Releases > Releases November 2023

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Healing Hands
Liquid Sunshine Records LSRCD003, 13 Tracks, 51 Minutes
The sub headline on the album says ‘brought together by Harald “Mór”
Juengst’. And the big fella is more than just tall, he is big hearted too.
The album was brought together to raise funds for MSF – Doctors Without
Borders, medics who give their time to help the most vulnerable in war-torn regions, and set up emergency hospitals when natural disasters strike. Given that September 2023 saw a deadly earthquake in Morocco and a devastating flood in Libya, it brought it home to all of us that there are some moments when the humanitarian response is the right option.
Harald plays the handpan on this album. It could have been made for Celtic music; although it’s a percussion instrument its magical reverberations are ideal for Enya-style accompaniment as is the case on Inis Oírr. Don’t forget that Donegal is where Celtic ambient music first came to the world’s attention.
The album reflects and resonates with the music of some of Donegal’s finest Musicians: Mairéad Ni Mhaonaigh’s Seinnimid, Ian Smith’s thank you letter to the land that has made him welcome Keadue Strand. Songs in the Irish language Caide Sin Don Té Sin, lighting up the latter end of the album, whilst Conall Ó Gallchóir sings an Irish version of Down by The Glenside. His Slóite na bhFiann should get a wide circulation on RnaG. Caitríona Solan´s macaronic Siúil a Rún is a favourite of mine, Jacqui Sharkey slows things down with The Blacksmith, colouring it with the angst and disappointment felt by its original author.
Manus Lunny is the reliable anchor on the tune selections, Stephen Campbell provides the title track on Healing Hands/ Julia Delaney’s. Harmonica player Tom Byrne appears twice, first on Master John Byrne/Wilson’s Reel and then on the final track A Tune for Dawn, a slow air in memory of Dawn Croke who died in a tragic accident in January 2019.
A big album from big-hearted Harald deservedly supported by the Donegal music community and their friends further afield. The production costs are already covered; every cent of future profit will go to Doctors Without Borders. The world needs more projects like this, the world needs Healing Hands.
Seán Laffey

Cruthanna Ceoil
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 38 Minutes
Launched at the Willie Clancy Summer School in 2023, this is West Clare music from seven fine musicians with a real appreciation for the Clare tradition, whether from birth or by osmosis. Caroline Tubridy O’Dea, Sorcha Curtin, Trish O’Dea, Caroline Lodge, Tara Comber, Joe Searson and Jim Corry began playing together in 2020 when sessions were scarce and travel suspended. Their meetings in the Turf Shed are another Covid silver lining, and this album shines with their shared skill and enthusiasm.
Flute, fiddle, accordion, concertina, whistle, cello and piano offer great scope for varied and textured arrangements, and Cruthanna Ceoil uses this to excellent effect without stepping too far outside the bounds of the West Clare tradition. The Porthole of the Kelp is atmospheric on cello and piano before fiddles and free reeds fill out the sound. A slow version of the Scottish jig The Drunken Gauger has a céilí band feel, just lacking the drums, while The Hills of Coore is mournful on fiddles and keyboards until the bright notes of the concertina coax a smile from it.
One of the best things about The Turf Shed is their choice of tempo. They give these tunes time to breathe, allowing each note to be heard and making space for the swing which puts life into Irish jigs and reels. Their debut album isn’t flawless, but it’s from the heart rather than the head, with passion and feeling for their music. They’ve chosen well-known Willie Clancy tunes, several of Junior Crehan’s compositions including the lovely reel The Otter’s Holt and The Mist Covered Mountain, and others by Bobby Casey.
Cruthanna Ceoil ends in fine style with Peadar Ó Riada’s West Clare Reel and the much misnamed Graf Spee.
Alex Monaghan

Thing of the Earth
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 42 Minutes &
Thing of the Earth feels both familiar and fresh, capturing a moment in Réalta’s continuing musical journey - they remain true to the tradition and their own unique sound, whilst exploring new avenues that reflect their growing maturity, experience and sensitivity in collaboration. This is powerful, empathetic and cohesive music.
This is the third album from Belfast based Réalta. The band comprises Deirdre Galway (guitar / piano / vocals), Conor Lamb (uilleann pipes / whistles / piano), Dermot Mulholland (banjo / bouzouki / double bass / vocals), Dermot Moynagh (bodhrán / percussion) and Loïc Bléjean (uilleann pipes / whistle). They augment this album with guest appearances from folk singer Myles McCormack (vocals / guitar / mandolin) and Cathy Jordan, who sings on The Wind That Shakes the Barley.
They pull on the Parka with Steve Cooney’s Skidoo; the bodhrán, pipes and mandolin set the pace and the recording of the drum is superb, a round resonant low end working to cushion the pipes and mandolin, then a quiet middle section before the twin pipes wail in with long notes held over the now percussive banjo.
Then I clicked on track 2, The Wind That Shakes the Barley and discovered the wonderful voice of Myles McCormack. There’s a hummed break, Cathy Jordan joins, her voice a book- match for McCormack’s. It gets even better with low whistle and that bass bodhrán. Two tracks down and I’m sold, and it just gets better; a set of tunes Johnny D’s, Mullholland’s banjo driving us through until the shift of pipes on Connaught Heifer and the crescendo of The Jolly Tinker / The Mill House.
Mulroy Bay, a song about place and people is powerfully poised almost halfway into the album. It quietly precedes a sprightly whistle led slip jig called The Kittycat. The title track is all about believing in ourselves and the earth we all share, a folk song for the climate breakdown generation. With two pipers in the band, they step forward on track 8, Up and About in the Morning, pipes, drones and bodhrán, what more could you ask for? Well, the segue into Scattery Island on the whistle and mandolin, then a breathtaking final sequence with those long held notes of the pipes and a fading drone. They slip in Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changin’ before closing with Ormond Sound / Jackson’s / Lucy Campbell’s.
I thought to myself if the Bothy Band had a banjo player, they’d have sounded like Réalta. However, on multiple listens I had to conclude Réalta have a sound all of their own - exciting, dynamic and addictive.
Seán Laffey

True North
Own Label EMCD0310 Tracks, 37 Minutes
A mix of the new and the familiar, as all the best traditional music albums are, True North showcases Calum Stewart on uilleann pipes and flute with his regular sidemen Sylvain Quéré on bouzouki and Yann Le Bozec on upright bass. This is modern pan-Celtic piping, polished and clean, carefully arranged and ready for the concert platform, a powerful, confident sound. From his Speyside roots, Calum has embraced the music of Scotland and Ireland, and adopted Brittany as his home. The material here is taken from the Irish and Scottish traditions, with pieces from as early as the 1600s right up to the 20th century, plus a handful of Stewart’s own compositions. The dark smoothness of Breton music comes through in the lush arrangements, and in some gorgeous slow airs.
If you’ve followed the career of this master musician, live or on YouTube, you’ll be familiar with some of True North: the stirring Breton-tinged Schottishe Kerlou, the gentle Looking at a Rainbow through a Dirty Window, and Calum’s many successful portages of Scottish pipe and fiddle music to the Irish pipes.
Here he presents fine versions of The Fisherman’s Song for Attracting Seals, The 72nd Highlanders’ Farewell to Aberdeen, and William Marshall’s classic jig Craigellachie Lasses. For a quick taste of the skill and spirit in Calum Stewart’s music, try the second track on this album, a combination of some fancy piping on North Highland Reel with the ancient Às a Thòisich and the driving reel Miss Girdle. From the opening title track to the final Lucy Campbell, this is a classy performance.
Alex Monaghan

Na Beanna Beola
Own Label, 14 Tracks, 53 Minutes
The Connemara born piper is now happily based in Quebec, where he has made albums of Irish and French Canadian tunes with the trio Grosse Isle. Here he traces his music back to the home place and he writes: “Each track for me somehow relates to a certain time or place, whether at ceilís, set-dancing classes, singing sessions, music sessions, boat launches, feast days, house visits, feises or fleadhs.”
This is an album for uilleann pipe connoisseurs, pure drop solo playing, the raw bar, whatever catch all phrase you care to doff in its direction, Na Beanna Beola has it down to a T.
Take Cucanandy/Maire Gaillimhe/ The Dusty Miller, a simple intro on the chanter accompanied by the drones, then a selection with the regulators playing a counterpoint, a brighter more florid section, more regulators, as Maire comes to the fore, some vamping on The Dusty Miller, technique and taste in abundance.
His Boys of the Lough/Drowsy Maggie/ The Birmingham is a lively medley; listen carefully and you can hear his foot keeping time. It’s an essential device to prevent a player running away with themselves, and it leaves space in the tunes for cranes and rolls. Lively yes but not rushed, and a full chord to finish The Birmingham.
Fiachra puts the pipes to one side and opts for the whistle on the slow air An Bonnán Bui (the Yellow Bittern), avoiding any extra reverb too, and we are treated to an unadorned master class in whistle playing - his shift into the higher octave is at once controlled and exciting. He reverts to the pipes for another slow air An Caisideach Bán, and once again has full control of the complete gamut of choices available to him. The reproduction is as near to being in the same room as Fiachra as possible. I got a sense that this is live music being played for the sheer experience of existing within its musical dimensions.
The final track Cherish the Ladies he had from the playing of Árd Mhór musician Tomás Ó Ceannabháin. Like that opening number he treats this music with respect. Fans of piping will love this album and young pipers looking for inspiration should include this on their Christmas list. In a world where the solo tradition is rarely in the spotlight, this album is sunlit upland of the piper’s art.
Seán Laffey

The Bridge
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 40 Minutes
The Cape Breton fiddler Brad Reid has produced a new album of original material, Celtic, pop and modern acoustic. The Bridge for a title and perhaps metaphor for his crossover creativity, bringing the craft he learned from a grandfather to fruition, with his own stamp on it.
As an artist, he has taken this unique, traditional style of Scottish origin, blending it with a smorgasbord of other influences while staying true to the infectious spirit and soul of the music of Cape Breton island.
Edward Street, a jig with piano and fiddle is a gorgeous tune, also New Waterford’s Finest, a rousing piece, staying true to the tradition, nurturing the intricate connection to the dancer. MacDonald Bridge is a complex and compelling piece, lilt and rhythm in spirals, strings singing, speedy bowing and ornamentation. Martin’s Bop, also on fiddle and piano is outstanding, heels clicking and toe tapping, happy music, music to lift the spirit. Reid, a multi-instrumentalist, composer and singer, closes out with Lads of Liltington. As the name suggests it is a lilt, mouth music with impeccable musicality, the voice a sonorous instrument and something innately Scottish in the guttural sounds. Without constraint, The Bridge has a freewheeling vibe to it, echoes of Billy Joel, jazz and world music throughout. The album was recorded at Peggy Corkum’s Music Room, the production team included Alex Arnold, Alex Burns and Kim Dunn.
Quoting Martin Hayes, for acknowledging tradition but allowing for change, Brad Reid’s responsibility to be keeper of the flame and master of innovation means his fiddling legacy will probably differ from what he inherited. As is said of Oliver Goldsmith: “he left scarcely any style of writing untouched and touched nothing that he did not adorn.” The Bridge is beautifully adorned and available on
Anne Marie Kennedy

Own Label, 7 Tracks, 29 Minutes
Ar an Talamh (On The Ground) are based in Italy. The trio consists of Davide Bonacina on guitar & whistles, a graduate of the BA in Traditional Music at the University of Limerick, and Caterina Sangineto: vocal/Celtic harp, and Joan Gatti: fiddle. They are joined on the CD by Martino Vacca (FullSet) on the uilleann pipes and David Lombardi (Fourth Moon) on the fiddle.
They hit the ground running with a fine selection of well thought out pieces, in what is an impressively ambitious debut album.  Some of the tracks have familiar titles: The Wind That Shakes the Barley, Are Ye Sleeping Maggie, and Craggie Hill. Good benchmarks to get a feel for where the band is taking the music. The way makers point to a Euro-Celtic destination, the songs come cradled by Caterina’s voice that is at once pure and ethereal and can turn on a sixpence to add drama and emotional weight. This is matched on Are Ye Sleeping Maggie by a fiddle section that could come out of Skye or Inverness. Coupled with the thrum of harp strings on The Wind That Shakes the Barley, their deft song building is sophisticated; thematically it carries a belligerent message as the band takes control of the counterpoint as an alternate melody emerges. This is Irish/Celtic music for the amphitheatre, songs are imbued with angst and energy ready for a Coliseum near you.
The band sets up music that is a perfect foil against which Caterina’s vocals shine. I can see Ar An Talamh making it big at Lorient, they are already well placed to deliver Celtic music to the largest of festival crowds. Check out their videos on their Facebook page, they are an impressive trio.
Seán Laffey

Near Perfect
Own Label, 9 Tracks, 37 Minutes
From County Down, on guitar, harmonica and vocals is Caolaidhe Davis, along with Meghan Davis on vocals, fiddle, mandolin, Greg Hardin on bass and Patty Dougherty on percussion. Together they make up The 19th Street Band. With a distinctively bluegrass sound, Americana, country, and rock with clever interference from traditional, Irish folk music, old time, blues and gospel.
Their third album Near Perfect, just launched, is a fine one, a bluegrass vibe, great lyrics with not too many jilted lovers or gods being invoked, variety in the songs, stellar instrumentalists, seasoned harmonists.
With just enough of the high lonesome, their original Promises is beautifully rendered, the futility of unrequited love explored, the jilted lover, who took “the road that’s paved with good intentions”, the same place “where promises go to die”. Great arrangements, the harmonica perfect, Meghan’s earthy vocals soar and swoop.
Fun is had with Whiskey Chicken, pure roots-y, foot-stomping, heel-clicking, great youthful energy, catchy harmonies, Crystal Ball is another example of their eclectic tastes, musicality, timing and vocal blends.
A touch of Americana, country and Appalachian, their rendition of Long Night will delight their audiences: great vocals, the duet backed with bold, bluesy fiddle and percussion, a rousing love song, the lover invited to “ride together on a moonbeam”, because after all “ain’t love grand!”
They take a well-known song, Living in These Troubled Times and make it their own, an authentic and captivating copy, the duet alternating between unison and harmony works extremely well, brilliant instrumentation, pace and arrangements.
The 19th Street Band toured Near Perfect in the American east coast in September with other dates to follow. Look for them in a venue or festival near you, perfect for a wide taste palette.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Own Label, 11 Tracks, 57 Minutes
Heely’s Bandcamp page puts Seán’s new work into perspective: “Champion Scottish fiddler and Gàidhlig singer Seán Heely presents Dramagical. A full-length album that explores the dramatic and magical aspects of Scotland and transports the listener to many beautiful landscapes and the other world of the Celtic tradition. Seán features many original tunes and arrangements with the Seán Heely Celtic Band.”
I had the pleasure of doing a pre-release interview with Seán earlier in 2023 and you can find his backstory in the August 2023 copy of IMM. Suffice to say he has a prodigious talent and a musical imagination that is supercharged with ideas.
Scottish tunes often come in a trio of March, Strathspey and Reel and Seán honours this tradition with his Journey Through Strathmore, the set of tunes is: The Vale of Strathmore, Beinn Hòb, The Banks of Strathmore, painting a picture from the banks of the river. The March is accompanied by Kevin Elam’s guitar, the Strathspey and reel with piano, evidence that Seán is completely at home with the Scottish tradition.
The Dramagical track begins with a spirited duet version of the song The Twa Corbies with bouzouki player Beth Patterson. Then it fills with the fiddle and bouzouki taking the music into a magical world of Celtic acoustic rock. We go back even further to the Iron Age Celts; Heely’s nine minute long Cernunnos: An Dia Adharcach (The Horned God), is a fiddle pìobaireachd, recalling those tunes that were composed after the disaster of Culloden in 1746. There’s lighter music on ‘S i Mò​rag puirt à beul with Seán singing in Gàidhlig over a whistle and bouzouki accompanied with the percussive dancing of Agi Kovacs.
Abbie Palmer joins Seán’s crew on harp for the Return to Iona; it was written  by Seán for his friend Ginzy;  Seán’s fiddle section is replete with melancholy, evoking the site of early Christianity in Scotland.
Heely has climbed his own musical Munro and from his high vantage point he shows us a Dramagical landscape.
Seán Laffey

Delicate Lies
The Recording Booth, 11 Tracks, 56 Minutes
Do you recognise the name? Yes it is that Louis de Bernières, the best-selling author, he wrote Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, which was made into a movie starring Nicholas Cage. Louis is also an accomplished musician and song writer. Delicate Lies is his latest album, and if I was trying to find a hook to hang this work on, I’d have to create a niche called The English Leonard Cohen. No shock that Louis is an agile wordsmith, it comes with the territory. An unusual album in that I could not find what you’d call a title track, I suppose that’s courtesy of his literature training, where you have to put the work in to find the deeper meaning.
Back to that Cohen analogy, take his song The Snow with its opening cello setting the tone as he sings the “Captains of the Heart have gone below”. Backed by a nylon-strung guitar, much in the style of Cohen’s Susan. There’s a drum and fiddle on Hoping For America and he delves into the underworld realms lorded over by Hans Zimmer in his Basket of Skulls, a song that could have come out of pre-war Berlin.
He lightens things up on Look Down on Me, it has a scratchy vinyl intro and becomes a piece of 1950s rock-a-billy. Likewise Mind How You Go takes his mandolin into a poppy world. His Mancunian Rain, has more of that thrummed nylon strung guitar with a hint of Peruvian folk, as if the Pennines are England’s Andes. He closes the album with You Never Believe, and it’s a doppelganger moment: am I listening to an acoustic Oasis? No, it’s Louis de Bernières, a man with a chameleon mind and the mandolin music to match.
Seán Laffey