Releases > Releases September 2017

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Gràdh is Gonadh – Guth ag aithris (Love and Loss – A Lone Voice)
Temple Records COMD2109, 13 Tracks, 62 Minutes
“The Gael, like a lot of peoples, are not the best of emotional people in terms of working out their own emotions, especially in terms of showing emotion. That is why the songs, especially the love songs, are so powerful because it was a channel for their pent–up emotion.” That is the observation of Christine Primrose, widely recognized as one of the great singers of Gaelic song of her generation.
What she says is borne out in her new CD, Gràdh is Gonadh – Guth ag aithris (Love and Loss – A Lone Voice), and even for listeners unfamiliar with the Gaelic tongue, the power of emotion and feeling is palpable in Christine’s performance. Producer of the CD, Robin Morton, says perceptively, “These are songs of love and loss in their most pure form – unaccompanied – laid bare and carried by a beautiful, strong, yet vulnerable voice. The songs are given space to breathe – and speak emotionally in a way that transcends language.”
The production values of the CD are of the highest quality, not only for the excellence of the sound quality and the singing itself, but also for the detailed bilingual notes on each song.
This is as it should be in all such CD’s, because they add so much to the joy and pleasure of the listening experience. The song words and translations are found at An unusual and welcome feature is the spoken introduction for several of the songs. It starts with track 1, O A Leannain (O Sweetheart), a song of betrayal, obsession and grief. An older woman, Dolina Nic IllFhinneinn, speaks these lines, also found in Dónal Óg, one of the ‘big songs’ of the Irish repertoire:
You took east and you took west from me
You took the moon and you took the sun from me
You took the heart that is in my chest from me
And you nearly, my love, took my God from me.
The song is remarkable not just for the starkness and beauty of the young woman’s words but for the explicit expression of the intimacy between her and her lover:
On that night I was in your loins, beneath the tree at the foot of the cliff,
I didn’t then refuse you my flesh nor did I fear if a child had stirred.
Christine was born into the Gaelic song tradition on the Isle of Lewis and is a highly–regarded artist at home and abroad. She is now the Senior Tutor in Gaelic Song at Sabhal Mór Ostaig, a public higher education college on the Isle of Skye. Lucky students to have her, and lucky for us that on this CD, she shares so many songs that are sung not just with a wonderful clarity of diction but with a clarity of emotion, as well. She is “a true singer of the Sean Nòs who keeps true to the song”.
Aidan O’Hara

All Covered With Moss
Own Label, 15 Tracks, 70 Minutes
This is one of the best fiddle and uilleann pipes albums of the past ten years. It’s long, it’s packed full of big tunes, it is grounded in the tradition, it’s as raw bar as you can get, it’s never flash and it’s marvellous for it. Perkins and Brown are a husband and wife duo, fiddler Alison Perkins from Detroit and piper Nicolas Brown from Fergus, Ontario. That’s a long way from Ireland, but as each track unfolds you’d think they were regulars in Henrietta Street Dublin.
Take The Boys of Galway/ The Curragh Races/The Daisy Field. Brown begins this on pipes, drones burring away; he plays the melody over them and brings in the regulators, then in comes the fiddle on the Curragh Races and both make a jump into neck and neck tight unison playing, galloping along and passing the winning post on one long note.
O’Connell’s Lamentation is one of the longer pieces at 6 minutes. Taken at a walking pace, the pipes and fiddle are in lock step; some players might have cut this tune in half, but Perkins and Brown let it run, using the time to add little variations as the build up to a full crescendo with drones and regulators blazing, it is bold, brave and brilliant.
The title track All Covered With Moss is the second tune in the selection, which begins with an unusual version of Banish Misfortune, slightly more lyrical than is normal with this favourite jig. Banish Misfortune is sourced from recordings of Edward Cronin and is on wax cylinder and All Covered With Moss is from O’Neill’s Music of Ireland, so these could be new to many pipers here in Ireland.
The liners notes are succinct yet they resonate with scholarship. It is clear this duo have consulted archives, listened to early recordings and absorbed the style of some of the finest 19th century players. There are two modern selections on the album, Don’t Leave Me Alone /My Love is On a Train, one of three tracks with accompaniment from bouzouki player Michael Gavin, and The Girl With the Laughing Eyes / The Erstwhile Lover. The Erstwhile Lover was composed by their friend Armand Aromin of Providence, Rhode Island.
Patrick Hutchinson writes in the liner’s introduction that the pair listen to each other and listen to the stations of the tune, and he is so right. From the very first track The Rambler’s Rest, to the final Byrn’s March/Johnny Cope this is music that is as authentic as it comes. If you are learning the pipes or an experienced player this is a must listen album.
Seán Laffey

The Truckley Howl
Own Label TTH001, 14 Tracks, 54 Minutes
Three blow–ins to Ireland, but all very well known in traditional music circles, these players share an interest in the old recordings of Irish music and the ineffable qualities of style and interpretation, which are not transmitted on the printed page.
The great musician, linguist, raconteur and collector Séamus Ennis found or fabricated the term “truckley howl” to describe that part of the music which is personal, indescribable, unique and yet common to a tradition. Mairéad Hurley, John Blake and Nathan Gourley have that quality jointly and severally: the long held notes of Champagne Charlie, the flashing triplets in John Dwyer’s, the low growling in Bobby Gardiner’s jig The Clare Shout.
Mairéad’s concertina cuts through on most tracks, with Nathan’s fiddle not far behind, and John’s flute flying in for a few tunes. John is the consummate accompanist, and his guitar and keyboard backing gives a firm foundation for this music. There are some solo spots: Gourley bags the old Scottish reel Dogs Among the Bushes while Hurley is on her own for the lament O’Rahilly’s Grave. Blake plays a pair of fiddle reels on the flute, Ah Surely and The New Copperplate, with Gourley sitting in on guitar. For the rest, it’s duets and trios on some old favourites and some rarities: Miss McDonald’s, The Stage, Tumble the Tinker, By Golly, Papa’s Pet, The Spike Island Lasses, Bill Harte’s and Spellan the Fiddler to name a few.
There’s a handful of hornpipes and a lovely waltz called The Spanish Fandango which may or may not be Spanish and certainly isn’t a fandango. There are tunes from Clare and Kerry, several from Nathan’s New World home, none from Mairéad’s antipodean roots or John’s cockney cousins, and most are from the Sligo fiddle and flute heartland. Each melody is given a brief context in the notes, but this trio is one of few words. Their music is eloquent enough, and their faces brighten up the album sleeve, although I am slightly disconcerted by Gourley’s grin as he sits next to another man’s wife. Watch that yank, John!
Alex Monaghan

The Brae Road
Othain Records OTH001, 11 Tracks, 41 Minutes
This music has Donegal written right through it, from the opening barndances to the final set of firmly driven fiddle reels. Round the Rock and Kilcausey are reels by Malin fiddler Paddy Byrne, both inspired by Donegal people and places, passed on by his son Tom. They are followed by a couple of grand old mazurkas, and a pair of harp airs with a Buncrana connection. Roisin doesn’t play the harp: she leaves that to Joleen McLaughlin, one of several talented guests on The Brae Road, including Deirdre McGrory on whistle, Ella McGrory on piano, and fellow fiddlers Melanie Houton, Eimear McColgan and Clodagh Warnock. Colm O’Caoimh and Paul Harrigan accompany most tracks, on guitar and accordion mainly. With this number of musicians, recorded simultaneously, it seems there is some blurring in the mix but Roisin’s fiddle always comes through strongly.
A couple of big Scottish strathspeys are slightly simplified as Donegal highlands, played with poise and great rhythm, before the beautiful old–style waltz Libby Shaw of Lochawe by Simon Bradley. Two lovely Donegal hornpipes follow, new to me, Farewell to Malin by Paddy Byrne again, and An tEas, then a set of jigs ending with the old favourite Sally Gardens reel in C.
Roisin flings in five of her own tunes too: the title barndance, three happy soaring jigs, plus the majestic air Where Aileach Guards given a full cinematic arrangement here as befits the landscape of Inishowen. And those final reels: despite being compositions of fiddlers from Tipperary, Galway and Leitrim, they are played here with an Ulster accent. Roisin learnt Shamrock Hill from the delightful Donegal fiddler Brid Harper, and Tribute to Larry Reynolds from Scottish fiddle master Charlie McKerron, so the aural tradition is playing its part, and Paddy Fahey’s just has to fit in.
Young Ms McGrory is well able to impose her own character on this music, and it’s a pleasure to hear The Brae Road’s combination of the classic Donegal sound with Roisin McGrory’s lightness of touch and clarity of tone.
Alex Monaghan

Own Label, 10 Tracks, 25 Minutes
Dedicated to the boys’ great granny Norah Neeson, one can’t help but smile from beginning to end of this collection of music. Family Tree is the first album from The Byrne Brothers and it doesn’t disappoint. Consisting of 10 tracks, each different from the other, it offers a vibrant, fresh piece of listening. There’s even a couple of original songs on here, An Torc and Toast of Ireland, and they co-wrote Family Tree with Stanford Vinson from Virginia USA. Although some mix–up with the translation, of An Torc, the boys left it as it was. And it works. This young family are making waves on the live circuit for their diversity in performance and alliance of style.
The album opens with The Tulla Set, and the brothers put their own mark on it. This immediately leads into March of the Min An Toiteann Bull. Followed on by Old favourite Jig, An Torc, Swedish Jig, BC Set, Snowy Path, Music for a Newfound Harmonium, A Toast to Ireland and finishing off with the wonderful youthful voice of Dempsey, on Family Tree.
The banjo, button accordion, mandolin and bodhrán all feature heavily throughout this CD. The three young brothers have given each tune/song their own touch and it’s very different and incorporates a mix of traditional styles. Dad Tommy plays fiddle, bagpipes, whistle and uileann pipes, which only adds to the vibrancy of the collection. Brian O’Sullivan also features on guitar and bass.
The three young boys’ musical talent is unmistakably unfaltering throughout this album. They succeed in taking us on a journey through some of Ireland’s traditional music’s most infamous tunes and yet at all times remain authentic.
These children emulate all that has gone before them with this compilation. They express a huge respect for each tune and this is showcased at every turn on the album. Family Tree celebrates youthful musical expression and The Byrne Brothers’ musical talent from beginning to end. It showcases Irish traditional music at its youthful best.
Grainne McCool

Blue Cow Records, 10 Tracks, 44 Minutes
Janet Dowd’s album Home went straight to number 1 shortly after its release in May and has appeared in the Top Ten pages of Irish Music Magazine. No wonder it is popular in the Northern capital. Indeed one of the tracks is Finbar Magee’s My Belfast Love and what a fine job she does of it. There are older songs here too, ones that measure up well against what we might know as standards. Súil a Rúin is the oldest, Janet’s version is completely engaging. She brings the same quality to Eric Bogle’s anti war song All The Fine Young Men, and Tommy Sands’ hymn to the home country County Down, surely one of the best exile songs of this millennium. Janet visits an emigrant’s dilemma on Dougie Mclean’s Garden Valley which to my mind is up there with his better known Caledonia.
Janet’s own song writing anchors on place in Westport Town, a fond remembrance of Mayo and again on Brendan Graham’s My Land. There is a ghost story of star–crossed lovers Forbidden Love which was written by Janet. Like all good thrillers it leaves the twist until the end. The final track, her self–penned song A Simple Life, sums up the peace many of us feel in music. If you have music as good as this, you won’t want for anything better.
Seán Laffey

Own Label SHMOOSICCD21a, 12 Tracks, 60 Minutes
An hour of music from this pair of multi–instrumentalists playing new and traditional music on fiddles, flutes, fretted things, pipes, percussion, keyboards, and nyckelharpa. Steafan is well known to Irish music fans from his work with Sin É and other bands, and comes from a musical family of Irish emigrants. Saskia is a champion fiddler with a deep interest in Irish music as well as training in classical and jazz styles. Together they perform many favourites from the Irish dance music repertoire alongside old English, Scottish and European pieces, and some of their own tunes. There are some very powerful performances here: Michael Gorman’s heartfelt jig The Strayaway Child, and possibly the best version I’ve ever heard of Donald Shaw’s tune MacLeod’s Farewell, which is widely known as The Wedding Reel.
There are also some surprisingly rustic moments on Moorchild: a multi–tracked version of The Wind that Shakes the Barley which sounds as though it was recorded in a hurricane, an equally shaky pair of reels starting with Boc an tSléibhe, and the oddly jerky Earl’s Chair set.
Most of this CD is highly entertaining though: the title track’s earthy strings and high whistle evoke a mediaeval fair, the opening set of jigs is straightforward Irish dance music well played, and the final two big reels are pleasantly smokey.
Steafan’s accompaniment is deft throughout, and his accomplished piping adds an extra dimension on several tracks. Saskia’s variations are not always what we’re used to in Irish music, but they mostly work well and her fiddle tone is exemplary. It will be interesting to see how this pairing evolves, and how they bring their multi–tracked music to a live audience.
Alex Monaghan

Going Home
Stab Tower Records STR1202, 12 Tracks, 40 Minutes
April Verch is a vivacious Ottawa Valley fiddler. If you get the chance to see her live show you are in for fun, fine fiddling and step dancing, sometimes simultaneously. On this album she has teamed up with veteran guitar and banjo player Joe Newberry. This is music from the right hand side of North America, the Ozarks, Appalachia and the Ottawa Valley. Sixty year old Newberry is a blow in to North Carolina. He landed there in 1973 and now plays in a four piece called The Law Firm. “We’re just treacherous old guys. We have a ball,” he told the local paper in Raleigh.
The title track I’m Going Home is a co–write between Newberry and Si Kahn (of Aragon Mill fame). It is lovely gentle song, a finger picked guitar over which Newberry’s voice glides, as the song develops until Verch’s fiddle sweeps in and she joins in on harmony vocals, then takes a ramble on the fiddle.
The waltz is a very popular dance in American folk music and Verch has penned a New Waltz, which would lift your feet from the floor. They have a song called I Can’t Sit Down, mountainy music with a religious theme; Verch splicing it with a Trip to Windsor, long bows hitting the minor notes. April is at her most percussive on the Arcand–Saw Traveller with Newberry taking up the five–string banjo, the track shifts into the more familiar Arkansas Traveller as the pace quickens.
In contrast My Dear Childhood Days shows the duo in full control, Newberry’s tenor voice over the drone of the fiddle, at one with the sentiments of the song. April Verch’s version of Back Up and Push is a reminder of the genius of its composer Ward Allen and the wealth of music he gave to the country genre of Canadian fiddling. They pair this with John Brown’s Dead with April hitting the floor for some fancy dancing. (A live video of this is on her website).
Newberry and Verch would be a shoe in for the Shannonside Mid Winter Festival. If you like the American end of the fiddle bow this is a must have for your collection.
Seán Laffey

Own Label, 10 Tracks, 34 Minutes
Here is an exciting new album of personal songs with confessional themes, life’s journey explored in poetry that has flair and originality. Most of the material defies genre, blurring boundaries of the blues, jazz, folk and American country.
Crossan has great vocal range and sings with energetic confidence. Her melodies and harmonies are captivating. Mr. Bartender is a wonderfully sustaining song. The up tempo dance beat almost belies the subject matter; the alcohol dependent protagonist, told beautifully in the first person narrative voice, promising the bartender, ‘I’ll be your heart’s desire’, and that she will tell stories where ‘none of them are true’, until she eventually falls in drunken love with him. Crossan’s backing band creates an impressive, full sound here, a flawless rhythmic mix of talent, choice of instrument and arrangements. Band members are: Seamus Devenny, John McEleney, Tom Byrne, Mark Vaughan and Joe McNamee.
The Little Boy is a tender maternal lullaby, beautifully rendered and evocative. The empty nest is bearable, because of a small boy remembered, in the space that waits for a precious adult son. Lovers Escape is a fine country song, as is I Like it Like This, a catchy number that uses repetition to great effect, conversational in style, ‘come on in a take off your coat and hat’. It is an intimate lovers’ song, which contrasts dramatically with the darkness of Blue Shadow, a heart– breaking song about the familiarity of despair. Born is a very fine album of original work.
Ann Marie Kennedy

For You
MVI Music Ltd. 10 Tracks, 40 Minutes
Sinéad Egan’s London recorded album showcases the singer’s ability to make some impressive and eclectic songs; her strengths are in the acoustic adult pop world that is the seed corn of late night radio. The arrangements are many steps up from a guitar plucking singer–songwriter, yet the themes she explores are familiar territory within that genre. Highly personal, using contemporary terms and modern vernacular, this is an intense commentary of the psychological times we live in, one of the isolated personalisation of society and its introspective repercussions. Sinéad’s voice, in particular, is mesmerising and soulful and she carries heartfelt emotion behind every word that she sings. Sinéad is a multi instrumentalist, playing acoustic and electric guitars, bass and banjo. She is joined by a number of musicians such as Collin Mullin who plays uilleann pipes on track 5 Remedy. The album is cosmopolitan to its core.
Nobody Knows begins with the soundtrack of a steam train approaching before the music comes in. This is the most commercial number, kind of early Wham with a Celtic middle eight and could be a summertime radio hit in Ireland. Running out of Love has a guitar section that reminded me of the work of Cyril McPhee. This is a lovely lyrical song and Sinéad’s voice is clear and pitch perfect against a country fiddle.
The title track Love Can Be the Enemy (For You) is number ten on the CD. It arrives wearing a big 80’s hairdo, bearing a string intro which is somewhere on a road from Chris Rea to Crosby’s Holiday Inn.
String arrangements are by Sinéad and Claire Egan, with mastering at the famous Abbey Road Studios. Throughout this album, Sinéad’s music shimmers with class and craftsmanship.
Seán Laffey

Will O’ the Wisp
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 54 Minutes
The Sligo singer songwriter, Mairin Mannion has produced a highly accomplished recording in Will O’ the Wisp. The dark enchanting cover art reflects themes in her work: the moon, mythology, memories, childhood, light and sense of place. Sligo town is almost a character in her work, WB Yeats a huge influence, Queen Meave and Knocknarea also.
Mairin Mannion’s sweet young voice is thrilling in Innishfree, where she intersperses her own words with those of the great poet. She asks, ‘is it time to stray once more’, putting her own longings up against a well–recognised Yeatsian theme, his yearning for Sligo. Vivid memories of childhood flourish, especially in Bog Time, days remembered from childhood, times spent with a story telling grandfather, eating sandwiches and drinking sweet tea, a beautifully lyrical song, her young sweet voice perfect for the engaging lyrics.
The harmonies with Aisling Mannion on Hush The Busy World are superb, the childlike poetic voice and imagery is captivating: the ‘sea shell, she will tell you all the secrets’. Melvin Waters is a wonderful combination of melody, voice, accompanists and arrangement. Without You, written by Ciaran Casey is a song that will sustain, an enduring folk song elucidating a young woman’s insecurity around love, ‘I was just a fool before I met you…’ It is an outstanding combination of poetry, tempo and voices. Padraic Colum’s Old Woman Of The Roads is also given the Mairin Mannion treatment.
The talents of this young Sligo woman, of words and songs, are well represented here. If you buy this album, €2 will be donated to Saint Cecilia’s School Cregg Sligo.
Ann Marie Kennedy

The Fox’s Lament
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 43 Minutes
The Meehan brothers of Manchester are now well settled in their adopted home of Armagh, where they have made a huge contribution to the traditional music scene. This is the second album from Martin Meehan, a flute player, joined here by Paul Meehan (guitar) and others including fiddler Donal O’Connor who co-produced the album with Martin.
Martin is an ex–pupil of both Peter Carberry and Michael McGoldrick, that pedigree shows through. The cover is a typically fluid picture from the brush master John B Valley and it captures the flowing energy that electrifies track after track on The Fox’s Lament.
Opening with a set of reels Hanley’s Tweed, Patsy Touhey’s and the First Month of Summer, with Meehan’s flute sending sparks of melody across the room. Then there’s that trademark Paul Meehan guitar backing (no wonder he was once recruited as member of Lúnasa). Martin adds a cup of continental Café culture to the party with Lusignac, a waltz he learned from a session in Durham with Karen Tweed.
The Fox’s Lament he had from the piper Dicky Deegan. Meehan treats it as an old Gaelic air, with Sylvia Crawford’s wire strung harp leading it out into a hushed feasting hall. Martin moves to a B Flat flute on Lands EndGort Na Mona, the first a composition from Micheal Rooney, the guitar’s tasteful high pitched dancing over Martin’s mellow fluting. The album closes with a Manchester favourite, Toss The Feathers combined with What About Manus and the Leitrim Bucks, the flute coming in over a brooding moody exploration of the lower end of the guitar fret board.
From the straight traditional to being open to outside influences such as on Muniera des Rengos, Martin Meehan is a master and has in Armagh collaborators who share his passion, precision and perception of traditional music. This is another top–drawer album from Ulster.
Seán Laffey