Releases > Releases May 2017

Want to see earlier releases? Visit the archive.

Before We Change Our Mind
Own Label, BEOGA06, 11 Tracks, 49 Minutes
This is Beoga’s fifth studio album. The opening track begins with their trademark sound, that distinctive box duo with fiddle accompanied with a pulsating bodhrán rhythm ably enriched by a colourful set of harmonic chords on piano.
This is traditional music with a contemporary twist; they play many of the band members’ self–compositions which in itself contributes to a large part of their instrumental style. On this album, they delve a little deeper into a richer support soundscape with support from guests The Arco String Quartet, Conor McCreanor on Double bass and electric bass and Stephen Mc Courtney & Rachel Coulter on backing vocals. Eochaid is a relaxed instrumental reel played with a funky, syncopated feel. Newly composed by Sean Óg Graham, this piece captures the experimentation that has become synonymous with Beoga exploring melody, timbre, technique, improvisation, harmony and rhythm. The Bonny Ship, The Diamond displays the hauntingly sublime vocals of Niamh Dunne. Back to box riffs in a Riverdance–like style for the piece entitled Aurora. Building dynamics and musical energy is a really significant aspect of the group’s playing – one of the reasons why this group brings such a strong sense of creativity to their mix. Another fine vocal track is delivered by Niamh in Wexford Town, a song written by her own relation Pecker Dunne and the title track itself, Before We Change Our Mind is a selection of high–energy polkas again full of passion, drive and musical energy. Recorded at Attica Audio in Letterkenny, County Donegal, this CD was produced by Michael Keeney. A very fine collection of tunes and songs, Beoga have once again captured what they do best on this richly diverse recording. Before you change your mind, go out and get yourself a copy!
Edel Mc Laughlin

New Day Dawning
Circin Rua CR10CD, 14 Tracks, 57 Minutes
Seán Keane’s versatility as a singer is shown in abundance on this latest album. From a background in sean–nós, he is also a master of the traditional ballad, folk songs, country and easy listening. New Day Dawning enjoys the accompaniments of a stellar line up of musicians. This fourteen–track album, with a wealth of original material, catapults Keane and his collaborators into a new universe of music. My Land, (Graham/Graham), is a captivating ballad, well suited to Keane’s style, an homage to the place of birth, with poignant lyrics: ‘you are the heart ever true, you are my land and you will always be, the voice ever calling me home to you.’
Nature’s Little Symphony, (Broderick/Cannon/Keane) has a similar localised theme. It is a tender rendition of a lyrical poem, a song that celebrates place, a belonging song, encompassing the pastoral beauty of the west of Ireland, where ‘the huddled hawthorn plays a lonesome tune.’ Pat Coyne provides tasteful guitar accompaniment.
One More Hour (Broderick/Broderick/Connaire/Keane) is a deeply moving duet, a song of love, loss and regret, in an ‘easy listening’ style. Áine Morgan as a guest adds harmonic emotion, her voice ethereal and sweet enables the shadow, the spirit of the absent lover. Ciaran Cannon on piano and Anthony Thistlethwaite on saxophone are exemplary accompanists.
Don’t Teach Me How to Cry, (Broderick/Broderick/Keane), is a fast paced, up tempo song with a country melody that endures. Sean Keane’s unique delivery style, the language and sentiment all blend effortlessly here. A versatile, catchy song with Fergal Scahill on fiddle  and mandolin, this one will be often requested, whether on the Wild Atlantic Way, in the foothills of the Rockies or on the Appalachian trail.
Anne Marie Kennedy

The Macalla Suite
Composed by Michael Rooney
Draiocht Music Doorla 005, 20 Tracks, 66 Minutes
A few weeks ago my 12 year old son came home from school and asked me did I have a copy of the Macalla album, so I gave him a Kerry answer. I replied with the question “why?” He said there was a brilliant piece of music on it. They’d listened to it in their history class that afternoon. “It’s called The Battle,” he said. So my Macalla went off for a few days to the land of X–box, Manga and Nintendo, AKA Tom’s Bedroom.
There are over 25 countries represented in my Tom’s school in rural Ireland. Those kids are of many ethnicities and religions, many of those lads will grow up with a sense of dual identity (who would want to deny them their roots?). As parents it is our hope they will be proud of their Irishness, that they will embrace Irish culture, have a love of its sport, music and an appreciation of its history.  That is where work like Macalla is essential. In an age when music is disposable and fleeting, Michael Rooney’s Macalla paints a bigger picture. It proffers a broad tableaux from the stirrings of rebellion two or three generations before 1916 to the three or four generations afterward and the road to reconciliation. It reminds us that actions have causes and consequences.
Rooney achieves this in an hour by writing 6 episodes, each with a characteristic flavour, each of which can live on as a freestanding work. When presented in order the work is a powerful confirmation of the history of modern Ireland. Cinematic in its opening as it paints a picture of the Famine and the social order which sustained it. This is followed by four pieces, which tell of the Gaelic revival, the rise of Nationalism and the construction of an Irish Identity. The longest movement is The Rising and track 13 is that piece that drew my son’s attention, The Battle, followed by the sadness of the executions and a lament for the dead. It looks forward and is positive in its concluding reel Spleodar.
Is Michael Rooney the O’Riada of our age? From this album we would say he tells a story that is absorbing and has the same orchestral command of narrative. His ability to organise and command a folk orchestra shows he is more than a tunesmith. With a combination of classical players and a folk–memory orchestra, the work challenges the musician. It is not simplified to accommodate the non–readers and must have been a personal thrill to have been involved with.
The Macalla Suite will echo for years to come, the CD is more than a memento of the Rising’s Centenary. More than a memory of two magical nights in Monaghan, it is an important cultural artefact, which we can consult in our own search for identity in the miasma of history.
Seán Laffey

Beo Records BEOCG010, 11 Tracks, 48 Minutes
Many years ago I caught one of the first Clannad gigs. It was on a wet August night in a big tent at a festival in Donegal. I was blown away by it. That was back when Enya was still in the band and playing the keyboards. But it was Moya who commanded the stage; she had poise, she was elegant and she was regal.
I’d guess that was at least 30 years ago, certainly eight albums ago as CANVAS is Moya’s 9th solo album. She has been the high priestess of ambient Celtic Music since the 1980’s and on Canvas we can still see she is carrying a burning torch for the genre.
She hasn’t stood still, yet this work is unmistakably Moya Brennan. There is the same passion in the voice, the same attention to the details of harmony and the building of soundscapes, but there’s freshness too. Partly because the songs are themselves new, composed by Moya with her grown up children Aisling and Paul, they bring a sense of 2017 to the CD. Moya’s harp runs autobiographically through Portrait of My Life, with little echoes of Knopfler style electric guitar over an insistent percussion. There is an ethereal opening to You Never Know; it builds slowly to a questioning chorus, reflective in the line, “too young to know the innocence which surrounded us.” She closes the album with a slow air Banríon, where her harp is to the fore with a small section of vocal harmony and some understated orchestration at the denouement of the piece, proving she is still regal and elegant.
In his later years the great French photographer Henri Cartier Bresson gave up his camera and took to painting, saying he was finished with film, there was nothing else he could achieve. Moya too has taken up painting; hence the title of the album and the pink tinged illustrations in the liner notes and CD cover. Unlike Bresson I get a feeling she has much more in her. The collaboration and the touch of the contemporary no doubt helped on Canvas, but underneath the modernity is that voice, that way of making music, that way of creating the phenomenon we have come to call Celtic Music. There’s no doubting her commitment to the cause or command of the form. Canvas is not over painted by anything she has done since that damp night in Ballisodare three decades ago.
Seán Laffey

The Spectacle Bridge
Tigh na Coille TNC002, 15 Tracks, 47 Minutes
These two respected Clare musicians, Michael on flute and Denis on fiddle, released their second duo album back in 2008 but it wasn’t widely available, and is well worth digging out again in any case. Their repertoire and style are pure Clare tradition: sweet lyrical tunes played at the sort of laid–back pace popularised by Martin Hayes. With tight duets and touching solo pieces, The Spectacle Bridge is a fine example of traditional music unaffected by post–Riverdance influences. Accompaniment is provided on piano by Jack Talty and on bouzouki by Eoin O’Neill, plus a fierce battering of sean nos steps on the final track.
The Spectacle Bridge itself is worth a mention: located outside Lisdoonvarna and built in the mid–nineteenth century, its unusual design features a circular hole between the bottom arch and the parapet, with hand–cut voussoirs no less. A historic photo fills the cover of this CD, and the bridge is still in use today. Little has changed in 150 years, just like the music here: reels, jigs, airs, barndances, hornpipes, a few more reels and a waltz or two, and even some Donegal highlands. The Shannon Breeze, The Flowing Tide, Sean Dwyer’s, Jackie Coleman’s, Micho’s Mason’s Apron and many more are part of a musical tradition that stretches back to before there was a fine stone bridge over the river Aille.
Hynes and Liddy have added to that tradition with a few of their own compositions. The opening pair of reels by Michael Hynes come straight from the same source as classics like Over the Moor to Maggie and The Fox Chase. His Ballyvaughan Bay is a sultry waltz in a style somewhere between parish hall and music hall. The Smithstown Jaunt has a more modern feel to it, a tricky little tune but great fun to play or listen to, one I will try to learn. Denis Liddy’s air Fonn an Chéitinnigh is a definite highlight of this album, starting low on viola and building to sweeter high notes. There’s plenty more to enjoy here: The Drummer Boy, The Smokey Chimney, Willie Clancy’s and a few nameless gems, all gracefully spanned by The Spectacle Bridge.
Alex Monaghan

The Truckley Howl,
Own Label TTH001, 14 Tracks, 54 Minutes
Three  very well–known musicians in traditional music circles, these players share an interest in the old recordings of Irish music and the ineffable qualities of style and interpretation which are not transmitted on the printed page.
The great musician, linguist, raconteur and collector Seamus Ennis found or fabricated the term “truckley howl” to describe that part of the music which is personal, indescribable, unique and yet common to a tradition. Mairéad Hurley, John Blake and Nathan Gourley have that quality jointly and severally: the long held notes of Champagne Charlie, the flashing triplets in John Dwyer’s, the low growling in Bobby Gardiner’s jig The Clare Shout.
Mairéad’s concertina cuts through on most tracks, with Nathan’s fiddle not far behind, and John’s flute flying in for a few tunes. John is the consummate accompanist, and his guitar and keyboard backing gives a firm foundation for this music. There are some solo spots: Gourley bags the old Scottish reel Dogs Among the Bushes while Hurley is on her own for the lament O’Rahilly’s Grave. Blake plays a pair of fiddle reels on the flute, Ah Surely and The New Copperplate, with Gourley sitting in on guitar. For the rest, it’s duets and trios on some old favourites and some rarities: Miss McDonald’s, The Stage, Tumble the Tinker, By Golly, Papa’s Pet, The Spike Island Lasses, Bill Harte’s and Spellan the Fiddler to name a few.
There’s a handful of hornpipes and a lovely waltz called The Spanish Fandango which may or may not be Spanish and certainly isn’t a fandango. There are tunes from Clare and Kerry, several from Nathan’s New World home, none from Mairéad’s antipodean roots or John’s cockney cousins, and most are from the Sligo fiddle and flute heartland. Each melody is given a brief context in the notes, but this trio is one of few words. Their music is eloquent enough, and their faces brighten up the album sleeve.
Alex Monaghan

Own label: JOC002CD 16 Tracks, 56 Minutes
Here is an album packed with lots of rich, lively accordion music. What makes it truly unique is that each and every tune was composed by Connolly himself. He explains how this came about in the sleeve notes; where he tells us music has become a dominant force in all aspects of his life. The interactions with family, friends and musicians (alive and deceased) have all influenced the music he makes. What a beautiful collection of tunes it is. There is a versatile mix of tune types from hop jigs to waltzes, reels, airs, hornpipes to a march, a planxty and strathspey. The music flows effortlessly throughout and the melodies are distinctly tuneful, melodic and embody an impressively wide range. The wide scope of key choices is also notable, contributing to the fresh, vibrant sound. There is a beautiful haunting air Caoineadh Mhaolta Seoighe echoing the rich Conamara air tradition. Many of the tunes are tributes to great musicians such as the Strathspey dedicated to fiddler Tommy Peoples or The Buncrana Boy a hop jig in tribute to Dermot Byrne. A personal favourite is the Conamara Wedding Waltz, written for Johnny’s sister and her husband.
I was drawn to its catchy, melodic tune in the beautiful bright key of E major. The CD was recorded by his good friend Garry O’Briain who also accompanies on guitar and mandocello. There is also guitar work from John Blake who plays flute on the set attributed to the Blakes of Mayo. Another track reflects the influence of Classical music on his playing. Overall, a beautiful collection of music played flawlessly throughout.
Edel McLaughlin

Memories of Great Sessions
13 Tracks 42 Minutes, Own Label
In Mick Walsh’s album, Memories of Great Sessions, the listener is invited into that magical world of session music and atmosphere. With heartfelt, honest performances throughout, this album of 13 tracks conveys the music making of Mick and friends through a traditionally versatile mix of tunes and songs.
Originally recorded and produced in cassette form from Colum Sands’ Spring Studios in Co Down, the album is now re–released in digital format to be enjoyed by a new, contemporary audience.
Memories of Great Sessions opens with Si Kahn’s Aragon Mill, with guitar leading the charge, with whistle and mandolin giving a good old ballad group feel to the song. The sleeve notes tell of his travels from native Waterford up to Dublin, working in the now legendary Slattery’s of Capel St, to playing around the Dublin pub scene of the 70’s and 80’s, notably with Alan Hughes and the late Johnny Byrne who both feature on this album.
The mix of music reflects the close relations of Irish music, with a set of Cape Breton tunes well delivered, along with a Shetland set, and another song from the US in the sweet Shenandoah.
Percy French ballads like Bridget Flynn and Patsy Fagan give the album a particular flavour, while tenor banjo and fiddle aide each other through the tune sets like old friends in the corner of a pub, well versed in each other’s style. There are no fancy technological tricks applied here, just honest music making which gives a genuine session atmosphere not always captured on recordings. This is not just about memories, as Mick plays a regular session in Cleere’s of Kilkenny on a Monday night, go along you’ll have a great time.
Derek Copley

Raelach Records RR008
17 Tracks, 79 Minutes
This is a big album, in many ways. Its cover takes a sweeping view across the landscape of Connemara – land, sea and sky, habitations and wild places – and Saileog’s music is similarly broad in outlook. Classically trained but steeped in the seán–nos tradition, Saileog plays piano, fiddle and viola, and sings, in a style, which straddles both approaches.
Like most of today’s young Irish musicians, her influences are many and varied: Paddy Canny, Máirtín Byrnes, Junior Crehan, Paddy Cronin, Tommy Potts, Martin Rochford and Pádraig O’Keeffe on the fiddle, and many more on other instruments, although she says her piano playing owes more to accordionists and concertina players than to the work of Ó Riada or Ó Súilleabháin.
On this recording, she’s joined by Jack Talty and Eoin Ó Beaglaoich on concertinas, Marie McHugh on fiddle, Tim McHugh on flute, her brother Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin on concertina and flute, and her sister Muireann on vocals.
The five songs here are seán–nos from various sources, some accompanied, some not. They are a little too classical for my taste, but carefully chosen and strongly sung. The detailed notes with this CD, in Irish and English, give a lot of the background to each song. They also explain the choice of instrumental pieces, both traditional and Saileog’s own compositions. The Old Dúidin, Sporting Nell, Miss Monaghan, Red Tom of the Hill and Paddy Fahy’s are well known, but often set on piano or viola for a fresh sound. The Merry Sisters and Happy to Meet usually have slightly longer names. Paddy Cronin’s Jig and The Maid of Mount Cisco are among my favourite pieces here, full of energy on concertinas and fiddles.
The opening track is as good a place as any to appreciate Saileog’s piano playing, three delightful reels which are both highly decorated and given the chance to breathe, as Iníon Ní Cheannabháin shows she also knows which notes to leave out. Her own compositions are fascinating: there are six here, but I was struck by the penultimate track and its almost oldtime drone effects on the back strings of the viola, dark and powerful.
The final Na Portairí Siúlacha is a light and delicate piano reel by Saileog, rolling across the keyboard with a bit of honky–tonk in the left hand and a lovely melody in the right. Roithleán ends as it begins, graceful and expressive, joining up the many threads of old and new music woven into the broad cloth of this recording.
Alex Monaghan

The Elevated Life
EP Own Label ec001, 5 Tracks, 18 Minutes
Even before I put the CD into the player there was something different about this production. The cover is extremely tactile, printed in a grainy photogravure, it calls out to be handled, its simple single folded design minimal yet refined. This is the way that much new music is going to be delivered, as bespoke EPs, with bigger collections and albums to be served online.
The EP is a format that allows an artist to dip a toe in the water, or to showcase potential. Cowley as an experienced and extremely capable producer, having worked with the likes of Moya Brennan and the High Kings has created a technically excellent recording, but does the material match up to the skill of its presentation?
The simple answer is yes. This is new work. It comes labelled as contemporary folk/singer songwriter, and that often means a pale pastiche of Americana. Not here, Cowley is his own man; his voice has purity which recalls early Paul Brady, with his clear high tenor that shines like a foil against the backing band. Musically the accompaniment is equally interesting with fiddle, viola, cello, electric and double bass with drums. There’s a country breeze blowing through Hollow Ground, plaintive strings behind the drums, a quiet verse where he sings, “All this doubt keeps us alive…the elevated life of man and wife….”
Grianan of Ailaech is a sumptuous slow air, played on the violin, with the melody being passed over to the acoustic guitar half way through. If Cowley was looking to establish his Celtic credentials he offers them here. If you are a fiddler this is a track you should consider mastering.
He duets with Lisa Lambe on the Thorns From Your Heart, where they are “dreaming the dreams of nowhere people”, essentially a song about a break up. Cowley sings, “There’s no one to blame, walk away in the dark, pull the thorns from your heart.” The piano and organ are to the fore on Wave A White Flag with a theme of the changing urban landscape, suggestive of the new skyline of Dublin. Cowley takes to the acoustic guitar again on the final track For You While You Sleep, a contemplative instrumental piece that softly closes this gem of an EP. He finishes the song Elevated Life with the line, “There’s a voice that rings pure and true, sweetly in my ears”. Which sums up this EP to a T.
Seán Laffey