Releases > September 2012 Releases

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Chapter One – Roots
Own Label
12 Tracks, 51 Minutes, 34 Seconds

I wasn’t expecting this. OK! I thought, being the hard boiled sceptic, here’s another enthusiastic young American band with a tenuous grip on the tradition. Then I put the CD on the stereo system, loved it and poured the custard for a big slice of humble pie. This is proof we are living in a golden age of acoustic music.
Irish music at home is innately conservative and most players are expected to grow into the genre as they mature. The Willis Clan seem to have short–circuited the fuse board, well eight of the family have. They are joined by Eamon Murray, Trevor Hutchinson, Frances Cunningham and Jeff Cox to add more sparks to the mix.
The sound is big and expressive, somewhere near Lúnasa, somewhere near Solas, their arrangements are tight, the playing on the button, the attention to detail exact. They are disciples of the new wave of Irish bands that have been touring America over the past five years, the likes of the afore mentioned acts and Beoga too.
There is much more, every one of those twelve tracks is original. Freshly composed sets of tunes and a basket of new songs all embossed with the guinea stamp of authenticity. There arent that many bands in Ireland composing their own traditional songs, take a note from the Willis Clan, it can be done. The Clan’s A Traveling Song and The Rambler, could have come from Petrie or Child. They have mastered the idioms of melody and language, nothing seems contrived or clumsy in their word patterns.
As to the tunes, the McGoldrickesque, whistle powered Lonely Castle William Set is a stunner. Even when they delve into something contemporary it retains a deep melodic centre, such as Lottie Lies Amongst The Flowers. The banjo driven Wounded Crow is a funky 7/8 number excelling in the middle eight breaks.
Quality is evident on every track. If you want one recommendation the a-capella My Soldier, could have been written about any military separation from the past 200 years, whether it be caused by Bonaparte or the Taliban.
In short this is a wonderful debut album, full of nuggets that could keep many bands in new songs and tunes for years. You can do something new and still remain true to the tradition. As another famous American said a year ago Is féidir linn!
Seán Laffey

Breakfast in Mayo
Own Label
10 Tracks, 49 Minutes
A second album from Galway–based Irish–Galician combo, and very welcome it is too. Alalé have a great live sound, and they’ve doubled their strength here by enlisting four guest musicians who play on most of Breakfast in Mayo. In fact there are only three guest–free tracks, so it’s really breakfast for eight even if the guests skip the cereal and toast. Quantity is not lacking, this CD is 25% longer than the debut Wo Japen, in both time and tracks. As for quality, that certainly has not decreased but it has changed character. One of the most striking aspects of this album is the use of the uilleann pipes, classily played by Ciaran O’Donghaile. Their distinctive Irish sound comes through strongly on at least half the tracks here, whereas the Galician gaita only appears twice. Maybe Gabriel chipped a reed in the studio. When his gaita does make an appearance, on Baitucada and Rumba Reel, it instantly conjures a mood of pagan fiesta, food and dancing, wine and good weather.
As well as the Galician influence, there’s a surprising amount of Scottish music on this recording. Fiddler, Stephanie Swanton brings Simon Thoumire’s Jig, Cleveland Park and The Seagull to the party, great jigs all three, respectively composed by John McCusker, Ivan Drever and Donald MacLeod. Fred Morrison’s tune, The Aird Ranters is actually a strathspey, but it fits well with two Irish jigs here. Throw in a few more Galician dance tunes, plus some great Irish melodies including a few of the band’s own, and the instrumental crucible of Alalé is replete. Stephanie also sings two songs, both very pleasant, with words from Sam Henry and Oscar Wilde set to her own melodies. I should finally mention the important contributions of Yvonne McGinley on piano accordion, Carlos Zamora on percussion, and Sara Diges on the Galician tambourine.
There is a core Alalé sound which is very appealing in itself, but the variety provided by these guests makes Breakfast in Mayo all the more enjoyable. Highly recommended.
Alex Monaghan

All Mixed Up
Long Neck Music
21 Tracks, 76 Minutes

The title of this CD certainly lives up to its name in the best possible way. The Kellehers have produced an excellent and eclectic mix of some of the best music from the best sources to delight any discerning listener. From the beautifully produced and performed version of Tom Paxton’s How Beautiful Upon the Mountain through 21 tracks to Long Journey Home they prove their credentials as performers and producers and prove the value of live performance in honing skills.
Ricky Kelleher is a young performer with a great talent that must mature and become a star if the CD gets its deserved airplay. His rendition of Wagon Wheel sounds way beyond his years. With the primary instrumentation of banjo and guitar they could not resist Duelling Banjos and they certainly played to a draw.
It is always dangerous to cover songs very closely associated with others but this duo ably augmented by other family members take the chance and in general they triumph. They do justice to tracks like The Boxer, Folsom Prison Blues and even Tears in Heaven which just shows the versatility of the performers.
They breath new life in some older tunes that may introduce them to new audiences. Among these are Come by the Hills and I Wonder How the Old Folk are At Home.
Bluegrass is well–represented by songs like Blue Moon of Kentucky and Bury me Beneath the Willow.
The album brings us fresh versions of some old favourites but my personal selection would be a lesser known song from the pen of Pete Seeger called My Rainbow Race.
The album may be All Mixed Up but this is a winning mix that will delight listeners and have them seeking out live performances by the Kellehers.
Nicky Rossiter

Own Label BRE002CD
12 Tracks, 50 Minutes
Glasgow–centred band Breabach is now officially a quintet. It’s all change for their third album. Fiddler, Patsy Reid gives way to Megan Henderson, woodwind wizard, Donal Brown is replaced by James Duncan Mackenzie, and jobbing bass–player, Duncan Lyall cedes the bottom line to James Lindsay. They retain old boys Calum MacCrimmon on pipes and Ewan Robertson on guitar– vocals (an uncomfortable instrument, I imagine). In fact, all five members are credited with vocals here, whereas previously there were only two vocalists and one backing vocalist, but the band’s repertoire is not particularly song–based. The vocals are more integrated with the music, a medley of pipe and fiddle tunes with the Gaelic song Ho Ro na Mogaisean as its centrepiece, the intriguing Gig Face track featuring post–revival mouth music, and the gentle M’Eudail M’Eudail weaving Western Isles mysticism with whistle and guitar melodies.
There are only three straight-forward songs in English. Calum’s own Western Skies is standard singer–songwriter navel–gazing deeply–personal material. Rivers Run is a well–known Karine Polwart number, nicely handled by Megan. Ewan MacPherson’s remake of the poem Scotland 1942 is a big number, richly deserving the two full tracks it gets on Bann: powerful patriotic lyrics, a stirring pipe melody, and an epic vocal delivery by (I’m guessing) Ewan Robertson It’s like having that chap from Coast in the room with you, only less scary.
On the instrumental side, the Breabach sound is not quite as tight or powerful as on album number 2, but it’s still every bit as exciting. The opening shrill of fiddle and whistle gives way to gritty pipes and James Duncan’s eerie ebow. A Norwegian triple– time polska exemplifies the band’s more eclectic modern approach, and Duncan Chisholm’s beautiful air Farley Bridge shows there’s no lack of finer feeling on flute and fiddle. The New Paradigm is a tour de force of contemporary piping, Calum and JD duetting in harmony. Other goodies include a nice new tune from Allan MacDonald, and a big old set of strathspeys and reels.
Accompaniment is great throughout, strings and percussion filling the gaps without swamping the sound. Bann has punch, it has panache, and there’s plenty of Gaelic in tunes and songs alike. There’s a good mix of new and traditional material, with enough sleevenotes to distinguish between the two. Breabach are already outstanding and when this line–up gels, they will be very hard to match.
Alex Monaghan


The Long Road Home
Thornhill Music 001
14 Tracks, 63 Minutes
It may be a long road but McDonald starts with a step that is both assured and adventurous. The step in question is written by the front man of Dire Straits but it fits gloriously into a folk tradition with a powerful tune and strong story. It is Night in Summer by Mark Knopfler. It is truly a great opener and will tease a casual listener to want more.
McDonald delivers this request with another strong story piece in The Diamantina Drover. He lightens the mood occasionally with some lovely instrumental pieces like The Three Blondies and a Red Head.
Like most exceptional performers he is also a dab hand at composition and this is clearly shown on a collaboration with Oonagh Derby on the title track. The track is value for money even for the lovely fiddle bridge alone. He gives a beautiful rendition of Dan Seals’ Lullaby that some may be familiar with from the singing of Sean Keane, where McDonald apparently picked it up.
PJ is a confident performer and nowhere is this more evident than on The Emigrant and on his choice of presenting Mountains of Pomeroy as a beautiful instrumental offering. He drafts in the whole family for a spirited performance of Galway Bay that will gladden the heart.
This may be a long road home but one hopes that he does not stay at home when he arrives but gets back out there performing and recording other collections like this one.
Nicky Rossiter

Brilliant Tease
GWM0010, 11 Tracks, 36 Minutes

So those reality song competitions can produce the goods. Louise Killeen apparently contested You’re A Star back in 2005 and based on this new CD of eleven self penned tracks it almost makes me sorry I did not view.
Louise from Shannonbridge, Co. Offaly defies categorisation based on this collection. One minute I am thinking Lobo, next I compare her to Clifford T Ward or even Fivepenny Piece (showing my age) and then I settle for just thinking this is her and she has a broad field of influences that are either conscious or unconscious.
She hops from the soulful to a lovely bouncy Charming Hands that lifts the spirits immediately. I love her use of that phrase risk it for a biscuit. In fact her lyrics have that excellent true to lifefeel rather than the usual high faluting phrasing so often used especially by new writers.
All the tracks without exception show a confident and very talented writer. But her voice makes her an even greater phenomenon. She is one of the easiest to listen to artistes I have heard in a long while and I would like to hear her sing a full concert.
Everywhere Out There is a lovely slow song filled with emotions and again using wonderful phrasing betraying a widely read artiste who has listened closely to the greatest singers and writers.
The title track is more upbeat again and sounds so realistic in its observations the listener feels as if they know the subject – Katie. Sadly Killeen provides us with the words on the insert but not the background to the songs.
The KVT Song is a documentary song about what one surmises is her home tavern and if so would be a great soundtrack if the pub takes on television advertising.
She ends the album with Starstruck and I am sure many of her listeners will feel just that after this CD. Let’s look forward to many more.
Nicky Rossiter


12 Tracks

Belzebuth is a six–strong traditional group from Quebec who are now celebrating ten years on the road, and a grand collection they have here. The sound is mainly two fiddles and accordion plus rhythm but the material feels right at home. The only difference is the songs with verse and chorus line alternating, with a strong echo of Brittany.
The gender balance is five males to a lone and sweet–voiced damsel. But you couldn’t call it cochons chauvinists. Instead listen to the Appalachian ditty Shove the pig’s foot a little further into the fire and you’ll realise how small an impediment a language barrier is to the music. All the material is French, as you might expect. But they’re seriously schooled and carry a deft and light Gallic Joie de vivre, which is a model of togetherness. And listen for that bass guitar, so well played with good taste.
I don’t detect any plans to tour outside Canada, so you’ll have to check the website. It’ll be well worthwhile
John Brophy

Tales to Tell
2 CD’s, 12 Tracks each

Pat O’Connor is a force of nature. When she’s not playing or teaching, she’s writing tunes; not only jigs and reels, but waltzes and mazurkas and barn dances as well.
This is the follow–up collection to Cuimhneachán Ceoil, her collection of 53 pieces which had a book attached, with the dots written out. I couldn’t find anything to say there a book with this offering, but if you want to popularise the tunes, it’s needed.
She’s based in Cabinteely, South Dublin, but has been–known to escape to Belturbet in Co Cavan for mighty sessions.
I had to keep reminding myself that this is amateur production in all senses. In the trad scene, the winnowing process is merciless, and even former greats like Squire Jackson had far more tunes forgotten than remembered. But this is music played for the love of it.
We can have far too much of competitions or discussions on the origins of craning. So I’d urge you to listen to the tunes. And next time you need a tune for an album or even a session give the Bucks a rest and try some thing like Mayo Mary or the Ballinadrehid Jig. I’ll be surprised if you don’t like them.
John Brophy

10 Tracks, 29 Minutes
Owh Label

With the debut album release from Dublin folk group, The Feekers, there are immediate connections to the world of traditional music.
Johnny Keenan hails from that Keenan family, synonymous with the music through the likes of Johnny Keenan Snr and his legacy of sons, notably piping genius Paddy. But it is the late banjo player Johnny Keenan whose sound is so noticeable in Johnny the Feeker’s playing. Tarbolten, the Feekers debut album, is laden with thimble style tenor banjo tracks, the picking style passed from uncle to nephew when he was only starting out on the banjo, having progressed from the thin whistle, learned from Johnny the grandfather.
The album opens with the track, Tarbolten/The Longford Collector, a set recorded in the 1970’s by uncle Johnny. Here, it is played by Johnny the Feeker and backed on octave mandolin by his able sparring partner, Darren Lynch, whose musical odyssey came about when he found himself with too much free time, having finished with an amateur boxing career. The album consists of an even mix of ballads and traditional tunes, Johnny providing the airs on both banjo and whistle and Darren the vocals and accompaniment. Their selections include Sullivan’s John, followed by Connaughtman’s Rambles/The Eavesdropper, with Boulavogue performed unaccompanied on low whistle by Johnny.
An all–round organic process, The Feekers grabbed hold of an opportunity to record at short notice, putting down the sets they have played around the country since their formation some five or six years ago. Building on the experience, their already planned second album should see The Feekers strengthen their tightening grip in the folk world.
Derek Copley

Enda McCabe, Vocals and Guitar
With Tim Edey, Accordion and Guitar and Johnny Connolly, Melodeon
12 Tracks, Own Label

This is essentially an album about emigration. Enda spent 24 years in England before coming home to Dublin, and now he’s decamped to Connamara.
This is a nice assortment: everything from Frank Harte’s Madam, I’m A Darling (same theme as Spanish Lady) to I Don’t Like Mondays which might be an equaliser for what Phil Lynnot did to Whiskey in the Jar. The essential truth is that all most folks want is a place where they can earn a decent living and be themselves. And which includes singing songs they like regardless of origin. And all the better if they don’t involve large corporations and can be done, like this one, in the kitchen. So you have I Know My Love alongside a rousing version of the Connamara anthem Cóilín Pháraic Shéamuis. Congrats on a companionable collection of good songs, with an emigration theme, which is sadly proving all too topical.
John Brophy