material from their solo and duet recordings.
One of the first attractions is the clarity of the sounds made from the stringed instruments the sound is rooted in Irish idioms although influentially the span is wider through Scottish and Classically based and sometimes World music leanings.
Having first encountered them musically in 1989 and later met them, accidently on a flight from NY to Shannon in 1998 the extent of their commitment to Ireland and incorporating Irish influences without sounding insincere. Longing for Ireland contains tracks from four earlier albums 1985’s Above the Tower, Bell off the Ledge, Legend of Inishcahey and Phillp’s solo album HARP–Song of Reconciliation. All sound fresh and instant and retain their initial spark, Music to muse over and wonder at.
Magical Strings are indeed magical as their name implies.
John O’Regan

EP Skipper’s Alley
Own Label, 4 Tracks, 17 Minutes

This EP from Skipper’s Alley is such a teaser. There are hints of absolute brilliance in the four track recording that make you want to hear more, and hopefully we will as the band are currently putting together a debut album that is due to be released this year. For now though, the seven piece are building a reputation with appearances on Céilí House and RTE’s Late Late Show and also performing at festivals like the Temple Bar Trad Fest and The Gathering Festival, held every year in Killarney. Their most significant accolade so far though, has been their triumphant win at Festival Interceltique du Lorient where they walked away with the prestigious Loic Raison Trophy; prestigious in the fact that previous winners have included Clannad, Danu and The Bothy Band.
The Dublin based line–up is made up of Fionnan Mac Gabhann (Uilleann Pipes, Tin Whistle), Eoghan O Ceannabhain (Flute, Concertina, Vocals), Cathal Caulfield (Fiddle, Viola), John Flynn (Vocals, Guitar, Flute) Patrick Cummins ( Banjo, Mandola), Macdara Yeates (Bodhran, Bouzouki, Vocals) and Eilis Lavelle (Harp). The EP opens with The Máirtín O’Connor composed Rockin’ the B oat that features on his acclaimed The Road West album, a six minute set that includes Wrecking the Gaff and The Swallows Tail, where the blend of instrumental highlights the talent within. On Jim Coleman’s set, the instrumental arrangements enhance with a swell of focussed sound, interspersed with highlights of individuality, which capture the more delicate tones of the group.
The vocals give rise to diversity as the traditional Tá mé i mo shuidhe is contrasted, on the EP, with the contemporary Wild Bill Jones where the group steers away from the Krauss or Powell versions, and instead, leans towards the stripped back Sam Amidon style with enhancement in the form of a beautiful instrumental backdrop. With the ability to diversify a sustenance to the talent within; this EP is most definitely a teaser. Roll on the full album.
Eileen McCabe