Releases > Releases September 2021

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Mise Le Meas - Yours Sincerely
Own Label MNB001, 14 Tracks, 53 Minutes
The website notes tell us, “All tracks written, composed, arranged and produced by Méabh (unless stated otherwise).” While one might expect to hear a member of the renowned Begley family - not least the daughter of Séamus Begley - singing beautifully - bua atá ag an gclann uilig - what really does surprise is that Méabh Ní Bheaglaoich is an impressively talented composer of words and music, and in two languages at that.
Listening to her performance is a total joy. Her voice and her delivery are altogether pleasing as she sings in English and Irish about finding one’s way on life’s journey, and a song/poem in appreciation of parents who provided a happy childhood. “I had a beautiful upbringing, it was a really gorgeous childhood and I wanted to let them know,” she said. She has a song for the Blackbird, and a song of the emigrant leaving, A Stór Mo Chroí, composed by poet and one-time TD, Brian O’Higgins (1882-1949). One notes that Méabh, too, has the poet’s gift in her song writing.
Méabh describes the songs and the tunes on her debut solo album as “a snapshot of what I have learnt about life… but I am always and forever in training”. She is also a talented instrumentalist and plays the bouzouki, the accordion and the bodhrán. On the recording, she engages the talents of guest singers and musicians that include Liam Ó Maonlaí, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Steve Cooney, and Richie Buckley. “I am lucky to have access to top class virtuoso musicians at home and I am very grateful to them.”
During the lengthy lockdown, Méabh wrote a waltz for her family, Let’s Waltz, and in the CD notes, she thoughtfully supplies the music in staff notation. On this track she plays the box and bouzouki, Gerry O’Beirne, guitar, and Trevor Hutchinson, double bass. And there are two poems: one called Galway by Oliver St John Gogarty, and set to music by Tony Small, and W B Yeats’s The Song of Wandering Aengus that she sets to music. It all adds up to the grace and variety of a fascinating CD release that comes with song words and background notes.
Aidan O’Hara

Full Circle - Traditional Fiddle Music from Donegal
Cairdeas na bhFidiléirí, 30 Tracks, 79 Minutes
Martin McGinley’s Full Circle is a new release from Cairdeas na bhFidiléirí in the ‘Traditional Fiddle Music from Donegal’ series. It is a veritable feast of thirty tracks and more than twenty pages of a booklet offering fascinating detail on the tunes and Martin’s involvement in the traditional music scene over a lifetime. Apart from one track where he’s heard with his mother, Kathleen, there’s no one else on the CD but Martin and the tunes are mostly trad except for a few by Martin himself, the renowned Scottish composer James Scott Skinner, Tommy Peoples and Pat McKenna.
For the past five years Martin has been managing the Donegal Music Education Partnership and before that he worked in journalism that included several years as editor of the Derry Journal. His friend, musician Dermot McLaughlin, says of Martin that he is “an inspiring fiddle player and teacher who enlivens and enriches any music session or fit class that he is involved in”. He adds that “Martin is constantly exploring repertoire and bringing forgotten or overlooked or new tunes into circulation,” and that’s what we get on the CD.
Martin is from Raphoe in East Donegal and his mother, Kathleen née Duggan, came from prime fiddle country in that part of the world. Her uncle Fred McDaid played the fiddle as did her brother Bob, and Kathleen got her own start on the fiddle from Bob Peoples, a relation of the renowned fiddler Tommy Peoples. So it comes as no surprise to learn that Martin’s thesis for his Master’s degree was on East Donegal fiddling where the Scottish influence is heard as it is elsewhere in the county.
In his tune notes on track 8, Stirling Castle and Miss Ramsey (strathspey & reel) Caoimhín Mac Aoidh, an authority on Donegal music, tells us that “Grey Daylight is an alternative title for the first tune. It is probably the most common Strathspey in the Donegal tradition…” Elsewhere he states that Skinner is credited with the composition of The Spey in Spate and that The Fairy Reel, well known in Donegal and Scotland, may have been composed by that other noted Scottish composer, Neil Gow.
You’re in for a treat listening to the 70 minutes plus of Martin’s music that “vibrates with energy” and reading the wealth of information on tune sources and his own and his region’s distinctive style and repertoire.
Aidan O’Hara

The Boatman
B Big Music, 12 Tracks, 51 Minutes
This is the second album from guitarist Steve Gibb, his debut (in a different genre) came out over 20 years ago. The first question is where has he been hiding for two decades? Answer: in plain sight, in Broadway productions, yet this album is a million miles away from Jersey Boys or The Buddy Holly Story. It’s a work of effortless Celtic magic; fans of DADGAD guitar and similar tunings will be delighted with this stunning work.
From the very first touches of the opening track, River Falls to the closing brace of Scottish reels, this truly solo album marks Gibb out as a world class finger style player. For the most part the tunes are delivered on a 2010 Matthew Mustapick Arena Custom, whilst he plays Michael Korb’s Highland Cathedral on an open tuned Journey Instruments FF412C. Gibb’s Bandcamp page even tells us what capo and strings he uses and there is an 85-page book of Tabs for budding guitarists, who I am sure, would love to emulate Gibb’s dexterity..
Of course we often judge the player by their handling of tracks we already know. A shuffle along to Josefin’s Dopvals and a set of Irish jigs with the ubiquitous Frieze Breeches nodding its head from the stable door, provides my litmus test; the bass resonance on the jigs is poised and measured, allowing his high string triplets to sparkle. Josefin’s Dopvals is explored quietly, a track you could play along to (and thanks to Dervish we all know how delicious Roger Tallroth’s Josefin’s Waltz is). The title of the album comes from the English translation of the track Fear á Bhata. Gibb takes this gently, the opening bars launching the track into calm waters, with touches of Dougie MacClean’s trademark wind-down in Gibb’s closing voicing.
Steve Gibb is an accomplished composer too. His jig Totes Adorbs fits snugly into the Irish jig set and tunes for his daughter Mackenzie’s Eyes and Elegy for a Rainbow composed in memory of a departed guitar teacher, show there’s humanity in his oeuvre. The Boatman is an album of confident and considered high points; if you are a guitar player this is an absolute must for your collection. The 18th century author Henry Fielding wrote “examples work more forcibly on the mind than precepts.” Yes we know DADGAD is a great tuning for Irish and Scottish tunes, listen to Gibb and be inspired, his examples here are truly exemplary.
Seán Laffey

On Ether & Air
Own Label, 9 Tracks, 28 Minutes
This album is the last part of a four-album set called the Catharsis Project from John Blek, a Cork-based singer/composer who has established an enviable international reputation since he embarked on a solo career in 2014. All the material is original, and he has assembled a trusted group of musicians to deliver his songs, including pianist Kit Downes, guitarist/singer Kris Drever and violinist/singer Cheyenne Mize alongside regulars Brian Casey (multi-instrumentalist, co-producer and recording engineer) and drummer Davie Ryan. The gorgeous interplay between the musicians is a constant delight throughout.
John Blek describes the underlying theme as the innate human longing for unbridled freedom, and the opener Long Strand, released as a single, embodies this by using a relaxed and understated arrangement of a beautiful melody with heartfelt vocals. Here is a songwriter of real quality and integrity, you’re immediately drawn to the thoughtful detail of each track, an exercise in real collaboration to deliver music of genuine excellence.
Blek’s assured acoustic guitar playing underpins the songs, and he is strongly influenced by some of the greats such as Bert Jansch and Neil Young in his approach. In Flight is a delicate piece with beautiful interplay between guitar and keyboards, as subtle strings intertwine with the melody. Empty Days has beautiful harmonies, again the combination of acoustic guitars and piano is well-executed, and the instrumental Farewell To Sorrow cleverly straddles the emotional transition it describes. The closing track Comfort Me is anthemic in its delivery, a fitting conclusion to an enjoyable journey.
I really enjoyed this album. The combination of top-class song writing with assured ensemble playing by experienced musicians, enhanced by emotionally invested vocals with sympathetic arrangements grabbed my attention from the start, and realising that this is part of a four-album set only whetted my appetite to explore its three predecessors.
Mark Lysaght

Own Label, Single, 6 Minutes, 30 Seconds
The last time I saw Talisk live was in a marquee at the Milwaukee Irish Fest. Brenda Willis was sitting next to me. Brenda is the Matriarch of the Willis Clan; she turned to me and said; “These guys are main stage!” Perceptive woman is Brenda. Very soon Talisk will be back on the road, bringing their supercharged energy to live main stages in November. The trio features the pocket atomic power plant of Mohsen Amini (his concertina playing could light up a football stadium). Here his bandmates, fiddler Hayley Keenan and guitarist Graeme Armstrong, match the concertina prodigy in another classic Talisk track, with Mohsen’s frantic fenestrated concertina riffs holding sway until there’s an anthem shift, a swing to Caledonian pop in all its audacity.
Talisk have made a medley to hang your summer on. The track ends on a wailing echo, as if they are saying, ‘there’s more to come, just watch what we have in store for you this autumn’. Aura refers to the special spiritual ambiance that surrounds us, Talisk’s glows with the light of music.
Seán Laffey

The Old Road Home
Own Label, 14 Tracks, 63 Minutes
Two generations ago, when we were bringing it all back home; we might have been astounded to hear of real Irish traditional music in the South East of the USA. Today, kudos to the work of organizations like Comhaltas and Irish Traditions Atlanta, the Irish music community has now established solid roots in the region. Jared Bogle is a young Georgia fiddler with a passion for the music of Clare, Sligo and Sliabh Luachra who is very much part of that new scene. Thanks of course to the internet and the summer school movement, players of Jared’s ability are able to delve deeply into the whole gamut of music from our mother lode.
What a terrific job he does of The Orphan / The Black Rogue, coaxing out the richest tone from his fiddle, accompanied here on bass by his father, whose style is akin to that minimal approach pioneered by Dennis Cahill with Martin Hayes. The hornpipe Johnny Cope at over 5 minutes is the full Irish version, played as a solo tour de force.
You’ll also find some old favourites, such as The Butterfly, which Jared teams up with the Ashplant and the Old Road Home, with some more of that subtle bass on the middle tune, There’s a lovely Shetland march, The Brides a Bonny Ting, whilst Paddy Fahy’s Number 1 is languid and lyrical, proof that Jared has an exceptional ear for the camber of a tune. His In Memory of Michael Coleman begins slowly, backed by his father on bass guitar before Jared lets loose on the fiddle. You can hear all these tracks in preview on his Bandcamp page. The album closes with two tunes from the south west of Ireland: Walsh’s Hornpipe and Cuz Teahan’s Fling.
Jared’s music is unashamedly old school; he’s a fiddler’s fiddler, what better compliment can you have than that?
Seán Laffey

When Feathers Appear
Own Label, GLMCD6, 7 Tracks, 43 Minutes
Innovative Scottish harpist meets professor of electro-acoustic music - not such a strange pairing these days, with many Scottish and Irish harpists at the forefront of experimental music, arguably following a centuries-old tradition of improvisation and adaptation on this ancient instrument.
Catriona plays a Starfish acoustic harp, while Alistair plays with sounds both natural and artificial. Together they create mysterious, magical music, movies of the imagination. Mixing old and new compositions, When Feathers Appear is necessarily slow and sinuous, almost arhythmic at times: it was recorded over an internet connection between two locations, introducing a small but significant delay, changing the feedback loop between the two musicians. As anyone who has tried to play socially distanced music will know, synchronisation is impossible, but timing can be maintained, and this recording takes advantage of what is almost a hi-tech echo to add depth and resonance to the performances here.
Beginnings in Disguise is pibroch-like, complex ornamentation recalling the piping style, which may have evolved from the harp’s “tree of strings”. Divine Messengers takes on an ethereal character with delayed harmonics and veils of rushing air. The title track is less angelic: a tropical rainstorm, or perhaps a desert squall, inspired by a Glasgow crow, that most robust and incisive of Nordic creatures, rain in the city creating the illusion of temple bells and tantric visions. The final Ae Fond Kiss comes back to the piping motif, a combination of Burns and blind Irish harper Rory O’Cahan who lived a century earlier: like most of the pieces here, it’s based on an old harp melody but executed with modern technique and tone.
The combination of harp and electro-acoustic effects is like a harpist’s dream come true - extending the harp to become a full orchestra of sounds, without losing its character - a Bifrost bridge to another world, a magical rainbow indeed.
Alex Monaghan

The Smoky Smirr O Rain
Eighth Nerve Audio, 11 Tracks, 45 Minutes
The Smoky Smirr O Rain is the third recording from Sarah-Jane Summers and her husband Juhani Silvola; like its predecessors it’s set to also be lauded and awarded. The Norwegian-Scottish pair are accomplished improvisers, taking folk, jazz, classical and traditional music out of their respective comfort zones, finding their malleability, intertwining them, producing novelty.
Opening with Dán Fhraoich featuring Juhani’s excellent piano playing, this one sets the mood dial to confident; Number 81 is a lively dance tune, Scottish fiddle on fire, superb arrangement. Loisg lad Gual io-uo has an in-and-out of march time going on, a wedding song perhaps, the fiddle playing exquisite, minimalist guitar only perfect, a meditative quality to it with intricate layers, aural suggestions from the natural world, earth, wind, rivers lapping.
Borrowed Days narrates bird song through a storm; musical chaos, carnage, distressed notes, eerie screeches and conflict, then release - great drama, a cinematic experience incredible achieved, comfortably sitting near a great traditional tune, the Herring Reel which is played straight up.
Polskat (Rinda Nickola), a Finnish tune from the 18th century is brought wildly to life; a foot stomping, exotic piece, a gypsy romance or yodeller’s predicament.
This is a very stylish album from two creative individuals. Previously well awarded for their work, here their innovative streams merge easily, vast experience showing, musical curiosity and insight. There’s buoyance in the playing, innovation, elegance and storytelling.
And when normal, performing life resumes, this tight-knit musical unit might show up at a traditional Irish session in East Clare or Glasgow, with the title track The Smoky Smirr O Rain among their inventory where they’d be shown a great welcome; the tune is rich in melodic touch, sparse guitar, pared-back precision, lyrical ease and a fade out finish, a standout, well deserved of the title track slot.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Minor Tales Major Stories
Own Label, 7 Tracks, 30 Minutes
Irish singer songwriter Saoirse Mhór is based in Germany where he made this EP with the help of Michael Busch, Andrew Cadie, Katie Doherty, Daniel Fleischmann, Andy Horn and Steffen Knauss. Originally the album was to be called High Treason, his release notes explaining that some of these songs were written at a difficult personal time for him. And it’s true some of the words are genuinely sombre, but his ear for a melody and a hook line make them approachable and the band do a brilliant job of lightening the load. Saoirse’s songs deal with a variety of emotions, and songs of this quality are able to touch us like no other art form can come close to. They also underscore what a tough, often introspective time, the Pandemic has been for creative people.
Ashbury Lane is about an imagined place, somewhere we all know, a childhood home, a sanctuary of happy place innocence, a locale we long for but a lane we’ll never walk again.
In the days when I was younger, And I never knew defeat
When time and love might linger, And life an open street.
That sense of loss is revisited on the traditional folk song Lord Franklin, the story of the unsuccessful attempt to find the missing crew of the Terror in the north of Canada. Loss is a theme of the cover art, a lost masterpiece by Carravagio, found in Leeson Street Dublin, the telling image is of the treason of Judas. Saoirse’s Table of Losers is split between tracks 2 and 7, it’s another deep investigation into his soul; is it an oblique reference to the tragedy of the Last Supper? Its first iteration is a sumptuous combination of piano, fiddle and Saoirse’s strong acoustic rock vocals. The reprise is a different take on the Table of Losers, far more upbeat and a positive cathartic coda from this talented song maker.
Seán Laffey

If They Build Their Wall
Own label, Single, 3 Minutes, 27 Seconds
A song with a very strong message. Co-written with Eleanor McEvoy and produced by Declan Sinnott, the uplifting tune allows you to hear all the lyrics clearly and you soon find yourself singing along and realizing just how important the message really is.
Focusing on refugees and asylum seekers and the negative attitude and narrative that surrounds them, Morris is singing about the importance of welcoming them and treating them fairly; ‘Our hearts beat the same’ she tells us in song.
The beauty of acceptance shines bright as she sings, ‘It’s the joy, it’s the loving, it’s the light. It’s the knowing your kids are alright.’ There’s hope in this song. There’s joy. And it really does resonate with every word throughout.
‘If they build their wall, they better build it tall, cos we are on higher ground.’ Just hearing these words repeated throughout remind us that we, the people are bigger than any wall. We have the power to accept everyone.
With racism so prominent at present and a negative narrative surrounding refugees and asylum seekers, this song offers hope. There’s a future and there’s a real intimacy throughout. This tune will keep you singing, and you’ll play it again and again.
Gráinne McCool

Own Label, 13 Tracks, 48 Minutes
Beardiville is a Hiberno-blues album, not so much Muddy Waters, more a windswept winter in Antrim. Randall Stephen Hall wears his heart on his sleeve as he sings in an un-sanded, unvarnished raw edged voice, often strident, as if shouting into one of those rolling gales that blow in from Fingal’s Cave across the water from Bushmills.
Joined here by Nick Scott on bass, synths and harmonica, Liam Bradley on drums and percussion and John McCullough on keys and accordion with Christian Afman guesting on banjo and harmonica, it’s a move along the road from his previous Moon Shed productions.
There’s a swamp vibe on Kick Up The Dust, his mandolin intrudes into the introduction like an African Kora and the interlocking refrain reverberates with the spirit of a railroad Gandy-man. Don’t You Get My Goat is a talking blues tale of a Billy Goat and it’s where we discover where Beardiville really is.
A visual artist as well as a songwriter, Hall has an ear for words as much as he has an eye for shape and form. The Blow Hole is a funny song about male pattern baldness. Like Ewan McCall he selects common phrases from the vernacular adding veracity and vivacity to its un-PC message. For the Love of Coffee is the most melodic of songs on the album, a candidate for a sing-along at one of his live gigs for sure.
There are more serious songs too; Hoodie Craw with violence at its centre, a blues stomp in honour of his late brother; Dead Mans Blues, as happy as any old fashioned Irish funeral ought to be. Family is also the subtext of the closing song, Broken Ships. From a fractured part of Ireland Randall has seen a humane lesson in the pandemic, bigger forces are at work, forces beyond our history and tribalism, home and being kind to each other is our final hope, as he sings: ‘We are like a ship sailing in a storm, so I’ll go and get the coal in and keep us safe and warm.’
There’s a genuine warmth in Beardiville, I’m sure we’d all be welcome to visit.
Seán Laffey

Down The Rocky Road
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 52 Minutes
Fiddler Robert Ryan and harpist Eileen Gannon recorded this album in St. Louis in February 2020 squeezing it in by a whisker before the lockdown. Their chief source of material is the esteemed Petrie’s Irish Music publication, collected in Ireland in the ten years up to 1860, a hefty volume with over 1500 tunes.
Here the duo present a selection of 11 tracks, which along with extensive and superbly detailed liner notes, add not only to our musical enjoyment of this album but open a window on the great scholarship there was in Petrie’s endeavours and the enduring importance of his work over 150 years later.
Played with a measure of period authenticity the music here is more deliberate than we might be accustomed to with post-Coleman dance music. For example the selection The Good Fellows/ Bríste Bréidín/The Cauliflower Jig is stately, with an air of the big house about it. More marches follow: The Song of Una/The Fairy Troop/The Shanavest and Corovatha again sourced from the Petrie Collection, the latter one is martial in character, the others more playful.
Some tunes come from living exponents of the modern tradition. They have a set of Polkas from Tipperary Town based Billy Clifford, a man with an impeccable Sliabh Luachra pedigree. The final track, The Song of Redemption, all 9 minutes of it, exemplifies the continuous interweaving of tradition through the three centuries; written in Irish by the 18th century Munster poet Eoghan ‘Rua’ Ó Súilleabháin (1748-1784), and called B’fhearr Leigan Doibh. It was translated into English in the 20th century by Frank O’Connor, and found its way into one of Colm O’Lochlainn’s ballad books. From there it went onto the highly collectable LP A Kiss in the Morning Early by Mick Hanly, which is where Robert Ryan first heard the song. Working out musical provenances like that is half the fun of this album; every track has a back-story.
The beauty of this recording is that Ryan and Gannon have brought to our ears music that inspired Petrie to venture out into the wilds of post-famine Ireland to preserve some of the finest Irish music we’ve ever known and they show how it fits effortlessly into a musical culture that is being made in the here and now.
Seán Laffey

The Bonesetter
Compagnie du Nord CIE006, 13 Tracks, 47 Minutes
French Canadian fiddle and song meets Irish piping, with the guitar and tapping feet of André Marchand, and a touch of banjo of course! French Canadian fiddler and singer Sophie Lavoie released a duo album Portraits with her Irish partner Fiachra O’Regan, and now that duo has become a trio with the addition of the multi-talented Monsieur Marchand. Curiously, Grosse Isle seems to have a stronger Irish character than the previous duo - maybe Irishness just increases with the size of the band! In any case, there are about four Québécois tracks, four Irish tracks, and the rest are a mélange. The whole album blends both traditions, but the addition of André may allow Fiachra to cut loose on the pipes more, as he does on the storming Hawthorn Hedge jig set which evokes Joe McKenna for me, and on the set of reels which ends with a transatlantic take on Jack the Lad. Elsewhere there’s an Irish accent to melodies and accompaniment, and a lovely version of Ned of the Hill as a piping air with piano from Sophie.
This recording is a nice balance between the driving dance music with pipes and fiddle screaming, guitar and feet pounding, and the often more restrained vocal numbers. There are seven songs here, five sung by Sophie and two by André, with the usual folk themes of love, regret, death, and whisky - sometimes more than one in the same tale! Slow sad songs, quick comic songs, and everything in between are delivered by two fine voices, all in French. The words to Sophie’s powerful original song of shipwreck and loss À Grosse Isle are given in the sleeve notes: the rest you may have to work out for yourselves. Many of the songs are paired with a tune in the Quebec style, and one of these is also a Lavoie composition, the catchy crooked reel Daniel. In fact there are four of Sophie’s creations here, because the two title tunes are also hers: The Bonesetter and Le Bonhomme Sept Heures, which is the French title of this album.
It’s a long story, but an interesting one, and well worth reading when you get a copy of this very enjoyable CD.
Alex Monaghan