Releases > Releases October 2023

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The Pipes Are Calling
Own label, 8 Tracks, 22 Minutes
Highland bagpiper, multi-instrumentalist, and singer-songwriter Ally Crowley-Duncan (Ally the Piper) joins forces with her husband Denver Wayne (acoustic guitar), Sam Dame (vocals on Danny Boy and Northern Downpour), and Mia Asano (electric violin on Game of Thrones) to create an unforgettable, eight-track album.
To all The Witcher (Netflix) fans, rejoice as Ally begins with her version (chilling acapella vocal duet opening, leading into a light backup of guitar and pipes) of Toss the Coin to Your Witcher. Who would have thought that a saxophone would blend well with highland bagpipes? Ally nails that combo in Magdalena, her arrangement to an old Scottish tune, Sleepy Maggie, followed by a moving rendition of Danny Boy. Landcaster’s Hornpipe is a hoppy original with a light head-bobbing drum backdrop.
Ally also includes another original (as well as a winning competition tune)—a delightful mix of pipes and bodhran: Faye’s Jigs. Auld Lang Syne maximizes on Ally’s lilting near-Dolores O’Riordan voice to create a stirring reflection on this familiar song before heading into her arrangement (drums, pipes, and keyboards) of the majestic Game of Thrones theme tune before closing with vocals, guitar, and pipes to Ally’s rendition of Panic! At the Disco’s thought-provoking Northern Downpour.
Ally the Piper’s presentation of traditional tunes, modern covers, and original compositions in The Pipes Are Calling provides a small window into a powerfully new musical spark, which is bound to spread far and wide quickly.
Anita Lock

The Morning Thrush
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 48 Minutes
There is something about Clare music that sets it apart from other regional styles. On the face of it, this album from Conor Arkins (fiddle) and Paul Clesham (concertina) contains some well-known session tunes: Joe Bane’s Barn Dance, The Port Hole of the Kelp, The Shaskeen, you get the drift. Well-known but never ordinary. Here’s the thing, music from the Banner county has a tempo all of its own, laconic, un-hurried, the duo tipping a wink to the minimalism of Martin Hayes. Their feet are off the gas pedal but the tunes still purr along. Open the window and breathe in that Wild Atlantic air, no worries your coif won’t be ruffled. This is music at ease with itself, driven slow enough to avoid the potholes and fast enough to get us there before bedtime.
The pair met whilst studying at UCC and are joined here by Ryan Molloy on piano and Jim Murray on guitar. Let’s delve into a few tracks. The concertina opens the album with The Shaskeen, a walking pace, never ponderous, never breathless, it moves up a key to Paddy Faheys, still that steady rhythm holding it all together. It closes with Ashmolean House, the tone down a notch. There are Clare style Kerry polkas: The Newborn Lamb/Dick Tobin’s /The Cool Duff, concertina and fiddle together taking us on a jaunt south, the accompaniment softly harmonic, avoiding unnecessary percussive pushing. Then a lovely switch into a modal mid-section, oh that’s tasty!
More polkas on track 8, a swinging opening to Callaghan’s with long notes on the concertina, then a short held pause between phrases to propel the tune forward; it’s artistry of the highest calibre. A set of barn dances: Lord Leitrim/Joe Banes shift effortlessly into a reel (and the album’s title) The Morning Thrush. The last track is a tune that is enjoying something of a renaissance of late: The Fisherman’s Island, ensemble playing of the highest order and a final chord from the piano.
This is one of the best albums to come my way in a long time. If you like to play along to traditional albums, this should be on your wish list. Teachers out there, order this for every one of your pupils. You cannot see the beauty of a butterfly’s wing if it flies too fast. Like this album, the magic happens when we let things settle naturally.
Seán Laffey

Own Label, 10 Tracks, 51 Minutes
Their website says it in Ronseal style “Irish Traditional Music Band Composing All Original Melodies”. Buíoch are based in Portlaoise according to their Facebook page; this debut album was released on August 9, just four days before they were scheduled to gig at the All Ireland Fleadh in Mullingar. Guitar, box, pipes and double bass are in the hands of the four lads on the album’s cover, however, now we are in the era of the download, you’d have to do a bit of web hunting to actually find out who these lads are. I’ve done the leg-work for you; Ruaidhrí Tierney (accordion), Dale McKay (guitar & percussion), Kurt Dinneen Carroll (whistle & pipes), and Dave Harte (double bass).
Buíoch’s sound is assured, they are tight, their trademark coming from Dave Harte’s double bass, a rare enough instrument in Irish trad, with Clannad and Lúnasa being its most famous exponents. Harte is adept at playing back up and joining in on the faster dance tunes too - if this starts a trend then all the better.
The Cones is counted in with “1,2,3,4”, the accordion takes up the melody, guitar and bass running alongside. Bergin’s has menace and intent on the opening salvo from the guitar and bass. Again they leave it a while before the whistle joins the party; the ending is a series of quiet chords from the guitar and bass. PB18 is over 6 minutes long, a low whistle and guitar combine on a simply delicious melody. They hit the accelerator 2 minutes in and it’s into the fast lane to the track’s end as the bodhrán adds the bass under-blanket to keep the music nicely warm. The last note rings out with an echo.
Trip To Lucca has a bossa-nova intro, the accordion goes in continental mode, with the track bubbling like a cork being popped from a bottle of champagne. Our first chance to fully hear the pipes is on track 8, Late Night in Stiges, heady, bouncy, charged with pizzazz and a one note ending on the bass, pure class.
A punning title on Harte of the Band, the box is to the fore here; the first half is a gentle melody with whistle and accordion, the second sees the same two instruments bring home the tune in fine rollicking style. They leave the best to last, with College Drop Out. The piping here is first rate and the backing adds to the drama, and being Buíoch, as I’ve discovered, you can’t keep a good accordion down, and the close out is a flourish from Tierney.
The English translation of their name is grateful, and thanks to the lads in Buíoch both they and Irish trad in general have a great future ahead of them.
Seán Laffey

Hen Ganeuon Newydd
Sain SCD2850, 12 Tracks, 46 Minutes
The English translation of the album title is Old Songs New. This will be seen as an important recording of Welsh language songs in the 21st Century. Important because these songs come from a small region of North Wales, the Llŷn Peninsula. In the 19th century the area was culturally rich in song and poetry making, and singing was a key social pleasure within its community.
Gwenan is not only a fine singer and harp player but also an academic, and her research of archive manuscripts of Dr Meredydd Evans and Phylis Kinney is opening up native Welsh song to the world.
The Welsh Diaspora isn’t as extensive as the Irish, and is often hidden within other cultures; one such outpost is in Patagonia, and it is from there that Gwenan has Y Gwcw Fach Lwydai (The Little Grey Cuckoo) collected by R. H. Evans. Many of Gwenan’s songs were collected over 100 years ago; there are more background details at
Musically there is much here to enjoy, even if you haven’t an inkling of the meaning of the words. Gwenan has a clear, musical and melodic voice and her harp accompaniment is designed to let her voice shine above the strings. It’s not just harp and vocals as she is joined by Patrick Rimes (fiddle and viola), Aled Wyn Hughes (bass) and Gwilym Bowen Rhys (guitar, bouzouki and mandolin).
Ffarwel i Bencaenewydd, a story about a sailor leaving home has the minimal of extra accompaniment, whereas Y Drydedd Waith Yw’r Goel’s catchy chorus and lively tempo, benefits from a full ensemble sound. Things become musically more introspective on Dacw Long, the mandolin tremolo is a sensitive interlude. Trafnidiaeth yn Llyn seems to be a humorous song about how folks travelled around the Peninsula. On the final track Gwenan sings to the accompaniment of a piano, the song is Anne Bach Ray’s MyndFfwrdd, an achingly sad sound, topping off an emotionally rich album.
In a country where the Dragon has two tongues, all that Hen Ganeuon Newydd needs now is a dedicated lyrics and translation web page. These songs are too good to gather dust for another 100 years.
Seán Laffey

Own Label MSS01CD, 9 Tracks, 37 Minutes
Celtic-Country crossover - there’s a lot of it about, and this is a particularly fine example. Fiddler Maura Shawn Scanlin plays in the Irish style, adds banjo in a new-oldtimey style, and sings like steak sizzling on the grill. Her raw, smoky, tender vocals suit the two songs here, both Scanlin originals, supported by Kat Wallace as well as two guitars and a string quartet which blends surprisingly well with the 5-string banjo for contemporary Americana. Contemporary is where it’s at on the opening instrumental track too, straight out of the New England fiddle playbook. A trio of pipe jigs takes us clearly into Scots territory, reinforced by Elias Alexander on border pipes: The Seagull, Jerry’s Pipe Jig and The Boys of Ballymote range from Scotland to Cape Breton to Ulster. Maura’s tune Leaving Harvey Street lingers in Scottish mood, hovering between a lyrical strathspey and a slow jig, until her reel The Anglerfish stamps an unmistakable Irish shamrock on proceedings. Jigs by Paddy O’Brien and John Dwyer continue the Hibernian thread at a more relaxed pace with lovely smooth fiddle.
This Boston Celtic run ends with the first of Maura’s two songs, dreamy and devil-may-care. Her quirky Nuala’s Tune has an even more backwoods feel, echoes of Farewell to Trion perhaps, subtly arranged for several string lines. There’s nothing subtle about The Squall and Wildflower, two thumping Celtic reels combining fiddle with accordion and those brash border pipes. After another front-porch vocal number, the album closes on a couple of great Irish reels: a saunter through Black Pat’s by Donegal icon Tommy Peoples, and a neatly swung version of the Morrison classic Maud Millar.
This debut solo outing is an unassuming treasure. Maura’s Rakish bandmate Conor Hearn spells Eamon Sefton and Steven Manwaring on guitars, with occasional input from Owen Marshall on bouzouki, Neil Pearlman on keyboards and Sarah Collins on additional fiddle. In the words of one of the songs here, “We’ve got our friends, We’ve got our music, And the promise of the sunrise” - life doesn’t get much better.
Alex Monaghan

The Sun’s Valley
Own Label, 9 Tracks, 23 Minutes
Lily Honigberg is an award-winning fiddler and violinist based in Los Angeles. The Sun’s Valley is an album of her original fiddle music. Lily has gathered together quite the crew to bring it to life: James Yoshizawa on bones and bodhrán, James Heazlewood-Dale on upright bass, Calvin Anderson on guitar, Hannah Crowley on vocals, and this being California, she enlisted Eric Rigler as the go-to uilleann piper (he also doubles up on whistles). Eric has played on the soundtracks to Titanic, Braveheart, Outlander, and Rings of Power to name a few.
The album’s tone is set with Shelley’s Jig, a tune with depth and movement, rocking bass line and a long note to finish Sunrise Summit II, a slow start, the bass playing single notes at the end of each bar. Lily favours the lower end of the instrument, then a section where things get deliciously deconstructed, a counter melody is plucked on the bass and Lily takes up a jerky continuo, like the sun bursting through the fog of a west coast morning.
More sky pyrotechnics on The Lightning, again a modal tune, the first half establishing the melodic shape, then Lily picks up the tempo, chords from the piano, interjected little trills of keyboard notes. We are living in a territory between the Butterfly and Hardiman the Fiddler.
Eric Rigler’s whistle is the main ingredient on the atmospheric slow air Raft, before the fiery fiddling brings the piece to a rolling boil, with a last minute enlivened by the bones. Eric Rigler’s pipes are to the fore on Tuesday Adams, this is one for the traditional purists among you.
Hannah Crowley sings Lost on Land on track 8, fiddle and whistles weaving between verses, a cinematic story of escape and pursuit, the singing a dramatic narrative, the track ending with an extended instrumental. The last number Sometimes You Need is a smouldering slow air with pizzicato fiddle, some electronic wizardry and a solo banjo, the nearest we get here to a tone poem, from the other dimension of Lily’s considerable talent.
Seán Laffey

Glass Knight
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 46 Minutes
Winner of the Rising Star accolade in the 2020 Folking Awards, Burnell belongs to a generation who have grown up in a world of videos games; for them the past and the future are vividly accessible, an inner imaginative world where it is possible to experience dark-age combat one moment and the building of a mega city in a far off galaxy the next. His music takes on those chameleon dimensions with alt-folk, glam rock, classical influences; to his generation all of those genres are musics of the past, all of which he skilfully brings to his present.
In Where Planets Collide, his voice is light and youthful, the backing driven by a full drum kit, he ends the song with “I can’t help but feel nothing is real anymore”.
He is reflective, quiet and confessional on Out of These Worlds, he moves into a pop call to action on the dystopian Last Rain with reverb notched up on the electric guitar, handclaps and a doo-wop refrain. The title track is a mini-Rock opera, all achieved in less than five minutes.
For me the most infectious melody occurs in Looking Glass; the song is a retelling of the Snow White myth, this time from the mirror’s perspective. If you are a fan of exuberant electric guitar riffs, I suspect you’ll have track 9 Why The Raven Cries and Nathan Greaves playing on loop. The last track Moonlighter’s Child fulfils the trajectory of the album; like all fantasy tales, there’s a circular journey, all beginnings are endings, all endings are beginnings. It’s a formula as old as the Odyssey, our hero asks “If there’s a god in the sky looking down on high/can he tell me please am I living it wrong or right tonight?” Questioning drumbeats leave an empty space in which to wonder what answer we’ll offer up.
A work of intense imagination, this is 21st Century Folk Rock. Irish listeners will no doubt murmur the name of Chris De Burgh when trying to dock onto a cosmic connection. The album was launched at Cropredy in Oxfordshire in August, no doubt the thousands of faithful received it warmly.
Seán Laffey

Own Label, 10 Tracks, 37 Minutes
Bella was a winner of the 2016 Celtic Connections Danny Kyle Award and she performs with the acclaimed folk band The Magpies. The York based singer songwriter is bringing a new kind of folk song to the clubs and festivals on the UK scene, whilst retaining a repertoire of old ballads such as the American Fair and Tender Ladies, a single pulled from this album which is released September 2023.
The first track is Black Water, five-string banjo, steel strung guitar and constant bass, a fiddle comes in with a short passage as Bella takes on a rural riparian ramble, a stream connecting people and places, past and present. Black Water is a way back from a place from where we have come.
Holy Island is a portrait of the wild coast of Northumberland where St Aidan founded his Celtic Church and influenced generations of Northern monarchs. Listen here for the low whistle. She contrasts the natural innocence of the seascape with our ingenuous spirit in the recurring line, “Oh what a tangled web we weave first we practice to deceive”.
On the track Blue, Bella plays guitar punctuated by harmonic taps, adding to hand slaps on the instrument’s body, her voice here vulnerable, words tumble out as if talking to a lover whose time with you is running out. A theme of finding solace in music and the inner life of a travelling folk musician is distilled in Going Through The Motions. There’s a burst of optimism mid way through as the band picks up the slack and she realises that she’s just fine with her folk singer’s life.
The final track is a live recording of Gallows Pole, dark Americana, emotionally charged and angry as it reaches its final quarter. Chilling proof, if proof were needed, that Bella can bring this music alive on stage. As she sings on Black Water, “the Music that we share is a bond that we keep”. Reflections is a way of connecting with her muse.
Seán Laffey

Sheffield Park
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 47 Minutes
This is the debut album from George Sansome and Matt Quinn, a delightful package of folk songs and ballads, superb vocals, fittingly sparse accompaniment on guitar and mandolin, savvy harmonies, a perfect blend of two unique voices.
My Son in America, a well-rendered story of the boy who left County Mayo but “sent nothing home”, a lot of drama in The Death of Andrew, compelling twist in the tale of a bold deceiver, innocent maiden and the wrath of her brothers. The cruel father, already robbed of his gold, when the destitute daughter shows up, he instructs “no one to rise and let her in”. Her brothers vow vengeance, pursuing the traitor into Wales, leaving him maimed and naked to the mercy of the wolves, one can only imagine a live audience being enthralled by the song’s unfolding, delivered theatrically by Sansome and Quinn.
Their version of The Night Visiting Song and Sheffield Park of the title are both melodic: guitar, mandolin, voices and arrangements all enhance the material chosen.
Produced and mixed by Tom Wright, mastered by Nick Cooke with artwork by Maria Alzamora, Sheffield Park as a debut album is a fine expression of their individual talent, warmth and intimacy in their collaborations, tasty accompaniment throughout.
Brilliance in the unaccompanied songs; I Live Not Where I Love is a standout, spine-chilling harmonies, tight, intimate, great range and depth in the vocals, nuance, quirkiness in the timing, a vibrant expression of both their talents, it has melodic warmth, a listener’s delight.
Indeed the entire body of their work as a debut could be marketed by isolating the line, “singing sweetly and completely, songs of pleasure and of love”, what Sansome and Quinn do effortlessly. Their debut CD is a sparkling showcase of their individual and combined talents.
Anne Marie Kennedy

So Far We have Come
Penny Fiddle Records, 13 Tracks, 46 Minutes
So Far We have Come is a debut album from seasoned players and composers, Tamsin Elliott and Tarek Elazhary, blending strong Arabic musical traditions with western genres. Tarek, a member of the band Dokkan are the leading edge in Cairo’s contemporary music scene. With Bristol based Elliott and guests they have created an outstanding showcase, a robust fusion of world music.
Their collaborative composition El Hara is a compelling piece, on oud (historically recorded as the first stringed instrument), accordion, viola and percussion, musically imaginative with dramatic variation in tempo. With guests Rowan Elliott, Sam Sweeney, Archie Churchill-Moss, Daniel Gouly, Ricardo do Noronha and Leila El Balouty, recorded on the Penny Fiddle label.
In The Grey Of The Morning is a cinematic piece, notes and chords capturing morning mood, a blend of dawn chorus with exotic instruments tuned to avian vocal chords, nature sounds are brought indoors, harmonising and opposing, then a gentle shift in mood as the instruments are brought out of doors where birds and music makers merge as one, so beautifully achieved. Also related is their homage to Emily Dickinson’s bird poem Hope Is A Thing With Feathers, given new musical life in a haunting tune, where like the great poet’s observation of the little bird who “sings the tune without the words and never stops at all”, the tune here could well be a similarly enrapturing song.
Elliott, Elazhary and their guest musicians are not so much pushing boundaries, they are making and breaking new ones, widening musical horizons with a fusion of sound and cultures embroidered together, music for the discerning ear, making iconic sounds, fiddling, fretting and plucking tunes and airs. So Far We Have Come is truly pioneering. Launching in September with an extensive UK tour, see all venues and dates on Tamsin’s website.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Michelle Mulcahy
Lady on the Island
Own Label, 13 Tracks, 47 Minutes
Whenever I come across acclaimed musician Dr Michelle Mulcahy, it’s the astonishing beauty of her music that first comes to mind. I don’t often dwell on the PhD level of scholarship intrinsic to her name. But with this solo harp-album, I’m reminded of the multi-layered elements at play in Michelle’s artistic depth, complexity, giftedness, scholarship & vision. But better yet - she carries all that with grace, joy & a lightness of touch - evident from the very first notes - Michelle’s harp-music Scatters the Mud in great style with poise, power, and a deliciously creative pause, before taking us on a dance-inducing delve across a gorgeous set of tunes including her composition The Sweet Note in tribute to her father. A beginning that magically holds both the subtle powerfulness of her musical assurance & a fragility of sound as real, featherlight & beautiful as birdsong.
Her notes fill the heart like liquid gold. In Tabhair Dom Do Lámh, Michelle’s ingenious & intuitive arrangement casts fresh light - harp-playing that imbues so much new beauty into this much-loved air from 1603. In great liner-notes, Michelle links Eochaill with gratitude for her connection to, and love of, the singing of An Rinn’s Nioclás Toibín. Her stunning interpretation of The Drunken Sailor is intoxicating in the best sense of that, a tribute to the hauntingly evocative fiddle-music of the late Tommy Potts. No surprise from a young woman whose MA explored Emotional Meaning in Irish Music & a pioneering PhD exploring Burmese & Irish Harp traditions. Connections, complexity and courage - Michelle’s commitment to tradition & mastery of many instruments paradoxically liberates this great artist to truly inhabit & re-imagine the tunes, a lingering explorative musical mindfulness that’s also lit with bright radical energy, elevating this album & gifting us with gorgeous music, longstanding engagement, true integrity.
Nowhere more evident than in Michelle’s utterly compelling composition Caoineadh Mick Moloney in the wake of the profound loss of her great friend and mentor. I came across these lines to Michelle from brilliant musician Maurice Lennon: “I can feel your love for Mick in every single note Michelle, he would be so proud. Truly beautiful.” And the same Mick would so approve of how Michelle carries us then to a joyful blast of reels. An important & impeccably lyrical CD.
Deirdre Cronin

A Curious Compendium of Crooked Irish Tunes
Frisbee Records, 12 Tracks, 56 Minutes
I first crossed paths with Dave Flynn twenty-odd years ago at a strings workshop during the Frankie Kennedy Winter School. A PhD, many accolades and the Memory Orchestra later, Dave has brought out a fascinating album of guitar music, and it is guitar music like no other. Forget comparisons to Tony McManus, Jens Kommnick or Shane Hennessy, this album takes its own serpentine finger-picked backroad into traditional music. A visit to Dave’s website will give you a clue how he pulled this project off, including what he bashed a kettle with to get a particular sound.
For the more traditional minded listener, I’ll point you in the direction of Begley’s Belt and Magical Slides, they are Sliabh Luachra but not as you know it. The latter takes on an Andalusian flavour in places, chorizo with the white pudding. There’s an atmospheric opening to The R. Tucker Thompson, a southern wind gently blowing in the background. More noises off, this time a cold blast ushers in McCarthy’s Antarctic Slip-Slide Slip, a sort of nua- Carolan composition, it comes in with a roar and ends on the distant wings of bird song. More avian noises in The Frosty Vales of Milton, the lower end of the nylon strung guitar a rich foil for the high parts of this happy lithe tune, with its ending like the nervous chattering of giggly children. If you are looking for a deeper contrast then The Lemon Jig will take you away from the jig steps you are familiar with, crooked indeed.
Track 11, the Errigal Suite would take all of the CD review pages to analyse; at 16 minutes long it’s the same length as many a modern EP, suffice to say, it combines the guitar with radio-phonic sound effects, creating an altogether different sonic dimension. I wonder if its seed was sown during one of those new year string sessions in Gweedore?
Seán Laffey