Releases > Releases May 2016

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Circin Rua Teo
DVD02, Duration 1 Hour, 12 Minutes
If you had time between the turkey and trimmings last Christmas you might have caught an intimate concert from Coyne’s pub in Galway with Seán Keane, called Seán Keane ag Ceol, it has now been released independently on DVD as Seán Keane Live.
I suspect you did catch it, as it was one of the most watched programmes on the Irish Language channel over Nollaig. It goes without saying that the production values from Riverside Television are going to be high from their crew and they don’t disappoint, neither does Seán as he sings seventeen songs from his back catalogue.
Filmed in Paddy Coyne’s pub in Tullycross Connemara, in front of a small and very attentive audience, Seán is joined Fergus Feely of guitar bodied bouzouki, Pat Coyne on guitar and David Doocey on fiddle and Stephen Doherty on keyboards, accordion and piano. The basis of Seán’s touring band is here, he gigs as a trio with Feely and Coyne and that close bond is evident throughout the recording.
Seán has a towering voice and an easy going style, anyone who has been to one of his concerts will tell you how he smiles from one end of the night to the next, and we get exactly that here, he’s not phased by the cameras, neither by the audience in the round who are not lined–up in regimented concert seats, its relaxed and fits his style to a Tee. Seán sits in the middle of the room and sings, simple as that really, but his presence commands the room and the other musicians respond to his moods and inflections. It has a spontaneous feel to it, gentle without being strident. What a bunch of songs he brings to the pub, Home Away from Home which he had from Robbie O’Connell, The Man From Connemara written about Hosre Keane who tragically died in a construction accident in Chicago, Johnny Broderick’s Paint Me A Picture of Ireland, that will have you reaching for your hankies, and then there are I’m No Stranger to The Rain, Fields of Gold and a set of dance tunes: An Cheannabán Banna and the Trip to Birmingham which follow The Mountains of Pomeroy.
If you were lucky enough to be in the audience when this was filmed you caught something special and if you buy this DVD you can experience a truly personal night of song with one of the country’s finest singers.
Seán Laffey

Hearts Broken, Heads Turned
Bellows Records BEL001CD, 8 Tracks, 43 Minutes
The young Doctor might be best–known not as a medic, but as an uilleann piper, perceptions might be about to change when this CD gets into general circulation.
This is an album of songs from the Northern Irish tradition treated to a dip in an acid bath of modern arrangements. Jarlath’s voice is some where between early Paul Brady and current Damien O’ Kane, vocally there are passages here that would stand alongside anything by Paddy Tunney. His Edmund in the Lowlands Low had the hairs on the back of my neck on edge, cut open with raw passionate singing over an uilleann pipe drone. There’s a piano intro and jazz swing percolating The Slighted Lover. It gets even more experimental on The Mountain Streams Where the Moorcock’s Crow, a double bass setting up an undercurrent which sets the song in motion before Jarlath comes in with his high pitched tenor, recalling the feel of Mountain music from the Appalachians. That track closes with all sorts of pyrotechnics going on, including a big brass crescendo.
The bulk of the songs are sourced from the Irish Tradition, yet there are a few deviations, the Two Brothers is a Child Ballad, a version of a song I first heard Silly Wizard performing as The Twa Brothers on their Hardy Sons of Caledonia LP back in the 1980’s. Another trip back in time for me as Jarlath sings a Copper family song Sweet Lemany, which I first heard on an Albion Band recording of Lark Rise to Candelford. It came back into general circulation from the singing of Peter Bellamy and Martin Carthy and Jarlath is clearly a fan of the late Bellamy.
Those two songs aside the bulk of Jarlath’s work is grounded in the rich melodic song tradition of the North of Ireland. This isn’t the bucolic lake lands of the west or the rolling hills of Antrim, he has introduced old songs to a jagged urban distopia, if you need a sample to test that assumption, I’d recommend Courting is a Pleasure. You may know of it from the singing of Andy Irvine, and you won’t forget Jarlath’s version.
The album is a bottle of strange medicine (In a Good Way) and like the best physick it is packed with a dose of concentrated magic. The Genie is out of the bottle now.
Seán Laffey

Homespun Songs of 19th Century America
Own Label, 20 Tracks, 64 Minutes

“This is a recording I have wanted to make for a long time as I have enjoyed many of these songs since my childhood,” writes Bobby Horton in the notes he has written for his latest CD, Homespun Songs of 19th Century America. The only problem he had was in deciding what to leave out, so rich were the pickings from the corpus of popular song of the 1800’s in America. Bobby is not only a singer and performer, he’s a respected historian of American song, and for this production he has recorded twenty great songs, delightfully arranged – by Bobby himself – with a detailed account of each one. It would be understating things to say that the 19th century was an exciting time for The United States as the country opened up to ‘the world and its mother’ as millions flooded in from Europe and beyond. “The music business grew and prospered,” says Bobby, “as the American experience was documented in song.” Home entertainment was big in those times before radio, TV and the cinema, and traditional singers included in their repertoires not just songs passed down in the family but newly composed numbers, as well.
Songwriters captured the excitement of living in the young republic. They wrote about all aspects of everyday living: love, work, faith, death, family, politics, leaving home, dreaming of home, coming home, humour, and the experience of being a slave in a mostly free country. And Bobby further points out, “Many of these 19th century songs are still loved and sung in America today.” And here, too, it must be said.
One of the most prolific composers of songs was Dan Emmett, whose most famous composition was Dixie, first performed in 1859. It’s not on this CD, but Bobby has included other songs of Dan’s: Old Dan Tucker, the lyrics of which Dan claims to have written when he was only 14 years old; Jordan is a Hard Road to Travel, still performed today by bluegrass bands and folksingers; Polly Wolly Doodle, a fun song Dan composed in the 1850’s to be performed by his group, The Virginia Minstrels; and De Boatman Dance, a happy little number about a man who works the riverboats on The Ohio River.
Bobby not only sings the songs, he plays all the instruments, as well! And wrote the notes, too, published the CD, did all the vocal harmonies, and recorded the whole thing at home in his own studio! And that’s why he should be called, Bobby ‘The Hardworking’ Horton.
Aidan O’Hara

DANU032, 12 Tracks, 47 Minutes

It’s hard to think that it’s close to 30 years since Anúna first hit the scene. They brought an awareness of our heritage, using the oldest and most flexible of instruments, the human voice. It’s a tribute to Michael McGlynn that he has managed to keep the 17 members of the group together. It has taken a combination of scholarship, razor–keen ears, and leadership qualities to realise the dream of a group that can tackle anything from renaissance polyphony to modern folksong – and there are two numbers in Japanese this time. If they have few competitors and imitators, that is proof of just how difficult is the task they have achieved.
The group has its own teaching method, and last November they launched a training choir with a summer course planned for Dublin in the summer. We have here an assortment of the many strands which make up our musical landscape from Love’s Old Sweet Song to Fill, Fill, a Rún Ó and there’s a great version of The Maid of Coolmore.
In this year when pre–cooked patriotism is much in evidence, this example of thoughtful craftsmanship should be very welcome.
John Brophy

The Revolution
Marcella Records, 10 Tracks, 38 Minutes

Opening with a powerful song and rendition that is Revolution you will not be able to ignore this very strong album. He slows things down for Mount Street Bridge which sounds autobiographical and as such it is delivered with a loving care that transmits to the listener.
All the tracks are from the pen of the performer and show us a very talented artiste who will have much to offer in songs that are strong, personal and thought provoking in turn. Nowhere is this more evident than in Confession, a song that makes the listener wonder about life and indeed the song itself. Similarly Mother will have us wondering about the context. I would really have liked an insert giving us some background on these excellent compositions although they are very enjoyable in all their enigmatic beauty. Raindrops has the feel of an old style crooner ballad in the opening words but then gathers a wonderful powerful delivery that will have your toes tapping. The clear voice is a great asset in delivering the well written lyrics on offer on this album and it is complemented greatly in the guest on Oil and Water, Wallis Bird.
One hopes that Fiach Moriarty stays true to the title of the final track Won’t Lay Down and continues his writing and performing to give us many more such powerful albums.
Nicky Rossiter

Old Clichés
Brechin All Records CDBAR022, 10 Tracks, 38 Minutes
Brechin All Records, a small recording company based in Edinburgh, is under the guiding hand of the remarkable and discerning musical maestro, Sandy Brechin. Sandy with his keen ear for talent has provided a platform for many young musicians, and has once again chosen wisely in recording the voice and songs of Sophia Magallanes.
Sophia is Mexican–American, one of seven daughters, and comes from Los Angeles. She and her sisters have always sung together, but it was only when she found herself in Edinburgh that she was able to express herself more freely through music. But it wasn’t music that brought her to Edinburgh, because in the four years she’s been there, she earned a doctorate in theology at New College, University of Edinburgh. Blessed with an appealing and expressive voice, Sophia has a way with words and melody that reveals her as a unique and talented songwriter. In her Daughter of Zion, a song she sings a cappella, she asks, “Does it make sense that I am all too new to this?” She need have no doubts, because her songs are full of mood and feeling throughout, and deal largely with love and disappointment, hopes and expectations. Indeed, the some of the verses might easily stand alone as poems in their own right, because Sophia surely is a poet–songwriter.
Interestingly, Sophia and/or her producer, Sandy Brechin, chose as the opening song the traditional African–American lullaby, All the Pretty Little Horses, sung to a melody by Matt Coleman. It is a happy choice, because it engages the listener right away, and Sophia’s distinctive vocal presentation is enhanced by the musical arrangement featuring Sandy on piano, Alan Mackenzie, acoustic guitar, and Aly Macrae, on fiddle.
Full marks to the producer who allows the voice and the words to be heard clearly throughout the recording, and for supplying us with all the song words, as well. Clearly, Ms Magallanes will have a decision to make in deciding where her future lies: the song writing and singing, or will she go down the doctoral route and a day job, perhaps? Or maybe she’ll manage to balance both.
Aidan O’Hara

Kindred Roots
Ryan Records RR1053 2016, 10 Tracks, 35 Minutes
For those of the generation who listened to and grew to love Irish and international folk music from the singing individually or collectively of The Sands Family the good news is that the torch is moving on to the children or na leana of that dynasty. This debut album of ten tracks augers very well for the future as we are musically introduced to Moya, Sorcha, Ryanne, Fra and Eimear with their combined talent not only as singers but as instrumentalists.
It opens with The Saucy Sailor but really takes off on the acapella Jenny Jenkins that truly shows that tradition of knowing and loving our music so well in less than two minutes. The Rambling Irish Man has been covered numerous times but I really enjoyed the fresh voices on this arrangement. The Crow and the Cradle is a lesser known track and it is a wonderful showcase for the vocals of Eimear. While many of the tracks on offer are traditional there are three excellent new songs. The first of these is Winter Trees and it is a very evocative rendition. Night is Young is another original song on offer and it comes from the pen of “the uncle” Colum. Eimear shows her writing talent on Northern Star.
For me it is toss up on which of these two I would choose as my album favourite. Interspersed with these are beautifully performed tracks such as Dulaman and the perennial Auld Lang Syne. While the “old hands” are still in their prime and producing great sounds we can rest assured of the Sands of music continuing.
Nicky Rossiter

Looking Back – Our American Irish Roots, Own Label
12 Tracks, 51 Minutes
Hailing originally from Bloomington, NY and now based in Ithaca, The Burns Sisters have a long career on the American roots music scene. Signed to Columbia Records in the mid–80’s they flirted with pop and AOR styles before re–emerging as a folk/roots based trio, subsequently recording for Rounder/Philo Records. They have carved a reputable career stateside and beyond.
Now trimmed down to a duo of Annie Burns and her sister Marie Teresa Burns having visited Ireland often, their latest collection Looking Back Our Irish American Roots presents an interesting slant on the migratory song canon. They outline their musical approach as American Irish as opposed to Irish American basing their sound in American folk styles with Irish elements added and lyrics that combine extensive research with familial history in a personal and poignant musical exploration of what it means to be from “someplace else”.
This approach is best found in The Workhouse an original song based on research carried out within familial circles which resonates with a sad and poignant truth and the opening Mother’s Ode which carries a similar emotional punch. Having family roots in Clare and their mother Teresa (McMahon) being an opera singer who introduced them to Irish songs at the piano at family get–togethers, the Burns Sisters acquired the Irish nuances by osmosis. Their treatment of Peter Jones’s seminal Kilkelly Ireland resonates with sound emotional quality which they like– wise invest in Ewan McColl’s Freeborn Man and Ralph McTell’s Clare to Here.
Musically the fields of Celtic folk and Americana are subtly mined the arrangements revealing a seamless interweaving of Irish and American native styles recorded in Ireland and Nashville. Vocally Marie and Annie Burns are strong and forceful singers whose performances are committed and formidable; Annie’s tones bell–like and steady to quote RoSeánne Cash when combined with Marie’s rootsy voice provide a solid formidable combination that is warm and heartfelt. Looking Back: Our American Irish Roots is a powerfully evocative collection that’s devoid of excessive sentimentality yet rich in shared collective emotional truth.
John O’Regan

The Peacock’s Feather
13 Tracks, 55 Minutes, Own Label
This is a German traditional/folk band, formed by German uilleann piper, Frank Weber and they are helping to keep Irish music alive in Germany. Fleadh released their third album, The Peacock’s Feather’s recently, and it is proving a very strong, solid compilation of songs and tunes. This album is a very balanced mix of these songs and tunes. The songs, written by Saoirse Mhór, are both captivating and refreshing. They’re captivating in that they are portraying some challenging themes from life. There’s a real depth to their meaning.
On listening to The Peacock’s Feathers we are immediately introduced to Kick Me. It deals with the ever popular topic of bullying. With fiddle and percussion this really is a vibrant opening to the album. A very strong piece of writing on the album is definitely You Don’t Have the Right. This challenges the listener with its strong imagery combined with emotions of fear and anger. There are songs dealing with depression and there are mood lifting songs. There is a great mix of contemporary themes within all the lyrics. Then there is an equally impressive set of tunes which complement the song–writing. These jigs and reels will lighten any mood and lift it in the process. Tommy Gorny’s intricate guitar playing in The Courthouse Reel/ Laurel Tree immediately attracts our focus before joining Druschner’s mandolin playing and Weber’s pipes to complete the circle of the sprightly Laurel Tree. The ever popular The Monaghan Twig showcases the combination of pipes and banjo, introducing a very lively piece. The album is brought to its close with the short, but very melodic Maid Of Ballingary. A placid, but very apt conclusion to this equally thought provoking, fascinating album.
Frank Weber has skillfully put these engaging tunes carefully alongside Saoirse Mhór’s songs. What results is an absorbing collection of traditional, yet very contemporary music and song.
Grainne McCool

Far Better Days
11 Tracks, 47 Minutes, Own Label MM001

Since forming out of the Edinburgh session scene of the late ’90s Malinky has been the leading group focusing on traditional Scots song. With four acclaimed albums under their belt they now present us with a brand new CD. Over the dozen tracks on offer here we get an inkling of why this is an award winning group. Having some of the best vocalists on the scene must give problems on deciding who should take a lead on particular tracks. The bonus for the listener is that we win out either way.
From Tarves Parish to Jimmy Waddell – The Battle of The Somme the listener will be entranced by the performances of all concerned. Many of the tracks on offer are new to me and sometimes the lack of familiarity can be a problem in truly appreciating the content. Having said that the tracks like Twa Sisters and Long Cookstown soon surmount any perceived problem. Of particular interest were Edzell’s Bonnie Braes and Bonnie Hoose of Airlie with the latter holding ones attention in listening to the tale on offer.
Far Better Days is an album to watch out for and to savour as you discover lesser known tracks that will soon become favourites.
Nicky Rossiter

Failte Uí Cheallaigh
Own Label LK004 11 Tracks, 36 Minutes

A third solo CD from this pioneer of melodic music on the Irish harp is welcome indeed, and another interpretation of the title Kelly’s Welcome. Here Laoise has gathered music named for or associated with the Kelly clan. This album is a little short, but packed with great music, much of it carefully chosen with stories explained in the CD notes. Slides, polkas, jigs and reels, waltzes and airs include many of the tunes you might first think of: Father Kelly’s Reel by the musical missionary from County Galway, John Kelly’s Polka after the great Clare fiddler and folklorist, and the slip jig Elizabeth Kelly’s Delight named for John’s mother. The less well–known Captain Kelly’s and Miss Kelly come from the Goodman collection of West Kerry music in the mid 19th century, and there are some even more obscure tunes from Mayo collections.
Laoise plays truly solo throughout most of this recording, plucking both melody and accompaniment with ease. Her deceptively light touch on some notes gives a rhythmic punch to her music, which keeps toes tapping and adds contrast on the slower pieces. Carolan’s air Mabel Kelly is a case in point, firm yet gentle, a lovely piece. Patrick Kelly’s Waltz is another highlight, charming and beautifully played. Failte Uí Cheallaigh ends with Laoise’s own tune Cailín Lus an Chrom Chinn, a dramatic lament with ringing harmonies and dissonances in the style of Carolan’s Farewell to Music. On a lighter note, it’s nice to hear Josephine Keegan’s reel Kelly’s Cellars commemorating a veritable dive and great music pub in Belfast, and another of PJ Kelly’s tunes in the shape of Father Kelly’s Jig or to give it its proper name Lough Derg Jig. The artwork is attractive too, both outside and inside the cover. If you know any Kellys, this CD is a perfect gift - and you might like one for yourself.
Alex Monaghan