Releases > Releases May 2021

Want to see earlier releases? Visit the archive.

The Light of The Moon
Blackfly Records, 11 Tracks, 37 Minutes
This young Scottish band has been making a name for themselves these past few years, with sell out shows at Celtic Connections and award nominations. Gnoss are Aidan Moodie (acoustic guitar & vocals), Connor Sinclair (whistles, flute & backing vocals), Craig Baxter (bodhrán & percussion), Graham Rorie (fiddle, mandolin, electric tenor guitar). They add guest James Lindsay on double bass for this album, which was recorded in Glasgow by Scott Wood of Skerryvore, with mastering in the USA by Alan Douches. The recording was slotted into an Autumn break in the Scottish lockdown and prior to that they chose a covid summer to compose new work and polish existing older original material. Aidan Moodie, one of two Orcadians in the band, took inspiration from the almost endless daylight of an Orkney summer in his song Honey Dew, its contagious melody moving constantly forward. His Cold Clay brings the bodhrán and mandolin together on a song that has the potential to become a much-covered favourite. The River’s echoing Knopfler-style tenor guitar riff enhances its evocation of forest and coastal landscape; here Moodie has a natural genius for a well-crafted chorus: “See the water, feel the wind blow, the River never flows too slow.”
The band are capable of high-jinks, as on Good Crief, the pun very much intended; surely it’s destined to be a foot-stomping favourite when future festivals flourish. Nevertheless they temper that rush for more adrenaline with the mellower Tuction and the chilled out Alister & Katrina’s.
Many of their tunes are gifts, given to friends and family, a feature of Scottish music for centuries. Titles such as Gordon’s, Adelaide’s, and Becky’s stay true to this most generous tradition. For a young band they have established a sound all of their own in very short order. No wonder they are growing a devoted fan base: many of whom crowd funded this recording. What a joy it will be to hear Gnoss perform The Light of The Moon live; in the meantime there are songs and tunes to enjoy on this engrossing album.
Seán Laffey

Songs for Ireland – The Lockdown Laments
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Dan McCabe, Songs for Ireland, “The Lockdown Laments”, is a ten-track recording of great big Irish ballads by a young Kildare man, a talented singer and guitar player. Just as in literature, writers can suffer the ‘anxiety of influence’, a state of comparing their own new work to older, revered, (mostly dead), famous ones. Dan McCabe has clearly not suffered but benefited from being influenced, using the great balladeers as musical touchstones while developing his own unique style.
He has chosen the strong story songs, ballads that have attached themselves to famous Irish singers down the years. Purposely not naming them, (you know who you are), he takes a song like Dublin In The Rare Auld Times and completely inhabits it, puts his own stamp on it, makes one forget other versions. There’s passion in the singing, one wouldn’t doubt that he had ‘courted Peggy Duignan’, great emotion in the delivery; he can hold and roll a note, being simultaneously dramatic, mellow and timely.
Likewise, with The Galway Shawl, there’s a sweet and youthful wildness to his version, rhythmic guitar playing, he experiments with the melody and some of the lyrics very effectively, ‘she wore no jewellery’, this song needed him! His voice is edgy, raspy, earnest, with great range, commitment to delivery and quirky nuances in the melody. McCabe’s brand of ballad is guaranteed to silence a noisy pub or festival marquee.
This talented young man also shows admirable resilience and flexibility in these challenging times, where instead of weeks, months, a year when he should have been engrossed in the cyclical patterns of recording, producing, marketing, P.R. and touring, he goes it alone. His thrilling version of The Night Visiting Song, celebrating a great influence, could be the impetus for him being known as Ireland’s modern minstrel.
Dan McCabe has now signed with Trad Nua and 10 Central Group.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Reflections Of a Celtic Heart
Downda Road Productions, 16 Tracks, 67 Minutes
Reflections of a Celtic Heart is a collection of 16 tracks, each one steeped in Irish musical history; and yet each one taking on a whole new sound from Sina Theil. Theil has put her own stamp on each track but at no time does she take away the authenticity and originality of any. She allows the tradition to remain, but she also allows enough newness into each one that we fall in love with them all over again.
Opening with Caledonia, leading into Grace, we are immediately embracing two world famous ballads. Yet neither are tarnished, and if anything, both are enhanced with the voice and music of Theil. She has stormed into the genre and only serves to enrich it. She sings the traditional repertoire but brings in her very own contemporary sound and it just leaves you wanting more. As I sit back to The Streets of London, I wait to find flaw; one of my all time favourites, and yet I just smile. She nails it. In fact, it’s the best version I’ve heard in years. This sound is today, it’s the future, and it still holds on to the origins.
As I progress with listening, I want to be in the audience as she blasts from the heart, The Fields of Athenry. Again, making it her own.
The album comes to a close with the choir chorus of Grace (reprise) and finishing with a very apt rendition of One Day At A Time, encouraging us all to do just that, take one day at a time in this crazy Covid-filled world. Sina Theil at no time deters the Irish tradition. The German born, Spanish lived, now Irish adopted singer, is as Irish as one can get with this wonderful collection of music and song.
Gráinne McCool

A Maid in Bremen
MIG 02392, 15 Tracks, 78 Minutes
This album is so fresh that it’s hard to think it’s now over forty years old. John Renbourn was a founding member of Pentangle; five years after the band split he took this short lived but highly experimental outfit on the road. MIG have been trawling through the Radio Bremen archives where they found this live recording from Bremen in 1978.
This is edgy folk-jazz, bursting with audacious attitude, a florid flute and Indian tablas sitting cheek by jowl with medieval modalities. Their repertoire was diverse; from the Irish song I am A Maid That’s Deep in Love, to the English John Barleycorn, to the Americana of Kokomo blues. Even that was a long way from Scrapper Blackwell’s 1928 original. They do play the blues a little more orthodox on Turn Your Money Green.
The album bears repeated and careful listening. Renbourn’s guitar work was justifiably legendary; check out his slide on Sweet Potato. Jacqui McShee had a voice that was otherworldly, a decade before Kate Bush cornered that section of the market. Flute and Tablas combine on Gypsy Dance, like an off-kilter Jethro Tull and the City Waites. Proving the band was out on their own; A Maid in Bedlam might make you wonder how they did it live? McShee takes the chorus and Renbourn joins in one line out of synch - imagine the practice to get that co-ordinated. The audience, whether the band plays a folk song from Cornwall or something a little more out there like Side Brahim, respond with equal enthusiasm. Indeed the crowd stomp and clap after The Cruel Sister demanding the band plays an encore.
If you have an inkling for something crossover and challenging, there are many rewards in this Renbourn recording. Well done MIG for discovering this live recording for us.
Seán Laffey

One Legend – Two Concerts
Live at Rockpalast
MIG, 47 Tracks, 241 Minutes
Regretfully I was never in the right place to see Runrig live, yet I eagerly awaited their albums arrival by mail order in the 1980s and 90s. Their music fell between the Gaelic expressionism of Capercailie and the Scottish folk rock of the Proclaimers. Formed on the Isle of Skye in 1973, their career continued with inevitable line up changes until a final mega-gig in 2018. Their songs, about people, place and predicament, had critical punch and their melodies were catchy, often with U2-like echoing electric guitar.
Lucky those punters who flocked to Runrig shows in Germany and lucky for us that those shows were recorded. What a comprehensive job MIG has done with this live material. You get four CDs and two live DVDs to enjoy. The first live concert was recorded in February 1996 at the Phillipshalle Dusseldorf, and the second in December 20 in Cologne, all under the umbrella of Rockpalast. The Dusseldorf gig was one of the last from the classic line up, Donnie Munro and Peter Wishart went into politics soon after. Wishart remains the most successful of the two, (he is still a Scottish Nationalist MP… their politics often informed their lyrics or was it vice versa?). The second concert features their then relatively new front-man Cape Breton singer songwriter Bruce Guthro. The two concerts highlight the successful transition form the old to the new guard.
Congratulations to Brian Masterson at Soundscape Dublin for the mastering of this excellent compilation. With so many tracks on offer you’d be tempted to create your own mix-tape, and with their legion of fans still debating the merits Hearts of Olden Glory or Loch Lomond, as contenders for best all time Runrig track; why wouldn’t you? (Mine was always Rocket to The Moon; it said so much about the pain and possibility of emigration).
Does this album make up for missing them in our primes? I’ll take the 5th on that question. It’s a reminder of the rise of big theatre live Celtic music a quarter of a century ago. The crowd’s reaction documents an appetite for grown up serious Celtic rock. When the lads got into their groove, it was some heck of a party. Calum MacDonald sums it up in the liner notes “Golden stories - unforgettable memories- pulling moments from the clock.”  Turn back time and enjoy Runrig at their twin (German) peaks.
Seán Laffey

Off By Heart
Brendan O’Connor (Little Dylan Studios), 12 Tracks, 47 Minutes
Rising Cork musician Meadhbh Walsh has recently released her debut folk CD. Titled Off by Heart, it is a collection of 12 songs which you really will know ‘off by heart’. A collection of well-known songs, you will be transported with each one to a memory or even recollections of another musician. Christy Moore featured very much in my mind as I listened. Primarily because it was with he I would have related a number of the songs. But as I listened to Nancy Spain and Ordinary Man I was focusing solely on Meadhbh Walsh and her ability to make these her own. She has done exactly this with each song on the album.
Opening with Richard Thompson Beeswing and then Dougie MacLean’s Caledonia, you expect to hear just another version. And yes, they are other versions , here with a fresh voice and successfully retaining the authenticity of each. Walsh has that passion to reawaken our love of each track as we listen. Following on with big covers of Fields of Athenry and the Furey’s classic When You Were Sweet Sixteen, she doesn’t disappoint. The authenticity of each is very much there, but so is a new voice and she captures Irish folk songs at their finest.
As the collection draws to a close we get to hear Walsh’s take on The Ferryman and All The Lies That You Told Me. Songs I hadn’t heard in a while. It’s a real trip down memory lane and yet it feels so new. Accompanied by Andrew Doyle and Brendan O’Connor, Walsh takes us to an Ireland past with this collection of songs and music. This may be the first folk album from Meadhbh Walsh, but immediately you know it’s the first of many. Walsh has a passion in her voice that will resonate for many years to come.
Gráinne McCool

Own Label, 10 Tracks, 32 Minutes
As you’d expect with Karl’s famous lineage he has deep respect for the tradition and includes tunes by Vincent Broderick (Midsummer’s Night) and Mícháel Ó’Longáin’s Sliabh na mBan on this album. Whether it’s a well-worn classic or one of his own creations, he brings his wealth of experience as a player, composer and producer to this work
Take Tús, Karl plays: flute, bouzouki, bodhrán, didjeridú, keyboards and key bass, with Jason Turk adding the keyboard melody. The bodhrán tethering the track enabling other instruments to join by turns adding their own character to the piece. There’s a lot going on in the three minutes, but not so much as you’d get distracted by arranging for arranging’s sake. That delicate balance is struck time and time again on Return.
I heard echoes of Planxty in the intro to O’Connell’s Trip/Follow Me Up, a bouzouki riff with the flute cruising into play soon after, then a classic interchange between the flute and bodhrán. Each track’s running time is radio friendly, which puts the onus on Karl to be deft and daring within a tight schedule. Forever Spring features a Lunnyesque bouzouki sandwiched between jazzy keyboards and a hint of a reel from the flute, there’s even extra percussion from Johnny Kalsi.
Karl is joined by fiddler Siún Milne on Swings and Roundabouts, a modern groove highlights Karl’s flute playing, solidly traditional before it spirals upwards in a jazz improvisation. There’s a moment of simplicity on Sliabh na mBan, a keyboard drone and Karl’s flute is all that is needed on one of the most beautiful slow airs in the repertoire. One of the most attractive selections is Galway Bay/The Stage, a deep low toned flute carrying the melody over the strummed chords of Karl’s bouzouki.
In short, ten tasty tracks mark a welcome return to Karl’s creative roots.
Seán Laffey

Featuring the Songs of Mark Cryle
The Emerald Dream
11 Tracks, 39 Minutes
Full marks for the band name and full marks for the song writing too. This Australian combo of box, fiddle, guitar and bass take Mark Cryle’s songs and give them a shot of whiskey and a slap on the back.
His It’s Paddy’s Day Again, opens with a slow intro on the accordion, the melody gently swaying left and right, a song for the next March when we can gather in an Irish bar in Brisbane, Boston, or Baltimore. The Emerald Dream is about the pull of a better life and work in Australia; sometimes it was a bitter pill, for all the sunshine and personal freedom it brought with it, you had to say goodbye to the ‘100,000 welcomes and the Emerald dream’. Mark told me, “The song was inspired by the 2015 closure of the Brisbane Irish Club (sold to developers!). The Club had been a haven for Irish music and culture for nearly 100 years.”
His A New Australia, which Mark says was “inspired by an account of radical socialists who left Australia for Paraguay in 1893 to set up a utopian community. In the fine tradition of such ventures, the project collapsed in discord and dissent a few years later.”
Organised religion comes under Cryle’s perceptive scrutiny on Sweet Rain of Mercy, the chorus asking the question ‘Sweet rain of mercy won’t you fall down on me?’ The sanctum of the bar is recalled in The Gypsy in Me/The Banshee, the importance of a friendly watering hole is not lost on Mark Cryle; the song opens with a choppy mandolin, (a whiff of the Galway Girl here) and a chorus that sums up the wandering Aengus in us all, with the memorable line: ‘The Irish in You and the Gypsy in Me’, the track closes with The Banshee reel. It’s a shoe in for a Temple Bar night out (when the lockdown lifts). The words to Bethany Bell are inspiring and carefully chosen, a song of settled love, painting a picture of lasting fidelity, a grown up ballad if ever there was one.
Mark Cryle’s songs evoke the centres of our Irish social world, whether it be the pub or the Parish, he has conjured up places where craic and companionship are the glue of life. Yet he doesn’t shy away from the reason why generations have chosen emigration over their emerald dreams. That sense of natural justice that compelled many to leave is echoed in The Whiskey, a reaction in song to the firebombing of Brisbane’s Whiskey Au Go Go club in 1973 in which 15 people lost their lives.
This is a powerful medicine chest of originals from Asleep at the Reel. Cryle’s upbeat conclusion is that songs and tunes are the cultural vaccine for the Diaspora.
Seán Laffey

Tranquility in Tureencahill 7 Tracks, 24 Minutes
Bryan O’Leary has recently released a spectacular EP album of seven tune sets that gives a tutorial of what puts the Sliabh Luachra playing style on a high plane in Irish music. Grandson of accordion icon Johnny O’Leary, Bryan was not “into” the music until his grandfather passed. While he had never played the accordion, he asked for Johnny’s box and has never turned back. He realized it was all there in his head and his heart having grown up listening to his grandfather at various sessions & festivals.
Winner of the TG4 Young Musician of the Year in 2014, Bryan has advanced warp speed to becoming a modern “voice” of Sliabh Luachra, its music, and its history. He is very sincere and serious when discussing the history of the great musicians, and their vast repertoire of music, including the polkas and slides of the region in which Sliabh Luachra is synonymous for.
Titled Tranquility in Tureencahill, after his hometown, Bryan opens with a dance in the kitchen toe tappin’ set of polkas Dance your Way to Heaven/ Granda’s Dream Visit/From Gullane to Tureencahill making it difficult for you to advance to the next set as it is so much fun. Advance you will, though, to a lively set of jigs, Era mó léir!/ McAuliffe’s Musical Mind, and all the way through enjoying a waltz followed by some polkas, hornpipes, reels, a slow air  and finally bringing the album to an appropriate close with some quintessential Kerry slides. Bryan’s playing is clean, crisp, and incredibly smooth. He owns the accordion, and as you watch him play, you can see they are one as the tunes progress. Accompanied on some tunes by bouzouki ace Brian Mooney, the beautiful cello of Sharon Howley, and fiddle of Therese McInerney, there is just enough music to give it more interest without taking anything away from his magic.
Maryann McTeague Keifer

The Trip We Took Over the Mountain
Own label, 15 Tracks, 45 Minutes
This new recording of Charlie Piggott (button accordion) and his son, Rowan (fiddle), is appealing not only for the music and song, but for the production presentation itself: recorded and mixed by Rowan who also did layout and design; and who also sings and plays other interesting instruments as well. Rowan describes himself as “a fiddle-singer, writer and tunesmith” who grew up in the foothills of the Burren on the west coast of Ireland. With a dad who earned fame as one of the founding members of Dé Danann in 1973, not surprisingly, Rowan was immersed in traditional music right from the start. As well as jigs, reels, polkas, marches, slip-jigs, waltzes, slides, flings and hornpipes, the album features a couple of songs from Rowan.
Charlie, of course, is also noted for his work in reviving many rare traditional melodies and that’s reflected in the duo’s new CD, The Trip We Took Over the Mountain. That waltz, popular among musicians of the northern Burren in Clare, is heard on the last of the fifteen tracks and follows another waltz that was “improvised by Rowan”. Although this track is left to the end, it is easily one of the most pleasing of the duo’s instrumental performances. “A lot of the sets on this recording,” the duo tell us, “were put together on a short tour we did last year, travelling over the Burren from Miltown Malbay to Kinvara”. Another of the treats offered in this fine album are the detailed notes to the tunes and the songs. This note to The Song of the Chanter & Pulling Bracken is an excellent example: “It is thought that this first tune was used as an introductory piece to playing of chanter music.” It adds that it was included in the Bunting Collection of more than 200 years ago and that it was played by uilleann piper Willie Clancy “originally obtained from E. Shannon Esq, in 1839”.
Rowan also provides backing with Cittern, Shruti Drone and Podorythmie (a traditional French Canadian method of tapping one’s feet during musical performances). His expertise on fiddle is certainly matched in his singing, heard to good effect in Rattlin’ Roarin’ Willie a “traditional Scottish song in jig time,” he tells us, “which first appeared in publication in 1788 and was popularised by the singing of Johnny Moynihan in the1960s”. An altogether pleasing album - oh, and I loved Charlie’s composition, Planxty Fahey.
Aidan O’Hara

Piano Improvisations
Wild Fire Records, 10 Tracks, 43 Minutes
It could be that the name Gow goes with the skill of musical compositions because Phamie Gow like that other bearer of the name, Neil Gow, the eighteenth century composer famous for his fiddle compositions, is certainly a gifted musician, and it shows in her new CD, Piano Improvisations. She tells us that her album of improvised works was created during lockdown, she recorded from home using her iPhone. It was later mixed in London.
Phamie was born in the Galashiels District of the Scottish Borders and says that she had an idyllic childhood and the Borders are in her soul. “All I need to do is think of this place when I am abroad and it helps me to feel grounded.” She adds: “I remember running out into the fields, flopping into the barley, looking up at the blue and white sky and dreaming about my future prince. I had a very innocent childhood.”
Phamie Gow is an award-winning composer, pianist, harpist and singer and has performed around the world, and at home on such occasions as the opening of the fourth session of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh in July 2011. Her piano compositions travel through a wide range of moods and feelings, and many pieces seem to reflect the impact Covid isolation makes on most people left with their thoughts and longings. Not morose or sad but often soaring above any tendency to darkness that shows through occasionally but never oppressively.
The titles of Phamie’s compositions give a hint of the mood of each piece as in Gently Into The Night and The Morning Dew. Not unexpectedly, Sweet Sorrow delivers what the title seeks to convey as the composer works her way through the pandemic. But the mood isn’t dismal, more hopeful and forward looking. Her Piping Into The Unknown composition begins by imitating the piping of a slow air, before developing into a more original contemporary sound that is as plaintive and pleasing. A recording one can sit back to and enjoy.
Aidan O’Hara

Now More than Ever
Own Label, 9 Tracks, 44 Minutes
Katie’s trio is herself and buddies Shauncey Ali on viola and Neil Pearlman on piano. This Boston anchored threesome have called on the talents of producer Ann Massie to create this second album. They travelled to Scotland to record the work, which was engineered by Angus Lyon. McNally is a former pupil of Hanneke Cassel, and her music is steeped in the Scottish and Cape Breton traditions, therefore no surprise to find a tune from Gerry Holland (Marcel Aucoin) in the opening selection.
Katie has now made her home in Maine from which she took inspiration for her original tune Worthley Pond. A slow lyrical melody, with long drawn notes on the bow at the end of the bar, a tune dying for a song to be written around its comforting blanket of sound. Compliments to Bob McIntyre, Humours of Westport, Lad O’Beirne’s, Hommage à Leanne Hebert is an interesting track, all tunes in the key of F for starters; the first tune, a Strathspey was written for one of Katie’s Kickstarter sponsors, Lad O’Beirnes’ was learned just before going on stage at a Long Island festival a few years ago, the final tune in the set Katie wrote for her mother; fittingly it has a Quebecois bounce to it.  June’s Right Arm, written for one of Katie’s students who broke her arm and was unable to play, allows both Ali and Pearlman to take solos; the fiddle backing the piano triplets is an inspired passage. Touching on a long tradition of writing commissioned music in the Scottish and Cape Breton milieu, Katie closes the album with a piece written for Dr. John O’Grady’s 75th Birthday which precedes Quinie Fae Rhyine (the fool from Rhynie). A lively Scottish reel they bring to a gentle halt with a cascade of quiet notes on piano and a retreating light drone of the fiddle.
Katie was inspired as a youngster by the Boston Harbor Scottish Fiddle School and had intended to create a similar event in the city to be called the Boston States fiddle Camp. She says it will happen when concerts return and that ice melts. Fiddle fans and players young and old are in for a warm blast of music from this accomplished trio, and like the album’s title we need it now more than ever.
Seán Laffey

Woodlands WOOD001, 10 Tracks, 43 Minutes
The Woodlands duo Kristina Leesik (fiddle/vocals) and Justyna Krzyżanowska (harp/vocals), met as students at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm, Sweden. Both of them later studied music in Scotland, which led them to focus on that country’s traditional music, song and dance, and later extending their interests to Irish music.
On their CD Woodlands, their arrangements of tunes familiar and those not so familiar, are delightfully varied and inventive. Kristina’s fiddling ranges through the languid and dreamy right through the sprightly driving, and more that is inventive and exciting. Justyna’s mastery of the strings displays technique and skill born of years of study and practice, that is altogether engaging. They say that this, their “first full-length album featuring traditional Scottish, Gaelic and Irish music as well as own compositions (is) influenced by the Celtic, Swedish and jazz traditions”. A good example of their imaginative arrangement is evident in their variant of the song The Old Man from over the Sea that’s similar to that of the English singer Frankie Armstrong’s recording on a 1966 Topic Records LP The Bird in the Bush. Steve Roud says of this song: “The old man’s courtship is an ancient joke of which country folk never seemed to tire.” He adds one of the earliest variants was published in London in 1730.
Harpist Justyna’s expert and musical fingering trips the light fantastic in the dance tune medley On the Danforth/The Rainy Day/Armstrong’s, and Kristina’s fiddling sounds like she was born to the Scottish/Irish fiddling traditions. I have to say that while I enjoyed all their vocal numbers, I was particularly taken with their rendition of Emigrantvisa, their title for the Scottish Gàidhlig emigrant song Dean Cadalan Sàmhach translated into Swedish: “That in America we are now/ There will be nuts, there will be apples/ And the sugar grows.”  I liked this album for its great musicality and varied moods evident in the traditional and the more recent compositions, some of them by the duo themselves. A commendable and confident first album that offers much promise for the future.
Aidan O’Hara

Taobh le Taobh
Own Label, 6 Tracks, 21 Minutes
This new EP CD Taobh le Taobh from Pádraic ‘Joycey’ Seoighe and Niall Teague, two stalwarts of the Galway music scene, began somewhat by chance one day in 2018. Pádraic was in a doctor’s waiting room reading a local newspaper when he spotted an ad inviting people to enter Comórtas Amhrán Nua-Chumtha, the Irish language song writing competition. They did that and their song won the contest.
The song, which is called Ar Saoire imagines the plight of a refugee going across Europe with his family. Their song later represented Ireland in the 2018 Pan Celtic Song Festival in Letterkenny, and was the winner in that competition also. So, the pair of singers-composers, flushed with success, one might say, decided that it should feature in this new recording of theirs.
It features six tracks, opening with the title number, based on a poem by Pádraic’s aunt, Baba Ban Uí Loinsigh, on the occasion of her son’s wedding day; followed by Ar Saoire, the song which started it all; then An Ghaoth Anoir a song about a fisherman who longs for the shore; that’s followed by Ní Fhágfaidh Mé Gaillimh a song vowing never to leave Galway; then there’s the mysterious An Dealg Ealaine, and finally Amhrán Pheter Michíl Báille. Google Taobh le Taobh CD and you’ll find a Facebook page with a video of the CD’s launch and where Pádraic and Niall with their accompanists, Neil Fitzgibbon (fiddle), László Pásztor (double bass), and Paddy Kerr (bodhrán), can be heard singing and talking about themselves and their songs.
Aidan O’Hara

East Galway Fiddle Music
Michael Harrison AWR20
Disc 1, 25 Tracks; Disc 2, 26 Tracks, Total Running Time 112 Minutes
There’s a feast of reading and listening in the two-disc production, Aggie Whyte - East Galway Fiddle Music. Michael Harrison is the grandson of the renowned Aggie Whyte, and deserves great credit for his work as producer in restoring and remastering the dozens of recordings for this CD.
The work involved in assembling the 51 tracks for the two CDs is impressive. He got photos and recordings of Aggie’s playing from the Allan Lomax Collection at the American Folklife Centre, The Library of Congress, and the Alan Lomax Archive; recordings from the Whyte family Archives and Fr. Solon of Portumna. He got other recordings from Oldtime Records and RTÉ Archives, and acknowledged the work of ITMA (Irish Traditional Music Archive) for their help, not least in digitising the recordings.
Michael notes that his accomplished traditional Irish fiddle player grandmother, Aggie from Ballinakill, Co. Galway “came from generations of musicians; her father, Tommy Whyte, was a founding-member of the famous Ballinakill Ceilí Band”. There are 2 hours of recordings on the two CDs, and the collection is made up of solos and ensembles featuring among others Joe Burke, Peadar O’Loughlin, Elizabeth Crotty, Micho Russell, Seamus Connolly, Paddy Fahey, Aggie’s husband Seamus Ryan, who is heard singing with his twin daughters Kathleen and Maureen, and an old friend, Fr. P.J. Kelly.
The CD notes are detailed and comprehensive. There’s a biography of Aggie, tributes from admiring musicians and friends, and background notes on each and every one of the tunes and two songs. Michael Harrison’s account, The Making of the Album, is a story in itself and worth reading. Aggie was admired because “Her musicianship was in a class of its own,” was how Fr. Kelly put it, and he added, “She had the real East Galway style of music and a great, flowing bow hand.” The great Joe Burke said: “She could bring an expression and interpretation to very old music that was unique and very much part of the local style and tradition.”
Séamus Connolly said Aggie’s playing had a profound influence on him and added that she was “A joy to watch and to listen to!” This double CD collection captures the spirit and essence of the Aggie Whyte magic and will be welcomed by musicians and listeners everywhere.
Aidan O’Hara

Own Label, 11 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Released this past March, the very month when anyone with an ounce of Celtic DNA would be revelling in their Irish roots. Cork based Lewis Barfoot, who describes herself as an Irish/English singer songwriter, could easily fit into that happy Diaspora. And she does, but she didn’t.
A tortuous tragic back-story kept her true Irish heritage hidden from her for years. Glenaphuca is her way of healing that hurt, embracing those deep roots and gently, with much wisdom, settling into a sate of grace.
Death is the great leveller and Barfoot concedes to its inevitability not with rage against the dimming of the light, but on two tracks in particular The White Dress and Sweet Dreams, by allowing the passing of her own mother to release a flow of cherished memories.
Barfoot is backed by a fine collection of musicians: Elisabeth Flett (Fiddle, Backing Vocals), Matt Dibble (Clarinet, Piano), Hannah Thomas (Cello, Backing Vocals), Maria Rodriguez Reina (Cello), Ansuman Biswas (Percussion) and Jonny Huddersfield Helm (Drums). Each complimenting Barfoot’s rich naturally musical voice, which works especially well against the foil of the clarinet. She opts for a solo voice and nylon strung guitar on Rise Up, where she urges her grandmother to reclaim her name, her strength and her family.
The first track Fisherman is book-ended with verses from the Irish song Dúlamán; her original middle section is a recollection of visiting a fisherman on the shore and a day out in the bay. The female perspective is foremost on Sister Lover and Amhrán Fosuíochta (a cow herding song originally collected by Alan Lomax in the 1940s in Finish Island Connemara). There is nothing dark, dreary or morbid about this album, because Lewis knows that those who are gone before us are with us, are our constant companions. She condenses the tone of the album on that White Dress track, of which she says, “I have found much beauty at the tender edge of grief”. I think you will also find much beauty in this remarkable album.
Seán Laffey

Cailín Records, catalogue CFM02CD, 10 Tracks, 40 Minutes
Inspired by Patrick McGill’s classically acclaimed novel The Rat Pit. This is such a richly-textured concept album that one is spoilt for choice in where to begin! Yet it’s the gorgeous new fiddle music in the traditional style across Gráinne Brady’s CD that first links, overlays, delights, and draws its bow across the many strings of poetic meaning in how Gráinne honours the revered but oft forgotten Donegal novelist & poet Patrick McGill.
Gráinne composed all bar one of 10-tracks, gorgeous sound created, mellifluous meld of fiddle, piano, piano accordion, viola, cello, French horn, guitar, percussion, spoken word and songs - including her own vocals! Music both melodic & complex, the soft-knit wool crafts of Donegal against the navvies grind in Glasgow. (See website link for astonishing line-up of musicians & producer Mike Vass.)
From poverty to literary journalist, Patrick (literally) walked the walk with the oppressed folk he fictionalised. The Rat Pit depicts young Norah Ryan’s story; it was explosive in its day, poverty, true love, emigration, sexual exploitation, loss. The Bansho track (That Woman) inspired by the old derogatory term for women giving birth outside wedlock: “Only a cry in the darkness, only a swirl in the tide, only a sinful woman, crossing the Great Divide.”  But in tunes like Newcomer & Turn of the Tide, Brady’s music evokes both the power & gentleness behind Norah’s friendships that propelled heart & body over splintered stone, alien city walls & the rocks of religious judgement.
McGill’s poems weave through the music in Jack Houston’s renditions. And an extra layer of lyricism in Gráinne’s own song By & By illustrate her shared artistic empathy & ethos across the decades with McGill. I taught my daughter the ways of the world, the clink of needles as the yarn unfurled. Somhairle MacDonald’s landscape art almost magically captures both Gráinne’s & McGill’s qualities - the fiddle musician’s gift for music both soft and strong & so lyrical, McGill’s words gentle as a brushstroke - and actually apt for these pandemic times: “Love will live while the pale stars glow, while the world shall last.”
Deirdre Cronin