Releases > Releases September 2023

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Under the Arch Records, 9 Tracks, 47 Minutes
Nuala has it in spades, she shines on voice and flute, she has a keen ear for perceptive folk lyrics, and a way with arrangements that are novel but always located inside the tradition.
The album features: Tara Breen (Chieftains) on fiddle, Tony Byrne (Danú) on guitar, Moira Smiley (Solas) & Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh on backing vocals, Todd Sickafoose (Anais Mitchell) on bass, and Caoimhin Vallely (Buille) on piano. Initially commissioned as a concept piece by Glór Theatre, Ennis, Shorelines features a carefully curated collection of traditional songs alongside freshly composed instrumental pieces.
Inspired by the collegiality of women during the pandemic lockdown, Nuala’s Shorelines celebrates the contribution of women to society, their struggles and their triumphs. Sally Sits Weeping documents the helplessness of being left behind when the lady’s lover returns to sea; it’s a long opening track at five seconds short of six minutes, the latter third being devoted to the Blue Devil’s jig. For the song Father Father she begins unaccompanied, the well-known tale of trying to find an errant lover on a ship’s company is sung to a variant of the melody of The Croppy Boy.
The first instrumental is Saltwater / Flow / Cúcúín, two contrasting compositions which resolve into the Irish language Springtime song Cúcúín (Cuckoo), and the recording quality of the voices here is outstanding. More exemplary singing on Ye Lover’s All, the sensitive guitar backing allowing Nuala’s voice to stand proud of but not detached from the music.
Her flute is to the fore on Wake, a sad lament featuring fiddle and piano. She picks up the energy on Sea Reels (Downtown Troy and Hail Away the Hauser). The interplay between Byrne’s guitar and Breen’s fiddle adds a link in the centre of the first reel, then the mood lightens as the second reel shifts into view.
Marguerite tells the true story of a couple who were marooned in Newfoundland in the mid 1500s. It is a song that deserves to be sung around sessions for years to come. The Cavan Road is pure acappela, a story about the meeting of a young couple, romance soon blossoms, they marry and emigrate to a new life in America. Sally may weep at the start but there’s hope and redemption in the final verse of the Cavan Road.
Top drawer music here from Nuala. Shorelines is washed by the ebb and flow of authenticity and deep tradition in its every track.
Seán Laffey

The Road Not Taken
Celtic Collections, 13 Tracks, 40 Minutes
The High Kings have been together for 15 years with considerable success, and this album represents a progression into some fresh territory, the band co-producing this recording with a galaxy of artists including The Script, Kodaline, Ryan Sheridan and Picture This. It also features guest appearances including Sharon Corr and Steve Perry (of Journey fame).
Founder members Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy and Darren Holden have added Paul O’Brien to the permanent line-up, and he fits perfectly into the band. They’re an impressive unit, with silky-smooth vocals and harmonies supported by top-class arrangements, and between the four members they play thirteen different instruments. But it’s the strength of the collaborations that really lifts the album to a new level of excellence. Connemara Bay, co- written by JC Stewart, opens the album in lively fashion, and the next track Chasing Rainbows, written by The Script, has already been a massive hit for them.
Sharon Corr contributes beautiful fiddle and vocals on the mainly instrumental Go With The Flow, which she co-wrote. The Big Fella is a plaintive tribute to Michael Collins, which along with Son of Ireland shows a different side to the band, more aligned to their ballad roots. The title track is beautifully constructed as an anthem; 1845 is an acapella tour de force for the quartet, while the closing tracks of the album are more reflective in theme, with Iveagh Gardens a nice finale.
These collaborations have really worked out well for The High Kings and will only tend to expand their audience still further – existing fans will be enthralled at their continuing evolution as a band to be reckoned with.
Finally, the overall production is superbly put together, with lots of clarity and separation in the sound contributing to a stellar listening experience. Full marks to all concerned.
Mark Lysaght

Own Label, 12 Tracks, 42 Minutes
Taobh na Mara, Ireland’s reigning senior céili band champions have launched their debut album. A high octane, fun, innovative piece of work with great flourishes of tunes, great variety in tempo, excellent song choices and true to Ireland’s tradition of céili music, rhythmical brilliance.
Bringing the Dal gCais back to the Waterford Déise in 2022, a first trip for the prestigious award, maybe not the last given the high standard achieved here.
With a core group of ten and five guests, all passionate and proud of the validation in Mullingar, double jigs The Wandering Minstrel and The Maid on the Green is a rousing set. Michelle Rattigan delivers sweetly and plaintive Andy Stewart’s Where Are You Tonight I Wonder. Alan Kelly’s Siena is a great choice, lovely arrangement, sitting comfortably beside the older tunes. Trevor Hutchinson’s distinctive double bass an intricate layer in both, also notable in Táim in Arrears which dovetails into the slip jig The Night Before Larry Was Stretched, a fine drinking song and tune with passionate singing from Ciarán Ó Gealbháin, no doubt a compelling performance piece. Percussion man Danny Collins, also a composer, provides Catherine’s/Nora and Donal’s, tribute to his mother and grandparents, delightful tunes. Down the Broom, Matt People’s & Come West Along the Road is an outstanding set, only fitting that Emma and Seán Fennell jump in for a dance; what dancer could resist the leap in?
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Martin O’Malley, Malbay studios, photography by Michael Meade, this is an album of explosive musical energy, great technical abilities, a tour de force.
With musicianship that elevates the spirit, Taobh na Mara is a wonderful representation of where our traditional music is at today, capturing the spirit of modern Ireland in the hands, hearts and voices of our young musicians. Beir Bua.
Anne Marie Kennedy

King of the Blind
Own Label KOB-037, 14 Tracks, 59 Minutes
It’s been a while since this young piper’s solo debut. In the meantime he’s become a leading light of the Boston Irish music scene with a few collaborative recordings and a large number of live performances all over the USA and beyond. Abarta is an old-style piper in many senses, and he believes in letting the pipes stamp their character on the music rather than the other way around: there’s little here which is modern, and the goal is an authentic and expressive sound rather than a smooth perfect recording. Squeaks and pops, differences in tone and tuning, are all exposed and celebrated as part of the unique richness of the uilleann pipes.
There’s virtuosity aplenty, both technical and musical. Every piece on King of the Blind has a charm and beauty of its own, whether it’s the eerie title air or the rollicking set of reels which ends this album. The pipes are played solo throughout, with frequent and varied use of the regulators to make a rounded and full rhythmic sound. Joey’s wife, accomplished dancer Jackie O’Riley, adds tasteful percussive steps to a couple of tracks, a cherry on top of an already sweet musical confection. If it’s fancy fingerwork you’re after, look no further than the set of hornpipes beginning with Dan Sullivan’s. Abarta follows this with a pair of restrained jigs from an 1899 recording of Liam Walsh, one of many tracks modelled on archive material which deserves to breathe on a new album.
King of the Blind is available on LP as well as CD and download, another nod to former times. Much of the material here also has strong connections to the USA, not only because of collector Francis O’Neill: the opening reel Johnny Allen’s was a session favourite in Chicago, more than one piece here is taken from the recordings of renowned American piper Jerry O’Sullivan, the march Garryowen was infamously adopted by the US 7th Cavalry, and the great Chicago fiddler Johnny McGreevy was the source for the reel Ownie Davy. Classic Irish airs The Faery Queen and Limerick’s Lament are wrapped in old jigs, reels and set dances, making this a marvellous snapshot of one of today’s finest uilleann pipers.
Alex Monaghan

Full Circle - Cellos for Trees
Terra Preta Music, 1 Track, 2.22 Minutes
It’s not the first time Clíodhna Ní Aodáin has combined her music with the environment. Following on from her success with The Celtic Cello and Celtic Rituals, the award-winning Irish cellist’s most recent project is a very strong call to action to plant 10,000 trees.
She envisaged the inviting of cellists worldwide to take part in this environmentalism project. The overall vision is to invite cellists from all over the world to participate in creating a poignant music video project. Ní Aodáin, an advocate of environmental regeneration, has composed a multi-track cello piece called Full Circle – Cellos for Trees and invites cello participants to be part of the music video.
This new composition from Ní Aodáin grows a musical tree from seed to the roots, to the trunk, to the crown of the tree. Listeners will hear the magnificence of the tree as it grows. As the lyrical melodies build, the compelling groove drives deeper into the ground to support the glory of the tree as it emerges. As you listen to this track the cello takes you on a journey. The tempo changes and intertwines and it’s very like the tree growing. It’s slow but steady. And you feel yourself swaying along. The cello and the melody guide.  The piece of music is every bit as therapeutic as walking in the woods. The very essence of the peacefulness and calmness is captured in the music.
Clíodhna told me during the pandemic that her previous album, Celtic Rituals, was born out of the pandemic itself. She felt the environment and the woods near where she lives helped her come through that period and this love and passion for that tree world now is very present in this work/project.
The music is a short piece, but it stays with you longer than you ever anticipated. Like trees, it just takes root within, and you fall in love with it.
Gráinne McCool

The Rocky Road to Dublin & Zombie
Own Label, 2 Tracks, 9 Minutes
This husband and wife duo of Dave Barckow (Eileen Ivers) Queens, NY and Louise Barry (Celtic Angels) from Dublin are based in New York where they have established themselves as a good time Irish party band. And there’s probably not a better song to showcase their lively act and get an audience dancing than The Rocky Road to Dublin.
The Rocky Road to Dublin opens on banjo and saxophone - this is urban New York music. Jazz breaks are a tour de force here; Louise Barry, the way she delivers the biting staccato lyrics, deconstructs the words into a virtual Big Apple rap.
Dolores O’Riordan’s Zombie has become something of a modern-day Limerick anthem, the words of which when you delve deeply into their meaning are far from complimentary, upbeat or reassuming. Zombie with its incessant one-word chorus is a crowd pleaser especially with festival audiences. Barckow and Barry are joined here by Eileen Ivers, who brings her trademark fiery funk fiddling to the track. Zombie begins very gently, an acoustic intro, which gradually fills to a final big band Celtic rock ending, with Eileen Ivers’ stamp all over it.
These two tracks are a tasty sampler for an upcoming album from the duo and will be welcomed by their many fans who relish their live performances. As a prelude to their upcoming album this will whet your appetite for no holds barred, no prisoners taken Celtic rock.
Seán Laffey

Wound in the Night
Poetry Mondays 005, 10 Tracks, 37 Minutes
A colourful album cover from an original European voice, Gabriel Moreno now resident in the metropolitan maelstrom of London is a singer, songwriter and published poet. Originally from Gibraltar, he is an outsider taking a novel and at times jaundice perspective on metropolitan life. His work has been favourably compared to that of Leonard Cohen; this resemblance resonates on Growing Old, where each set of syllables maps the silhouette of the melody.
He trades in Dylan-deep lyrics, and Bob-like ambiguity is a horse he rides throughout this work, yet the zeitgeist is ever present, be it the personal or the profound. In Nobody Knows Where You Are, he asks “will you come back to me when magic finds its parking place?” He mentions the war in Ukraine and on Shutters On Your Eyes notes that folks down the street cocoon themselves from the tragedy by keeping calm and carrying on, bandaged from the hurt, head down in their Smartphones. On Wound in the Night there’s a jumpy piano, determined nylon strung guitar and his deep bass voice mentioning genocide.
He has the poet-maker’s skill or finding the odd in the everyday and knows that in those ordinary moments we slip into daydreams. Where the Wild Wind Blows with its long intro establishes a steady cadence, a foil on which to emboss the ennui of urban flatness: “I don’t know what to make of this imbroglio, is it me or is the mojo gone?” London is a place of brief encounters - trains and tubes are famous for them; it’s an undertheme of Retrograde, which is the apparent back shift of orbits when planets pass by each other. On the song Suzanne Valadon, he frees his writer’s block by calling up the ghost of the young woman in Renoir’s Dancing at Bougival. Valadon was an artist in her own right and is now recognised as the leading post impressionist woman painter of the early 20th century.
The album ends with London Town, a calypso groove, a lament in a way for the transience of life in a capital city: “London town is hurting since you travelled back to Spain. There are men and women yearning for the theatre in your veins…” File under: Taberna folk and very interesting.
Seán Laffey

The Colour of Night
Own Label, 11 Tracks, 45 Minutes
This Dorset based duo of Jon Whitley and Jay LaBouchardiere accompanied on this album by Lee MacKenzie (cello), John Parker (double bass) and Evan Carson (percussion), are rightly celebrated as being at the vanguard of a new wave of English Folk music.
Let’s get right into their songs, firstly House: voice and piano, the lyrics argue that we’ve been too long a rolling stone, there’s a relief in settling down, with the cello evoking the prospect of stasis. They conclude that being rooted in place is good.
Names in the Sky: seamless close harmony again, a splash of cymbals, linking bridges of melody, a lullaby, deep strings and bell like chords. Walk With Me has a rippling piano intro, as the song requests us to “take me somewhere else”.
Cast to the Waves: with its guitar and synth, anchors itself on the hope of spring, collecting cowslips and daisies, wild flowers, fresh offerings to be cast to the waves like some ancient rite. This is environmentalism in the mould of Gilbert White, observational, close focused, intimate. For The Snows They Melt the Soonest, first noted in 1821 in the Northeast of England, they play it plaintive, slow and moody, a piano extemporisation, a poem of the inevitable and the ironic.
In Ireland, we associate Ride On with Christy Moore, Ninebarrow take it at a walk not a canter, a final crescendo on the piano grabbing the theme from the cello before it fades to decaying chord.
Ten Miles By Two: with drum and percussion angrily incanting the swing of a hammer on a chisel’s head, a narrative framed by the hard graft and little respect that Purbeck quarrymen endured in the 19th century; a reprised phrase “break the fence and haul the block”, as the finger-plucked bass matches the industrial monotony of marble cutting.
The title track, The Colour of Night: asks what does a garden and its flowers look like at night, what happens to the power of colour? Is our answer based on fear of the dark and our only solution to “drown the stars in restless light?” They conclude the “soul is blind to the colour of night”, a metaphor for the unbecoming of us all.
This is their fifth album in ten years and sees them once again bring their perfectly pitched harmonies and soothing songs to an eager fan base.
Seán Laffey