Releases > Releases October 2015

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Own Label BH001, 12 Tracks, 50 Minutes
Gorgeous fiddling – no other word for it. Brid hails from Donegal originally, and her playing has been well known for a while now in Ireland, but for some reason she hasn’t recorded previously. Which is a shame, judging by this debut CD. If you want to hear complete control, rich expression, and a great range of fiddle tunes from Ireland, Scotland and North America, this album will definitely hit the spot. Not to sell Brid short, she also lays claim to three of the melodies here, fine pieces all, and she’s gathered an impressive crowd of fellow musicians on accordion, whistle, banjo, guitars, bass and bodhrán to make her first recording something rather special. You can get a wee taste on the website, but it doesn’t really do her music justice.
There’s a vast array of styles packed into these twelve tracks, from Sliabh Luachra polkas to Scottish reels, Chicago strathspeys to Canadian clogs, Jerry Holland jigs and John Doherty hornpipes, plus of course the Northern fiddler’s repertoire of reels and more reels. It’s hard to choose favourites from almost three dozen tunes, but a few tracks stand out. The opening reels bookended by the slow air The Flower of Strabane are a declaration of intent, a microcosm of the fast and slow brilliance which Brid shows throughout this CD. The Knotted Chord and The Coast of Austria reveal a more contemporary side to Ms Harper’s music, with generous space for whistler PJ McDonald, and a full band sound with Brona Graham and Dermot Byrne on the final Canadian reel. Billy McComiskey’s Diamond Waltz is another gem (sorry), in stateside style with John Doyle’s guitar and the inimitable Hutch on upright bass. Brid’s Beech Tree Reel is not so far from Liz Carroll territory, grinding on those back strings and dancing delicately in the higher octave. Back on home turf, Tommy Peoples’ reel Beautiful Gortree is a stunner, classic Irish virtuosity. The big finish throws everything into the mix: powerful fiddle, blistering reels, with producer Séan Óg Graham again relinquishing the guitar in favour of John Doyle, while that man John Joe Kelly batters up a storm. Tremendous playing all round, and Brid Harper is surely heading for my 2015 Top Ten.
Alex Monaghan

Own Label RBPOL3, 24 Tracks, 78 Minutes
“We are listening here to the best of Clare music and the best of the piping tradition,” states master piper and teacher of the uilleann pipes, Jimmy O’Brien Moran, in his CD notes to The Legacy, the new CD from uilleann piper, Ronan Browne, and fiddle/flute player, Peter (Peadar) O’Loughlin. With a quote like that from Jimmy, I could almost stop there, because that surely is enough of a superlative recommendation for anybody who knows his or her trad music. This is the duo’s third CD offering, and follows on from their two earlier recordings, The South West Wind (1988), and Touch me if you dare (2002).
Peter was born into the tradition in his native Kilmaley, Co. Clare, and has been playing since the 1940’s. He appeared on one of the first ever LP recordings of Irish traditional music, the 1959 All–Ireland Champions – Violin, that also featured the noted players, Paddy Canny, P. J. Hayes, and Bridie Lafferty. Violin? Yes, because Peter is an accomplished player on that instrument as well as on the fiddle, flute and uilleann pipes. He has played with the renowned Clare Céilí Bands, the Tulla and the Kilfenora.
Ronan, too, comes from a strong Trad music background, and he will proudly tell you he is the grandson of the great Co. Mayo singer, Delia Murphy (1902–71). At an early age he was introduced to the uilleann pipes and was fortunate to have met with many of the great instrumentalists, including Séamus Ennis, Willy Clancy, and Tommy Reck, who were regular visitors to the family home. His musical partnership with Peter O’Loughlin is one of the most celebrated collaborations between a younger and an older musician on the Trad scene.
The contrast between the minimalist offering of CD biographical and music notes and the extremely generous number of tunes – 25 tracks (78 minutes) – is quite marked. While there is an ample supply of photos in the three–page montage spread, some of that space could have been used to enhance the production’s appeal. For instance, while fiddle player, Tierna Browne, is credited on the cover as a “special guest”, all we learn about her is what Jimmy tells us, and that is that Ronan and Peter’s playing is augmented by her “lovely laid–back fiddle playing”. She is, in fact, Ronan’s sister and she, too, has been immersed in the music tradition from childhood. But my appeal for more is not to take from the glorious playing of the three on a performance that Jimmy O’Brien Moran says is a “rare synthesis of absolute delight”.
Aidan O’Hara

Irish Music from the Hudson Valley
Own Label, 14 Tracks, 54 Minutes
What a way to showcase the respect for your musical mentors, teachers who provided both influence and inspiration in your formative years then to present a recording of outstanding quality/ And this one holds dear the tunes they were taught or played with their tutors. This is exactly what the Catskill duo Dylan Foley (fiddle) and Dan Gurney (accordion) have done with Irish Music from the Hudson Valley.
The album is a tribute to Monsignor Charlie Coen, the concertina and flute player hailing from East Galway and Roscommon born whistle player, Michael McHale who both emigrated to America in the 1950’s. Both were a vital components in keeping the Irish tradition alive through their musical teachings and organisation of concerts and sessions; namely in the Rhinecliff Hotel in the Southern Catskills. Instrumental too in shaping the musical shift in Dylan and Dan, this album brings out the ultimate best of all the listening, learning and playing experience they have soaked up from these and other influences and results in an immersive listen to deep tonal quality, intricate style changes and a relaxed flow that transports you firmly into the heart of a quality session.
And that’s exactly how it was recorded. A sit down session, with few takes, in a small recording room in County Longford. This gives intimacy to the instrumental as you are drawn into, and carried away by, the technicality of playing, administered in an almost languid, mesmerising pace that takes nothing away from the energy levels of each performance. Excellent accompaniment choices were made with the strings of Alec Finn and the piano of Brian McGrath throughout, but especially in the Rolling in the Barrel set were high energy contrasts with a defined pace and a depth of tonal quality that produces an exquisite blend of sound. This album is one that will stay in the minds and ears of many for a long time to come. Timeless, tuneful and terrific. Hey Hudson! It’s news, it’s a definite winner.
Eileen McCabe

Sets in Stone
Own Label, 13 Tracks, 44 Minutes, Own Label
Sligo music, flute and fiddle, is known the world over as a classic Irish style. However, there are actually surprisingly few albums of fiddle and flute duets from this musical county. Sets in Stone remedies this in a small way, presenting the music of Morrison, Horan, Coleman, Wynne, Killoran, Finn and other great players in the Sligo style, together with more contemporary pieces from the likes of fiddler John McEvoy and fluter Mike McGoldrick. Fiddler Philip Duffy plays with the Dartry Céilí Band, and released a lovely album Killin Clocks a while ago. Liam Kelly is well known as a member of Dervish, playing flute with them since their inception: his solo CD a few years back didn’t really do him justice, but on this duet recording he produces some of his best performances. The pair complement each other beautifully, leaving no gaps and sharing an understanding of their native music which is a joy to hear.
Many of the Sligo greats are represented here, from The Kiltycreen Reel named after Fred Finn’s birthplace, to Martin Wynne’s Number 4 which is gaining ground on his first three compositions. I’m reminded of Matt Molloy’s great 1980’s solos on The Bush in Bloom, and of early Dervish on The Durrow Reel. The final track wraps three fine exponents of the Sligo style into a seamless stream of reels: Kevin Henry’s, John Egan’s and Jim Coleman’s. It’s not all pure Sligo on this recording – there are excursions to Fermanagh and Donegal, Tipperary and Kerry, to Scotland for Westering Home, and even to Manchester for Baby Rory’s Slip Jig. The style remains true to Kelly and Duffy’s home turf, though, whether it’s a reel or a barndance, a hornpipe or a jig. Nothing too wild, and certainly nothing too slow: Sets in Stone is a perfect example of the control and delicacy of Sligo music, as well as the rich ornamentation and great melodies produced by this tradition over several generations. The background notes are good, and there’s some lovely scenic photography, but the music’s the thing in Sligo.
Alex Monaghan

12 Tracks 43 Minutes
IRL 093
The cover of the CD, a monochrome portrait shot of Séamus Begley by Macroom photographer Conn Kelleher, leaves you in no doubt what you will find inside the album. Seamus looks out as us, and invites us in for some direct, timeless and straight forward traditional singing in both English and Irish. With the former accounting for the majority of the tracks here.
Inside the cover there is another shot of Seamus, the Bold Kerry Man , wearing an expensive black leather jacket, sitting in the kitchen of a farmhouse, it could be a museum set, but you get the feeling that this is the real deal as much as the music itself, this is an album rooted in its home place. On listening to the recording, my first impression was that it really was recorded in that kitchen. It has such a live presence you feel as though Séamus is only across the table from you. A quick check of the credits and I discovered the album, produced by John Reynolds, was recor
ded in Kilburn London. The album opens with Táimse Im Chodladh, an aisling song, which translates as I am Asleep Don’t Wake Me, set to one of the most magnificent slow airs in the tradition. It dates back to Hempson and beyond. Séamus takes things easy, singing over a synth and guitar accompaniment.
Séamus is joined by Damien Dempsey on The Banks of Sweet Primroses, and Demspey is a revelation. Rising to the challenge, he matches the purity that Begley has by this stage established on the album and there is consequently no disjointed fissure as the two delve into the song. Again Séamus slows things down and finds the inner twists and turns of melody on the song Will You Go To Flanders, which is a staple of the British folk circuit and is seldom sung so sensitively. Another stray from the English tradition is the New Zealand song Farewell to The Gold, written by Paul Metsers about a fruitless gold prospecting adventure in New Zealand’s South Island in the1860’s.
This became something of a torch bearer for the English folk guitar, after it was recorded by Nic Jones. Séamus takes a different tack, even with Tim Edey on board, he eschews the obvious syncopation that is the usual stamp of this song. The liner notes say he had his version from Chris Jones, (there’s a name to Google).
Another song which had a following on the folk circuit in the 1970s is An Charraigh Donn, and it is a pleasure to hear Séamus reprise is for a new generation. He tips a nod to the modern folk style with Portland Town, which he first heard nearly 50 years ago, he is joined on this by his daughter Meabh Begley on harmony vocals.
This is an album for singers and for those who like their songs with a personal touch. A fine selection of songs to plunder if you looking for something to learn this winter, and one to keep you warm with nostalgia if you recall them from the heyday of the folk revival. Séamus is bold, but his gentle style is as arresting as a whisper in Confession.
Seán Laffey

The Road Taken
Own Label LGBH2015, 13 Tracks, 36 Minutes
This new CD from Len Graham and Brian Ó hAirt is a ‘folley– er–upper’ – to use a term from my youth – to the 2014 album, In Two Minds, that was their first CD together. The pair got a Kickstarter campaign going to help with the funding of their new The Road Taken production and it was very successful. It features Irish songs sung in the Ulster tradition along with an instrumental track with whistle (Brian) and spoons (Len) and a few tracks where Brian dances sean–nós steps to Len’s lilting. The songs are all a cappella, and the two sing their songs unfalteringly as though they had been doing it all their lives. But no, Len who’s the, er, senior of the two, has a right wheen o’ years of a head–start on Brian, a younger man who is not of the Ulster tradition.
He’s American–born (Brian Hart) and from his school days took a great interest in everything to do with Ireland. He’s the youngest and first ever American to win the coveted Sgiath Uí Dhálaigh shield at Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann in Listowel, Co. Kerry in 2002—adding his name to the shield’s long list of noted singers that include Joe Heaney, Frank Harte and Paddy Berry.
County Antrim–born Len Graham is the greatest living exponent of the Ulster singing style, having learned from great singers that include his fellow county man, Joe Holmes, and Eddie Butcher from Magilligan in Derry. He has travelled far and wide in Ireland and abroad, adding to his appreciation of the Irish song tradition and writing about it in books and illustrating it on his tours at home and abroad. The duo’s latest offering has a pleasing mix of songs that include numbers that turn up in the Irish song tradition not only throughout Ireland but in North America where the Irish settled.
One that regularly turns up is Seventeen Come Sunday that I’ve heard sung in Ontario and Newfoundland. Len heard it sung by Joe Holmes, Mary Reilly, an Irish traveller living in England, and Derryman, Brian Mullen. When I lived in Ottawa in the 1960’s, I heard a song called The Crockety Ware, and Len heard versions of it in his native Ulster from Eddie Butcher, and John Campbell of Co. Armagh. It’s on the CD. The last song he and Brian sing is a version of The Drunken Tinker that Len heard sung by Geordie Hanna of Co. Tyrone in the 1960’s. This is an altogether enjoyable singing session by two men comfortable in their roles as storytellers in song.
Aidan O’Hara

The Rollicking Boys of Tandragee
11 Tracks, 48 Minutes
The debut album by traditional group Four Winds is encapsulated in their recording of The Rollicking Boys of Tandragee nestled in the album of 11 tracks, the recording brings together the bag of talent of the four members: Tom Delany, Caroline Keane, Daoiri Farrell and Robbie Walsh. The rhythm, arranging and vocal ornamentation on Tandragee is addictive. It certainly helped ease the journey to and from Miltown Malbay this year, making light work of the trip in the wild weather which engulfed Scoil Samhraidh 2015. The bending of notes leading into the chorus from vocalist Daoiri Farrell echo the ‘rollicking’ tones of the ballad, the subtle mood of the bodhrán edging on the song, while the instrumental break lifts the listener with ascending arpeggios.
Without listening to the album, some traditionalists might cringe when reading that the album kicks off with bouzouki and bodhrán laying the rhythmic base for Con Carthy’s slide, but the structure of that rhythm sets up for a powerful introduction of both Tom Delany’s piping and Caroline Keane’s concertina and helps assert the creativity of Four Winds. From there, these four individuals each dedicated in their own way to the tradition, create a cohesion which shows an understanding both for technical ability, but also an unflinching respect for the music they play, and it is the subtle use of arrangement and instrumentation which help each track shine, not just in the case of ‘Tandragee’.
With guests Joanne Hyde and virtuosic 5–string banjo player Paddy Kiernan, an Old Christy Moore favourite, The Ludlow Massacre is given a new vibe, while tunes like The Flags of Dublin find themselves in capable hands all–round. The Piper’s Patience and The Black Valley Reel, two of Caroline Keane’s tunes, put the concertina centre stage. The first tune bounces back and forth between E and B major keys, with bouzouki tipping along in a gentle and pleasing manner, before said bouzouki sets up the scene for the Black Valley Reel to complement the melancholic melody.
Another hit of the album is Clasped to the Pig, a song learned from the singing of Tommy McCarthy. Also in good hands, it was a strange feeling to feel the hairs stand on my neck as the group all join in on the chorus, particularly given the nature of the song and the lyrics:
I’m clasped to the pig in a loving embrace
the hairs on its curly tail tickle me face.
Recorded by Tony Flaherty in Killarney, Four Winds’ debut album is a perfect calling card for the group, which has been lauded since forming two years ago, particularly at the Danny Kyle Open Stage at 2015 at Celtic Connections.
Derek Copley

Irish Music on the Clavichord
Own Label CKCD003
12 Tracks, 43 Minutes
A fine multi–instrumentalist from Galway who has previously recorded on concertina and harpsichord, Claire turns her talents here to the ancient clavichord for reasons which are not immediately obvious. There has been a clavichord revival in recent decades, and Claire’s instrument is a modern one by John Morley of London. In sound and appearance it’s very similar to the clavinet played by Tríona Ni Dhomhnaill of the Bothy Band.
The main difference between a clavinet and a clavichord is that the clavinet is electronically amplified: the clavichord is a very quiet and discreet instrument, like a bodhrán with a hole in it, so recording is difficult. Ronan Browne has done an excellent job of capturing this instrument’s sound with minimal background noise. Despite the mechanical differences, the character of the clavichord is very similar to the harpsichord, which Seán Ó Riada described as the best available approximation to the ancient Irish harp.
Indeed, most of the music here was originally harp music. The majority are Carolan pieces, eight in total, plus two old song airs and four Keville originals.
Lord Galloway’s Lamentation and Mr O’Connor are delightful lesser– known pieces from Turlough Carolan’s portfolio. The song air Baile Uí Laoi shows off Ms Keville’s arranging skills with grand bass runs and delicate countermelodies. Her own compositions sit well in a renaissance setting, particularly March of the Tribes and the final Sailing into Galway.
William Connallon’s air Love’s a Tormenting Pain pre–dates the Carolan pieces, but its sentiment is still all too relevant today. The only thing really missing here is a faster tune or two, just to see how the clavichord handles an up tempo jig or reel: maybe next time. The overall impression is of late medieval harp music, quite ornate with polyphony in both hands. There’s no mechanism to damp individual strings, and no long ringing notes either: each note resonates for a short period, creating a wake of fading sounds which may harmonize or clash briefly. Claire Keville’s work here is a fascnating and enjoyable experiment, but I don’t foresee Irish Music on the Clavichord becoming a widespread trend in the near future.
Alex Monaghan

Where the Bog Is
Own Label OLG001
16 Tracks, 51 Minutes
No doubt about the roots of this music: O’Leary and Guilfoyle belt out the authentic Sliabh Luachra style on button box and flute, a slightly unusual combination. Flutes are relatively scarce in their part of the world, but these lads make the pairing sound as natural as tripe and drisheen. They’ve enlisted one of the Rushy Mountain’s few famous fluters, Billy Clifford, to say a few introductory words, and I agree with him that the local traditions are in great hands with this young duo. One of the things which really struck me about Where the Bog Is was the idiosyncratic starts and stops: almost every track has a different opening, no strict one–two for O’Leary and Guilfoyle. The endings are not quite as varied, and there’s always a long final note held for an extra beat or three. I’ll have to listen to other Sliabh Luachra recordings and see if this is a feature of the regional style.
A lot of the material here is rarely heard outside Cork and Kerry, even nowadays, as it comes from musicians who don’t travel much and only play for their peers.
I don’t remember hearing the opening slide before, a nameless piece which the lads have christened Where the Bog Is for this recording. It’s a while since I heard Thadelo’s Barndances too, although I believe they were recorded by Bryan’s grandfather Johnny O’Leary. There’s a charming Paddy Cronin reel which seems familiar, and the Denis Murphy favourite Cleaning the Henhouse which has been picked up by many players. Polkas and slides outnumber the reels and jigs on this CD, of course, with the odd barndance or hornpipe, and even a song by the inimitable Brendan Begley.
There’s a solo or two as well, flute polkas and box jigs, all tasty indeed but not quite as moreish as the duet tracks. Among the local versions of Johnny Cope, Frost is All Over and Anderson’s Reel are some of those deceptively simple melodies where it seems the box player has just wiggled his fingers to see what came out – but beware of joining in yourself, as there is some Eb shenanigans going on here. I should add that Bryan and Colm are discretely accompanied by Gearoid O’Duinnin on guitar and Jack Talty on piano, as well as cameo appearances by local young musicians on fiddle, banjo and guitar, all very nicely done. Banjo cameos might catch on. I’m sure this album will – it deserves to travel far beyond O’Leary and Guilfoyle’s native boglands.
Alex Monaghan