Releases > Releases October 2019

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Lilt X
Own Label, 16 Tracks, 64 Minutes

Lilt is a duo comprised of Tina Eck, flute and whistle and Keith Carr on guitar and bouzouki, though he uses cittern and banjo as well. They’re based in Washington DC; they are now celebrating ten years on the trot. (Hence the X in this album’s title). A trawl of the web reveals them in a fine session with Altan. Other viewings show them providing music for the Culkin dance school, and if you follow that up, you’ll find the Sligo connection. And Sligo is one place where they know good flute playing.
We have here 16 tracks of lovely playing. Tina has a strong and forthright tone, and a lovely sense of rhythm that’s normally gained by playing for dancing. Keith’s bouzouki, which on the spectrum of Lunny to Finn is bathed in the light of Donal, it’s punchy, insistent, carving out the rhythmic rockface over which Tina’s flute soars and swoops.
Keith begins with a stately Renaissance feel to Old Tom Ennis, and in similar vein there’s an Elizabethan flavour to the way he introduces The Orange Rogue. He switches to banjo on Going to Mass Last Sunday and a fine job he does of it too. Tina takes full command of the Morning Dew from the very first notes, the track building both in volume and bravado as it reaches the shift to a higher gear with the Three Sisters Reel. Her tour de force, for me was the track I Love You Not, her tone, technique and command of the tune is masterful here.
Lilt’s X is a model production with proper background notes, very important when about half the tunes are comparative newcomers. So, this is an achievement both for quality of the playing and the material. Don’t be looking for a loan of it, either. Nobody would risk it. This is a Lilt with real fizz, platinum quality. Well done!!
John Brophy

The Boss Murphy Musical Legacy
Own Label SCB002, 15 Tracks, 50 Minutes

The Shandrum Céilí Band cemented their name in history at the Ennis All Ireland Fleadh in 2017, with their third in a row All Ireland win. I was there in the front row and what an exciting evening of music it was. It was a remarkable achievement for a band that was relatively new, it was almost as if The Shandrum appeared out of thin air in Sligo in 2015.
This album proves otherwise, as there’s a huge depth to their music. Behind this county Cork Céilí band, we find their music is seated in the rich legacy of John Francis “Boss” Murphy, who was born in Churchtown, near Buttevant, north county Cork in 1875. Between 1933 and 35 he wrote down many tunes in what would become a family heirloom. The collection was subsequently edited and published in 2003.
The band bring to life the music of Boss Murphy, some of the tunes of course would be familiar anywhere around the country such as The Wind That Shakes the Barley, The Walls of Liscarroll and Lord MacDonald’s. Others have more of an ancient connection to the country-dances of years gone by such as, The Peacock Quadrille, The Lily Schottische, Bonaparte’s Grand March and the Basket of Oysters.  The detailed liner notes run to 22pages and give a deep insight into the music of Boss Murphy. They also include period photographs and full contact information should you wish to hear the Shandrum in full flow at your local céilí. In looking back over the Murphy legacy they are bringing something truly fresh to the tradition. Living history from a history making céilí band.
Seán Laffey

The Coming of Spring
Own Label, 14 Tracks, 49 Minutes
There is something immensely appealing in a CD that devotes itself to seriously good music in the pared-back purity of the tin-whistle tradition. Rhode-Island based Kathleen Conneely is a highly-acclaimed Irish musician, an asset both in the Boston music community and well beyond.
A pure sweetness and timely grace in Kathleen’s music, so evident in beautiful tunes like The Ivory Bowl, which she learned from her friend the great flute-player Kevin Crawford - her slow reflective quality rare and unique enough to draw the listener towards a different musical experience that feels very special. Subtle yet powerful support throughout given the rich musicianship of Mick Conneely (bouzouki), Brian McGrath (piano) & Johnny Ringo McDonagh (bodhrán).
Internationally-renowned Clare fiddle-player Martin Hayes describes the album as “one of the finest…choice of tunes and tempo alone make this a great recording”. Martin’s praise around tempo is illuminated in Kathleen’s gorgeous pace across The Humours of Tullycrine/Cronin’s Hornpipes. Following the rich traditional heritage of her London-Irish upbringing, a lovely touch in how her brother, Mick Conneely joins her on The Primrose Vale. Kathleen cites the great Mary Bergin, Liz Carroll & Seamus Connolly among her main influences. A beguiling lack of ego in how Kathleen took until 2012 to record, which feels intrinsically linked to the emotional depth in how she truly inhabits tunes like The Coming of Spring/Whistler at the Wake. Sliabh Luachra playfulness in Kathleen’s Gneeveguilla Reel, a mark of musical assurance.  The tunes at the core take precedent over speed or embellishment, setting free the bite and the sheer beauty of traditional music, intensified and allowed shine across a tin-whistle album untainted by any promotional clang, or it has to be said, any bells and whistles! Beautiful, an essential album.
Deirdre Cronin

Airs and Graces
Own Label, Double CD, 34 Tracks, 144 Minutes

County Down Piper Paul Brennan is something of a musical phenomenon, now living in London where he is a regular on the session scene there. Paul founded the Belfast Piping School in 1974 and he is also a well respected and sought after arranger and composer, his work has featured in films and in TV commercials.
On this double CD he has created a musical memoir pairing his older recordings with more recent trips to the studio. He not only plays uilleann pipes but also plays whistles and guitar, and he sings too. A long time member of the band Carrig there are tracks from that group on this album, which adds to not only the interesting mix of tunes and songs but also fills in the complete picture of Paul’s musical life over a number of decades.
CD 1 opens with Paul on pipes, guitar and whistle, singing a song called Alexander, which he had from Eddie Butcher. He is joined by Terry Thompson on a Ship’s Harmonium for the Shetland tune John Roy Lyle. CD 1 closes with Lament For Young Terrance McDonough played by Paul’s band Orchestrad, who specialise in 17th and 18th century harp music. Here he plays a low whistle with the harp holding the tune from Donal O’Sullivan’s major work on O’Carolan.
Disc 2 opens with the longest track on the compilation, running to 6 minutes; it was one of Delia Murphy’s favourite songs: Green Grows the Laurel; Paul is joined by Ben Gunnery on fiddle and Terry Thompson on piano. There’s a Bes Cronin song The Bonnie Blue Eyed Lassie, and one about the joys of counterspy pursuits Jock Stewart. Paul sings The Factory Girl unaccompanied, this puts his strong traditional voice to the fore, his diction is clear and he delivers the song with feeling. The album closes with a modern Celtic Rock take on The Pikemen with Paul on pipes, Chuck Sabor on drums and Scotty Mulvey on keyboards.
A fascinating retrospective of a lifetime in Irish music with the promise of more to come in the future.
Seán Laffey

The Glory Reel
Own Label, 17 Tracks, 58 Minutes

The music on The Glory Reel CD more than lives up to an album that holds in its bright name the exuberant swing, lift and joy of great Irish music down the decades. Elements that elevate are key factors across this lovely music like the serious musicianship of Caitlin Finley (fiddle), Will Woodson (flute, piccolo, pipes), Chris Stevens (piano, melodeon) - also the imaginative leap of including the brilliant dance-artistry of Jackie O’Reilly into the mix. Grounded sense of gratitude for the lives they live, what it means to be, as they say in the intro “young-ish musicians making music in Boston & New York with an intensity directly linked to the legendary Irish music made in the same cities at the turn of the 20th century”. That same gratitude can be heard inside the music, terrific bounce and tempo on Up Sligo/Three Little Drummers, jigs inspired by early recordings from Michael Coleman and Patsy Touhey, now new musical affinity enlivening reels like The Maid I Never Forgot.
Caitlin Finley is a ferociously brilliant player, her fiddle-music a powerful blend of rich influence and imaginative new rendition - showcased to perfection on Paddy on the Turnpike. While the album is enriched by this trio’s shared influences of Sligo’s James Morrison, Paddy Killoran and Leitrim’s John McKenna, the CD is all the better for how it takes us further afield and gathers us back in (as expansively as Chris’s melodeon playing) from fiddle legend James Byrne’s Kilcar to how an old Scottish-Strathspey weaves into James Doherty’s Donegal reel Lady Ramsey, given new life in Woodson’s sensitive flute interpretation. A huge highlight across the Enchanted Lady reel set, is the chemistry between flute, fiddle, melodeon and Jackie’s brilliant dance, absolutely outstanding. A great CD.
Deirdre Cronin

Madness Is Convention
Own Label, 5 Tracks, 14 Minutes

A brief introduction to the music of this Breton-born flute player shows a young man in a hurry, multi-talented and multi-style: five short tracks old and new, trad and more contemporary sounds, from Peadar Ó Riada’s great jig Spóirt streamlined for speed, to the relaxed traditional reel Delia Crowley’s which ends this short selection. Five of Charlie’s own tunes sit alongside four Irish classics, and fit very snugly.
Charlie moved to Ireland about ten years ago and has been making up for lost time - in Westport, Dublin, Belfast and elsewhere. Breton roots still surface in his compositions, particularly the slow air A Vein hag a Ludu, and in his rhythmic dance-driven phrasing, but most of the music on Madness is Convention is unmistakably Irish. The Black Bee is very much in the mould of modern reels from Buille or Slide or Flook. Gerry the Postman is a funky frolic, slightly self-indulgent as Le Brun struts his sonorous stuff, but impressive nonetheless.
There’s good solid accompaniment here, unobtrusive or up front as required, from Eamon Rooney on bodhrán and Feilimí O’Connor on guitar. The final track also features very nice concertina from Aoife Kelly, duetting with Charlie for a couple of old reels. The strong, slightly breathy flute tone dominates on every track, a force to be reckoned with in future.
Alec Monaghan

SENA Records, 13 Tracks, 43 Minutes

Margot Merah and Sophie Janna (The Lasses) are from Amsterdam, and are not to be confused with the London Lasses or the Dublin Lasses. They share a love for harmonies and storytelling through music, which they tell us is what ‘folk’ is all about and that is “feeling connected, sharing sadness, sharing happiness”.
Their original songs on their new CD Undone fit in well with their rendition of songs from the tradition, that’s the Irish and British Isles song tradition for which they seem to have a special regard. One could indeed say that they sound like they were born into it, so comfortable are they in singing their new and old material. This is exemplified very nicely in their performance of Bonnie George Campbell, an early version of which was of Rory and Alex McEwen in a recording made by Peter Kennedy in 1955.
They begin with the Ola Belle Reed song Undone in Sorrow, sung unaccompanied – or as the old Irish singer described it, in ‘the raw bar’ and go on to sing numbers that are melodic and really singable with arrangements that do what good accompaniments are meant to do and that is to complement the singing, not dominate. The two women singers with their pleasing harmonies have clear delightful voices making this an altogether enchanting little feast of song and singing. They show their vocal and singing gifts again in another unaccompanied song, Torn Screen Door, a song about an abandoned farm that’s the title track of Canadian singer-song writer David Francey’s first album, released in 1999.
They also sing The Blackest Crow My Dearest Dear that’s very close to the version featured in one of the Transatlantic Sessions programmes, sung there by Bruce Molsky and Julie Fowlis; Margot and Sophie’s handling of the modal harmonies is quite superb. Incidentally, versions of this song have been collected in the Appalachians and the Ozarks and it’s mentioned in diary entries dating from the time of the American civil war. They play guitar and bodhrán and are admirably served by the excellent accompaniment of French horn, mandolin, dobro and bass guitar.
Aidan O’Hara

Drowning the Shamrock
Liquid Sunshine Records LSR CD 001, 13 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Have you ever heard of the Donegal man, Harald ‘Mór’ Juengst? If you have, then you’ll know of his group Sheevon, too, I’m sure. I say he’s a Donegal man, and that’s because for most of his life he has been back and forth between his home in Germany and his house in Ranafast in the Donegal Gaeltacht. In Germany he promotes Donegal and all things Irish in his radio programmes, and at other times he’s with his group on stage singing Irish songs and playing Irish tunes. He’s a one-man ambassador for Ireland. And when he’s not with Sheevon, he’s with Galwayman, Pat Mc Donnell, and every year on St. Patrick’s Day since 2015, the two of them travel to Germany as Cáirde with musician friends Ina Tomec and Otto Kruppa. In a note he included with the CD, Harald wrote: “Here comes the live album of Pat Mc Donnell’s project, Cáirde, where I’m honoured to play along with him.” He adds that the live recording was made on their 2017 tour of Germany.
Pat who’s a flute player and singer composes songs in Irish and English, sung to his own guitar accompaniment. Harald ‘Mór’ plays the bodhran on this CD, Ina provides harmony vocals and is lead vocalist in the Mickey McConnell song, Only Our Rivers Run Free. Guest musician Iris Maxstadt plays the harp. Pat’s composition, Oíche na Gaoithe (The Night of the Wind), was inspired he says by “the wild Atlantic where I live and the many stories of loss and tragedy of its coastal communities”. This song and one he calls its reprise, Is Leatsa Mo Chroí (My Heart is Yours), are both provided with English language translations.
Pat’s dance tunes and the lively songs Follow Me Up to Carlow and Óró Sé do Bheatha ’Bhaile that get the audience going are balanced nicely by the more sedate Tommy Walsh air Inis Oirr, the popular songs Red is the Rose and The Parting Glass, which ends proceedings and sends the assembly home to bed “to sleep, perchance to dream” or to hum themselves contentedly into the arms of Morpheus.
Aidan O’Hara

Own Label, 11 Tracks, 47 Minutes

In her foreword to multi All-Ireland fiddle champion Jake James’s CD, music legend Joanie Madden describes the Queens NY native as “an extremely gifted young man….with a blazing fiddle style…. dancer of outstanding rhythm…” The listening experience lives up to the praise; Firewood/Shaped like a Shoelace indicative of how well the album works with its mix of old and new traditional tunes and also includes the melodic Mullin’s Favourite from Ceol Rince na hÉireann.
One title is credited to an audience member who approached Jake’s terrific longtime dance-teacher Niall O’Leary after Jake’s performance with Mick Moloney’s Green Fields of America during Catskills Irish Arts Week, incredible fluidity of dance style means every sinew of Jake’s tall lean physique is called upon: “That’s some dancing, your man is shaped like a shoelace!” The album showcases serious musicianship between Jake (fiddle/bodhrán), Fionán de Barra (guitars/upright bass), Buddy Connolly (two-row button-accordion), Cillian Vallely (Uilleann Pipes/Low F Whistle), Cormac de Barra (harp) & Niall Mulligan (piano).
I particularly like the slow reflective tempo across tracks like Jake’s double-jig For All That You Do, against the faster-paced The Pining Maid reel from the Joyce Collection; his draw to the complexity of Ed Reavy’s music evident in Memory of Coleman.
His talent has led to tours in Japan with prestigious Trinity Irish Dance Company and Joanie Madden’s renowned music-cruises. Jake’s passion for tradition, and also for the depth, span, and possibilities in his art can be heard in this music, but also an admirable philosophical tone in liner-notes that speak of how a gifted young traditional-artist navigates contemporary space, both physical and musical, Chased from Time Square hinting at escape and adventure after a stint at BB King’s Blues Club. Watch this space indeed, a terrific album!
Deirdre Cronin