Releases > Releases September 2020

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Vertical VERTCD111, 12 Tracks, 52 Minutes
The Manchester flute maestro has been conspicuous by his big-band absence, although his touring schedule with various line-ups was pretty full until recently, and he’s been instrumental (sorry) in the production of many fine albums of traditional music. Still, it’s great to have another dose of McGoldrick to spin up, and ARC is the pure drop, almost a dozen and a half of Mike’s own tunes, plus a handful of traditional Irish gems and two or three by McGoldrick’s musical collaborators.
One of those collaborators is Fatou Diawara, a songstress from Mali who fronts the only vocal piece here: her own Bakanoba recorded live at Celtic Connections. Like McGoldrick’s previous recordings, there’s a touch of world music on several tracks, adding to that Manchester Irish feel, but it only really bursts through with Fatou, backed by Jethro Tull flute and funky banjo from the mysterious Gerry O’Conner. Guest musicians number over twenty, and you’d recognise most of the other names here from Flook, Capercaillie, Ìmar and other top-flight bands, but there’s no doubt whose album this is.
From the opening Five-Point Reels to the set of slides with a nod to James Brown, Mr McGoldrick’s compositions capture that contemporary Irish feel shared with Lunny, McSherry, Finnegan and other greats. A touch of marimba from Signy Jakobsdottir on Wassalou River, a twist of Balkan rhythm with Tony Byrne on Plecky the Turtle, whistle and pipes combining with the flute on jigs and reels from Manchester to Mabou: even the final Bill Malley’s Barndance, taken slow with Emma Sweeney on fiddle and Ed Boyd on guitar, is a flute showpiece. This is music from the heart of the Irish tradition, with McGoldrick written right through it.
Alex Monaghan

The Haar
Extinct/Nimbus, 9 Tracks, 50 Minutes
The Haar is a term for a cold sea fog or thick mist that obscures then lifts and reveals, something of a fitting metaphor for the delights of this album.
Molly Donnery’s vocals are arresting, the accompaniments vibrant, the quartet take known songs of love, poverty and oppression, lift them out of their respectful comfort zones, polish them up and put them on display in new and well-fitting costumes.
The arrangements are fresh, Molly’s pure and youthful voice enchanting, percussion, fiddle and accordion experiment deftly with drone notes, key changes and tempo.
Serendipitous their meeting, Molly, Cormac Byrne and Adam Summerhayes on Inis Oirr, (Murray Grainger joined later). And with musical, cultural and social serendipity, their meeting place becomes their back story and backdrop to the album.The work has tidal influences, the earthy wildness of island ecology, charged and ever changing oceanic rhythms against solidity of rocks, an ancient vibe imbuing their choice of material for the modern day sophisticated audience.
The King’s Shilling is a dramatic opener, with Molly’s alluring vocals, drone and percussion almost mouth-music in harmony with the human voice. Also particularly strong is My Lagan Love; Molly’s voice is disarmingly sweet, a pleasure in pitch and pacing, her melodic wisdom belies her youth, experienced in performance as she is, bilingual, an All Ireland Scór na nÓg champion at age fourteen. The fiddle and rhythmic tipping on Two Sisters is delightful, tantalising, likewise the accordion in The Emigrant’s Farewell, outstanding.
Produced by Grainger, Summerhayes & Byrne, the CD was mastered by Jon Astley. This quartet has a genre-defying sound: is it sean-nós sprinkled with spirit music, operatic sprinkled with the pure drop, a primal and new sound, some other kind of innovative post-modern, 2020 folk and balladry cocktail, or just an exquisite, perfect song storm?
Anne Marie Kennedy

Naxos World NNXW76116-2, 11 Tracks, 54 Minutes
This is as modern as you can get in Gaelic music, pairing Scottish Gàidhlig and Irish Gaelic with 21st century electronic sounds, the duo adding experimental percussion, and in the process constructing a rich and evocative sound palette. Most of the tracks here are in Gàidhlig with Fiona and Brian sharing the vocals. Brian is originally from Dublin and is completely at ease with the language and idioms of the Scottish Gaels.
Brian’s song Brianainn an t-Seóladair, (Brendan the Navigator) is set in a traditional poetic structure, it seems hundreds of years old. Thanks to the likes of Fiona and Brian the wider aspects of ancient Gaelic culture are known across the world; like Saint Brendan the pair are taking risks and adventures with every track on the album. Meetings with other traditional singers have led to the inclusion of Godfader Vil Ja Prize from Denmark and Hemmelig Luke from Norway, consistent with the theme of this project: the music of the people of the North.
The liner notes give the words to the songs in their original languages and in English translation, although the explanations differ in context and content. Credit must be given to the brilliant Mike Vass who not only adds tenor guitar and fiddle but also engineered and designed the soundscapes across the geography of this album. Track 11 is an original song from Brian; it’s a pervasive, persuasive and profound affirmation of a shared Gaelic heritage, summed up in Brian’s title and recurring phrase: Is Gael Mé.
Their previous album, TÌR - Highland Life & Lore, won accolades and awards. I suspect they’ll need a space on the mantelpiece after this masterpiece reaches many more discerning and influential ears.
Seán Laffey

Live at the Old Fruitmarket
RURACD003, 11 Tracks, 61 Minutes
RURA are Jack Smedley (fiddle), Steven Blake (pipes, whistles and piano), Adam Brown (guitar) and David Foley (bodhrán and flute). This album was recorded at the 2020 Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow, in front of 1200 eager fans, helping local heroes RURA celebrate their 9th appearance at the festival and ten years together. It comes across as one big party in one of the most iconic music venues in this hemisphere, Glasgow’s Old Fruitmarket.
If you are not familiar with RURA’s body of work then this album is a perfect introduction, as they play selections from each of their three albums. They are joined by special guests and past bend members, augmented by a sumptuous Scottish fiddle section and an audience who add the extra edge to this CD.
Jack Smedley’s fiddle is soulful and sonorous on Catriona’s, it grows on a foundation of bodhrán and keyboards, RURA settling the audience and building the expectation in the room. Scottish pipes add the thunder and lightning to Day One. Their Dark Reel is an atmospheric seven minutes, quite Breton in its repeated opening theme played on the pipes, the tension building as one of the musicians shouts out “Glasgow here we go!” and the piece explodes into a cascade of sound. There’s a special magic in the spoken word with the grandparents of Foley and Smedley recalling their own childhoods, adding a rich poignant strata to RURA’s music.
The Celtic meme of temporary separation is exorcised in the song Weary Days, with a Knopfler like electric guitar from old bandmate Chris Waite, this holds the music in the present, the chorus optimistic: “When these weary days, when these weary days are done, we’ll be in the sun.” Indeed the band shines throughout this album.
RURA are one of the most dynamic bands in Celtic music, and here’s the evidence that they can cut loose live. In the past ten years they have made some lasting musical friends many of whom joined them at the Old Fruitmarket to celebrate not just a decade of music but the fact that RURA are now at the very leading edge of Scotland’s traditional revival.
Seán Laffey

Tea for Tunes
Own Label, 14 Tracks, 64 Minutes
Michigan based Irish fiddler Hannah Harris’ first collection of music is one to be reckoned with. With a title fit for any Irish household, this is a winner from the outset. Tea for Tunes is a collection of 14 tracks, a miscellany of tunes and songs. Blended perfectly together, resulting in a very familial and community inspired collection throughout. Beginning with tunes The Flooded Road to Glenties, Martin Wynnes’s No 2 and Joe Tom’s which Harris put together whilst in Cork, she then breaks into song number one, John Spillane’s Passage West, one of her favourite cover songs.
A perfect blend of tunes and songs continue throughout such as, The Homeruler, Stephanie’s Waltz, My Cousin the Dancer, The Glen Cottage Polka No. 1 and many more. However, it’s Peeling Potatoes that cements this collection of music for me. Reminding me of Heaney’s poem, When All The Others, Harris here remembers her late Godmother peeling a potato for her. There is just something so Irish and poignant in this chore. There is also the very fun element to the music with Raspberry Ice Cream representing a favourite treat.
This entire collection of music is one focused on Harris’ young life to date and the people she has met along the way. Part of this journey was her conversion from classical violin to fiddle playing, and a love of the communities she has been part of – both in Ireland and at home in the US. She has put all this together as Tea for Tunes.
This is a self-produced collection of music and Harris herself invested in a music business coaching program to help her learn the ropes about self-producing. It has been said that Hannah Harris ‘rocks the fiddle’; on Tea for Tunes, she does just that.
Grainne McCool

Burden Lake
Sungate Records, 9 Tracks, 42 Minutes
Burden Lake can only be described as a collection of emotionally filled airs and fun reels; telling stories from both sides of the Atlantic. Tunes inspired between this pairing of Shetland fiddler Kevin Henderson and American fiddler and mandolinist Neil Pearlman. This collection of transatlantic compositions is one you will return to again and again.
We set off on this journey of tunes with the Sjovald set which Kevin wrote for his Viking grandfather. We are immediately transported with an upbeat set which really sets the tone for the forthcoming 8 tunes thereafter. Each is a story in itself through the transatlantic muse.
Family figures in the new compositions here, Liam’s is another of Kevin’s tunes written for his youngest son. This is an air, which slows down from the previous and then leads into another upbeat piano led Luka’s, dedicated to Kevin’s eldest son.
Along the way on this musical journey, there’s grandparents, children, people and places Henderson and Pearlman have encountered in life, and the tunes are their way of recalling and allowing future life to continue.
As you go through this collection of tunes, place and identity are very much to the fore. We have San Simon written from an experience of a music camp in Spain, followed by a tune Neil composed from a traumatic airport experience. People and places are ever present throughout.
Having studied Jazz in New York, Neil Pearlman adds an authenticity to this music with a combination of piano and mandolin playing. Together with Henderson, who hails from the rich musical heritage of Shetland and is steeped in the island’s indigenous and Scandinavian heritage, they have come together as a duo and shown how transatlantic music really is uplifting and adventurous.
Burden Lake is a collection of 9 tunes, and each one tells its very own story.
Grainne McCool

The Loon’s Call – Tunes from the North Shore
Own Label ADCD001, 13 Tracks, 75 Minutes
You may know that the Loon is an aquatic bird found in North America, it even features on Canadian currency; the Canadian dollar is affectionately referred to as a Loony. But you might not know that there are four types of calls made by loons: tremolo, wail, hoot and yodel. We have this info on the authority of Anne Delong, a Canadian composer and mandolin player, such that the phrases in The Loon’s Call, the title of her new CD, are intended to emulate the four types of calls made by loons.
All of the tunes on the album were composed by Anne, and you’ll have to depend on your own listening powers to identify which Loon’s phrase is which in what is a delightful recording indeed. The arrangements were created by Stéafán Hannigan and Saskia Tomkins, who first came across DeLong’s music in Peterborough in the east of England. (Hannigan has been an influential piper and multi-instrumentalist on the UK Irish scene for many years now). The album’s mixing and mastering were carried out by Stéafán at Shmooosic Studio in Baltimore, Ontario. The cover art was created by Anne Delong from photographs by Dan Delong.
The Stack Overflow/The Comfy Corner/Periwinkle is a set with a Cape Breton accent. Between Secrets/Silver Street could live happily in one of the Arondisments of Paris. Three Pecuniary Polkas jogs along like a happy toddler. The majority of tracks feature the fine playing of Hannigan and Tomkins. Whilst DeLong was seriously committed in the production of the album, her active participation as a musician was limited to playing on just a couple of the tracks. She’s found here in fine fettle on track 2, Snowy Evening Waltz / The Severwright Waltz with Saskia on violin, viola and nyckelharpa; Steáfán playing guitar; Sam Hannigan on double bass; Oisin Allison playing bodhrán. These waltzes were first played at the Peterborough Celtic Jam. Anne also features on track 11, A Last Golden Hour / Right Turn Lane / The Overturned Turtle. Anne’s admiration of the tunes of guitarist Larry Unger led her to compose A Last Golden Hour for the Mandolin Society orchestra.
Check out Anne online and you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find out about her, her musician friends and this recording at
Aidan O’Hara

Truants and Absolution
Own Label, 7 Tracks, 24 Minutes
Beau Wilberding (cajon), Zach Johnson (vocals and guitar), and John Barron (vocals, mandolin & guitar) make up Clover’s Revenge, a trio based in Florida. They excel in that American genre of gritty balladry they call Irish Speed Folk. Based in Florida, they have toured the southeast U.S. along with Ireland. They plan to tour Scotland and other U.S. locations once the quarantine is lifted. Their music is for drinking, carousing and having fun; like wearing trainers and a dirty T-shirt with a suit, it has no pretensions. This CD is a ‘take me as you find me’ album. The lads even have a blast with potential criticism; there are self-deprecating warnings on the album’s cover.
Irish Speed Folk often marries a Clancy Brothers repertoire with acoustic Celtic Punk attitude and Clover’s Revenge happily live in this milieu. They give us I’ll Tell Me Ma, The Leaving of Liverpool and Big Strong Man (Sylveste). There’s a long standing 150 year old tradition of vaudeville Irish singing in America, and Irish Speed Folk is today’s irreverent iteration of that paradigm, characterised by raucous music, and rolling Irish Rs from its singers.
Clover’s Revenge have a secret underbelly of some fine guitar playing from Johnson who gets to shine for a while on Old Hag/Dinny Delaney. They can pen original songs too; The Maid Behind the Bar is a generous tip-jar contribution to a purveyor of pints, whilst The Merry Misadventures of Sister Mary Margaret tells a tale of gambling nuns on the run, the action unfolding amid accusations of the misappropriation of charitable donations.
Clover’s Revenge I suspect are itching to get back to their natural habitat, a noisy Florida bar, where they will blow away the day’s worries.
Seán Laffey

A Day Will Come
Own Label LULUBUG005, 14 Tracks, 69 Minutes
In these days of a looming total Brexit and borderline fascism across the world, an English musician decides to explore the folk traditions of the other EU nations, that’s 27 countries including Ireland. It’s hard to think there is no hidden agenda, and indeed this album title gives the game away: it is taken from an 1849 speech by Victor Hugo (in French of course) looking forward to a united Europe, a long time and a number of false turns before the reality. Who says music cannot be political?
A Day Will Come is much more than just a CD. There was a series of concerts, and there will no doubt be more once the present emergency is over. Most of the music here was collected on research trips, north and south, east and west across the EU, and a number of European traditions are represented by guest musicians. Will Pound is no stranger to international influence: his virtuoso harmonica owes much to the model of New Zealand Irishman Brendan Power, and the second track here pays tribute to those New Irish Harmonica recordings with the iconic Stenson’s Number 2.
Irish elements are spread through this collection, as indeed Irish music and people are spread through the world. In addition to the set of jigs and reels from Cork, Down and Sligo, there’s a version of The Concertina Reel from the Extremadura region of Spain, a beautiful Czech melody which may have inspired the song Polly Put the Kettle On, and jigs from everywhere. How did the Irish jig get to Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Malta, and beyond? An important aspect of this music from 27 different countries is how much we have in common. Yes, there are twisting rhythms from Bulgaria and Romania, complex dance phrases from Greece, formal pieces from Sweden and whirling melodies from the nomadic traditions of Finland, but it’s all accessible, all somehow familiar. Perhaps the choice was influenced by Will’s diatonic accordion and his background in “British” music, but this project has unified musicians from England, Scotland, Ireland, Poland, Germany, and Croatia. Fiddlers Gudrun Walther and Liz Carroll are no strangers to Irish audiences, and the excellent performance on A Day Will Come introduce new friends Bohdan Piasecki, Patsy Reid, Dunja Bahtijarevic, John Parker and Jude Rees, as well as the formidable talents of Will Pound himself.
Alex Monaghan

More Than One  9 Tracks, 56 Minutes
Their first track isn’t a throw away starter, at 7 minutes how could it be? It begins with a jazzy pizzicato Falls of Richmond, a quirky little tune paving the way for the second melody to jockey into position. That one is called Grub Springs and it’s a few notches faster, and you’ve probably not heard anything like it. The quartet calls it polytonality, where each instrument plays in a different key, the rhythm holding it all together. It shouldn’t work, but it does, as Idumea are masterful musicians.
More Than One is an album straddling two traditions, both of which have roots in the 18th century and in doing so, gains, and gives, a wider perspective on each. The Idumea Quartet play those instruments found in a classical quartet and apply them to the old time traditions of Appalachia. They feature two violinists/fiddle players Jane Rothfield and Ewan Macdonald, a viola player, Becka Wolfe, and a cellist Nathan Bontrager.
The question is do they re-imagine string quartet or do they classic-up the Old Time tradition? The answer is both, often simultaneously, bringing the dynamic concepts inherent in classical music to ostensibly folk tunes, without putting those melodies in a tuxedo and bow tie. They play with the ease and a freewheeling spirit of folk musicians, yet they make more of a tune than simply a repetition and variation of a dance melody. Take Cluck Old Hen, perhaps one of the best known old time fiddle tunes, not for them the safe and jaunty approach, they pluck the chicken bare, stripping it down to a minor key, basting the bird with bathos, it could be re-titled The Last Cluck, Old Hen. In other tracks they explore the repertoire of the Sacred Harp singing tradition, a sparse style that still has adherents in the Northern counties of Ireland. Silver Dagger an Appalachian song we know on this side of the Atlantic as Fair and Tender Ladies, the cello adding a rich bass continuo way after those vocals have echoed their final cadence. In contrast Fall on My Knees is austere, fiddles running under a hymn, which the liner notes inform us is based on the Round Peak, North Carolina style of playing.
Idumea, the band’s name came from a Sacred Harp melody, the Hebrew word for Egypt. There is a Bible-black melancholy percolating through the filter of And Am I Born to Die? The words written by the founder of Methodism John Wesley, when he visited the Georgia colony in the 1760s, its tune would make an outstanding slow air.
This is a fascinating, absorbing acoustic achievement, Americana with classical authority, a reminder of the power those string instruments possess to coax every last ounce of emotion from the simplest of folk tunes. Idumea have been one of my finds of the year.
Seán Laffey