Releases > Releases May 2023

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Chapter 22
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 47 Minutes
Edel Vaughan’s new album Chapter 22, celebrates and commemorates the 100 years of the struggle for Irish Independence. Pure class was my first impression when listening to this album, as I found Edel has a magical way of picking songs with earworm melodies.
Her team is a talented bothy of some of the most sensitive and creative accompanists in Ireland: Conal Early (acoustic/electric guitars, piano/keyboards, backing vocals, and bouzouki), John Spillane (nylon guitar/guest vocalist), Tim Collins (concertina), Eamonn de Barra (whistles/flute), Seamus Ó Flatharta (guest vocalist), Seamus Brett (piano), James Blennerhassett (bass), Liam Bradley (percussion), Damien McGeehan (fiddle) and David Doyle (cello).
She opens with Clare My Heart My Home, a specially commissioned song for the 2017 All Ireland Fleadh in Ennis, written by the concertina player Tim Collins. Other songs from Tim are Till Erin’s Isle is Free and Glory O, a song decrying the futility of Empires at war and the human pain their chess games inflict; Collins is an accomplished and agile wordsmith.
Perhaps the most delicious track on the album is a duet with John Spillane on Ar Gach Uile Slí Ar Fán Duit/ All the Ways You Wander; the backing fills the air space with deep resonating tones. Edel’s voice is clear and measured on My Singing Bird, her control of the long notes at the end of each line sits in effortlessly with the drone of a cello and an orchestral crescendo on the final chorus. Modern songs include Dave Francey’s Saints and Sinners and John Smith’s Safe Home - surely the latter is an anthem that deserves to make its way into every session and gathering in the country. It’s a Parting Glass for the 21st century.
Raise a glass to Chapter 22, and sing along with each and every chorus. Shuffle the repeat button and play Clare My Heart My Home; here’s a leg up with the chorus: So raise your voices one and all, sing out, let it be known The Banner’s flying high tonight, in Clare, my heart, my home.
Seán Laffey

for Venus
Own Label, 8 Tracks, 31.25 Minutes
David Howley has released his debut CD, for Venus, eight original tracks, with backing from an impressive line-up of musicians and singers. He is the lead vocalist and plays guitar, clawhammer banjo, bouzouki, electric guitar and bodhrán.
Still a young man with vast experience in many musical genres: folk, bluegrass, American and traditional Irish, there are strains of all in this work. Deeply personal themes of love, loss, the natural world, the essence of humanity and our existence explored in song.
Monadnock, a native American term for the mountain that stands alone, is a fine example of his songwriting talents: rhyming quartets, the writer observing an iconic landmark, female pronoun for intimacy, “she wails in the winter/shades from the blistering sun”, an almost prayerful evocation to the listener to “bow to the mountain, she is the one that stands alone”, with stellar fiddle playing from Ultan O’Brien, Scott Mulvahill on upright bass.
Lie Open, in confessional mood, the writer speaking to the illness, repetition of “lie with me”, works for emphasis. Jordan Rose’s percussive elements a vital part, also Sam Killeen, excellent pulse on electric guitar. Smoke is Rising has strong internal rhyme, “fevers rising breaking boiling, all the trees are screaming fire”, Shannon Hayden’s cello and Bogdan Djukic’s fiddle, superb accompanists.
Beneath is a beautiful piece of work, a stand alone - ephemeral, haunting harmonies provided by Woven kin, Aisling Urwin and Siobhán Moore. The writer “hollow to the core”, asking to be set free, “cast me to the breeze…I don’t need the light”. But could this song be the balm, in a calming, creative process, can ideas imagined, words conjured up on blank pages, new melodies found, a cathartic exercise, where developing song craft and making this album becomes that elusive light.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Acoustics Records CDACS 082,
14 Tracks, 46 Minutes
A demon on the mandolin, an angel on the fiddle: or vice versa? Either way, Simon Mayor creates music that borders on the divine. Here he has written fantasias on fourteen of Carolan’s compositions, taking the 17th century melodies to new heights. The traditional versions were already remarkable, and Mayor has built on these brilliant foundations to produce some towering performances. His take on Princess Royal would put many a Morris musician to shame, and the two arrangements of Carolan’s Dream are a triumph. There’s one song, The Snowy-Breasted Pearl sweetly delivered by Mayor’s long-time partner Hilary James, but the rest of Carolan is essentially instrumental. Expertly accompanied by Florence Petit on cello and Hilary James on bass, Simon Mayor plays mandolins, mandolas, violin, viola and guitar.
Some of the pieces here are more than well known - Sí Beag Sí Mór, Lord Inchiquin, Planxty Hewlett and of course Carolan’s Concerto are a challenge for anyone looking to put their stamp on a tune, but Mayor finds a new twist nonetheless. A bluegrass riff here, ethereal vocals from Ms James there, a surprising change of pace or a well chosen harmony, and suddenly these familiar friends show us a new face. Less vaunted Carolan numbers such as Mrs Sterling or Katherine O’More perhaps give more scope for originality: I don’t remember hearing Dolly MacDonough or Carolan’s Devotion before, so I have no yardstick except the man’s numerous dedications to other ladies. Carolan’s Frolic and Planxty George Brabazon are better known, sprightly on mandolin and viola with moments of jazzy guitar.
The integrity of the originals is preserved and enhanced by Mayor’s fantasias: what more could one ask?
Alex Monaghan

Emergency of the Female Kind
Own Label AT003,
12 Tracks, 45 Minutes
All new folk music with accordion, percussion, vocals and technical jiggery-pokery, Emergency of the Female Kind is as brash and irreverent as the title suggests. In the best tradition of British folk, Amy and Francesca craft their material from old and new sources and take careful aim at contemporary society. Titles such as A Little More Compassion, Save This Woman and even Power to the Loser have strong messages about what needs to change in our attitudes to each other. Other pieces have names too rude to print. The whole thing is magical and mystifying in equal parts, very different from most of the music on the folk stage these days.
Three songs tell stories of struggle, and nine instrumentals create a bridge between music and noise, tradition and innovation, dream and reality. The almost gentle cry of This Town is Big Enough for the Both of Us gives way to the aggressive jig Take a Moment on Byker Bridge, a structure which spans the sky over central Newcastle. The swingy It’s meant to Feel Better than it Looks is one of many pieces here which throws electronic effects into the mix with sometimes quite beautiful and often alarming results. While Thatcher’s accordion generally provides a melody line, Knowles employs all kinds of percussion from drums to marimbas to add depth and colour. Keep Your Eye on the White Ball, Wear It and Share It and the title track all build different textures around the tune.
The final vocal number Your Song is True is driven by piano chords and cymbals for a subtle finale to an album which definitely grows on you.
Alex Monaghan

Own Label, 12 Tracks, 47 Minutes
DEIRA is the winner of The Battle of the Folk Bands 2022 at Celtic Connections. Comprising two Andalusians and one Asturian, they are gifted composers and arrangers, really talented musically. No surprise that their debut album Alba is a fine example of originality, talent and superb arrangements.
Salvador Daza on violin and guitars, Juan Almaraz ‘Nito’ on flutes and Gonzalo Llao, bouzouki, low whistle and acoustic guitar are the trio. Their album was recorded at Estudio Mundo Sinfonico, Seville and is a blend of folk, classical, traditional and exotic!
Sunny Glasgow is a delightful suite of tunes, Anxo Lorenzo guesting on gaita pipes. A gentle waltz segues into a more dramatic sequence, a frantic streetscape perhaps. There are hints of hyperactivity, crowd noise assimilated, the tribute to Glasgow in the title might mean the band has taken the temperature and tempo of the city and are expressing it in the melody, an intriguing suite of modern music with brilliant arrangements. Given their connection to Scotland, there are other references peppered throughout the album.
Hogmanay Polka, a superb set of tunes, rhythmic variety, lonesome whistles very effective, a cinematic vibe with unpredictable tune changes, driving intensity and playful.
The Drunken Jewish is a wild, experimental piece, great flute playing, musical high jinx, with Pedro Santiago as guest, probably a much requested live performance piece. Other collaborators on the album are Ciarán Ryan, tenor banjo, Cesar Pastor uilleann pipes and Pablo Vergara bodhrán.
Deira is a band fuelled with possibility, across diverse genres and styles, the music goes from deep and dark to wild and lively. These young men represent creatively the changing times and attitudes to traditional music categories. Their influences are diverse, their melodic expression fluent, articulate. They straddle borders to make a unique sound.
Anne Marie Kennedy

What Are We Trying To Say
EDJ Records EDJ033, 10 Tracks, 40 Minutes
Megson are Debs Hanna on vocals & accordion, Stu Hanna on vocals, tenor banjo, octave mandola, guitar, fiddle, and John Parker on double bass with original Artwork by Jess Morgan.
How prescient is the title track of the new album from the North East born and now Cambridge based husband and wife alt-folk duo.
In What are They Trying to Say, the phrase is repeated over and over against an acoustic riff with a mandolin in the ascendancy. The essence of the song is that dog whistle headlines in red top newspapers are there to divert us away from more important stories The chorus says it all: “Got to find a good story keep them looking away…. peace in England and France Tony is Over in Ireland.”
They look at the more personal dilemmas of modern life in Keeping Him On, asking us why hang onto a bad apple? This is almost Americana, the mandolin break adding a bridge between the set-up and the conclusion of the song. We get a whiff of country on Before I Know It, put that down to some fine percussion and the banjo - the message is beware of living your life through scrolling, eventually you’ll hit on Dr Google and you’ll be dead before you know it.
Next Year tackles the modern angst of trying to do an endless list of the right things, next year we promise ourselves to be virtuous, we’ll turn down the heating, avoid fast fashion, be frugal, recycle…
Their We Are Better Than This is a big acoustic anthem. They offer two traditional songs Canny Old Blind Willie, a conversation describing the corpse of the fiddler, in terms only folk songs can muster. The Barber’s News is anchored in the harbour of South Shields, in their native North East.
Megson’s modern songs are delivered with an old twist, their old songs with a fresh gloss. They are a duo with their song-writing fingers on the zeitgeist.
Seán Laffey

Tiny Notes
Hudson Records, 14 Tracks, 40 Minutes
The Young’uns, Steve Cooney, Michael Hughes and David Eagle are a vocal trio from Durham in the North East of England. This album takes its name from messages tied to the railings of a bridge in Sunderland. Their song begs people to think again when considering ending their lives by jumping from the bridge, an emotional song on an album that tackles real world events head on. Many of their songs are sung acappela, the words needing no more than close harmonies to sing home their messages.
They open with Jack Merritt’s Boots about the 2019 victim of a terrorist attack on London Bridge. They bring a depth of humanity and understanding in the lyrics and a sweep of empathy in their edition of Richard Moore, one of the youngest victims of Derry’s Bloody Sunday, he was blinded at the age of 10 by a rubber bullet. There’s a symphonic accompaniment on Tim Burnam with a sombre cello as they recall one of the victims of the Lockerbie Bombing.
The two final tracks are full of hope, even if their subjects are from the desperate spectrum of our modern world. Surgeons is centred on emergency medicine in war torn places from Darfur to Gaza, doctors saving lives as barrel bombs explode overhead.
The last track Iuventa is about the impounding of the ship Iuventa by Italian authorities in 2017. The vessel had been rescuing migrants in what has become one of the deadliest crossings in the world with upwards of 23,000 drownings to date. The crew of the Iuventa were arrested and the boat impounded. The legal case continues as migrants still gamble their lives, as many still die.
The Young’uns Tiny Notes brings into sharp focus the despair and destitution of today’s world, yet it reverberates with a spirit of hope, especially on Three Dads Walking, their communal effort giving them precious time to consider difficulties and find common ground for their resolution.
Seán Laffey

Taking Flight
Own Label, 16 Tracks, 58 Minutes
Amelia Hogan’s Taking Flight is a thoughtful, buoyant and distinctive album of traditional songs with talented guest musicians Richard Mandel, Ray Frank, co-producer, Maureen Brennan, David Brewer, Rebecca Richman, Christa Burch and Marla Fibish, who all weave their way, often sparingly but tastefully accompanying her delightful singing.
Well versed in the sean-nós style, with vocal versatility, she had made a beautiful version of The Lark in the Clear Air, composed in 1850, about the pain of separation. She is sweet and melodic here with perfect pacing. Westlin Winds bring in the natural world - in her sleeve notes she says it is “a sweet, fluid love letter to nature”, fitting in organically with the mood of the album. So too does The Woodthrush’s Song and Red-Winged Blackbird; in Celtic mythology the humble blackbird is a symbol of springtime, optimism and endurance.
What Will We Do When We Have No Money, an enduring song, she makes it her own. The less sung (or newly composed) last verse, “what will we do if we have a daughter, throw her on our back and walk on for a hack”, brings it playfully into the modern world. Some of the well-known nuggets like The King of Ballyhooley is brilliantly done. Her seasoned accompanists on guitar, harp and bodhrán are just right for the solo voice.
As a songwriter she shows great potential with the title track Taking Flight. Written during the last few turbulent years, it emphasises the importance of community, the old adage of ‘strength in numbers’ or ‘united we stand’. In 4-part harmony, richly textured, the message from the poet to the human race is to stick together, like avian flocks, “when we join in our chorus of birds taking flight, we know that the skyline and future looks bright”, as does the future for this songstress.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Like A Tide Upon The Land
Own Label, 5 Tracks, 16 Minutes
The first track on this album ‘Til Ireland is Free, is a lively call to action, written by Jim Connell to the melody of O’Donnell Abu. It sets an agenda for this five-track  release, where ordinary folk have the right and often the necessity to demonstrate and complain.
Melanie has a song about the Diggers, a group of landless labourers who revolted against the inclosure of land in England in 1649. Leon Rosselson wrote the song in 1975, deriving the words from a pamphlet by the Digger leader Gerrard Winstanley. Inclosure (a legal term) went on for centuries, resulting in the patchwork of bounded fields so typical of the English countryside (before modern mechanised farming). That field system was also imposed in Ireland by absent ascendancy landlords. On this song Melanie employs an echo technique, where certain key lines are repeated, emphasising the injustice and greed of those in power.
She sings a rockabilly version of Union Maid with its rousing chorus: “You can’t scare me; I’m sticking with the union”. Followed by handclaps for positive emphasis, Melanie wrote Water Charges Song, bringing people power up to date, inspired by the public reaction to the Irish Water privatisation of 2014. She sings: “Glory Glory we stopped the water charges, we will do it again.”
The final track from the Voices of Virtue opens with a whistle played by Lady Prudence. The main song is a cappela, with different voices taking alternate lines and joining in on the chorus. Those voices are clear and passionate, railing against greed and self-interest.
Melanie’s five tracks together call for collective action, by those who have for far too long been under the yoke of the powerful and the greedy.  These are five anthems to counter the rising tide of neo-liberalism that is choking communities across the globe.
Seán Laffey

Ride On Music, ROM021, 12 Tracks, 52 Minutes
And that’s four! After a first album in 2010, the year of their creation, then Closed Shaved in 2014 and Ties & Tunes in 2018, here is the band from Rennes, Poppy Seeds, with a new musical album, Arís, which means “again” in Irish. A whole program but not on repeat, it’s all fresh today.
In the same vein as their three previous albums, this one takes up the band’s musical aesthetic based on Irish dance tunes (jigs, reels, polkas, hornpipes), while including more personal compositions.
The four members of Poppy Seeds have become an essential part of the Irish-Breton scene, and have been drawing on the repertoire of reference groups such as Lúnasa, Dervish and Solas for many years. Built around the flute and fiddle duo, their music finds its balance and syncopated rhythm with the addition of guitar, mandolin and banjo.
As in their previous albums, they have invited some friends to accompany them on the recorded tracks: Félix Le Pennec on the bodhrán, the group Zonk with Yuna Léon on the violin, Ronan Le Dissez on the flute, Kenan Guernalec on the piano and Jaouen Le Goic on the accordion. And the icing on the cake, the singer Katell Kloareg on the Scottish song Twa Sisters.
Their influence, first and foremost is Ireland; they do find their sources in Scotland, in Brittany Diwall g’ar Bazenn and the USA The Logger’s Boast and even in Sweden Inte Sova. Twelve tracks, including three songs and twenty-four tunes divided into nine sets, give us access to the quartet’s musical universe, embellished with elaborate and innovative arrangements.
Once again, the ensemble offers us an energetic and refined cocktail that will surely make your feet tingle.
Philippe Cousin

Single, 4 Minutes
Dublin singer songwriter, pianist and violinist, Niamh Keane, has released her new single Imprints. It is a creation that weaves Keane’s voice alongside a series of instruments creating a beautifully haunting and powerful sound.
The song is one composed from loss; the loss of her grandmother and how that loss affected the Keane family. I think it really resonated with myself having suffered the loss of two very dear aunts in recent months. It’s a song that makes you stop and realise how you do go into shock, and then you eventually realise that they will live on in you. No one does grief and loss like the Irish, and Imprints is very much Irish grief and loss inspired.
The song’s defining sound was inspired by two contrasting chord progressions, first plucked out on an old Spanish guitar hanging on the sitting room wall of her family home for many years. The solo guitar plucking makes space for Keane’s voice and lyrics to breathe, setting the scene for a story of unconditional love and grief. Then, the main melodic riff announces a powerful chorus with Irish flute, the twanging electric guitar slide and a flowing piano part all working together. The lyrics tell her own personal story of love and loss. And overall, it extorts two of Keane’s own influences, Leonard Cohen and Laura Marling.
This is very much a song of connectivity. Connecting the dead with the living, and keeping memory alive. Allowing the imprints that the dead made in life to continue in the living world. Keane’s voice is haunting and tender throughout and she delivers this song with a mature, unique voice. Her grandmother may be in her mind as she sings but she allows us to remember our loved ones too.
Gráinne McCool

Turtle Down Music, LLC,
17 Tracks, 56 Minutes
Logical Fleadh is the result of a collaboration between two bands - Tautologic (rock) and Character Fleadh (Irish/Scottish/Celtic folk) and an array of special guests - violist Chuck Bontrager, Grammy-winning cellist Nick Photinos, Seán O’Riada Gold medal winner Seán Gavin, and Solas co-founder and accordionist John Williams.
From Lark in the Morning to Banish Misfortune and the Merry Blacksmith, Logical Fleadh are having a ball with Irish music on this upbeat hard-punching album. For example the shift from Lark in the Morning to the Gold Ring resonates with a whistle playing a high counterpoint, add in a deep bodhrán, a drum kit and percussive guitar, and you’ll see this is festival party music from Logical Fleadh, who are based in Chicago.
They slow things down and give us time to take a breath on the Rights of Man Hornpipe with the fiddle and banjo taking the tune, as the drums add a Celtic rock backing. There’s a humorous song about a misfortunate trans-Atlantic flight called the Glasgow Smile, the flute adding a Riverdance exuberance to the interlude before the punch line. (A Glasgow smile was a vicious form of Gang mutilation). Things are less fraught on General Bonhomie’ Last Waltz, before the next number, a short but rocking Gary Brennigan’s.
Logical Fleadh is led by Ethan Taylor Sellers who also produced this album. The band’s regular line-up is: Emily Albright (violin, vocals), Pat Buzby (drums), Nathan Britsch (bass), Dana Joras (flutes, piccolo, whistles), Joe Kilroy (tenor banjo, mandolin, bouzouki) and Ethan Sellers (acoustic guitar, keyboards, vocals).
Catch them around the US Mid West this festival season, you’ll be in for a grand old Illinois foot stomping time.
Seán Laffey