Releases > Releases November 2019

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Own Label GSECD05, 11 Tracks, 43 Minutes

A new line up and a new studio recording, and a guest or two on the album too, notably Martin Brunsden from Hothouse Flowers, his bass playing adding a rich groundwork on songs and tune tracks. Goitse’s newest member Alan Reid brings both the banjo and bouzouki to their table; the zook is a new addition to their sound palette and blends in particularly well on the tracks Seobháinín Seó and Isle of Gola.
The album breathes new life into old songs and melodies, exemplified best perhaps in Úrchnoc Chéin Mhic Cáinte. Written by Peadar Ó Doirnín (1700 – 1769), it is a song that is still alive in the oral tradition of Oriel. Here, it is an achingly emotional duet between Áine Mc Geeney’s crystal clear voice and Tadhg Ó Meachair’s powerful yet restrained piano that tells the story of an infatuated youth attempting to court his love.
If like me you love a folk song with a potent message then the standout track has to be Henry Joy. Here Áine sings with Barry Kerr; the song is from the 1798 Rebellion but its message of self determination and fellowship is poitin-potent in these countdown days to Brexit. Two lines that recur in the song, will give you a flavour of its sentiment:
Our country’s called Ireland it’s the garden of the earth
And I dream of a future where the people know their worth
Alan Reid opens the final track on his banjo at a determined walking pace over a harmonic progression, the fiddle joining in to add a tenor-toned sparkle. The percussion is a study itself, marking out Colm Phelan as one of the most sensitive bodhrán players on the professional scene today.
Goitse have won many awards and with overseas media praising them for their live performances and congratulating them on their ambitious determination to add new music to the tradition. This album continues with that mission. It will be feted, admired, mined for new tunes and will provide many moments of inspiration. If you sing or play this is an essential album for your collection. If you are a fan you’ll need no persuading, you probably have the CD already.
Seán Laffey

Music & Mischief
Brooklyn Boy 1 BBR003, 13 Tracks, 57 Minutes

Seems like déja vu, with a similar recent release featuring Dylan Foley, but here Colin Farrell has stepped in twixt Crawford and Doocey, not only providing excellent fiddle but also offering the potential of whistle duets. In many ways the sound here is like early Lúnasa, accentuated by Jason Sypher on string bass, and by the inclusion of compositions from McGoldrick and Hennessy. That would be cause for celebration by all Irish music fans, were it not for the sad loss that is marked by this recording: Michael Grinter, Australian flute and whistle craftsman, whose untimely death shocked many musicians around the world, but who is remembered here in style.
Kicking off with a Breton waltz, a McElvogue jig and two old Irish tunes, the familiar pan-Celtic genius of Crawford is apparent throughout. A gentle medley of jigs and reels, a gorgeous Galician swagger, and a pair of poignant compositions straight out of the Lúnasa playbook bring us to the relaxed Alasdair Sutherland’s March and a chance to pause ahead of two belting traditional reels. This album is a real head-turner for the session scene, with hints of Sully jigs, Shaw reels and now a trimmed version of Rip the Calico. Kevin takes a solo on the challenging Opus 34 by Ferdinando Carulli, written for classical guitar in the early 19th century but smoothly transferred to low whistle here.
Colin’s solo follows a slew of Scottish and Irish reels and jigs: he plays four of his own pieces, fast and funky, flash fiddling, as good as any. The final furlong starts with a gallop through the big Jacobite hornpipe Johnny Cope, takes in a slide and a reel before Doocey’s delicate slow Road to Foxford, and crosses the finish line in a blaze of reels old and new. Flutes and fiddle, sensitive guitar and a few guest appearances: Music & Mischief is a world-class album, wide-ranging yet precise, fabulous music played with feeling.
Alex Monaghan

Universal Music LC00542, 13 Tracks, 48 Minutes

There is a re-assuring circularity to this album. Sibéal Ní Chasaide is a singer very much of the moment, yet she is clearly steeped in a deeper tradition; one of music, language and community. What seems like an age ago I booked her father’s band Na Casaidigh to play at a Cathedral concert in Cashel, it was a sell out and is an evening long remembered locally. The family had serious careers ahead of them, so they put their professional music aside, it’s heart warming to note they passed on the music to the next generation.
Sibéal’s music deserves to be widely heard, and she is a singer whose voice is a pleasure to hear. She chooses her tracks wisely, concentrating on a loom of old favourites, on which she can spin her new cloth, such as: Mise Eire, Mo Ghille Mear, and The Parting Glass. There’s a truly tender version of Ewan MacColl’s The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, and a reworking, from the woman’s perspective, of He Moved Through The Fair. Barely out of her teens this is a disc foretelling of much to come. The good news is that she isn’t deliberately quirky nor has she been modelled into a Stained-glass Celtic heroine. Throughout this album I got the impression she is very much her own woman, with her own voice. It shines above the strings and orchestral backing as it floods through Mise Éire. She has a way with a catchy melody too, for example on An Cailin Alainn (the tune perhaps more familiar as the air to the Mingulay Boat Song), the arrangement by producer Patrick Cassidy carries his hallmark cinematic stamp.
It’s on the Universal Label and if there is any justice her career will mirror that of another Universal Records Celtic singer, Nolwen LeRoy, not a household name in Ireland, but a million seller in France. Fanciful? No. Sibéal’s album was in the Irish Top Ten as we went to press, I’ve a feeling it will have a long run in those high positions.
Seán Laffey

Music from the White Stone, White Stone Records WSR CD001,
13 Tracks, 50 Minutes

There’s a bonus that comes with uilleann piper Paul Harrigan’s new CD Music from the White Stone; it’s the rich supply of information by author and musician Caoimhín Mac Aoidh. The album is the musical equivalent of what might be described as the haute cuisine of Na Fianna where there was seana gacha deoch agus nua gacha bídh. In other words, the recording has the best of everything, i.e. high production values.
But first, a word about Paul. He’s a native of Burnfoot in the Inishowen peninsula, Co. Donegal, situated ’Twixt Foyle and Swilly, a title and place that inspired Harry Swann to write the book of that name and Paul to compose a piece of music that he calls, Eadar Feabhal is Súileach. Paul took up the uilleann pipes at the age of nine. “My first uilleann pipe tutor was Finbarr McLaughlin from Derry, who made pipes and reeds. I also learned a lot from Frankie McCloskey, another Derry piper,” he says in the liner notes.
Paul is also an accomplished performer on the fiddle, whistle and accordion, and so it will come as no surprise to learn that he is the founder of Ceol na Coille School of Irish Traditional Music. Another member of the family, Paul’s sister Róisín McGrory, is also a teacher of music, and she plays the fiddle on some of the tracks on her brother’s new CD. Another Inishowen musician of note, harpist Joleen McLaughlin of the renowned Henry Girls, is also heard. And so, too, is the accomplished guitarist, Tim Edey.
All that, I hope, will get the interest of music lovers, and to end with an extract from Caoimhín Mac Aoidh’s ‘bonus’ notes, I’ve no doubt it will whet the appetite even further. He refers to a Moville clergyman’s daughter, Honoria Galwey (1829-1925) who collected songs and tunes in Inishowen and elsewhere, some of which Paul plays: “Many of these tunes will surprise the listener as they have not been part of the regularly performed canon of the Irish tradition in recent times. Through Paul Harrigan’s playing they are certain, however, to experience a new lease of life.”
Aidan O’Hara

Escape Live
WHRL020, 13 Tracks, 57 Minutes

The album starts off in high anticipation with a round of applause, setting the stage for this eclectic live recording, the sixth album from Sligo folk orchestra NoCrows. Recorded in April of this year at the Dock, Carrick-on-Shannon, Escape brings along two collaborative friends of the band, with Lisa Lambe on vocals and Martin Tourish on accordion. The sleeve notes explain how they all met at Creative Connexions in Catalonia and thus decided to further collaborate, and a number of the tracks performed over the two recorded gigs in Leitrim expand on the NoCrows repertoire, an already-expansive mix of music and genres in its own right.
From Gypsy to baroque, Irish to country, NoCrows are noted for their members’ freedom of musical expression and innate ability at their respective crafts. Tourish and Lambe are the latest guest additions to this collective, Tourish’s tune Midnight in Siena an emotive drive and explorative soundscape, while Lisa features on One Train Away, with music from Martin and lyrics from NoCrows member Oleg Pomonarev’s friend Drazen Derek. It is perhaps teasing that Lisa Lambe makes but a brief cameo on the album, given the depth of her performance on the album on One Train Away.
Nevertheless, the album bounces with great energy through genres and attitudes, bringing to the listener the image of the circus that NoCrows guitarist Felip Carbonell had in mind when he came up with the tune Elephants Hopping Around, with its Gypsy vibe.
No doubt the band wouldn’t have released the album if the live mix was substandard, but it must be noted the clarity and balance is superb across the album’s 13 tracks. As it began, the album finishes with a resounding round of applause, the audience having been whipped up into a frenzy by a set of polkas, which let the circus of NoCrows run wild, with notes and harmonies and counter melodies flying about like acrobats and trapeze artists and fire-breathers all dancing to a finely choreographed frenzy of fun.
Derek Copley

Raw & Ríl  Own Label, 13 Tracks, 58 minutes

Recorded live in Ennis, their hometown, Socks spare neither speed nor sentiment in this breathtaking performance. It’s hard to believe this sound comes from a humble trio: Aodán Coyne on guitar and vocals, Shane and Fiachra Hayes on box and fiddle/banjo - but there’s no doubting the pedigree of the music here.  Although they seem to spend most of their time Stateside, the lads have all the pure drop moves: Clare reels of course, Kerry slides, the Cavan hornpipe Pride of Petravore and the Connemara barndance Louis Quinn’s. There are signs of this band’s eclectic travels in the tunes - a Bobby MacLeod jig, a reel by Dave Richardson who probably doesn’t need the royalties these days - but that’s nothing compared to the wide selection of songs on Raw & Ríl. The traditional Scots ballad Mormond Braes is separated from Cyril Tawney’s bittersweet Sammy’s Bar by the hard border of that modern Irish anthem Feet of a Dancer.
Gaughan’s memorable version of When I’m Gone comes before two big sets of mostly reels, taken at such a pace that it’s hard to believe Socks can sustain the energy for almost an hour. Interesting to compare this band’s version of the jig Hole in the Hedge to Martin Hayes’ recent recording, both are brilliant in very different ways. Raw & Ríl ends as it started, on a high: Rolling in my Sweet Baby’s Arms, a bluegrass standard lashed into with consummate skill and showmanship by Socks in the Frying Pan.
Alex Monaghan

Own Label, 13 Tracks, 45 Minutes

Maybe Michael Walsh caught me at the exact moment when I would be fully perceptive to Quarehawk, but, in all honesty, I wasn’t prepared for the raw emotion of my first listen.
With traditional music at the core, and Walsh’s wooden flute the mainstay, this thirteen-track album is a ‘quarehawk’ in more ways than one, as the musical, poetic, reflective and emotional layers unfurl.
Heritage and home play a huge part in its components, with The Lathe Revival parts One and Two recorded on the kind of technology that was used to record old 78s. There’s a distinctive crackle and when Michael plays the raw Marian’s Favourite and Crowley’s Reel. This rawness is also brought out in the tune choices with the Ships in Full Sail and Paddy’s Return, there’s a breath of Sligo here coupled with the lasting legacy of the style of one of Manchester’s legendary traditional teachers; Marion Egan.
When Michael opens his heart the CD becomes art, it’s a place where the unripe emotion seeps in. The title track, Quarehawk, it’s a poem, a narration over three original jigs (keep a listen out for Kepa Junkera on trikitixas – love it!). Here we have the reality and reaction of human interaction that can set you on edge and it comes again on The Visitor, opening the wounds of grief, as lost loved ones are conjured up from the everyday mundane life of suburban living rooms. These two pieces will resonate long after a listen. There’s more; an outstanding multi-lingual rendition of The Shores of Lough Bran, a hauntingly beautiful cello and flute combination in Tribute to Peader O’Donnell, the Asturian effect with the Barralin set and a reflective rendition of England’s Motorway all add to Walsh’s diversity and depth. The artists and production that form the circumference of the music are too many to mention but check out Michael’s website and you’ll get a great idea of its high-quality.
This album moved me like no other, maybe it’s because the album’s themes brought out synergies to my own personal past, maybe, however I think it’s more to do with Walsh’s creative ability to craft and deliver in a way that connects, and, with Quarehawk, connect means a punch in the gut and a tear to the eye. When you can draw out raw emotion like that as an artist; you’re a winner.
Eileen McCabe

Larks & Thrushes
Own Label LKM7877, 15 Tracks, 56 Minutes

Boston based traditional fiddle musician Laurel Martin is known and admired for her unhurried style of play. Here is music that breathes into an immediate sense of luxuriating in the tunes themselves, backed up by edgy and innovative guitar from James Prendergast, flute, banjo, bouzouki, fiddle and viola from Mark Roberts, Sarah & Nathaniel Martin, all crucially juxtaposed with Laurel’s own qualities of lyricism, melody, and nuance, reflectively exploring her links to the music of East Clare, Galway, and Sligo.
Reels like Eleanor Kane connect us to Clare fiddle-legend Seamus Connolly; Laurel studied with Seamus, her own swing, lift and bounce apparent, but a tempo enabling both listener and player to truly inhabit the tune. The CD is graced by great musician and composer Charlie Lennon, and acclaimed East Clare concertina musician Mary McNamara. Charlie Lennon composed the reel Paddy Canny’s Toast in tribute to the great Clare fiddle musician, and Charlie plays piano along with Laurel’s fiddle on this deeply moving set of Canny related reels. Laurel’s relationship with music is richly informed by older players who conveyed “great range of colour and emotion”. Depth but also a bird-light quality to Laurel’s playing, apt considering the album’s title and tunes, but refreshingly indicative of a serious musician who doesn’t take herself too seriously. The gorgeous jig-set Old Tipperary is enriched by Mary McNamara’s concertina, and memorably recorded in Mary’s Tulla home during a snowstorm. If the CD lyrically delights in triplets, rolls and turns, draws out subtle nuances and thereby draws the listener in, well, the liner notes are as good! Laurel intriguingly links The Old Blackbird hornpipe to both Seamus Connolly’s version and legendary Dublin songster Frank Harte’s The Royal Blackbird. Admirable production, on every level.
Deirdre Cronin

Flight to the Hinterlands
LRM 050413, 13 Tracks, 54 Minutes

Lone Raven is a Celtic/World music band based out of Columbus, Ohio, created by musicians Craig and Kara Markley Sterling. Craig Markley on piano, accordions, whistles, guitar, percussion and vocals; Kara Markley Sterling on lead vocals, fiddle and keyboards; Neil Jacobs on 12-string guitar, mandocello, tambura and prim; Elizabeth Blickenstaff on fiddle, mandolin and vocals; and the late Sid Omasta on acoustic bass, mandolin and fiddle.
It’s clear that when this Lone Raven soars in search of hinterlands it spreads its wings far and wide. Here is music that covers an expansive cultural landscape; from traditional Irish ballads (My Lagan Love) to old Europe and the exotic Balkans. They do all this with panache and pep. The first track Six Lillies of Griswold Street stirs a twangy-twelve-string into a hearty borscht as if it comes from somewhere east on Kiev. They move to East Yorkshire for the Cobbler’s Daughter, a song learned from a Kate Rusby album and possibly the jolliest murder ballad you’ll hear this decade. They build a chillingly atmospheric opening to Black is The Colour, showing they are more than capable of putting their own mint-mark on a folk standard. The twelve-string returns again on Belfast, a rocky chord-rich dance number with just the bodhrán and guitar.
There’s a wonderfully evocative Bosnian tune Moj Dilbere and a slow languid original melody called Nefertiti’s Eyes. Fiddles fizz on the final quarter of Misirlou Cardas Z. The album closes with Cantus In Vento, a short song followed by the band all in, on a lively dance tune; did I hear the sound of a ceilidh in Cape Breton in its DNA? There’s hours of unpicking in this quilted calico of an album.
Seán Laffey

Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738)
Own Label MLB72CAR, 24 Tracks, 53 Minutes

Pascal Bournet is a virtuoso French guitarist who was initially attracted to contemporary music, before being bitten by the classical bug and studying to a high standard with icons such as Alberto Ponce and Arnaud Dumond. He has developed a fascination with the timeless compositions of the blind Irish harpist Turlough O’Carolan, and this CD contains 24 pieces, all arranged for classical guitar. On several tracks he is accompanied on a second guitar by his brother Patrick. This allows for a full exposition of the original harp music, and provides some lovely moments.
O’Carolan’s music has been performed so often that one could be forgiven for assuming that all avenues have been explored, but the expressiveness and quality of the playing here is remarkable, and gives each selection a freshness and energy that holds the interest throughout. There is a lovely sense of enhanced harmonies on the duets where the brothers work superbly together to faithfully recreate the scope of the harp compositions.
It’s really difficult to pick out highlights here, but Lord Inchiquin and Sir Festus Burke are remarkable and illustrate the two guitars at their best. Perhaps his best-known piece, Carolan’s Concerto is given a couple of new twists by the brothers. Yet there is elegance to the solo guitar pieces, best exemplified by Carolan’s Farewell To Music and Blind Mary, where he explores the space created by using just one guitar. Pascal also includes by way of tribute, his own pieces called Intermede (a guitar solo) and Final (with Patrick), a jig in the style of the great composer.
The album sparkles throughout and the listener is left enthralled both by the quality of these beautiful pieces, and the stunning musicianship of the Bournet brothers. The CD also includes biographical information on O’Carolan and notes on each piece.
Mark Lysaght

Trad Records, 9 Tracks, 35 Minutes

A Belgian trio of brothers bring us a recording that began life as an idea on Kickstarter and has materialised into a sensuously sensitive album. The August of the title was an 18th century Flemish fisherman; he survived 33 voyages to Iceland, each journey taking 6 months. The trio dedicate the album to the tenacity of those hardy seafaring men of three centuries ago.
That opening track, August, features the accordion of Hartwin Dhoore, and his presence is a constant on all nine tracks of this CD. There is a characteristic ebb and flow in all of the tracks on this album. Heuvelland was inspired by the Flemish region of the same name, on this selection guitar, accordion and hurdy gurdy combine in a complex ever changing journey through the landscape of the region. Speelhuis is a gentle tune, accordion and guitar at their lightest here, in contrast Rednak opens with far more swagger, accordion and guitar picking out a riff, before they calm things down, then Ward Dhoore brings an electric guitar to a section of this tune, before the accordion takes the tune home. Koen Dhoore’s hurdy gurdy features prominently on Innsbruk, not for Koen the rasping Gurdy of the French tradition, here, in keeping with the tone of the album, the instrument is treated with due diligence and delicate deftness. If you are a fan of squeezeboxes and strings, this CD will delight you. If you are new to Flemish music Trio Dhoore is at its cutting edge and well worth discovering.
Seán Laffey

Dreaming is Allowed
Own Label, 8 Tracks, 25 Minutes

Not many albums that I review come with notice of having been recorded in a Martello Tower as this one was in Drogheda. Mathews gives us a fine selection of songs, all but one from his own pen.
That exception is the opening track called The Workers’ Song written by Ed Pickford. This passionately performed opener sets a high standard. It is a great socialist song and story piece, with universal appeal and application.
His song Beautiful Boan celebrates the Boyne River’s mythic Goddess, the white lady who created the river by walking clockwise around the well of Segals. It is delivered with gusto by a singer to whom it obviously means a lot.
After hearing the trials and tribulations of the workers earlier Seán then brings us The Commuter’s Song, giving us a snapshot of the recent social history of Ireland and how it is affecting so many people. Let’s Tie the Knot is a fascinating song that will resonate with so many people. This is life without too much romance but a ton of reality.
I approached the track called Morrissey and the Russian, a traditional song, with trepidation and fascination wondering what could it be about. It is sung like a sean-nós story song and refers to a fight between two boxers either fact or fiction. I won’t spoil it by giving the result in round 22. The song might be speculation but Morrissey was very real and became a leading politician in 19th Century America. He closes with Appreciate Life and I suppose we could take it as an exhortation to appreciate his music.
Mathews has a good way with words in the songs on offer here and he delivers the tracks with a sense of real feeling that must come across very powerfully in live performances.
Nicky Rossiter

The Promise
Own Label, 15 Tracks, 56 Minutes
​Celtic Conundrum write their own material that is inspired and informed by the Celtic Diaspora’s shared heritage. Florida based Celtic Conundrum describe their music as what you might have heard from a culturally diverse ship’s crew, the kind of thing Matelots would bring to a quayside tavern.
Theirs is a very modern take on that Diaspora paradigm, with music that is immediate, and visceral, it hits you with percussive guitars and an almost ever-present bodhrán, played old style, on the beat and high toned. Lead vocalist Danny O’Dell has a Dylanesque voice, ideally suited to the polemical twist and turns in such songs as Werever You May Roam (their spelling) and Dublin Town (with its flute solo echoing the wildness of early Jethro Tull). They sing Bobby Sands’ The Voyage, which we know here as Back Home in Derry, injecting it with spite and venom befitting the tale it holds. The strident final track Through The Storm nudges them into the zone of acoustic Celtic-punk, it’s a track delivered with edgy attitude.
Logan Mills plays an impressive range of kit: fiddle cello, flute, drums, accordion and various brands of ethnic percussion. The third member of the trio is called Gene Martinelli, he also sings lead and adds backing vocals, 12 string guitar, electric guitar, banjo and djembe.
There is a Knopfler style electric guitar lick on The Promise Now, and a pair of tracks named after a 19th century shipping line that sailed between New York and Liverpool, called The Three Sisters, the first iteration is served a cappella followed by an almost Arabic The Three Sisters No.2.
Celtic Conundrum’s website list more than a dozen Florida bars in the Celtic circuit.
Clearly this group have a strong following and based on the strength of this album will be a popular addition for Festival goers in the United States.
Seán Laffey

Erie Storm
Wee Studio Records, 5 Tracks, 19 Minutes

A debut EP from a young Scottish five piece; they have been doing well and flying under the radar for a couple of years now. Their song I’ll Take You There opens with a plaintive promise from singer Abigail Pryde and then it rocks up, a touch of RunRig in the mix with its repetition of I’ll Take You There.
Next a complete change: Anna’s, with great highland bagpipes to the fore, hot, hectic, not for the faint-hearted, dangerously delicious. Then all becomes still as the low whistle leads us into the track, Robert Burns’ Silver Tassie, a classic Scottish song, given a contemporary turn from Abigail and the gang. The middle track, Springburn Just Shy of Ireland, is a big session piece with the banjo featured prominently, flowing flute and staccato stops build the energy as the banjo closes the track with a north American swing.
More banjo on the final track The Lost Valley, a song about place. It has the quality of a Dougie MacLean lyric and that’s a recommendation. If EPs are the way to go, for musicality, variety and the sheer bravado of youth, Erie Storm is one bell-weather CD.
Seán Laffey