Releases > Releases September 2022

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Keep the Tradition Alive
Tommy Mulvihill and Mike Carroll (Lyrics)
Sharpe Music, Single, 3 Minutes
Andy Cooney, “Irish America’s Favorite Son” (New York Times), pays tribute to Irish musical traditions in his newest single, Keep the Tradition Alive.
Like all cultures worldwide, traditions either strengthen or fade away into oblivion. This fading aspect became crucial for nationalities constantly under siege as conquerors endlessly worked to suppress their captors’ cultures. Such was the case with Gaelic, Ireland’s language, as secret community gatherings generally commenced in kitchens for conversation and music. Light fiddle playing provided the means to accompany dancers who kept to limited, non “enemy attention-drawing” movements.
While not emphasizing history, Cooney provides enough inference to shed light on the importance of remembering one’s Irish roots. Cooney urges his generation to keep Irish musical traditions flourishing by passing the baton to the next generation about the importance of community gatherings coming together for music, dancing, and singing so that the doors of tradition and cultural nuances never fade away or close for good. “So what must we do between me and you? Our children must be our salvation. So, it’s up to each one, our daughters and sons, to keep up the Irish tradition.”
Cooney uses his characteristically upbeat, crowd-drawing style to produce a waltz-y tune with a memorable sing-along chorus: “There’ll be music and singin’ and dancin’ as the friends and the neighbours arrive. The fiddlers will bow as the spirits will glow, and we’ll keep the tradition alive. Let’s keep the tradition alive.”
Keep the Tradition Alive is a catchy tune with endless conversational potential!
Anita Lock

The Rare Auld Times - 50 Years 50 Songs
Dolphin Discs, 50 Tracks, 138 Minutes
The title really says it all; the Dublin City Ramblers started out in 1970 and the line-up stabilised with Patsy Watchorn, Sean McGuinness, Philip McCaffrey and Kevin Molloy. They went through many changes since then, but Sean McGuinness has been a constant throughout. The band has enjoyed a lot of success over the years with countless awards at home and abroad as well as a remarkable 8 Gold Albums. This double CD celebrates over 50 years in existence and is full of gems, reflecting their long and varied career at the very forefront of Irish folk/traditional ballad groups.
This anthology mostly consists of the original recordings, with some new material as well, so the listener is given some real treats, with many classic Irish ballads included and delivered with real panache and style. The Ramblers have quite a distinctive approach which involves carefully balanced instrumentation and strong vocals delivered with genuine passion and commitment – they have always embraced a Republican ethos and there is nothing fabricated about their sound.
Speaking of sound, digital remastering by ace recording engineer Al Cowan breathes new life into all the tracks, and the overall audio quality is superb. There are so many genuine highlights in this collection, it’s difficult to pick out just a few standouts. They pay a special tribute to the late great Pete St. John and feature four of his songs here – the title track, The Fields of Athenry, Ringsend Rose and The Ferryman. The last two songs were written specially for the band.
Another distinguishing feature throughout is the quality of the arrangements, which convey the material in a very professional and empathetic manner. The Ramblers have always chosen their material carefully, but each song is presented in a way that reflects the basic theme and puts it across in a very direct manner, which has instant appeal. There is also a sprinkling of instrumental material including O’Carolan’s Draught and a delightful set of polkas, which highlights their individual virtuosity.
There is really something for everyone here, over two and a half hours of top-quality ballads; personally, I really enjoyed The Streets of New York, My Irish Molly, John O’Dreams and The Whistling Gypsy. It’s a remarkable feat to keep a band on the road for 50 years, and The Dublin City Ramblers have managed it, keeping their fans happy by delivering the great Irish songbook in their own inimitable style.
Mark Lysaght

Will We Give It A Go?
Own Label MARTYN001, 14 Tracks, 45 Minutes
The second generation Irish Diaspora in England has given us some exceptional players, The Conneelys, McGoldrick, Crawford, Edey, Keegan, Carty, Whelan, and now add the name of Andy Martyn to the illustrious list.
He’s no newcomer having been on the scene for many years, (he is an ex-member of Ron Kavanagh’s band for example). But this album of accordion music is Martyn’s master opus. Before I mention a few of the tracks, the liner notes are worth a couple paragraphs in themselves. They tell of the immense pride in Irish culture that is fostered by those who teach and those who learn the music. Something, which has not always been easy socially or psychologically, in a country where there isn’t the same acceptance of the worth of the Diaspora as there is, say, in America. In England the Irish hyphenation is regional and in that sense Andy Martyn is carrying the flag for the London-Irish.
Joined here by the core team of John Carty, Matt Griffin and Gino Lupari, this is a sensational album of old tunes and new compositions that sit comfortably at the heart of the tradition. Andy’s new pieces are ripe for inclusions into your own selections. Each set here is thoroughly approachable, the set of reels on The Yokie Bus (the Sailor’s Bonnet and the Culfada) are perfectly paced, ideal for playing along with. On The Lament of the Three Marys, a slow air on the box, Andy recalls the contribution Joe Heaney made to Irish culture in London before he left for America. Andy brings to mind another giant of his youth, Brendan Mulkere on Déantóir Aisling (Dream Maker). Mulkere taught traditional music to thousands of the children of Irish emigrants.
There’s a crackly radio intro to the waltz The Light of Home, a fond tribute to mothers who turned the dial in search of Céili House for traditional music obsessed children before the days of ‘find it yourself on the Internet’. John Carty, a fellow Diasporan, plays banjo on a set of hornpipes that go by the name of The Michael Hynes Pastiche. Andy’s original hornpipe The Sunday Morning is teamed up with an old favourite The Boys of Blue Hill on track 11.
In the evocative booklet Andy writes about Sunday mornings in Camden Town and learning at the feet of masters Raymond Roland, Liam Farrell and Bobby Casey. He plays the Lament for Oliver Goldsmith, which is part of the repertoire of Le Chéile, the band that was formed by the late Raymond Roland and with whom he continues to perform in London.
This album will outlive us all. Irish London and the wider Diaspora should be so very proud of Andy Martyn, thank goodness he gave it a go.
Seán Laffey

High Doh
Artes Records ARCD5030, 10 Tracks, 48 Minutes
Damian McKee on button accordion, Gudrun Walther on fiddle and Aaron Jones on bouzouki; this multi-national trio present mainly Irish music here with a splash of Scotch and a Galician muñeira. Two songs break up the flow of tunes, both traditional Irish, sung by Aaron and Gudrun with one of them set to Gudrun’s own melody. High Doh is roughly one third traditional material, one third written by McKee and Walther, and one third by other recent composers. A debut recording from three very experienced musicians, this CD is full of moments of joy: the graceful switch from Crabs in the Skillet to Steffen Gabriel’s Muiñeira de Mañana, McKee’s delightfully funky Framed followed by The Woods of Old Limerick, an unusually jaunty take on The Banks Hornpipe which accentuates the rhythmic drive of Jones’ bouzouki, and plenty more.
Between the jigs and the reels, and that one track of hornpipes, are the ballads Willie Lennox and The Blackbird, both tragic in different ways, strongly sung and imaginatively arranged. After these two vocal numbers, and a selection of pieces by Peter Fitzgerald, Brendan Tonra, Maurice Lennon, Ed Reavy, and prolific Donegal composer Séamus Gibson, High Doh ends with two sets of tunes from contemporary Irish musicians. A relaxed rake of reels starts with The Nun’s Walk by Paul Meehan, then Finbarr Dwyer’s excellent Farewell to Cailroe, and finally the traditional Dancer’s Delight at a more dangerous speed. The last track combines Liam Child’s, a beautiful slip-jig by Liz Carroll, with Never Say Never by Damian to round off a highly enjoyable album.
Alex Monaghan

Love Songs
Noe Records NOE13, 11 Tracks, 41 Minutes
The majority of songs on this album are traditional with each given a unique and personal twist by Bella. She writes that they have been with her for ages and are the kinds of songs she was singing on her 2007 debut album Night Visiting. Her notes detail provenance and personnel who passed on the songs to Bella, such as the Lowlands Away from the singing of her father Joe Hardy, and Billy Jolly of Orkney. There are songs from the osmosis of listening to tapes on long car journeys. Others such as Awake Awake whose “first verse were half-remembered from the singing of Elizabeth LaPrelle; the words are from Maggie Boyle’s singing of Silver Dagger.”
The opening track is an instrumental with Bella on fiddle and Tom Gibbs on piano. Called Summer Daylight Winter Darkness, it was composed for the project ‘Backbone of our Land’ at Sage Gateshead, 2018. Her Hares on the Mountain is a slower version than you may recognise whilst it is countered by a very happy My Johnny Was a Shoe Maker, which Bella has from Steeleye Span; she delivers it up-tempo with driven English fiddling to the fore. Likewise the often-sombre Sprig of Thyme, first collected by Percy Grainger in 1908 is here served with an ample smile.
Her own songs are rooted in historical reality such as The Navigator’s Bride, telling the tale of romantic consequences when hundreds of Irish navvies constructed a 3km rail tunnel below the Yorkshire hills; Tom Gibbs plays clarinet on this track.
Stylish songs, with space inside for vocal expression, Gibbs’ guitar work is exceptional and varied. Bella’s fiddle is chirpy on the maritime ballad My Johnny Was a Shoe Maker, her voice clear and commanding on the acappela Lowlands, whose ghostly premonition marries closely to the Irish song She Moved Through the Fair. There’s a touch of Celtic too on the final track Loving Hannah, which she learnt “at a Folkworks’ summer-school in Durham in the late ‘90s”.
With Irish bands such as Ye Vagabonds and Lankum exploring the English folk song canon, Bella Hardy is one to investigate. For clarity and conviction you won’t find better anywhere in England.
Seán Laffey

The Space Between
Own Label BR-02, 9 Tracks, 29 Minutes
A six-piece from Birmingham, Bonfire Radicals have little to do with Orange celebrations and more to do with iconoclastic English folk. Accomplished musicians in no particular style, they are deliberately untraditional: their motto is “expect the unexpected”, although I wonder if they appreciate the resonances with Heraclitus, Oscar Wilde, or even Douglas Adams. Nevertheless, there are pleasant surprises aplenty on The Space Between - stunning virtuosity from Michelle Holloway’s descant recorder on Bonfire and elsewhere, cool Caribbean vibes from Emma Reading’s guitar on Cafe Flore, and formidable Klezmer clarinet from Katie Stevens on Freylakher Nashele. Comparisons are melodious, of course, but my thoughts turned to Blackbeard’s Tea Party, the Cambridge Buskers, and Dédale.
Most of this collection has an Anglo-French flavour rather than Celtic or Americana, with excursions into Jamaican, Jewish and other music. The middle section of Satsuma Moon and the grim ballad Mary Ashford moves closer to classical crossover, heavily arranged rather than the melody-led mix we expect of the folk world. Accordion (Pete Churchill) and fiddle (Sarah Farmer) shine on the North African and Middle Eastern pieces The Man from Suburbia and Sha Sha much more than on the opening Brenda Stubbert’s Reel. The final track is a further surprise, a fairground organ finale, Churchill switching from accordion for an impressive solo without even the steady support of the ubiquitous Ilias Lintzos on drums.
Complex and contemporary, edgy and exploratory, Bonfire Radicals burn at borders of folk, rock and classical genres.
Alex Monaghan

Own Label, 11 Tracks, 42 Minutes
Welsh-born Amy Goddard’s new album Rise is country crossed with folk. The song from the title Rise Anew sets the album in the contemporary, an anthem of hope in the midst of the despair brought about by a world pandemic. Her “strangest year” of “keeping warm, keeping safe”, while fanning the fumes of creativity, singing the repeated refrain, prayerfully “we will rise anew…” very effective.
Goddard captures the small moments of life in her writing, also the thrills, the gifts of nature and landscape, the melancholy and the ordinariness of everyday living, poems that are rhythmic, reflective and insightful.
Her collaborators are high calibre; Ross Ainslie on whistles and pipe and Hannah Fischer on fiddle, their arrangements stellar throughout. A particularly poignant song and melody is Golden Joy, to remember a much loved pet, where the author continues to “follow old paths”, albeit with a new furry friend, images of the previous one still vivid. This Old House speaks of family, inheritance, decisions about “letting go and moving on/hold fast to good times past”.
The Beast Of A Cut, nostalgia and gratitude to a teacher, sweet and tender, John Stewart’s Odin, sea-faring myth, beautifully rendered. Cornish Mist is a particularly beautiful love song, old fashioned (almost), simple guitar intro for the telling of the romantic story, bucolic setting, picking blackberries, from first kiss to a life of enduring love. Great vocal flourishes in the harmonies with her talented accomplices Odette Michell and Zoe Wren (aka The Honeybees), catchy rhyme and melody, “we sat just to stay”, and “time held its breath for you and me”. Her innermost thoughts, delicate reflections on a hugely significant life event, gratitude for the relationship in a place of beauty where nature, in particular the Cornish mist, the third ‘character’ in her love story.
Anne Marie Kennedy

With The Dawn
Own Label Single Track, 3 Minutes, 20 Seconds
Meg LaGrande, fiddle player and singer, has used the natural beauty and surround of Lahinch for her first single, With The Dawn. The single is an exciting, fresh tribute to her surroundings after a night playing in the sands following the Willie Clancy Festival. Its earthy feel resonates with the tang of the sea and the wild elements of Clare’s west coast. At the core of this is a love song to our natural habitat of the coastline and all that it has to offer. We can hear that very coastline in the music.
LaGrande has developed her gifted ability from her time playing for the National Dance Company of Ireland and busking on the Dublin streets. Having toured the world she now explores her own sound in this, her solo work. The production is by Alex Ryan, the bassist and musical director for Hozier, and the YouTube video is directed by Roisin El Cherif (Vikings, Fantastic Beasts, Game of Thrones), that’s some creative triptych.
Alongside the fiddle she uses loop pedals, which she says lets her “build a soundscape which I then use to accompany my voice”. Her voice is one which will captivate you from the onset of the new single. A single which will force you to stop for the duration and listen. It will force you to appreciate the here and now and to reflect on the profound charm which she exudes with every note.
Gráinne McCool

The Winding Way Down To Kells Bay
With the RTÉ Concert Orchestra
Own Label, Single, 4 Minutes
Emma Langford’s new single, The Winding Way Down To Kells Bay, is a tribute to her late grand-uncle Eamonn Langford, a song that has incredible joy and beauty in the lyrics with an enchanting upbeat melody. Written in 2019 it was originally released on her CD Sowing Acorns in 2020.
Though in-memorial for a cherished relative, it is far from melancholic; it is a celebration of place and customs, a young girl’s memory of a much-loved man, his neighbours and the community, their way of survival unique to this place; “where sorrow’s met with smiling eyes…” and where old trees “whisper a tale”.
As a young singer and composer, Emma Langford’s work, with literary allusions and stellar arrangements, her vocal range and musicianship, delivers perfection, even the repeated chorus line from the title is never sung exactly the same, a listener’s delight.
Arranged by Cormac McCarthy for orchestral accompaniment, it is partly bilingual, phrases As Gaeilge the most personal, most tender, evocative; “lean isteach leatstóirín agus lig do scíth…” (in with you sweetheart, rest your limbs).
Produced by Chris O’Brien and Graham Murphy, with sweeping cinematic mood, from gentle guitar intro to the great crashing waves of orchestration, Kells Bay as a cherished location of memories is well and truly etched on to the Irish music song map.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Inside I’m Dancing
Own Label, Single, 3 Minutes, 33 Seconds
Singer songwriter Mike Hanrahan is also a professional chef, and this single is a musical hors d’oeuvre. It has a tangy grown up pop sensibility. Recorded at Orphan Studios in Wexford with Gavin Glass and Rachel Grace in June 2022, it is part of a bigger work that is still in progress between Hanrahan and Glass; look out for their impending album Songs from The Box Room later this year. Lyrically the track is mainly chorus, a stock meme for pop songs of course. Musically the track does develop from guitar bass and drums to washes of orchestral strings at the third verse:
We had a once upon a time situation
On our happy ever after tree
Fairy chimes on an easy breeze
Was never meant to be
Never meant to be
Mike has said the song originated a dozen years ago when he was in an “emotional beer pit”. The chorus expressing the joy of being free and at one with himself again:
Inside I’m dancing by myself
Kickin off my shoes
oh inside inside
Yeah I’m dancing
Mike has created an animation for the song, and this is possibly the best way to enjoy the track. You can access it directly via Mike’s website or through YouTube. Like many hors d’oeuvres it’s a tempting taster for treats to come.
Seán Laffey

In Plain Sight
Chris Fox Music CFM005, 10 Tracks, 38 Minutes
Cambridge based Chris Fox is a singer songwriter, who is gaining a well-deserved reputation on the English Folk scene as an intelligent and versatile songsmith.
His voice orbits in that same part of the vocal canon belt as George Ezra, having a similar ease across octaves and a warm intonation. During lockdown, Chris Fox took to writing this album, which his PR states is; “all about himself and his feelings”. Now that could be a recipe for the morbid, the dull and the indulgent. Happily, Fox isn’t a morbid, dull or self-absorbed personality, and his songs are cleverer than that as they reach out to a wider humanity, and their USP is that they will transcend lockdown time.
Joined by Holly Brandon on fiddle (The Magpies, Painted Sky) and John Parker on Double Bass (Nizlopi, The Willows, Jackie Oates), the trio create melodic songs that have genuine singability, and that all important ingredient of longevity, a catchy tune.
The background notes tell us that Fox’s influences range from Folk and Roots, Americana, Country, Blues and contemporary Transatlantic Folk, and these are indeed present, but subtly so; there’s no need for Fox to don a Stetson or cowboy boots to sound like his own man.
Fox has a keen observational ear; his Diamonds And Gold is a commentary on the misrepresentation of music as being a pathway to fame and fortune. On Better Than That he ponders on our over complicated modern lives and wonders if there’s something simpler and better we should aim for. For me the best track on the album was the last one, upbeat and impulsive, called Dance With The Devil, its chorus containing one of the best one-liners of the year so far; “If you’re gonna dance with the devil, you might as well lead”.
From each track on In Plain Sight it is obvious why Fox is in the vanguard of modern English contemporary folk.
Seán Laffey

Down to The Roots
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 44 Minutes
Clare native rocks up in Toronto and flourishes with Celtic fusion band! I can see the headlines now. If you like your Irish ballads delivered with a splash of panache, your bluegrass banjos green-grassed and fiddles flying, this album will tickle your fancy.
Singer Michael Darcy first came to Canada in 2010 and now appears backed by the Atlantic Tramps who are Matt Elwood (banjo, mandolin & backing vocals), James McEleney (Upright Bass & Backing Vocals), James McKie (fiddle, bones & backing vocals).
Of the eleven tracks on the album five are traditional or covers (Beeswing in particular), the rest are Darcy originals and they sit so comfortably within the genre that you’d swear they’ve been around for generations. Darcy excels on Sweet St John’s, a love letter to time spent in Newfoundland, one of the most musical places in the Northern Hemisphere. He takes the Rambler from Clare, a very old song which is here attributed to the version made popular in the early revival by Ewan MacColl, and being a rambler from Clare himself he invests it with authenticity, his dozen or so years in the land of the maple leaf having made little inroads on his Clare accent. Guest musicians including Ross Griffiths on uilleann pipes and tin whistle and Darren McMullen on bouzouki and mandolin, add to the Irish sound of the album.
His song Uncle Frank tells of his great uncle who left Ireland in the 1860s to seek adventure and fortune in New Zealand. If you like your ballads melodic and their backing multi-dimensional and songs that have beginnings, middles and ends, Michael Darcy has the menu for you. And with so much to choose from you might as well go full a la carte. Powerful writing, powerful music; I’d recommend Down To The Roots any day of the week.
Seán Laffey