Releases > September 2013 Releases

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Notes After Dark
11 Tracks, 40 Minutes and 35 Seconds

Own Label FSR CD002
This is the second album from Munster based group Full Set, recorded in the idyllic location of Kerry’s Lough Guitane at the Sonas Studio of Tony Flaherty.
On the face of it this is a collection some well–known trad and folk standards, tunes such as the opener The Glen Road to Carrick, or the end piece The Road to Lisdoonvarna and songs like Dick Gaughan’s Both Sides the Tweed, Bill Stanes’ Roseville Fair, or the traditional The Bonnie House of Airlie and Ned of the Hill. To make those work for a new generation of listeners and indeed us folks who may recall some standout originals, then a band has to bring a depth and vitality to their work, and I am happy to report Full Set do just that.
There is feeling of solidity in the music here, helped by low tuned fiddles and a gorgeous pliant bodhrán on Both Sides the Tweed which is driven by a series octave fiddle riffs building the tension before the song opens up. Sleepy Ned of Newport is again given a chance to breath as the simple melody is explored until it breaks into The Ginger Nut, which was written by their fiddle player, Michael Harrison.
The songs are carried by Teresa Horgan, she has a clear voice, which still carries a delightfully young gloss, her rendition of Roseville Fair is set against a sparse glockenspiel backing, which proves she has full command of her range and breathing, although I found her a little less assured on the first two verses of Both Sides of the Tweed where the pacing is not always on the mark
As for the tunes the work of MartinoVacca on uilleann pipes is rugged and robust on the Up & About Set, nimbly assured on Mist in the Morning where he trades punches with fiddler Michael Harrison. Listen out for a deft change of rhythm as Mist in the Morning runs into Ned Kelly’s Polka.
This is lively album, with song choices from the Irish and Scottish Traditions, a dose of tunes from Tipperary and even an accordion break for The Reindeer Rag, which shows the band can swing the best of a 1915 style rag on uilleann pipes. You have got to hear it folks!
So many good tracks, so much energy, a band in full control and having such fun, yet well able to bring things down to a tearful pause on Ned of the Hill or rip up the tarmac on the Road to Lisdoonvarna. Serious stuff from a band, who one suspects, don’t take themselves seriously at all, and the music is much the better for it.
Seán Laffey

The Emigrant’s Song/The Laborer’s Lament
Copperplate Distribution, 14 Tracks, 47 Minutes
A follow on from As I Roved Out: Songs of Spring, Hanz Araki and Kathryn Claire continue with their innovative project, which I last described as ‘involving the release of four albums depicting the corresponding seasons in just one year. The thought process being unique in the fact that the four albums can be toured respectively giving fans of the pair the opportunity to purchase in line with the performance. The albums are produced with minimum over dub and editing and the duo has proved that this can be done at minimum cost to the production yet, on an enjoyment level, with a maximum benefit to the listener. This, the third in their seasonal music, unusually is not based on the sunshine and joy of Summer. Instead the pair have gone beyond the stereotypical seasonal theme and based this release on the time of year that, in past years, saw emigration hit as Irish men and women left their homeland in search of the seasonal employment that was to be found across the seas. With this in mind the initial track is that of The Exile’s jig; a heady mix of flute and fiddle floating over a strong percussion that kicks into the stark lyricism of Johnny Miner; the instrumental mix adding a poignant flow to the vocal harmonies that carries through with a beautifully melancholic air in Leaving Glasgow. The heavy percussion at the intro to The Steampacket somewhat distracts from the main instrumental at the start but converts into a complementary backdrop as the tempo picks up. The rhythmic opening to Covering Ground, in contrast, fully enhances the flute and fiddle as they alternatively take the lead with definitive pace.
The Emigrant’s Song retains the quality of showmanship that was evident in the other recordings in this unique project. I’m looking forward to listening to what Autumn brings.
Eileen McCabe


Lá ag Ól Uisce
Own Label, 17 Tracks, 60 Minutes
There’s something quite special about the wealth of musical content laid out in this album by Tomás, Seán and Caoimhín; recorded over a six month period at Liam Clancy’s studio in An Rinn, Co Waterford. When you open the CD cover and see a sleeve note by Bobby Gardiner and a musical guest list in the form of Donal Clancy, Donnacha Gough, Eimear Ní Fhathaigh, Nell Ní Chróinín, Jimí Ó Ceannabháin and Ciarán Ó Gealbháin you then know that the players involved have garnered respect from some of the best in the genre and listening to the quality of delivery in the instrumental it is easy to guess why.
The tunes on the tracks flow at a steady, unadorned ease with the core melody doing the talking within the hands of skilled instrumentalists. This is exemplified in The Stone in the Field set and is also a standout in the Fly in the Porter set. The lads display their individuality as they stamp their musical signature on the Micho Russell, and Tie the Bonnet sets and the beautiful air Ráiteachas na Tairngreacht which is played with a respect for the tune borne out beyond years. Ciarán Ó Gealbháin is resplendent in the tale of Máirtin an Bháille and Jimi Ó Ceannabháin also delights with a fantastic rendition of Eochaill.
The variety of tune and song and the respect in the treatment and performance of each piece of music is a testament to these Déise boys. Bobby Gardiner concludes his sleeve note with “I love this CD!” and I whole heartedly agree.
Eileen McCabe

The Hollow of the Swallows
Own Label ANC01CD

8 Tracks, 35 Minutes
A first solo recording from this Dublin fiddler and composer, Cuas na bhFánleog or The Hollow of the Swallows is a little shorter than we’re used to these days, but seeing as Aoife wrote all the music herself I think we can forgive that. Aoife’s tunes – thirteen of them here, across eight tracks – range from the very traditional to the quite contemporary, the strictly Irish to the pan–Celtic. At times it’s hard to believe these are new tunes, at others it’s a delight to hear such a fresh melody. Also the accompaniment on bouzouki and cello
(I think) is enough without being too much, and Aoife’s fiddle cuts through clearly. Her style is relatively unadorned, straight and true, and the recording hides nothing: deliberately or otherwise, there’s a homemade quality to this CD, which makes it more immediate.
The two jigs which open The Hollow of the Swallows are both catchy and cosmopolitan, calling to mind Galician music rather than Ireland’s own. The Sperrin Walltz, which follows them is not overtly Irish at all: inspired by Scandinavian or Baltic music, perhaps, with a modern classical edge. Cuas na bhFánleog could not be other than Irish, with its rolls and Connacht cadences. Its successor, An Leanbh Nua, is one of my favourites here. The slow air An Glaoch returns to than Baltic or Balkan sound, modalities which are familiar from gypsy music but rarely heard in sessions.
Another pair of jigs pull us back to the auld sod, still with a hint of foreign climes but more in keeping with the melodies of Paddy Fahy or Charlie Lennon. The slow hornpipe Cuán Beag is a great tune with a touch of the backwoods about it. I didn’t go for Fionnuala’s New Hat and the one that comes before it, two slowish reels with a wintry Nordic feel. Aoife ends on another slow piece, Oileán na mBan, an almost classical number on twin fiddles with guitar accompaniment, a pleasing tune but slightly over long here.
As a showcase for Aoife’s playing and composition, The Hollow of the Swallows does a very decent job. As a listening album, everyone’s reaction will be different but there are certainly some lovely pieces here.
Alex Monaghan

The Bard of Cornafean – Poetry & Songs of Seán Masterson
Own Label, 44 Tracks,
2 Hours and 6 Minutes

Seán Masterson’s two score and more verses on this CD, The Bard of Cornafean, are referred to as ‘self–penned recitations’ and so, not surprisingly, the place that’s featured most prominently is Cornafean, Co. Cavan. “Seán Masterson’s poetry has made him an outstanding ambassador for the wider Cornafean.” So writes Paddy McDermott in the CD notes, and adding that he was involved in many facets of life: football, hunting, fishing, and music. Typical of the ordinary little incidents he fondly records are these lines from Joe McCahill’s Memories:
I walked to Mass in Sunday over to Drumcor, Frequented Paddy Reilly’s shop for Woodbines or a penny bar. We bath–ed in the river and never thought it rude. To dry yourself a–running round Scott’s Meadow in the nude.
Inevitably Seán’s gaze reaches beyond Cornafean and Cavan and when taking in happenings with a wider national import he mentions names from the past who contributed to many areas of life, including football and music. They include the great footballers Mick O’Connell from Kerry and Cavan’s John Joe Reilly, the Irish dancer Donnchadh Ó Muineacháin, and fiddlers Antoin Mac Gabhann and Eugene Leddy. There’s humour and pathos throughout, and one can glean something of what’s on offer by way of memories and times past: Willie Murphy’s Tractor, Corglass Skittles Team 1976, Arva in the Rare Auld Times, and Parking Problem in Cavan Town. You don’t have to be from Cavan to appreciate Seán’s skill with the pen in recalling with affection and detail the joys and times past. It is for all to enjoy.
The second CD features Sean’s singing of his own songs and that of Tommy Donohoe and his daughter Lily, a Scór champion. Seán is joined in one song, Cluain Meala, by Carmel McDermott. The performances are all unaccompanied, so one has just the pleasant singing voices of the performers and the much–loved words of the songs they sing to convey a love of place and pride in heritage.
This CD makes an important contribution to the promotion and preservation of Cavan’s valued legacy of song and story.
Aidan O’Hara

The Floors O’ the Forest
CDTRAX1513 2013
15 Tracks, 63 Minutes

Bonus CD, 7 Tracks, 37 Minutes
On the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Flodden, Greentrax has produced a lovely album featuring the best of singers and musicians on a collection of songs and tunes connected to that historic occasion.
Dick Gaughan opens with the title track that is probably more familiar to many people in being referenced in another song of another war. As so often happens on this label we find old poetry set to music producing hauntingly realistic tales of past events. Such is the case on Ettrick, a poem by Lady Jean Scott set to music and sung by Archie Fisher & Garnet Rogers.
Celticburn opens Flodden’s Green Loaning with a lovely melodic whistling intro and delivers another outstanding song. Similarly Steve McDonald brings that sad period to life on Flodden Field on a ballad with a modern feel about a fight half a millennium ago. The same title appears on Track 7 but this one by The Owl Service and Alison O’Donnell is a tale taken from a Childe ballad and gives the English side of the story.
Who can resist a children’s choir and especially a Scottish one singing The Bonnie Banner Blue? Not me, this is a wonderful track to ironically lift your spirits on a recollection of savage death and destruction.
Auld Selkirk is another poignant story song from Gary Cleghorn interpreting a traditional song to great effect. Scocha, a duo, bring us an almost Gregorian Chant rendition on The Wail of Flodden.
The album closes with an instrumental version of the title track. But it does not end there. On this exceptional release you get a free CD of poems and prose about the battle. This is a fascinating collection of materials that will raise goose bumps as you hear recitations every bit as powerful as the singing on the main CD. But as they say that’s not all. The insert of this album is a work of art, music and history in itself including the lyrics of many of the songs. It could be released as a short book in itself.
This release is a shining example to any nation considering a commemoration. It avoids the over used material while mining a rich seam of traditional, old and new compositions to bring old history in a fresh way to engage, educate, entertain and enthrall a new audience.
Nicky Rossiter

CDTRAX373 2013
10 Tracks, 40 Minutes
This is the third release on the Greentrax Label by the band and it shows a constant maturing of the performances with McKenna recently chosen as Scots Singer of the Year. The collection of songs on offer is eclectic with self–penned items expertly interspersed with rearranged traditional material. The opening Lonely Man written by McKenna is a poignant and well–crafted song. They follow this with a more upbeat Mickey Dam, a traditional offering. While Scottish based they draw their material from the international pot and their rendition of Indiana is evocative of that locale. Instrumental expertise comes to the fore on Flying Through Flanders/Mrs Thom.
One of the more beautiful offerings on this album is Mother Nature once more from the pen of Paul McKenna.They shoot across the wide Atlantic again for Cold Missouri Waters. This is a very strong song with a wonderful storyline that will intrigue you to the end. The album ends with a live rendition of No Ash Will Burn.
On a short stretch of only ten tracks this band offers a showcase of their wide ranging ability and a wonderful choice of songs.
Nicky Rossiter

Sky Magic
Frontline Music, FLMCD131
13 Tracks, 50 Minutes
Karin Leitner is known on the continent as the principal flute and piccolo in a multitude of orchestras, which closer to home include the Royal Philharmonic and the Irish Chamber Orchestra. Karin Leitner is a master in the realm of classical music and her latest release, Sky Magic, embodies her undoubted skill in this genre whilst also incorporating a Celtic touch that puts the magic into the Sky.
The Skymagic Ouverture and Starry Sky set the tone for the thirteen tracks that incorporate sounds of a plethora of instruments that include uilleann pipes, accordion, harp, cello and oboe among others. Leitner has a flair for arrangement and composition that makes full use of the variety of instrumental sound igniting and pervading the definitive mood of each piece. On the vocal side a stand out is the inspiring Pie Jesu where the vocal depth fully embraces the ethereal instrumental that enfolds it. Leitner concludes Sky Magic with the emotional Eagles Flight; a farewell funeral ode to her late mother which she describes as ‘bridging the visible and invisible worlds.’
Sky Magic is an exhibition of genre fusion that seamlessly entwines the classical with the Celtic with magical results. Karin Leitner‘s compostions lift, soar and skate the sky and ensuring through her inimitable talent that the emotion meets the music in a subliminal chorus.
A fabulously, classically Celtic body of work.
Eileen McCabe

Reveal Records 017CDX
5 Tracks, 41 Minutes
Not what I was expecting, but this Oban fiddler’s third CD hit the spot nonetheless. After his success with Lau and KAN, and his two previous solo albums, I should perhaps have been prepared for a new departure. The blurb makes Aidan’s work sound more like malt whisky than music – created and matured on the Argyllshire coast, finished in oak studios – and indeed there is much of the highland spirit in this suite of new compositions.
There’s also a large helping of other influences. The sound is big, to match O’Rourke’s imagination, but the entire project involves only a handful of musicians. The tracks also number just five, between six and ten minutes each, all different, and all based around the album’s theme: the first transatlantic telephone line which ran from Gallanach Bay south of Oban to Clarenville in Newfoundland. Incidentally, the cable then continued to Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, another great area for fiddlers in the Scots style.
The opening TAT–1, named after the telephone line itself, is a medley of short themes, with tapped rhythms and pizzicato fiddle evoking the obsolete telegraph coding system, and some archive clips of transatlantic phone calls. Clarenville starts as a grand fiddle air in the old Gaelic style, ancient Scottish music from the mists of time switching to harp for spiritual street cred, until Paul Bancroft’s dirty sax subverts it into a sultry blues number. The title track commemorates the fact that US–Russian conversations around the Cuban missile crisis were carried by TAT–1: it builds on snatches of rhetoric from JFK and Khrushchev, adding Eastern rhythms and melody lines on keyboards and sax, creating a dark and threatening mood before lightening up as the threat finally recedes.
The Russian connection is driven home by the album artwork, blocky Cyrillic letters and a socialist propaganda poster style. HMTS Monarch, the ship which laid the cable, inspires a repetitive rising–falling piece which is quite hypnotic. Another archive snippet opens the final track, Gallanach Bay, a long and varied piece evoking windswept coastal landscapes with fiddlers and saxophonists naturally strolling across them. It’s hard to pick out melodies here, but there are any number of rich musical textures to enjoy.
Unashamedly modern, identifiably Scottish, and played by a tight little jazz–folk ensemble, Hotline is a great collection of music, well worth a listen for anyone with a taste for something a wee bit different.
Alex Monaghan