Releases > Releases October 2016

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Own Label RUNA CD005
16 Tracks, 74 Minutes

The cover is a high definition black and white photograph with Shannon Lambert Ryan dancing in high heels to the fiddle of Maggie Estes White. It’s a studio shot, whereas the album was recorded live in front of a St Patrick’s Day audience at The Black Rock Center for the Arts in Germantown Maryland.
Now live albums don’t always come up to scratch, there’s a balance between the live feel, allowing the audience to be part of the recording and yet not distracting too much from the music. Here Fionán De Barra has given us a master class in recording a live gig; the sound is as clear and clean as anything you’d produce in a studio. We still get the feel of the enjoyable rapport between the band and their fans.
RUNA dip into a number of North Atlantic traditions on this album, Scots Ghaeligh’s Fear an Bháta, the lonesome, almost bluesy sound of Appalachia on Ain’t No Grave, and unaccompanied mouth music of Fionnghuala. David Curley does a grand job on Paddy’s Lamentation, in the sa
me territory as We Banjo 3. RUNA mash it up with Oro Se Bheatha Bhaile, as Shannon Lambert Ryan adds the blás of Irish, and it works.
This is an album strong on songs from the Child Ballad False Knight on The Road to Bedlam Boys, (the tune has a road link too, it was compose
d in the back of a Mini, the lyrics predating the motor age by two centuries). There’s even a bit of fun on a five minute percussion break.
The band are tight and rocking, building us up on a fast and furious fiddle tracks like the Hunters Set and then taking us into a gentler space on Farewell to Tarwaithie. For sheer simplicity the fiddle and mandolin duet Jewels of The Ocean / Micheal Connel’s is hard to better.
When a live album works, we are left with that feeling of ‘I wish I had been there’, and I’d defy anybody not to enjoy the music of RUNA, book your tickets for their next live gig, it’s going to be some party.
Seán Laffey

Step Into My Parlour
10 Tracks, 41 Minutes
Step Into My Parlour first came to life in 2012 as a stage show in Edinburgh where Michelle is now based. Conversation, gossip, tea, maybe a sweet sherry and some old songs, apply a dab of beeswax polish to the old mahogany by way of some decidedly modern accom- paniment and you have something which could have been faux Ed- wardian; but instead has a refreshing humour and lightness. It’s a spiegletent of musical happiness; take a A Kiss In The Morning Early, which I know from an early Mick Hanly recording, Michelle has the song from Cathal McConnell an émigré to Edinburgh himself. Michelle tells us that both her grandad and great-grandfather were cobblers, so the song has a special appeal for her. Those of us old enough to remember the Saturday morning wireless will no doubt feel a tug of nostalgia when Michelle sings Delia Murphy’s Dan O’Hara
With a jazzy harmonica intro Michelle delivers Sandy Wright’s song about Carolina in her Dublin Diner, a modern song here referencing the Liffey–side swinging sixties, delivered here in Michelle’s unabashed Cork accent. My Boy Billy begins with a Puppet on String bounce, the Scottish version of The Gypsies is taken at a slow pace, and it’s here we see the range, accuracy and emotional reach in Michelle’s voice, this is the closest she gets on this album to the work she made when she was the singer with Cherish the Ladies. Michelle is joined by Maura O’Connell and Cathal McConnell on Alan Bell’s So Here’s ToYou, a re-working of the themes found in the traditional Parting Glass. The album closes on the upbeat Dear Old Donegal, it’s a party piece for sure with oompah brass. One final recommendation, James Ross plays a blinder on the piano, that is as it should be, parlours and pianos were a feature of the old decency that Michelle has so lovingly recreated for us on this recording.
Seán Laffey

The Lady’s Cup of Tea
Own Label MMacN001
14 Tracks, 41 Minutes
MacNamara’s Clare concertina teams up with her daughter’s fiddle for some unusually low notes here. I mean that in a good way, for these ladies have tuned their instruments down a full tone from the usual G and D to a mellow F and C, giving a very warm and comfortable feel to their playing. Like the old flat sets of uilleann pipes, this extra low register adds resonance and depth to the music, taking the edge off the high notes and emphasising the rich sound of some lovely melodies. MacNamara has never been a speed merchant anyway, and here she exploits a slower tempo to get the most out of classic Irish dance tunes.
Reels, jigs and hornpipes: nothing else, but The Lady’s Cup of Tea contains a score of the finest, and a dozen more. Costello’s fiddle is perfectly matched with the concertina, note for note, rolls and cuts and all. Each player takes two solo tracks here, and there are ten duets, but their simple approach never dulls as this pair play from the heart.
andon Bells, The Greencastle Hornpipe, Down the Broom, Old Man Dillon, Sligo Fancy and Dogs Among the Bushes all have long traditional pedigrees, and as the notes with this CD explain they are not restricted to East Clare, but they have fallen out of favour with faster session players so it’s great to hear them so well played on a new album. Port an Bhráthar is an old modal jig with many versions, whereas Kitty Sean Cunningham’s is new to me. Launching the Boat was popularized by an early Altan recording, and The Steampacket was one of fiddler Seán Keane’s showpieces with The Chieftains: both reels are commonly heard at a higher pitch and a faster tempo, so MacNamara and Costello offer a rare chance to appreciate them in a more relaxed performance.
It’s surprising how much the drop in pitch adds to the soothing and relaxing qualities of this music, I find myself nodding and smiling to these familiar tunes, rocking gently to the slow sway of Geraldine Cotter’s piano accompaniment, and settling into the slightly softer style which goes with the diminished attack of the flat keys. Mary and Sorcha have really found a comfortable groove with this low–pitched recording. The Lady’s Cup of Tea is served just right, a brew to savour at a time when there’s no reason to rush.
Alex Monaghan

Carry the Day
WENR001 12 Tracks, 52 Minutes

Aoife Scott comes with a 24 carat pedigree, daughter of Frances Black, niece to Mary Black, cousin of Danny O’Reilly of the Coronas. You can hear that musical DNA on the self penned, (Co–written with Enda Reilly), opening track All Along The Wild Atlantic Way. It has a flavour of Tom Moore about it, could it be Aoife’s Carolina Rua?
Aoife’s voice is reminiscent of her mother at her very best, in fact I’d say Aoife has even more control and poise. She shines on the track, We Know Where We Stand; it is wrought through with the unabashed assurance of today’s twenty–somethings. They have total confidence in their identity, delivered here over an insistent harp and guitar pulse. She has a fine grasp of Dublin’s social and political history on Eleanor Ambrose, a heroine of the 18th century. Musically this is a gorgeous acoustic album, thanks to the presence of Michelle O’Brien on fiddle, Eoghan Scott on guitar and the piano of Eamonn De Barra.
The album’s sleeve notes come with three pages of thanks and each songs source is duly acknowledged. We know the Blacks have a fine tradition of singing, inherited from their grand parent’s generation in Rathlinn, here it mingles with Aoife’s own upbringing in urban Dublin. On Carry the Day, Aoife picks up the baton, in a seamless transmission of folk between the generations. The joy here is the skill and sensitivity Aoife injects into new songs, and the care in which it is all so finely stitched together.
Seán Laffey

Fuaim an Chiúnais
Own Label 13 Tracks, 46 Minutes

On reading through the names of all those who were involved in performing on the new An Crann Óg CD, Fuaim an Ciúnais, I could not help but note all those family names from Gweedore that are in my own maternal line from the Gort a’ Choirce area and wondering who among them might be my relatives: Ó Dúgáin, Ó Gallchóir, Ó Curráin, Mac Aoidh, Mac Pháidín. Anyway, family ties or no, I must remain totally impartial about it all and so I can state: they’re great! This group of young Donegal people have been playing to audiences around Ireland, the United Kingdom, Europe, and more recently America, for seven years.
They are an accomplished group of singers and instrumentalists, and perform songs and tunes mainly from the Irish traditional but contemporary material as well as hinted in the title track: Fuaim an Chiúnais is Seán Ó Duibhir’s translation of Paul Simon’s 1964 hit, The Sou
nd of Silence. Sharing the vocals are the enchanting voices of Eva Ní Dhoibhlinn and Emma Ní Fhíoruisce. The expert arranger of this song and, indeed, for all but two others on the CD, is Manus Lunny. That’s followed by two reels on the accordion by Caitríona Ní Ghribín, one of those many young people so expert in their playing one wonders if there’s no end to the numbers of talented instrumentalists we seem to produce in this country.
Two noted Donegal women performers join in a song each: Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh on Moll Dubh a’ Ghleanna and Aoife Ní Fhearraigh on Síos an Sliabh. Regular readers of these pages will know of my work on another noted woman singer, the late Delia Murphy, and one of songs she sang, a favourite of mine, is Down the Moor, Aoife’s Síos an Sliabh! It’s a translation by Seán Bán Mac Grianna from Rann na Feirste, a fact that attests to the popularity of the Scottish song in Ulster. Delia said she got it from an Ulster singer. By the way, the song is associated with Robert Burns and he said he got it from Jean Glover from Kilmarnock. Says Burns: “I took the song down from her singing as she was strolling the country with a slight of hand blackguard.”
Need I say that an additional pleasure listening to the voices of these wonderful young singers is the beauty of their Donegal Irish – canúint atá binn blasta – and when Cathal Ó Curráin and Eva Ní Dhoibhlinn sing the great Munster song, their voices and their Gaoth Dóbhair Irish lends to it an altogether fresh and attractive appeal. This is a delightful recording and one guaranteed to please.
Aidan O’Hara

The Willow Collection
Own Label 11 Tracks, 43 Minutes
If you read this magazine, you are probably aware that Cassie and Maggie MacDonald are among the very top musical acts in demand on the Irish/American/Canadian concert scene. The sisters’ new album, released on September 25th, The Willow Collection, shows why. From Halifax, Nova Scotia, the young ladies are developing quite an international following. It is not for nothing that the producer of this CD, Dave Gunning, also appears as guest musician and musical Sherpa. He is among Canada’s premier recording artists, and he knows talent when he hears it. So will you. Here’s the secret to the incredibly rapid growth in popularity of Cassie and Maggie’s performances.
They are really, really good. They are also incredibly entertaining, be it their foot percussion accompaniments to the driving Nova Scotian sets, or their perfect sibling blend on their vocal harmonies, added to a stunning interplay on various instruments. A musical evening spent with the Cassie and Maggie is a great night, altogether. So far, so good.But here is another secret to their success. As you listen to their albums and watch their performances, you sense the completeness with which Cassie and Maggie absorb musical information, styles and approaches. Because they are young, and so dedicated (driven?), they have a long list of mentors. Unlike many musicians, they really, truly pay attention.
They learn. They study. They synthesize. They draw it all together from an incredible variety of sources, and the result is a gem like the Willow Collection. There are eleven songs and tunes on this CD. A tremendous variety ranging from The Sally Garden Set to Down in the Willow Garden shows not only the musical ability, but the depth and variety of their musicianship.
Their music is as straightforward and charming as are they themselves. Think this is an exaggeration? Listen to this CD. Go to one of their concerts. Meet them. Talk to them. You’ll see. Look, here’s the deal: they are young, yet incredibly mature musically, gorgeous, intelligent, and very, very nice. But the picture of the two on the back of the CD shows their determination and seriousness, as well.
Does this review sound as if we have lost all objectivity regarding this duo, Cassie and Maggie? Good. It should. We have. It’s hard to think of a more entertaining act in music right now. As always, the bottom line is the music, and they play it superbly. What a future!
Bill Margeson

Tús Nua
Gael-Linn CEFCD210
14 Tracks, 47 Minutes
Elegant simplicity is not usually the goal of Irish musicians – most of our music making is about the speed, the drive, the challenge, the craic, which makes Gatehouse a clear exception to the rule. A new band, but with well established members, Gatehouse builds on the Roscommon partnership between fiddler John McEvoy and fluter John Wynne, with concertina and guitar from Jacinta McEvoy, and vocals from relative newcomer Rachel Garvey. Tús Nua is half instrumentals and half songs, and both are chosen for their grace and charm.
An Spailpín Fánach, The Frost is All Over, Casadh an tSúgáin and The Laurel Tree were all popular in the seventies and have gathered some dust since the
n, but this band blows the cobwebs off to reveal beauty still underneath. The oddly named Armagh song Dobbyn’s Flowery Vale is very sweetly sung with its florid hedge poet language. (Dobbyn being the colloquial for D’Aubin, Armagh’s Anglo Norman gentry). Easter Snow is more often heard today as an instrumental, but here it is given words from a Roscommon singer, telling a story, as do most of the songs on this CD, of young love and the difficulties it must overcome. If this is a glimpse of Roscommon courtship, it’s amazing the entire population didn’t die out.
Lively instrumentals include Jimmy Giblin’s and The Gneevgullia ReelThe Mouse in the Cupboard and John McEvoy’s own Girls from the Gatehouse. He also wrote the title tune, a stately waltz or minuet, with harpsichord backing by Dónal O’Connor. Joe Ryan’s Mazurka is not quite as stately, but the four part arrangement here is unusually formal for Irish music. The Ploughboy strikes me as more Anglo–Irish than true Hibernian, a tale very familiar from English folk songs. By contrast, Slán agus Beannacht comes from the Irish macaronic tradition combining English and Gaelic phrases to confound the monolingual immigrants, and is sung strongly here in Garvey’s high youthful voice.
Gatehouse finish off with a pair of recently composed tunes, Bullock on the Bonnet and Murray’s Number 1, by Peadar Ó Riada and Roscommon fluter and fiddler James Murray: Peadar’s tune is one of two tongue–in–cheek titles here, the other being Carl Hession’s Laughing Spoons, and Murray’s composition is also one of a pair as James Murray’s Jig is featured alongside Hession’s. With a touch of bouzouki and bodhrán from Cyril O’Donoghue and Séamus O’Kane, Gatehouse wrap up their first album, a light and graceful selection of tunes and songs which don’t generally get an airing on the session scene but which will perhaps be heard more widely now.
Alex Monaghan

Gone Beyond
Own Label EP
5 Tracks, 19 Minutes
From its funky opening double bass line, the first EP from Dublin–based Pine Marten is an exploration of the familiar taking a trip into not–so–familiar territory. At the outset, the bass, mandolin and 5–string banjo combination screams classic bluegrass. But the cello sparring riffs with the banjo over the rhythmic syncopation of the opening track, Doggone, suggests something slightly different is on offer, though still with a familiar accent, from this band.The rolling banjo and chopping mandolin never fails, particularly in the hands of Dubliner Paddy Kiernan and Frenchman Simon Guy respectively. The big body of the cello and bass together effect the perfect backdrop for this lovely, crisp recording, a five–track taster of this new group which comprises Paddy, Simon, Niall Hughes on bass and Alec Brown on cello.The third track in, Crossing The Marshes/The Black Sand/The Hog in The Bog gives an Irish flavour to the mix, with the set composed by Paddy Kiernan, one of Ireland’s top 5–string banjo exponents who graduated as the first 5–stringer from UL’s Master in Traditional Music. Just how advanced his playing is on 5–string, is showcased here as he demonstrates with great musicality the oft–feared jig rhythm on 5–string banjo, as well as effortlessly blended triplets into the groove.There’s a lot to be taken from this short production, with clear vocals singing out over exceptional musicianship, with Irish, old time and bluegrass all delivered in a contemporary context, none more so than on Reuben’s Train, where tradition meets with attitude and experimentation, into a blustering jump of a version of the old time fiddle classic.The album finishes, perhaps appropriately, with a Bill Monroe number, Brown County Breakdown, the band no doubt letting the music world know that, despite their obvious capabilities and yearnings for exploring, they can still lash out a good old down home, bluegrass breakdown. The Irish native pine marten, has been described as a rare and elusive creature.
A band with such broad musicality and experience as Pine Marten might also be rare, but no doubt we’ll be seeing and hearing a lot more of them beyond this EP.
Derek Copley

A New Journey
Siúnta Music IONCD179, 15 Tracks, 57 Minutes

Iontach are a trio based in North Germany, featuring Siobhán Kennedy from Dundalk, Nick Wiseman–Ellis from Norwich, England, and Jens Kommnick from Bremerhaven. The band formed in 2003 and this is the first album from their new line up which came together this year. They open proceedings with Paddy Fahey’s / Ríl Eanach Mhic Coilín & The Ash Plant / Curlews In The Bog, the piano segues into a long high note on the box, and Siobhán’s flute blends in with Nick’s accordion in delightful unison. There are some unusual combinations in the selections here, for example Westering Home closes a set that begins with The Ferris Wheel / Paddy Fahey’s. (Another one of the Galway composer’s fine tunes). Jens Kommnick, is perhaps best known for his guitar playing and he sounds particularly impressive as he backs Siobhán on Humble Hymn, the guitar has a presence here which compliments Siobhán’s rich alto. Elsewhere there is some ambitious three part harmony on the unaccompanied Green Among The Gold. Peata Beag is a song I haven’t heard much since Geraldine McGowan recorded it with Oisin, here Iontach add a descending clarion of notes on the box to emphasise the rhythm. Jens’ guitar is magnificent on The Jug Of Punch / Bubbling Wine / The Hare’s Paw with Siobháns deep flute reminding me of a mixture of the Bothy Band’s Maids of Mitchelstown and the swaggering syncopation of Jolyon Jackson. The album ends on an original composition, A New Journey / The Wedding Schottische, the first tune featuring flute and the second the box, these tracks have the most European flavour of all of the melodies on the album and hint at even more to come from this virtuoso trio from Bremerhaven. Visit their website to hear samples from each track, I’m sure you will be impressed.
Seán Laffey

Green & Blue
Hyde Music Productions HYDECD1
10 Tracks, 43 Minutes

Right on our deadline, in comes this album from The Hydes, called Green & Blue. The brother and sister (Iain and Joanna) are based out of Denver. We have not thought of Denver as a Celtic hotspot, but we are reconsidering.
Iain (pr. Ian) and Joanna (pr.Jo) are big talents. Big. Iain on guitar/ mandolin and Joanna on fiddle are at the epicentre of this 10–track CD, of course. Four of the tunes were written by them. They are assisted by several talented side musicians, including Colm Phelan of Goitse on bodhrán, Christina Dolphin on flute, Tadhg O’Meachair on piano (with piano accordion), and some terrific bass work from Eric Thorin on bass. Where to start?
Both are excellent musicians of the first water. Joanna has her M.A. from the Limerick School of Irish Music, and has, in fact, taught there. Still does, on occasion. She is also a gifted singer. A steady, mature voice stays perfectly in the essence of the songs, ably backed up by Iain on harmonies. Another example of that sibling blend theory that says family members make the best harmonies for several reasons. Think of The Everly Brothers or the Mills Brothers and The Andrews Sisters and Clannad of course. Joanna’s fiddle work can be blazing, but is always beautifully controlled and tasteful. She is a fiddle star already, and brother Iain is part of the new guitarist movement in Irish music taking the whole field to a new level. Just like Joanna, his guitar is very current, hip, fab chords and runs, but all very tasteful and intuitively grasping how to support the fireworks being brought to us by the fiddle. We cannot wait to see these two in live performance, and the early word is that their show is great, also!
There is a great musicality here. Intricately planned arrangements still come across as simple and accessible. That’s the point, we suppose. Easy to come in on and love. You have to be good to do this, and they are really, really good. There is wonderful variety in the tunes and songs. And, how can you NOT love an Irish album that ends with Sam Cooke’s, Nothing Can Change This Love? Complexity, directness and a deep love for Irish traditional music and its history, The Hydes bring it all. We have a sure feeling that this album is the start of something very big, and we hope it lasts a long time! Find this album!
Bill Margeson

When the Prescription Runs Out
Own Label 11 Tracks, 42 Minutes
Great name for a great unpretentious recording by two Dublin lads on fiddle and guitar. There are no notes with the CD, but the music speaks for itself. O’Neill’s fiddle starts slow on Man of the House, but soon cranks up to a brisk canter for Foxhunter’s Reel.
Next comes a set of jigs, as you’d expect, again at a reasonable pace, on the quick side but not ridiculous. Kinsella is inventive and sensitive on guitar: his backing for Kiss Me Kate is a good example, deft and distinctive without disturbing the flow of the tunes. Grafspee is the first slower number, beautifully played over a muted accompaniment. The Bbucks – a play on the key signature – starts with the guitar imitating a harp before settling into a more percussive style to accompany these big reels.
There’s not much information online about this duo either. O’Neill comes from a musical Dublin family, and has won a few fiddle competitions in his time, but Kinsella remains a man of mystery. I get the impression that there were very few retakes in the recording of When the Prescription Runs Out – it’s a warts–and–all album, without the post–produced perfectionism we are used to, but the quality is very high and there’s a level of spontaneity here which makes this a very engaging CD. Despite the occasional rough edge, O’Neill produces good tone and plenty of lovely touches on the fiddle.
The change into the final reel in the Limerick Lasses set is smooth and classy, and the tune itself is powerfully played with poise and precision. The Jacobite air The Wild Geese is achingly bowed, with just a touch of reverb. The final set of three reels plays with harmonies on the back strings at speed, impressive fiddling indeed. You can find out a bit more at and the album is available on iTunes and other online outlets, definitely worth a listen.
Alex Monaghan