Releases > Releases September 2014

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Own Label MJM002,
15 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Lovers of the infectious music of Sliabh Luachra, rejoice! The peerless duo of Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daly have returned with their second collection of old and new tunes from the Irish southwest, played with affection, deep knowledge and great good humour. Paul De Grae’s guitar adds supple and strong support to many of the tracks, and Conal Ó Gráda on flute and Geraldine O’ Callaghan on fiddle are sparkling additions to the roster. Rolling On is a worthy sequel to 2010’s The Living Stream, locating as it does the traditional dance music of Cork and Kerry within the watershed of the river Blackwater. Rolling On firmly establishes its place from the very first track; it is also a masterful evocation of its time. The tunes comprise a mix of well–known melodies from sources as diverse as Francis O’Neill’s The Dance Music of Ireland, the American Ryan’s Mammoth Collection, and the Scottish Kohler’s Violin Repository. These older tunes from Ireland and North America mix freely with newly–composed gems, including several from the prolific pen of Jackie Daly himself (the listener waits in vain, alas, for a Cranitch original).
The tunes and the carefully researched notes pay tribute to the earlier masters of this important regional tradition such as Pádraig O’Keeffe, Johnny O’Leary, Julia and Billy Clifford, and Denis Murphy. But as the river water flows to the sea, the tradition flows from one generation to the next, and – make no mistake about this – Matt and Jackie are the benchmark of the current generation of Sliabh Luachra musicians.
Take note, younger players: this is the traditional process truly and vigorously at work. Listen, for example, to the first set of lusty polkas which feature seamless unison playing. You may have heard the tunes before, but you will not ever have heard them so marvellously played. Don’t miss the gorgeous, slightly melancholy rendering of the set dance Youghal Harbour. The eponymous composition Maurice O’Keeffe’s Polka is matched with Stephen Foster’s familiar The Camptown Races, made into a polka by Pádraig O’Keeffe, and extended by Jackie Daly’s creative touch. The Old Walls of Liscarroll is a revelation to those who are familiar only with the session standard. The CD ends on a note familiar to all who have enjoyed Matt and Jackie’s music over the years – a very different take on Rolling in the Rye Grass followed by two delightful staples of the Sliabh Luachra repertoire, Johnny When You Die and Anything for JohnJoe?
Rolling On earns its place on the shelf of your CD library next to Pádraig O’Keeffe, Johnny O’Leary, and The Star of Munster Trio. This is the definitive voice of Sliabh Luachra in our generation.
Sally K Sommers Smith Wells


Own Label JNBS001
15 Tracks, 52 Minutes
Roche, Petrie, Goodman, O’Farrell and Bunting, great collectors who were active from the late 18th and well into 19th centuries. Throw in Seamus Ennis for a mid–twentieth century flavour and what you have is a broad sweep of some lesser known tunes from key sources, many of whom have been forgotten for far too long. On this album fiddler Josie Nugent and piper Brian Stafford have gone back to those older manuscripts to produce an intriguing and often beguiling album.
The combination of pipes and fiddle is as natural as any when it comes to music of this vintage and with the addition of Edel McLaughlin on piano and accordion there is a nod to modernity, equally so the guitar of Alan Burke. Mary Nugent rounds out the ensemble with flute which would be contemporary with many of the tracks from the oldest collections represented here.
This is no slavish early music concept album, the line up hints at the possibilities to be had from some outstanding tunes. The tunes are taken at a pace which brings out their full colour, on the 19th century music hall tune The Rocky Road to Dublin Stafford’s pipes work the variations which are often lost with break neck piping. Nugent’s fiddling on Fitzgerald’s Hornpipe distils the darkness out of the tune and is one of my favourite selections on the album.
A great joy of the album is the rediscovery of different dance forms, some of which were sometimes castigated during the formative years of the Fleadh movement and have been lost to two or three generations of musicians. For example there is the Acorn Stomp from the Roche collection and Annie Laurie here played as a quadrille, collected by Nigel Boillier in County Down. Annie Laurie should be careful I can see this being hi–jacked in Killarney and it ending up as polka. Reels do predominate on the album and there are some wonderful discoveries to be made here, with The Green Pigeon/Fair Maids of Ireland being worth repeated listening.
There are jigs too, one The Old Foxhunters Jigg, retains the original spelling and is a different tune than the well known Keating party piece. The duo don’t shy away from slow airs either, which is refreshing balance to a an album of dance music, Stafford’s pipes are rich and full on the evocative title track The Caves of Cong. Josie Nugent adds the unusual Stroh fiddle to Oh My Darling Left Me, the title of which is written in the Old Irish script, a charming twist there. The Merry Old Widow set is the most lyrical on the album and the most flowing ensemble piece on show here.
In summary this is a welcome addition to any collection of CDs, and it opens the door to a world of music that is waiting to be re–discovered. The tempos adopted here make this a terrific source for players who are looking to learn some new tunes.
Stafford and Nugent have blown the dust off the old manuscripts, reviving some seriously impressive tunes in the process.
Seán Laffey


Own Label – 17 Tracks, 49 Minutes
Amongst noted piano accordion players in the world of popular song and dance music there is no face more familiar than that of the much–loved and genial Mick Foster of the world–renowned duo, Foster and Allen. One would imagine that he and his musical sidekick, Tony, had enough on their plate as a globetrotting musical duo, but the indefatigable Mick can be found playing on stage, studio and recordings with his Irish traditional music friends in places like Cavan, Westmeath and Longford just for the felicity of the experience – purely and simply.
Mick loves the music and the company and the craic that goes with it. I should know, because I have been at sessions with him on Martin Donohoe’s Shannonside Radio gigs and elsewhere, and he’s the heart and soul of these céilí–house type occasions. Even though he’s been in the musical big– time for decades, and along with Tony has a following right round the globe, Mick is just one of the lads having a good time playing the tunes, singing the songs, and telling a few yarns. And that’s how it is on his latest CD.
On The Crooked Road – Mick Foster and Friends, he’s joined by Moyra Fraser (keyboard), Noel Battle (harmonica), Siobhán Ní Chonaráin, and Martin Murphy (drums). This talented musical crew serve up a delightful helping of tasty bits that include reels, jigs, hornpipes, barndances, and slow airs – oh, and a waltz, Mrs Kenny’s. As I listened to it and to medleys like Paddy Fahy’s Jigs, The Premier /The Trip to Cullenstown, Feargal O’Gara / Reel of Rio, and the slow air Slán le Máigh, I was transported back to programmes like Radió Éireann’s Balladmaker’s Saturday Night, and Take the Floor. Pure nostalgia!
This music is for sitting back to and enjoying for its own sake, but if there isn’t a musician in the house for the dancers, then The Crooked Road – Mick Foster and Friends will provide what’s needed – and it’ll be “round the house and mind the dresser” for the rest of the evening. Enjoy yourselves.
Aidan O’Hara


Own Label DM001
12 Tracks, 49 Minutes
You might know David Doocey as the dapper fiddler with Gráda, and that is how he appears on the cover of this CD, released at the end of 2013, dressed in a waistcoat and tie, he could be mistaken for a snooker wizard. On Changing Time Doocey is on cue at every angle.
A dozen tracks, not the usual mix of jig, reel, hornpipe back to reel, this is a higher level equation, the music expands as the album unfolds, on the one hand you have a terrific selection of tunes and on the other a programmed progression as the album moves from the first to the final cut. Doocey fills out the album by drawing on the talents of his brothers Patrick on guitar and Kevin on accordion. He picks red hot pianist Ryan Malloy, and brings in bass player Kevin Doherty and his brother Stephen on the flute. Consequently the tone of the album is reassuringly old and refreshingly new. Doocey selects his repertoire with clinical precision.
Beginning with Martin Wynnes’s No2 reel, he pays homage to the well travelled Sligo fiddler who was a major musical influence both on the London and New York Irish scenes. Things get more modern, fuller, jazzier even on The Broken Pledge which is anchored by great work on the guitar. This marks a tipping point on the album from here the full band is beginning to develop.
Doocey shows his compositional credentials in a piece he penned for a TV documentary on the Magdalene laundries called A New Dawn, the tune sounds like it has come from a Neil Gow collection. David Doocey shines not just on the fiddle but also the concertina and viola, a consummate musician The piano underscores the Man of the House set where Doocey takes up the concertina with syncopated assurance. Captain Kelly sounds almost European in its late night jazz intro, an inspired piece of arranging there.
His album ends with a set of swaggering tunes, Fishers/The Coal Miners/ Holland’s, do I detect a Cape Breton influence here? It has that raw energy that infects so much Maritimes music.
If he really was a snooker player Doocey would be in the 147 club, maximum break, maximum respect for a stunning debut album.
Seán Laffey


Own Label MOY001,
15 Tracks, 52 MinuteséilíBand
If you didn’t read the sleeve notes you would be forgiven for thinking an album from the North Connacht based Moylurg Céilí Band would be a purely instrumental based recording of, well, céilí music. Whilst the main thrust of the album, The Rest is History, incorporates a realm of jigs , reels, polkas, hornpipes, barn dances and airs, it also features three songs derived from Ewan McColl, Tommy Sands and, Moylurg pianist, Mick Blake that are evenly dispersed throughout the instrumental track line–up.
The release marks a landmark in the history of the Céili Band as they emerged the winners of the All Ireland Senior Céilí Band Competition at the Fleadh Cheoil na hEireann in Derry last year and became winners as the result of a rare recall with the Knockmore Céilí Band from Fermanagh. The set they played for the recall is featured on the first track of the album, The Maids of Castlebar and the Lucky in Love Reels; a well–rehearsed, tight knit set with a fantastic lift and tight orchestration. The consistency of this cohesiveness of play remains throughout the instrumental tracks and special mention has to be given to the percussive quality throughout. Other standout mentions are the quality of instrumental sound on the Killary Harbour reel and the sweetness of piano note as Blake renders Bríd Óg ni Mháille exquisitely.
The song choice is diverse with a powerful version of the classic McColl song, School Days Over, followed by the beautiful Tommy Sands composed County Down however the Leitrim (A brief history) song captured the ears, not only for the presentation but for the resonance of the lyrical analogy of the past and present.
The Rest is History is a great display of the talent that lies within the auspices of the Moylurg Céilí Band; a fitting memory for a winning time in their musical history.
Eileen McCabe

Own Label POS0002
14 Tracks, 49 Minutes
A highly respected fiddler, and no mean flute–player, this founder member of Altan has recorded several albums with fiddlers and fluters who share his Northern taste in Irish music. This is his second solo sortie, after a fifteen year wait. There are no pretensions to radical or revolutionary approaches here: Paul kicks off with Ryan’s Rant, as solid and established a reel as you could wish for, and that sets the tone for The Friendly Visit (which is translated as An Céilí, interestingly enough, one of the original meanings of that Irish cultural institution which covers dance halls, concerts and house parties as well as more intimate social gatherings where music is played).
Paul’s Donegal connections are soon in evidence: a set of highlands ending with one of many Jimmy Lyons tunes, followed by the air Lord Galway’s Lamentation which goes by a slightly different title in Scotland, and then a medley of highlands and reels beloved of Donegal fiddlers. In fact, the spirit of Donegal pervades this CD, from Paul’s bowing style and relatively unadorned fingering, to the sources of his material: the Byrnes of Kilcar, the great Tommy Peoples and Con Cassidy, John and Mickey Doherty of course, Jimmy Campbell and others. The Black Haired Lass, The Swedish Jig, The Spirits of Wine and Condon’s Frolics all have their stories. Between the reels and jigs, Paul slots in a pair of delightful mazurkas which should get any dancer’s toes tapping.
As if that weren’t enough, O’Shaughnessy enlists the help of Eoin O’Neill and Garry O’Briain on bouzouki and piano for several selections, as well as drafting in his mother Pearl and daughter Kate, fine fiddlers both, for some gorgeous family duets and trios. Pearl has been a mainstay of the Dublin session scene for many years, and the set of John Egan polkas here pays tribute to that influence on Paul’s music. Switching to flute, this versatile musician shows his mastery of Clare music on John Kelly’s Slow Reel and a set of jigs including one he picked up from whistle mistress Mary Bergin. Another surprising strand comes in the final pair of reels learnt from American recordings of Paddy Cronin via Dublin piper Jimmy Brophy. The core of The Friendly Visit remains faithful to the Donegal style, though: a great fiddle tradition, a powerful variant of Irish music, and Paul O’Shaughnessy does it full justice on this album.
Alex Monaghan

Own Label SL033
11 Tracks, 38 Minutes
A second CD from this fiddle–guitar duo, and it’s a corker. Driving dance tunes and sumptuous slow pieces, Leahy and Spencer are masters of both. Based down in Dingle, the pair have a strong connection to Kerry music, but also cast their net further afield. They’re joined here by a few musical friends on accordion, flute, bass, vocals and additional guitars, but still this is essentially a two–man show. Two of the tracks on Entanglement change rhythm half way through, an unusual quality in Irish music: I’m not sure where the lads got the idea from, but it produces some great changes of gear. Plenty of polkas and slides, a few reels, and the occasional jig or hornpipe make for varied listening. These youngsters aren’t afraid of a bit of improvisation either – they throw in some little personal variations on Darley’s Reel and Murphy’s Hornpipe for example. Two songs from Áine Uí Laoithe add another dimension to the excellent instrumentals: both are romantic waltz melodies sung in a strong distinctive voice, one in English and the other in Irish.
Let’s take a closer look at those medleys. The first starts with a bridal march from Papa Stour in the Shetland Isles, an ancient fiddle tune with that dark Nordic edge that sends shivers down the spine. The change into The Peeler and the Goat is a dramatic increase of pace, adding Damien Mullane’s powerful accordion into the mix, and this classic Kerry slide is neatly dovetailed into The Corner House Reel with some nifty picking on guitar. The second medley goes from a waltz–like slip jig to the standard Neil Sullivan’s Jig, and then into the lively Pólca Meabh by Séamus Begley. No box on this track, but Damien pushes the buttons on three or four more, and there’s some tasty flute from Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh later on. The pair of slip jigs are better known to me as The Butterfly and Drops of Brandy, and there are one or two other surprising names here, but the quality of the music is superb throughout. Whether it’s local favourites like Dálaigh’s Polka and Denis Murphy’s Slide, or more cosmopolitan reels such as The Wild Irishman and The Small Hills of Offaly, Leahy and Spencer produce confident and exciting renditions. Entanglement is smooth, polished, yet full of that Munster energy and spark, a winning combination.
Alex Monaghan


Crows Records WHRL016
12 Tracks, 49 Minutes
There’s something for everyone to gain from listening to the eclectic resonance of Waiting for the Tide from the equally and delightfully eclectic NoCrows. It’s been a long wait for their fourth album and they have added the great Ray Coen to their musical line up since they released NoCrows on the Moon in 2010.
This one is slightly different given the greater number of vocal tracks and, oh what a joy to listen to! From the free falling, opening track The Pendulum that is segmented by the cry of the corncrake as the earthy strings emerge into a sway that sets the tone for the raw velvet of Coen’s self–penned song Good Times. There’s a seriously good string thing going on in Ponomarev’s Fintan Waltz and this definitive tempo carries through and then redefines itself into the fascinating Heyka where the dramatic musical pauses create as much fervour as the instrumental itself. The freedom of string and percussion movement (from Eddie Lee especially) on Fandango for Penny is mesmeric and I can only describe the Wickham/Stonier penned Rainbow over Sligo as intimately heart–warming; conjuring a fusion of colour amidst the stunning Sligo scenery and all through the simplicity of the lyricism and its delivery.
This group of excruciatingly good talent manage to give off an easy going, flowingly languid vibe that belies the serious musicianship that emanates from the soundscape that is produced. The sleeve notes say “Still no crows (or corncrakes) were harmed in the making of this album. Not even a rabbit.” Well that’s because, like us, they would have been enchanted at being drawn into the beguiling NoCrows musical fold. It’s improvisation with a serious musical intent and it will carry you away on its enigmatic, fervent strings.
Eileen McCabe