Releases > Releases November 2018

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GARADICE
Garadice
Own Label, GA201801, 13 Tracks, 46 Minutes
www.garadicemusic.com

Garadice was formed out of the nucleus of musicians from the acclaimed Leitrim Equation project, and consists of Eleanor Shanley on vocals, Dave Sheridan on flutes, button accordion and keyboards, Pádraig McGovern on uilleann pipes, whistle and concertina and John McCartin on guitars. This first CD shows a level of assurance and quality which easily distinguishes it from most debuts, and the core group is bolstered by an impressive list of guest musicians including Dervish fiddler Tom Morrow and the ubiquitous Dónal Lunny (where does he find the time?).
The material is meticulously selected, with an ease of execution indicative of long hours of individual and collective practice and rehearsal. They are all top-class players, and this shines through on the instrumental tracks, with an eclectic approach to accompaniment providing some additional dynamics, including more than a sprinkling of jazz voicings and rhythms in the mix. But the material is always appropriate and firmly rooted in the tradition, with some remarkable regulator work from Padraig McGovern on a set entitled A Sligo Air / Gladstone’s Bill.
Other standouts include The Limerick Return / Two Days of Summer (2 self-composed tunes by McGovern and Sheridan respectively) and the lively closing set, which concludes with a fine rendition of The Missing Reel. Local tunes and references are to the fore; even the Carolan piece Planxty Reynolds was written in honour of a Leitrim family, followed by a clever Dave Sheridan tune called Lucky 13.
The songs are carefully chosen and are beautifully sung by Eleanor Shanley, breathing new life into Joni Mitchell’s timeless Both Sides, Now and delivering a stunning reading of Motherland, written by Natalie Merchant in the wake of 9/11. Again, there’s a strong local connection with the inclusion of Lovely Leitrim and a wonderful version of Leanbh Aimhréadh, beautifully arranged and played.
Check out Garadice on Facebook: facebook.com/garadicemusic and Twitter: @GaradiceMusic
Mark Lysaght


ÍMAR
Avalanche
Big Man Records BMANN003,
10 Tracks, 41 Minutes
www.imarband.com

Eight tracks of brand new music, and two traditional sets, from this Glasgow-centred band on their second album: there’s certainly no drop in quality or energy. Ímar turned heads and blew minds when they first burst onto the scene, boasting young guns from Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. Every member of this quintet is a world class musician, and their combined list of awards would fill this review. If traditional music had poster boys…!
Powerful modern reels, catchy polkas, delicate airs, and of course the obligatory piece in 7/8: every tune here is a treat. I’m already playing Kilodonan Drive in sessions. Concertina, fiddle, pipes and flutes are backed by bouzouki, bodhrán and guitar, with a few guest spots on keys and strings. Arrangements are relatively straightforward, with plenty of variety and some great juxtapositions: the gear shift into the jig Garey Ford causes a smile of surprise, and the change from jig to reel for The Day is With Me is a real jaw-dropper.
Skyeman Peter Morrison’s reel Spiders and Manxman Peddyr Cubberley’s Garey Ford are the only cases where the composing credits don’t go to the Ímar melody trio of Murphy, Callister and Amini. Many pieces here are combined creations from all three, including the slide Dilly Dilly which I would have sworn was a traditional tune - but then how would you tell with slides? The penultimate track is another surprise, a version of the hymn tune Slane which originally springs from the Irish tradition, beautifully played as a series of solos, roping in Rhodes and Brown to do their bit. It’s back to reels for the finale, of course, and three traditional tunes from Ireland and Scotland, which may well have visited the Isle of Man en route. By the time Ímar reach the end of The Dunmore Lasses you’ll be gasping for breath, but after a few seconds you’ll want to hear it all again.
Alex Monaghan


JERRY O’SULLIVAN
An Fheadóg Mhor Chill Lasrach
The Kilasser Flute
Own label no Catalogue Number, 23 Tracks, 68 Minutes
www.jerryosullivan.com
New York uilleann piper Jerry O’Sullivan’s Irish roots are set deep in Killasser, Mayo, and on this album he explores music from that ancestral home on instruments made in the locality. For years O’Sullivan has played the flute and this album is exclusively recorded on two instruments made in Killasser by Michael Cronnolly, one in F the other in D. The recording celebrates two things, firstly the 150th anniversary of All Saints Church and secondly the Killasser Flute and Drum Band.
The CD is presented in a DVD case and the accompanying notes are in a long form booklet. They are fascinating in themselves, detailing the history of music in Killasser, outlining the background to the 23 tracks and painting short biographies of Jerry and his fellow musicians. Those tracks are in two groups, ten selections feature the F flute and through multi-tracking the sound of the flute and drum band is recreated. The remaining tracks are played on the D flute and represent the social music that is still popular in the area.
The flute band music as you would imagine includes a number of marches, God Save Ireland, Amhran na bhFiannm, The Rocks of Baun, Men of the West/St. Patrick’s Day Clare’s Dragoons and more. As Jerry says in the notes these are longstanding patriotic tunes that formed the backbone of the flute and drum bands, which were so popular on the western fringes of Ireland.
From the dance music Jerry presents the Gold Field Jig and The Old Killavil, a pair of Polkas My Love Is But A Lassie teamed up with Dad and Aunt Mary’s Polka. There’s a set of reels, as local as the flutes he plays: The Killasser and The Tiernunny Lasses. Jerry closes the album with Rosemary Scallon’s Lady of Knock, surely a Mayo favourite.
Jerry O’Sullivan dedicates the work to the “living and deceased members of the Killasser flute and drum band and their families”. This album is a wonderful evocation of a place, its people, their music and Jerry’s own living heritage.
Seán Laffey


AMALA
Resonance
Own Label, AMCD01, 13 Tracks, 55 Minutes
www.amala.ie

Amala consists of Belgian-born harpist Reidun Schlesinger and Irish guitarist Paul de Grae, both of whom now live in Kerry and have formed a close musical partnership. Reidun has played Celtic harp since 1989, playing extensively throughout Europe before relocating to Ireland in 2008. Paul de Grae is originally from Dublin and is a highly-respected guitarist, having performed, recorded and taught extensively over a long career.
This CD was originally released in 2016 and allows the harp/guitar duet to explore a number of seemingly diverse but deeply connected genres in a breath-taking display of their individual virtuosity. Each piece showcases tight and innovative arrangements, with both musicians displaying an almost telepathic ability to play empathetically.
Opening with a set of traditional polkas, we embark on a journey through some classic Irish harp music including some relatively unknown pieces, on to bourrées, mazurkas and other sources from various parts of Europe. We also cross the Atlantic for a version of Brubeck’s A Girl Named Oli. Throughout, the pair show a talent for improvisation to embellish the standard themes of the pieces and keep the listener engaged. There are some real surprises in store, as on the closing track Count Me Out which includes an extended jazzy interlude before reverting to the main theme. This is an original composition, as is Reve d’Automne (Autumn Dream), improvised and developed in the studio.
They also excel on the more standard repertoire, with a magnificent version of Miss Hamilton, a little-known tune written by Cornelius Lyons. Three Carolan pieces are included, with a beautifully sparse version of Captain O’Kane and a medley of Blind Mary and Madam Maxwell allowing the players to shine individually and collectively. This CD is full of imagination and flair, with top-class instrumental quality exhibited throughout – a gem!
Mark Lysaght


ENDA SEERY
Raining Notes
Own Label ESTWCCD03,
13 Tracks, 45 Minutes
www.endaseery.com

From County Westmeath, Enda has two fine albums to his name already: this is his third. He has his own style, relaxed and gentle, and as with his last CD nine of the tunes here are his own: there are also compositions by the likes of Peadar Ó Ríada, Sean Ryan and John Brady, as well as a good dozen older tunes from unknown composers - what we call traditional.
Raining Notes consists of twenty-eight fine melodies in all, played mainly on flutes although I’d say Enda’s whistling is still slightly stronger. There’s accompaniment on guitar and double bass, and Enda himself doubles on piano and pads for a few tracks: no singing on this recording, but there’s more than enough to be going on with in the instrumentals.
Album notes are scanty, but there is plenty of information on young Mr Seery’s website. The Hills of Tipperary by Paddy O’Brien is as bright as a pin here on the high whistle, while the mournful air Éibhlí Gheal Chiúin Ní Chearbhaill tugs at the heartstrings as a flute duet. Reels, jigs, hornpipes, barndances and flings: Enda has a taste for the older repertoire, and his own tunes reflect this. Glasson Roses is one of the most striking here, an elegant reel with a catchy melody and some very nice touches. I also particularly enjoyed Maurice Lennon’s waltz On Leaving Lough Melvin’s Shore, and Enda’s jaunty performance of the old set dance The Hunt. The final spirited rendition of the fine old reels Devanny’s Goat and The Hunter’s House shows yet another aspect of Enda Seery’s music, and I’m sure there’s still plenty more to come.
Alex Monaghan


THE GREEN FIELDS OF AMERICA
The Green Fields of America
Compass Records COM 09 4495, 14 Tracks, 52 Minutes
www.compassrecords.com/artist/green-fields-of-america
A significant 40-year-anniversary milestone for the iconic Irish-American band, The Green Fields of America, and a CD showcasing how since 1978, Mick Moloney and his stellar cast of superb musicians continue to bridge and crystallise the narrative of music in migration between two Atlantic shores. The Green Fields have orbited around Moloney with the stars changing as the years have gone by, this cracking line-up includes Mick (banjo, mandolin, vocals), Billy McComiskey (accordion), Athena Tergis (fiddle), John Doyle (guitar, bouzouki & vocals), Robbie O’Connell (vocals & guitar), Brendan Dolan (piano), Tim Collins (concertina), pipers Ivan Goff & Jerry O’Sullivan, Bruce Molsky (fiddle).
As a stand-alone CD, this album stands out for the beauty of the music and the long-crafted chemistry between the artists. From the get-go, music both elegantly reined-in and wild, from Jackie Riordan’s Reel across John Doyle’s haunting Western Ocean. But in a metaphorical though equally real sense too, Green Fields have been pivotal in articulating through music the role emigration plays in how the tradition evolves, plays out, and is preserved.
Jumping right into the heart of New Irish Barn Dance; both bounce and eloquence in Moloney’s banjo music, an exuberance that perfectly evokes the great Flanagan Brothers1920s New York dance-hall sound. Across the CD, the sweep and soar of Athena Tergis’s beautiful fiddle music adds a special dimension. Robbie O’Connell’s gorgeous song, The Islander’s Lament, a love-song with a twist, “so come back my love on the turn of the tide, and promise no more you’ll be leaving”, but the song actually inspired by the deservedly-acclaimed songwriter’s visit to the Blasket Islands.
In Mick Moloney’s vision there’s always been both roots and growth pulsing beneath the Green Fields music, that life-force richly reflected in the roll-call of alumni down the decades, including Liz Carroll, Eugene O’Donnell & Michael Flatley. Mick Furey once wrote that you’d be forgiven for believing everyone bar The Chieftains had been a band member. Moloney’s Rambling Irishman works like a dream, and also a song-collector’s imaginary leap from versions set amidst lonely sound-scapes of Lough Erne to Mick’s “landing in Philadelphia where the girls all jumped for joy”. Classic album.
Deirdre Cronin


FAIRYTALE
Autumn’s Crown
Magic Mile Music MMM41112,
13 Tracks, 56 Minutes
www.fairytale-folkmusic.de

Fairytale is a German mystic folk rock band whose second album Autumn’s Crown follows their debut album Forest of Summer. This fairy tale band display a melodic groove centred on Celtic and neo Folk styles. Featuring singer Laura Isabel Biastoch, violinist Berit and Olivier Oppermann on guitar and stringed instruments as the basic trio. An aura surrounds them, based in myth, legends, and mists recalling a feeling from the original Riverdance production. This image makes them an ideal attraction for the Renaissance and Pagan Folk circuit in mainland Europe while some borderline rock and Celtic folk influences could attract the folk and progressive crowds.
Autumn’s Crown is a concept album collating ideas from Celtic Ireland and Teutonic Germany extolling fairy tales, magic and myth in the classical folk-tale tradition. The purely instrumental Mando Dance combines folk with Caribbean rhythms while the darker Wassergeister and Am Weiher scrape the surface of the Teutonic Operatic tradition for influence. After the Bridge mourns lost love in the land beyond all bridges while Dark Elves shows the shadowy side of magic with a frisson of darkness and As Old as Time about the transient nature of everything. This shows an approach that while loyal to folk roots, it also covers a broad musical range, from opera, rock and world music. Exquisitely packaged, Autumn’s Crown creates both mood and mystique in one melodic swoop and is recommended for adventurous ears.
John O’Regan


THE HERE AND NOW
The Winding Stair
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 52 Minutes
www.thehereandnowmusicatx.com

Most musicians have interesting backgrounds, and therefore, so do the groups in which they play. Such is the case with the Austin, Texas based quartet, The Here and Now. First of all, an Irish trad group coming out of Ausin, Texas is interesting enough. Add to that the fact that the group is Chris Buckley and Niamh Fahy on fiddles, Rob Forkner on bodhrán and Joseph Carmichael on guitar, and there is something different there, also. Why? How many four-member Irish traditional music groups do we know of that feature two fiddles? Pretty rare. This gives the group a really traditional sound to their music.
Their music is firmly rooted in the tradition. All members of the group have varied backgrounds, ranging from Niamh’s musical lead role with Riverdance for five years to Rob Forkner making his first bodhrán himself from birchwood and salmon skin, yes, salmon skin, (he was living in Alaska!) The arrangements of all the songs and tunes are well thought out and carefully constructed. We are especially drawn to their first tune on the album, Chicago Chicago. The varied tempos and arrangement pull you into the CD immediately. Lovely sound, lovingly engineered.
The final cut on the album is Sally Gally, another well-crafted piece, beginning with a sweet waltz. There is a really accessible approach to The Here and Now’s music. Many of the tunes, like The Winding Rambling Pumpkin change tempo, but not distractedly so. The musicians know each other well enough to give space to each other while offering up some intense and driving instrumentals. There are songs on the CD, as well. They share the same attention to the details. We will be paying more attention to Texas, and Austin, if this is what we can have in the future. As we said, lovely.
Bill Margeson


JOHN MULHEARN
Pipes
Own Label JM2, 12 Tracks, 45 Minutes
A well known piob-mor piper on the competition and tutoring circuit, John Mulhearn has made previous electronic recordings but here he concentrates on the Highland pipes - hence the name - albeit with some inventive production techniques. The album was recorded in St Mary’s Space in Appin, a place with powerful acoustics, and Mulhearn deployed multiple microphones to pick up different aspects of the bagpipes’ polyphonic sound: he uses these to create a shifting soundscape on the opening track Apologists, and ties in external sounds too, such as bird song and marching feet, so if you close your eyes it’s like walking into and through the performance space.
The material on Pipes is all composed by John himself, but this album is not really about the tunes. Although technique is important, the main thing here is the mix of sounds, the many pieces that go to make up the entire piping experience. Mulhearn deconstructs the recording into its various elements: the individual drones, the wind in the bag, the piper’s feet, the rippling stream outside, and of course the chanter melody - and he allows us to move through these elements and focus on the individual parts which make up the musical whole. In Cage of Snakes the different drone notes are singled out and amplified. The aptly named Bigfoot Set emphasises the beat, the tapping foot, behind this strathspey and reel medley. Other pieces reveal other angles.
Good tunes, great technique, but presented in a way you’ve never heard before, this album combines classical and contemporary pipe music. The inspiration for such a project came from vintage recordings in the echoing spaces of Edinburgh Castle, and on some tracks you can easily imagine yourself in the position of a competition judge: your ears tuned to the tramp of the performer’s feet or the subtler beat of their warring drones, or distracted by the weather outside the window. Wedding and Wales puts it all together in a march and hornpipe, before the second half of Pipes pulls the music apart again.
Every track has its own surprises, from the tasty slip-jig Freda’s Fantastic Frying Pan to the final heavyweight pibroch-style air A Lament for Hope. This is a serious recording, and rewards careful listening.
Alex Monaghan


PÁRAIC Mac DONNCHADHA
Not Before Time/ Thar Am… 39 Years in the Making
Own Label, 18 Tracks, 69 Minutes
www.custysmusic.com/Bandcamp

This album is generating rumours, good rumours. Where the banjo is discussed this album is being referred to as a modern classic. Why? That’s not a difficult question, when you hear how the 18 tracks flow together, and how the playing is always on the button but never on the accelerator pedal. The tunes such as Reel of Rio and McFadden’s which open this album set off at a steady pace, with some tidy unfussy accompaniment that lets the banjo sing throughout.
Galway traditional musician Páraic Mac Donnchadha is joined by Cormac Begley (concertinas), Claire Egan (fiddle/viola), Graham Guerin (accordion), Macdara Ó Faoláin, Libby McCrohan and Noel O’Grady on bouzoukis, Terence O’Reilly (guitar), Colm Murphy (bodhrán), Mac Dara Mac Donncha (uilleann pipes) and Sinéad Mac Donncha (keyboards), not all on the one track of course. The first big ensemble piece doesn’t come around until track 3 The Glen of Aherlow and the Killarney Boys.
The liner booklet is an excellent and very detailed account of Páraic’s life in music, with each of the tracks filled out with not only musical but social history. If you really want to understand the heart of traditional music this CD has it all, the connections between places and people, the survival of the music through emigration and hardships and the triumph of the tunes shared with friends. There are tracks recorded in a live session with encouraging whoops to get all the layers together on Sliabh An Óir / Ard Aoibhinn. The album includes The Pigeon on the Gate, a true litmus test of any traditional musician’s mettle; Páraic passes the test with flying colours. The last selection is another one to stand the test of judgement; it’s Mary MacMahon’s Farrell O’Gara and a driving Green Groves of Erin.  However, the most moving track is Carraig Na Súire, a bit of technological magic, Páraic’s late father singing the Macacronic song over the drone of Páraic’s brother MacDara’s C set of pipes. The rumours are true. This is a banjo album that will be relevant in 39 years’ time. It’s more than a banjo album, it’s some legacy and some music; the wait was worth it.
Seán Laffey