Releases > Releases November 2016

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Life In A Paper Boat
Pure Records PRCD41
12 Tracks, 54 Minutes

Life In A Paper Boat is Rusby’s 14th Studio album, and this 12 track recording is a musical kaleidoscope filled with various twists and turns with every tune. It’s unflinching from beginning to end and holds the listener with its full bodied musical soundscape. Life in a Paper Boat boasts six original works from Kate. Produced by husband Damien O’Kane, the couple wanted to experiment with sound and effects and especially those that can be recreated on stage. They have indeed succeeded in doing just that with this work.
The album opens with the cheery, Benjamin Bowmaneer. A quirky tune supposedly inspired by the Hundred Years War, the song is about that most lamented of tradesmen, the tailor who often gets the short straw in English language folk songs. The chorus contains the phrase Castors
Away it is a reference to hats not ships (as some people erroneously presume). Castor is the Latin name for the beaver, so this would date the song to the exploitation of those rodents during the North American fur trade ( there is a similar cry in Kelly the Boy from Killane). Kate’s next song is Hunter Moon, an enchanting, tale of the moon’s unrequited love for the sun as they move around the celestial world, destined never to meet.
The traditional words of Ardent Shepherdess are set to Rusby’s own delightful tune with a stunning banjo interlude. In The Mermaid, Kate steps into the sea f
or this magical, forlorn tune, with guest vocals from Dan Tyminski. The album finishes with Kate’s own fun, bonus track, introducing her super hero, Big Brave Bill. The song started life as a bedtime story for Kate’s daughters and now takes pride of place as the final song on the new album. At all times Rusby remains true to her musical tradition.
Kate’s voice is unmistakably unfaltering throughout this album. She hauntingly takes us on a journey through music with her mystical voice. Life In A Paper Boat is celebrating 24 years of Kate Rusby. It showcases her music at its very best.
Grainne McCool

The Corner House Set
Riverboat Records TUGCD1094
14 Tracks, 50 Minutes
Inspired by the music of iconic Cork city pub The Corner House, this recording is a close approximation to the particular incarnation of Irish supergroup De Danann from around 1990. Coffey is joined on most tracks by his former bandmates Frankie Gavin and Alec Finn, and by Cork bodhrán buddy Colm Murphy, Mr McDonagh is busy with his new role as a family man of course. The combination of these four musicians really is world class: The West Wind and The Donegal Traveller have all the De Danann showmanship and swagger, there’s a pair of hornpipes with the old Jacket of Batteries panache, and the final set of reels is more full of bounce than a football on finals day. Frankie’s fiddling is superb as ever, staying just in the shadows, and Alec Finn is really on song. Well, not on song as such, because there are no songs on The Corner House Set, but his trademark melodic bouzouki style is perfectly illustrated on The Streams of Killnaspick, Green Garters and many more or less wellknown tunes here. Murphy’s delicate drumming is of course a crucial ingredient, there when you need it but never in your face, the best of accompaniment.
At the same time, this CD is clearly about the button box in Aidan Coffey’s hands. Indeed, the biggest departure from the De Danann sound is the predominance of material from the Munster accordion repertoire. More like Half Set in Hogan’s really. There are three great sets of polkas, a pair of fine familiar slides, and a Cork hop jig alongside the Seamus Ennis classic Another Jig Will Do. The opening title set includes three grand old polkas: Mick Culloty’s, The Knocknagoshel and The New Roundabout, and there are nods to Padraig O’Keeffe, Julia Clifford, Paddy Cronin and other outstanding Munster musicians. Coffey moves back to his native Waterford for the only slow air here, a version of the song An Páistín Fionn in a relatively simple setting with sympathetic bouzouki from Finn. There’s also a combination of March of the King of Laois with Alisdrum’s March, stately music from the 1600’s. Everything else is dance music, exciting and energetic. Aidan does throw in a couple of surprises, such as a D major upside-down version of The Cliffs of Moher, but in general The Corner House Set is simply the finest Irish button accordion music played by four of the best in the business.
Alex Monaghan

Visionaries 1916
Own Label CD LMM1916, 11 Tracks, 53 Minutes

Visionaries 1916 is the original work of Lorcán Mac Mathúna and celebrates the lives and vision of four leaders of the 1916 Rising: James Connolly,Patrick Pearse, Éamonn Ceannt and Joseph Mary Plunkett. The CD features the music of the show
1916 –Visionaries and Their Wordsusing the songs of Pearse, Plunkett, and Connolly, and traditional music that is reflective of Ceannt’s love of the uilleann pipes and fiddle. Lorcán used four of Plunkett’s songs in the show because he felt that the poet’s mastery of poetic metre and clarity of language lends beautifully to music. He adds, Daybreak is one of his sonnets and it has a clear iambic meter running from start to finish. The melody we put to it makes use of this counterpoint rhythm to the full.
The we he refers to are the talented performers appearing with him on the recording: Íde Nic Mhathúna (voice), Daire Bracken (fiddle), Martin Tourish (piano accordion), Éamonn Galldubh (uilleann pipes), and Elaine O’Dea (spoken word). At times the music is sombre, at times lively and upbeat, matching the mood and atmosphere of the times when the words were written. My only small quibble is that on occasion the spoken word was sometimes overridden by music accompaniment. But the overall impact of the production is one that is positive and satisfying.
Lorcán makes the point that while the old Fenian, Tom Clarke, and the younger man, Seán
Mac Diarmada, were working in secret and planning revolution, the writers with the gift of fiery speecharticulated the soul of the nation.Patrick Pearse’s poetry has a beauty which sees to the heart of rural Ireland, and of nature itself. Joseph Plunkett wrote profoundly of the spirit employing veils of obscurity whilst paradoxically expressing incredible clarity of image. Connolly wrote ballads of the downtrodden, and the rights of the poor; and Ceannt expressed himself in the music of the hearth.
Not the least satisfying aspect of the Visionaries 1916 production is the generous and informative notes to the period itself along with the words of the poems and writings of the three leaders.The CD notes sum up what the album seeks to achieve, which is, to highlight the cultural, political, and spiritual issues, as well as the personal motivations that drove the men of Easter week, and in that it succeeds.
Aidan O’Hara

Own Label ED CD 001
10 Tracks, 36 Minutes
A plucky, upbeat start to Pondelorum, the latest solo album by renowned piper Eoin Dillon. Playful guitar chords and harping set up a background for the earthy tones of Dillon’s self
made uilleann pipes, which in turn set the tone for the opening track, Dancing on the Radio/Port Con Durham, which is in fact one tune in total and a tribute to the late Kerry piper who Dillon has noted as being a great influence.
Former Kíla bandmate Ronan Ó Snodaigh is one of a number of guest mu
sicians, coming in at the end of the opening track, before it fades away into Marina’s Kitchen with harpsichord from Micheál O’ Suibhleabhain. The mood is again upbeat here, with slight hints of melancholy as pipes and harpsichord take roles in Marina’s Kitchen.
All the music, bar one (Bill Harte’s Jig), were composed by the Dublin piper, as with his other solo affairs, demonstrating his dual ability as piper and writer. The arrangements were largely orchestrated by Graham Watson, whose guitar work features as frequently as Dillon’s pipes. The title track, Pondelorum, played as a 6/8 march, teams up itself with the aforementioned Bill Harte’s Jig.
While the tunes are written in a traditional format as one might expect, they nevertheless straddle the boundaries of traditional music, almost into a different dimension, an approach which will not surprise fans of Dillon or indeed th
e band with which he had international success: Kila. The Kila sound has not entirely left him, either, as can be evidenced in particular on track 7, Flor Begley, while the gentle, sweet nature of Cock of the Walk is reminiscent in mood of The Bearna Waltz from Kila’s Soisín album.
A minimalist album design opens into an even more stripped
bare booklet. This simplicity in design contrasts with the contents which, like the music itself, veer towards another world, one not confined solely to traditional formats, such as divulging inspiration and sources for the tunes on the record. Instead, it is a compilation of 10 somewhat madcap musings from the piper, some titled different to the actual track names, containing stories and poetry as well as a Report on expedition to Westphalia and Kobenhavn, dated 8odd yr Post Independence.
There is a great freedom to the whole project; there’s also a sense that Eoin Dillon does not think like other traditional musicians. Like his other solo albu
ms, this one flows in a different direction to the wave of traditional albums released each year, with both his music and musings set out on his own template, inviting listeners into a world of his own making.
Derek Copley

Own Label, 8 Tracks, 43 Minutes
Built around the playing of concertina virtuoso Mohsen Amini who recently won the Scottish Young Traditional Musician award, this Glasgow based band has a core trio including fiddler Hayley Keenan and guitarist Craig Irving, but pulls in piper and flutist Ryan Murphy, Adam Brown on bodhrán, Graham Mackenzie on violin, and cellist Rufus Huggan for a full and varied sound.
Their repertoire is wide, covering Scottish, Irish and English music with a few excursions further afield, and their style is very much a blend of traditional tunes with more contemporary loops and beats. Think Buille, Guidewires, Slide for that punchy concertina sound, perhaps Beoga or Còig for their eclecticism.
The title track combines a slinky slow jig by box
player Shona Kipling with two lightning reels from Ulsterman Niall Vallely and Nashville fiddler Jeremy Kittel. The tempo is maintained by a Scottish pipe jig and a reel from Cork piper Diarmaid Moynihan, before a slow and slightly hesitant guitar solo introduces Joe Derrane’s Jig and the charmingly named Pull the Knife and Stick it Again, two firm favourites from the Irish tradition which Talisk make their own with a thoroughly modern arrangement. Australian Scottish fiddler Catherine Fraser wrote the lovely slow air The Hills of Kaitoke, the slowest track here but a definite highlight, giving Hayley’s fiddle a chance to shine.
Back to blistering button
work on Echo, a recent composition by Colin Grant and Neil McCoy, followed by a relatively gentle pair of jigs by English musicians Andy Cutting and Ian Carr. Orkney duo Montgomery & Shearer wrote the starkly beautiful jig Crossing Warness, paired here with the less mysterious Grant Wood Reversed into My Dad’s Fence, enough said. The final track is a piece by Edinburgh fiddler John Martin played in various rhythms here. That’s the thing about Talisk’s music: they take a fine piece, new or old, and stamp their own character on it. Tight concertina and fiddle duets with strong guitar backing make Abyss a very distinctive debut album and a real treat for fans of eclectic contemporary trad. The guest musicians are equally talented, and their inclusion never detracts from the Talisk sound. This could be one of the best CD’s of 2016, so check out the samples on the band’s website.
Alex Monaghan

The Northern Breeze
Felmay 8240, 11 Tracks, 49 Minutes
A hugely talented flute player from Italy, Balatti may be known to you from the band Birkin Tree. He has enlisted a few friends on this outstanding debut solo CD, including Irish divas Nuala Kennedy and Caitlín Nic Gabhann. Martin Hayes also has some very nice things to say about this man, and I’m not surprised: the music here is first class, well chosen, refreshing without losing touch with the tradition, and spiced with some surprises too. The only quibble I have is the tempo: just a tad too quick on the opening reels and a couple of other tracks. Not that Michel Balatti can’t handle it
but a slightly slower rendition of The Cloon Reel and Splendid Isolation would suit these tunes better.
here Michel gets things just right. The jigs Timmy Clifford’s and The Piper’s Maggot would be hard to improve, the reels Harvest Moon and The Edenderry jog along perfectly, and the final pairing of his own slip jig Agata with the traditional Adam and Eve is delightful. The mix of flute and whistles is backed by guitar and piano, a little heavily at times, but this ensemble certainly gets the feet tapping. As well as Irish dance music, Michel Balatti throws in a lovely slow take on Coleman’s March with Cunnighamesque whistle, an evocative version of Dublin piper Martin Nolan’s great air For Johnny, a charming Swedish waltz, and a trio of his own reels with an impressive turn of speed. The Northern Breeze probably won’t quite make my 2016 Top Ten, but Balatti’s next one will be an oddson favourite.
Alex Monaghan

Own Label
9 Tracks, 38 Minutes
This twenty
something Cape Breton fiddler and singer first came to prominence fifteen years ago as an 11yearold with Nova Scotian child prodigy ensemble The Cottars. A debut CD followed. Since then she’s dropped off the Celtic radar a bit, playing more mainstream music, but now she’s back with a second solo album. Her music is almost entirely her own compositions, in a contemporary panCeltic fiddle style with influences from St Johns to Santiago de Compostela.
immediately clear that Rosie MacKenzie is a very fine fiddler with great technique and tone, and an equally good tunesmith. The Beginnings set of jigs and reels is a good example: punchy, fiery, feisty tunes with a powerful fiddle lead over quite light accompaniment. I suspect that live there is the potential for more swing, more bite, in the change to Koster’s Welcome or the offbeat rhythms of this lovely jig.
MacKenzie is fond of starting a track slow and building up to a rousing reel: she does it again on The Girls of Panthalassa, finishing with Nora and Kamryn’s Reel which fits right into the modern Scottish fiddle groove. Ross Chiasson’s Gift to Jimmy is more clearly Cape Breton, one of those close
tothefloor jigs that keep the dancers moving well after they should have stopped. It’s the combination of strong dance rhythms with beautiful slower numbers which makes Atlantic a compelling listen, a CD you can just leave spinning for hours, despite its modest duration of under forty minutes. Shannon McNeil’s Waltz cries out for repeated playing, and The Wedding Sunrise is a perfect balance of simple melody with multiple layers of harmony. Watty’s Farewell, another poignant waltz, is gloriously played on fiddle, and like most tracks here it benefits from the backing and arranging skills of a few musical friends from Ireland. Rosie also sings two of her own songs, sadstrong stories of love and loss, very personal lyrics with dark edges reflected in their ominous arrangements. Plenty of variety here.
Alex Monaghan

Tuile agus Trá
Gael Linn CEFCD211, 14 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Dublin fluter and piper Ó hAlmhain is now well into official retirement age and has seen more than half a century of Irish music from around and within the activities of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, which gives him and his music a rare place in Irish culture. The sixties and seventies were formative times for Irish music in Dublin, and Micheál has preserved that pion
eering spirit on this album, combining Carolan and Bunting pieces, reels and jigs of course, and also slides, slip jigs, polkas and hornpipes to portray a wide range of traditional forms. Micheál Ó hAlmhain sticks to the flute on Tuile agus Trá, with Steve Cooney on steadying guitar accompaniment, and his playing is generally rhythmic and tuneful with only a few indications that he’s no longer a young buck.
One of the best things about this CD in my view is that it presents a number of tunes which have not been widely played for some time
tunes whose time in the limelight was probably in the sixties or early seventies, in concerts by Ceoltóirí Chualann, or on early recordings by The Chieftains. I’m guessing these are drawn from Ó hAlmhain’s younger days in Dublin, rather than his more recent residency on Inis Oirr, although this repertoire is beginning to be rediscovered by today’s young players, partly through the work of the ITMA and through archive material released by Gael Linn and others. Tunes such as The Ivy Leaf, The Mug of Brown Ale, Speach MagUidhir, Alexander’s Hornpipe, Murtagh MacCana, Lady Maxwell and Eibhlín Gheal Chiúin may not be as technically demanding or as showy as the big Sligo reels, but they are just as much a part of Irish music, and there’s a great deal to be learnt from them, as well as a lot of pleasure in hearing them well played.
Alex Monaghan

Here We Go 123
Navigator Record 1C1, 10 Tracks, 45 Minutes

The album opens with the title track good move that, and the song is a very strong opener indeed. A catchy infectious melody and simple accompaniment, is that the clinking of tea spoons in the background? Husband John McCusker provides the instrumental break on fiddle, but for the most of this track it is Heidi who is in charge of the microphone.
Her song The Year That I was Born is carried along on a low guitar strum, her voice is sweet, light and innocent as it begins unfurling the story, with a chorus in which Louis Abbot adds gentle tenor harmonies. On
Motherland Heidi is at her most melancholic, the backing is minimal with mandolin and double bass, the chorus builds with a slow fiddle and Toby Shaer adds just enough low whistle, to give the song its Celtic flavour, anchoring the mood somewhere between Kildare and Edinburgh.
Most of the ten songs here are Heidi’s own, written during her second pregnancy, they consequently have a feeling of fragility about them, not in the sense we are dancing around eggshells, but in the notion that the future will make a mist of the past and maybe writing these songs, at this time, will preserve something good, something to hold onto when that future rolls around.
The Willow Tree is a Child ballad, complete with the stock phrase
You False Young Man and those who are up to speed on popular Child ballads of the day, may recognise something similar on the latest Rúna album. Here Heidi and her crew work an acoustic warp and weft through the song, with a repeated phrase forming the backbone of the song, the melody in part is similar to Tony Small’s Galway.
One more observation, and it’s on the album’s liner notes and sleeve, what a superb job it is, wonderfully evocative photography, legible notes and the words to all the songs. There is much here to delve into, many of these songs can live outside of Heidi’s team and that has to be a compliment to the quality of her songwriting. Fans will adore the album and others who hear her for the first time will become fans.
Seán Laffey

Re–Wired and Random 2011–2016
Own Label, 17 Tracks, 75 Minutes
Stephen Hall, as I know him, is a bit of a character, songwriter, raconteur, poet, artist and illustrator… let’s say he’s creative. He records albums in his attic which he calls the Moon Shed, some of the tracks on this album come from those lofty heights, but there is also mention of New Road Studios, there is certainly more professional polish on this album compared to his earlier works.
Straight off the bat is a dose of North Antrim blues: Dyin to Live, blues guitar, a thumping bass and lots of bendy notes. His mandolin is to the fore on Homeless Son, a story of evangelical driven alienation and empty promises. Everyone’s a Native, channels the vibe of John Cooper Clark into a rainy Northern Irish town, the electric guitar track would not be out of place in a Korean noodle
western. Funny and perceptive, he offers us simple truths wrapped up in beat poetry. Almost Eighty, employs a returning phrase Living in the Country But I’m Living in the Ghetto, a spoken word walk through a long life in Ulster. The title track is number 16, ReWired, it’s kind of country, as if swamp stomp took a vacation on the windy slopes of Rathfriland. A line in the song runs: My enemy’s my friend now my head is all rewired. It’s an earthy reevaluation of the potential for just living together in the troubled North. That is where Stephen’s true folk credentials apply, it doesn’t matter which Gothic door we walk through on a Sunday, life is very much the same for all of us for the rest of the week. The sooner we learn that the better neighbours we’ll be. Stephen knows what the truth is and lays it out here in 17 tracks. It doesn’t have to be polemic nor miserable either, as he writes on the sleeve notes this was Some craic hey, and the tea was always hot.
Seán Laffey