Releases > Releases November 2022

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To the Waters And The Wild
EndaDeRoad Records, 12 Tracks, 30 Minutes
Enda Reilly is a prolific and versatile singer, songwriter and guitarist from Dublin, now based in the USA. On this latest album he has taken on the challenge of interpreting some of W. B. Yeats’ better-known poems and setting them to music. He has previously been engaged in a range of theatre projects as well as collaborating with some contemporary poets, and these experiences are evident here as he handles this project with authority and maturity. The material is mainly delivered using acoustic guitar and vocals, with the addition of virtual instruments and percussion as required.
The Wild Swans At Coole, one of the better-known Yeats poems, is given a brilliantly understated treatment here, with the layers of symbolic imagery underscored by a measured vocal performance. Enda is clearly deeply invested in the material, and manages the nuances of each poem with great sensitivity and creativity to frame each piece in an appropriate and highly original manner. September 1913 has a carefully-judged vocal delivery with a lovely guitar accompaniment perfectly reflecting the poet’s rejection of Republicanism at that time. On Down By The Sally Gardens, Enda opts for the traditional melody and embellishes it with a bilingual vocal and some lovely instrumentation as the piece develops.
The Everlasting Voices gets an unexpected rhythmic treatment with nice vocal harmonies, which works really well, and he uses a lush Eastern drone effect with woodwind to emphasise the mystical themes of When You Are Old And Grey. Enda is extremely creative in using the extensive palette provided by modern studio technology and it’s fascinating to see his rapid development in this area. His vocals throughout are carefully moulded to each piece, and overall, the album provides fresh insights into the complex themes of arguably Ireland’s greatest poet. A very impressive piece of work!
Mark Lysaght

The Woman In The Moon
Corkbots, 12 Tracks, 52 Minutes
You may recall that Bróna was once the lead singer with the London Lasses; during her time in the big smoke she became aware of the potential of electronic music within a Celtic patchwork. Back home in Newry her 2020 album The Man In The Mountain, a reference to the sleeping giant Fionn Mac Cumhaill, his contour outlined on Carlingford mountain, was her Irish foray into this mixed media music making.
Bróna’s most recent album looks even higher than the Mournes; she sets her eyes on our nearest heavenly neighbour for inspiration. Bringing her vocals, harp and synthesizers to this album, she is joined by Marius Rodrigues on drums and Oli Hayhurst on double bass. The recording received funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Electronic effects are to the fore on a looming opening of The Star of the County Down. Her voice gently rising over a simple drone, as the song grows so does the accompaniment. Bróna maintains her poise in a quiet conversation with the listener. It is a magical beginning to the album.
The title track is number 3, on long and slow fuse, harp and double bass frame Bróna’s voice. She lingers on words and phrases, no rush here, with hints at Sean-nós embellishments, as electronic pulses interject between verses, like a 1950s sci-fi B movie. The song ending with the line “she’s smoking in the dark”.
No stranger to singing in Irish, Bróna is a member of the acapella group Rún, yet this is the first of her albums to include a song as Gaeilge. Inspired by the Bothy Band’s Mícheál Ó Domhnaill, her version of Tiocfaidh an Samhradh is sung against bass and snare drums, the harp deputising for her voice on the middle section; artistry at it highest point here.
She probes the possibilities of nature to provide ambient sound in Phantasmagoria, a sonic tone poem and the longest track at over 6 minutes. Sampling bird song, we hear passerines and columbines twittering and cooing, perching behind the harp, her synth adding horn and brass effects, conjuring a dawn chorus, and awakening the avians’ joy of nature when the lady in the moon vacates the heavens to their flight paths in the blue sky.
The final track is the single version of The Woman in the Moon, the lady is perfectly suited and booted for late night radio. This album is yet another example of the high art of Bróna McVittie.
Seán Laffey

Of Hard Times & Harmony
Wand’ring Feet Records WFR005, 14 Tracks, 52 Minutes
Lauren Breunig, Jeremy Carter-Gordon, Lynn Rowan and Will Rowan are Windborne. Their latest recording Of Hard Times and Harmony is a showcase of their vocal talents, composition skills and arrangements.
Primarily given to unaccompanied close harmony songs, there is quiet respect between individual voices, uniformity though complex in arrangement, the songs are delivered as if in one voice, subtle layering and minimalist accompaniment, all very skilfully achieved.
A well-known Ewan McColl song Terror Time is given the Windborne treatment, sitting nicely among its American cousins. When I’m gone, a delightfully upbeat song considering the theme, revived here with innovative melody and tempo, 4 Cents a Play is sweet and nuanced and similarly The Trolley Problem, could be tongue-in-cheek, led by the females, quirky but with an implied, serious enough message about societal expectations.
The Ballad of Edgar Evans is a modern version of P.Ochs and B.Gibson’s classic. Arranged by Windborne it has echoes of the great literature of the American south, a slave narrative, from the state of Mississippi where man’s ‘colour was his crime’, in a world of ‘too many angry men’. Listeners will be brought back to a dim, different and distant past, but the lyrics bring the past into the present, the reality of modern day racist crime is held up as a mirror in the song. George Floyd, a ‘victim of hate’, ‘oh let it never be again’, the repeated refrain saying it all, poignantly.
As with all unaccompanied singing, the interior of a song is explored, the pure truth of it revealed and Windborne accomplish this here effortlessly. They have woven interesting and varied textures through the work with clever use of jaws harp, banjo, nylon-string banjo and percussion.
The whole is often greater than the individual sum of parts, here the individual parts are also great.
Anne Marie Kennedy

North Atlantic Drift
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 35 Minutes
This album first came out in 2011; its quality is such that it would be fresh in any decade. The group is made up of Cape Breton fiddler Dan MacDonald, Ottawa born piper Ross Griffiths and a string wizard from Sligo, Brian Taheny. They now reside and play in Toronto.
Ross Griffiths excels on Scottish border pipes and Irish uilleann pipes. Brian Taheny’s guitar is used to add deep pedal notes to the band’s arrangements, he also plays mandolin, fiddle and tenor banjo. Dan MacDonald effortlessly switched fiddle styles from Cape Breton to Irish to Scottish, so no matter what set he finds himself in, he finds himself at home.
The small pipes, forceful and confident are to the fore on the opening track: Reel of Cluny/Kieran Tourish/ Golden Locks. Next the trio head to Ireland for Rose in the Heather/ O’Connell’s Welcome to Dublin/ Séamus Connolly’s, triplets aplenty from the uilleann pipes, runs and pauses on the guitar inject energy into the first tune before the fiddle comes to the fore on the middle melody, the whole completed by a rousing ensemble finish.
More Irish tunes follow on Ladies Cup of tea/The Beauty Spot/The Raphoe. The first tune starts as pipe solo, whilst the whistle is used to deliver the third melody, the whole ending on a deep speaker shaking long low note. Whistle and fiddle are paired on a trio of Jerry Holland tunes: Noel Hill’s Fancy/ Jenny’s/ Joey Beaton’s.
The Strayaway Child/ Up Sligo is a selection played on a pair of fiddles played in unison. The album closes with a mixture of Scottish and Irish tunes, beginning with The Green Hills of Tyrol on tenor banjo, the fiddle joins on The Greenfields of Glentown and Griffiths’ border pipes fill out the company’s sound on Roddy MacDonald’s Fancy.
The album has been around for 11 years. It will still be a landmark recording of Celtic music in 11 years time and many more beyond that. Highly recommended.
Seán Laffey

Beyond The Pale
Fylde Records, 13 Tracks, 48 Minutes
A trio from Melbourne who are re-imagining classic Australian ballads: bassist Dan Witton and drummer Chris Lewis are led by singer and fiddler Jenny Thomas. Her ancestors arrived in the early 1800s from Ireland, whether they were convicts or colonials we are not told.
Bush Gothic huddle in pale clothing on the cover like a portrait from painter Singer Sergeant. Their work reminds us that their homeland was harsh, its early white inhabitants displaying brutal behaviour, a land where cruelty to man and beast was a survival strategy for individuals on both sides of the law.
Jim Jones opens and closes the Bandcamp version of this album. With a spare banjo, drum and bass Jenny M Thomas brings us a dramatic tale of convict transportation, the terrors and perils of a voyage halfway around the world. Jim Jones says, “Id rather drown in misery than go to New South Wales.”
The liner notes pay reverence to songwriters and poets who have captured Australian life in words. For Dan Sheahan’s Pub With No Beer, Thomas’ interpretation is a long way from the 1957 country music rendition by Slim Dusty or Ronnie Drew’s version, which may be known to our older readers. Jenny sings, “Where the warrigals call” instead of the more familiar “wild dingos”. That localisation adding even more depth to the drinker’s despair. Thomas departs from the usual tune of Andy’s Gone, the story of the annual migration of men folk on the cattle droves to Australia’s coastal ports. Just forty seconds of the chorus, the call Bring Us Andy is reprieved with its more familiar melody, the 12th and final track on the physical CD.
They revisit the Streets of Forbes, the story of the slaying of bushranger Ben Hall Homesick, angst on Jack O’Hagan’s Road To Gundagai, a bigger political tale on The Ballad of 1891, when sheep shearers went on a National strike and the ring leaders were arrested. The lyrics sum up their plight: “when they jail a man for striking it’s a rich man’s country yet”. This is an album bereft of sentimentality. For confirmation I suggest you go to Henry Lawson’s Past Carin’ with a chorus of “my eyes are dry I cannot cry and I’ve got no heart for breaking”.
Bush Gothic’s songs go beyond the pale sunshine of tradition, recasting Australian history in dark shadows for generations to come.
Seán Laffey

The Coming of The Years
Turtle Bear Music TBM080122-01, 13 Tracks, 55 Minutes
Joe Jencks has written a memoir in song in his recent recording, The Coming of the Years. Set between Ireland and America, his liner notes are an autobiographical jaunt among family and friends, musicians, spiritual journeys, the rugged landscape of Ireland, her cityscapes, mountains and people.
On Eireann’s Shore is a delightful opening number, setting the scene and pace. The writer identifies with both countries, the lover like the symbol of Ireland in the past, a colleen bawn, one who ‘is waiting, in the place between this country I would call my own/and the one where I was born’, a poignant lament. Lissa Schneckenburger’s fiddle playing is evocative, Shannon Lambert-Ryan makes sweet, melodic harmonies.
The Shadow Of Your Ghost, also a love song, the promise of enduring love that did not endure, ’sometimes there are dreams that don’t come through’, where the poet returns to Galway city, the place they promised to visit together, where he treads the same streets as she did, watching the river Corrib, a paean to Galway city, with impressive accompaniment by Hans Araki on flute.
Caledonia and City of Chicago, well known, given the unique Joe Jencks treatment here, well worthy of inclusion, they sit nicely alongside his originals. The arrangements are stellar throughout and varied, tasty concertina playing from John Roberts, and Cheryl Prashker is an excellent percussionist.
A seasoned singer and guitarist, Joe Jencks has put heart and soul into this recording, sharing intimately, authentically, his own life story. The album will have wide appeal, from the music of Ireland to its geography and mythology. Rounding out with The Coming of the Years, where the poet asks to be taken back, ‘to the mountains of Kerry and let my spirit run free’, like his imagination and creativity has run free in this fine body of work.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Own Label, 11 Tracks, 49 Minutes
Rousing music from this four-piece out of Melbourne, with respect for the ancient tribal lands which they now call home.
Three songs, including an unaccompanied guest appearance by Beth Knight for Billy Gray, are strewn among eight instrumentals ranging from the opening high-energy Throwdown Hoedown to the final reflective Henry Bloods. The material on what I think is this band’s debut album draws on Irish, American, Australian and wider folk traditions. The other two songs are the Thompson classic Beeswing and the County Durham ballad Pound a Week Rise by Ed Pickford, while the tunes owe more to Irish and even Scots ancestry. No Frills is a fine example, a jig inspired by highland bagpipes followed by a familiar Irish reel, flute and fiddle buoyed up by growling didgeridoo, guitar and bodhrán.
Thylacine is of course another name for the extinct Tasmanian Tiger, a fearsome beast similar to the Tasmanian Devil represented in cartoons, and this album certainly scatters the dust. With a couple more guests on percussion and keyboards adding to the dozen or so instruments deployed by the core quartet, there’s a depth and variety of sounds here to rival much bigger bands.
Delicate mandolin and banjo from singer Angus Barbary, a bit of folk harmonica from guitarist Rhys Crimmin, with Caity Brennan on fiddle and Connor Hoy on flutes and whistles: there are a number of new compositions in addition to older tunes, and several gentler pieces which transform thylacine-like into whirling dervishes. There’s even a touch of uilleann pipes from Connor on the concluding slow reel. Australian accents are identifiable throughout, with hints of Asian and other world musics, but Austral deserve their place in the Irish musical Diaspora and this recording promises great things to come from the land down under.
Alex Monaghan

Inn Echo
Own Label, 8 Tracks, 30 Minutes
Hailing from Prince Edward Island, Canada, Inn Echo are, fiddler Karson McKeown, cellist/fiddler Tuli Porcher and guitarist Tom Gammons. Together they weave hundreds of years of traditional tunes with contemporary originals and the arrangements make you simply stop and inhale. Their expertise of instruments is exquisite and nowhere do you see it more than right here on the self-titled album, Inn Echo.
Opening with the contemporary Rainy Days, blending immediately with the traditional jig of Mouse in the Kitchen, we at once find ourselves immersed with past and present and not really distinguishing which is which. It’s a foot-tapping start from the word go. The opening set really does create the scene for the album. Progressing to the traditional Floodies and slowing right down, to then Lost in Washington and the wonderful modern Summers with Nan, written collectively by the band members.
The Feud is definitely my favourite on the album with the intricate interaction of instruments just making it fuse beautifully. We then have the delightful Pre Polka Party before the onslaught of polka mix with modern and traditional in G for Ghislaine. Rounding off with the duo of Hibbs in the Big City, they bring this beautiful intricate collection of old and new to a delightful close.
Throughout the album we hear precision in each note. We witness this trio of young folk continue the folk/tradition genre but in their own way, with much of their own music: they’re ensuring that the tradition continues to thrive and not only continue, but to grow. They really do take us on a ‘vibrant instrumentally-fuelled road-trip through genres, echoing songs of bygone days as well as sounds of today’. This is what makes their music, and this collection, so special.
Gráinne McCool

Songprint Recordings, 10 Tracks, 39 Minutes
In an age where folk songs are often deconstructed, sliced with angst and re-interpreted for this fragile uncertain third decade of the century, there is something reassuringly retro in Siobhan Miller’s undoubted pleasure in folk songs.
Her mastery and love of original tunes and tempos is obvious on tracks such as Andy M Stewart’s Queen Of Argyll, a new take on I’m A Rover, her owning of Ewan MacColl’s Go, Move, Shift, and the classic folk-club closer Wild Mountain Thyme. She brings in an original new metre to Cold Blows The Rainy Night, more complex in its structure than Johnny Moynihan’s classic rendition.
Her backing band features long-time collaborator singer/guitarist and Kris Drever (Lau), Eddi Reader, Louis Abbott (Admiral Fallow) and guitarist Ian Carr (Kate Rusby Band). They complement Siobhan’s delectably authentic folk voice; at times her accent has a flavour of Antrim, whereas her Scottish dialect voice is to the fore on The Swan Swims. She commands a contemporary juke-jive interlude on Open All Night, in contrast to Saturday Night where a distinctly Scottish sounding fiddle runs in parallel to her vocals. If I had to choose my favourite track it would be The Battle of Waterloo with its grief for a lost loved one, dressed in one of the most memorable melodies in the folk song canon. The melody is a variant of Bonaparte Crossing The Rhine or the Hot Ashphalt, both catchy and sad.
If the measure of a folk singer is to make songs accessible to folk, songs you could happily sing at the bus stop, Siobhan Miller fills all the criteria for giving the songs back to the people. Like a tasty apple her songs are polished but never bruised.
Seán Laffey

Own Label, 11 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Here is an album on the Hammered Dulcimer, an instrument that is very rare in Ireland, yet as Mary-Grace, who is from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, demonstrates, is perfect for Irish and Celtic music. There were pockets of hammered dulcimer tradition in the last century in Antrim and Down, with John Rea being a noted traditional player (he died in 1983). Perhaps this album will play its part in a revival of the instrument over here.
Mary-Grace’s choice of title refers to the 1847 novel Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, which has had a profound effect on her creative view of the world. She also celebrates the work of modern women artists Sara Tang, Elizabeth Kotz Wissler, and Jennifer Sols, each creating a postcard sized image, which is shipped with the deluxe physical copy of the album.
Mary-Grace shows she has the chops for sets of reels on Helen Burns’: Black Pat’s/Over the Moor to Maggie’s and is equally adept when it comes to jigs on Autumn’s Fall: Drummond Castle/Brendan Tonra’s/The Yellow Wattle. (Make your own mind up as to whether or not the title is an ironic play on her surname). A sure measure of her musicality is her playing of slow airs; the physics of the dulcimer with its immediate attack lends it ideal for rapid dance tunes but requires a far more nuanced approach to resonant legato tunes. Players of fretted instruments could learn a lot from her five minute long slow air Lone Shanakyle.
There are slip jigs where the dulcimer comes into its own plangent perfection, such as: Come Upstairs with Me/Chloe’s Passion/Hardiman the Fiddler and a pairing of the hornpipe Hills of Coore with the set dance Seán Ó Duibhir A Ghleanna.
Eyre exemplifies what a versatile instrument the hammered dulcimer is when played by a master such as Mary-Grace Autumn Lee.
Seán Laffey

Own Label WG C291, 12 Tracks, 40 Minutes
Around this time of year we get a trickle of requests for Christmas music, and to be honest yuletide Celtic albums are thin on the ground. So it was a nice surprise to receive this timely seasonal album from Duluth based Willowgreen. The band is Sue Spencer (vocals and 6 &12 string guitars), Wendy McCorison (Hammered Dulcimer), James Ofsthun (keyboards, vocals, bodhrán), Mary-Lou Williams (vocals, bells and spoons) and Georganne Hunter (Harps &Whistle).
This album first came out on cassette back in 1991 when the band were just two years old. This CD re-release and the various online download channels means that you can now access their music from 30 years ago.
Some of the tracks are ageless, and with the band’s instrumentation are oven ready seasonal standards such as I Saw Three Ships / Wenceslas Reel, Green Groweth / Holly And The Ivy, God Rest Ye / Gentlemen’s Jig / Road To Lisdoonvarna / The Kesh, the latter two are go-to Irish tunes in what you might call a universal session repertoire.
The band ventures away from the Celtic realms for Greensleeves, Dancing Day / Christmas Day In The Morning. Their opening Cold Is The Morning is Willowgreen’s version of a hymn by Willys Peck Kent. They take us on a trip to the Scandinavian heritage of Minnesota with Vinter Bjølle by Georganne Hunter, who also pens the penultimate number Falling Snow. The final track is also an original number called Our Wish written by Sue Spencer.
Now that the album is far more easily available, when we next get an enquiry about Christmas Celtic music, I’ll know where to direct their interest.
Seán Laffey