FolkWorld Issue 37 11/2008

FolkWorld CD Reviews

Nollaig Casey, Maire Ni Chathasaigh, Arty McGlynn, Chris Newman "Heartstring Sessions"
Label: Old Bridge Music; No. OBMCD18; 2008; Playing time: 48.13 min
Imagine two sisters, both leading Irish musicians, who are each married to one of the most outstanding guitarists on the Celtic scene, each couple being a highly renowned duo in their own right - and those two couples have never ever recorded anything jointly. But now, finally, the long awaited and long planned joint album has finally been released, combining the magics of top harpist Maire Ni Chathasaigh and Chris Newman with his unique guitar style with superb fiddler Nollaig Casey and guitarist Arty McGlynn.
And the wait has been worthwhile, this is a great album full of musicial ideas, sparkling tunes and excellent playing. The mix is probably roughly what you would expect of this combination of talent - traditional Irish tunes with a contemporary twist, some own compositions, as well as some ragtime and even a waltz with South American origins. THe couple of songs on the album are sung by Nollaig.
An uplifting album full of interest and enjoyment; an album which should not be missed in a good Irish music collection.
Old Bridge Music
Michael Moll

Trio Tresca "Umpa Umpa"
Label: Radici Music; No. RMR-120; 2008; Playing time: 58.57 min
An appealing album of traditional dances and songs from Tuscany. THe trio features guitar and other string instruments, accordion and flute/clarinet, playing themselves through a wonderful collection of quiet and toughtful songs full of atmosphere and lively dance tunes. What makes the album so highly appealing is the honesty and simplicity of the music - three instruments played with passion; there are still the edges, the natural live feeling, the liveliness in the music. The dance tunes are full of life and are likely to get any listener tapping his feet if not jumping up and dance.
Traditional music as it should be - pure and simple and full of passion.There are not many folk albums that have as much a "live" feeling about it as this one. Recommended.
Michael Moll

Triller "Gryning"
Label: Sjelvar; No. SJECD25; 2008; Playing time: 49 min
Swedish folk music with a twist - or rather with quite a few twists. What makes this band directly a bit unusual is its focus on clarinet, joined by violin, guitar and percussion/mouth harp. Most of the tunes on the album are traditional Swedish, but the album and the band nevertheless has found its own unique style within this spectrum. Musicologist Dan Lundberg describe it in the booklet as good as I could have done it: "It's not always easy to realise just why you like a tune or a record, but in this case I think it's the unpredicatability of the (musical) meetings - spiced with humour, curiosity and romance..."
There is this certain flair in the music throughout the CD - while staying true to the tradition, the interpretation may take inspiration from maybe classical or jazz music or ... Plenty of swing and wonderful melodies; a cracking CD.
Michael Moll

Malinky "Flower & Iron"
Label: Greentrax; No. CDTRAX330; 2008; Playing time: 42 min
The latest offering from Scotland's leading song band stays true the unique and tried and tested Malinky style. Once again, they picked an excellent selection of traditional and contemporary folk songs and texts, most of them being forgotten texts rarely heard on the folk scene, some having been uncovered by the band in archives or other collections. Songs are mainly in Scots, with the odd addition from Ireland and a couple of sets of tunes. And all the songs are beautifully dressed up with tasteful instrumentation and arrangements that bring the songs fully to life without taken the attention too much away from the words. The band currently features founding members Steve Byrne (vocals, bouzouki, guitars) and Mark Dunlop (vocals, whistle, bodhran, flute), added by singer and cellist Fiona Hunter, fiddler and guitarist Mike Vass and guitarist and bouzouki player Dave Wood.
Another wonderful addition to the collection of CDs of excellent trad songs.;
Michael Moll

Dartz "Happens Sometimes"
Label: Boglach Records; No.NR2807CD; 2007; Playing time: 58 min
From the CD itself I could only read the word "Dartz" - the rest is all in Russian, including the title of the CD (I found the English translation on the band website).
Dartz are a band from St Petersburg who call their music "pop-folk". And even though all their songs are in Russian, most of them will sound strangely familiar to the Western folk fan. Many melodies are well known Irish, Scottish or Breton tunes; some of the songs appear to be translated into Russian, other may be only inspired by Celtic traditions. And with many the listener may started thinking what the original song is called. Stylistically, the music would need to be filed as Celtic folk/pop/rock; the band features the normal rock band lineup plus fiddle, guitar, flute, accordion. Their arrangements are well crafted and full of inspiration.
There is a strange appeal to this music; it certainly is unusual to hear Celtic music in Russian, but Dartz have managed extremely well to marry the two. In their arrangement even the "Wild Rover" may sound exciting again. It is a very refreshing and creative approach for a band with non-Celtic origing to transform songs into Russian and breathe a new different life into them.
Michael Moll

Donnie Munro Live "An Turas"
Label: Greentrax; No.CDTRAX323; 2008; Playing time: 64.53 min
It is now already 10 years ago since Donnie Munro left Runrig, the band which he had been with for the previous 23 years and which made Gaelic folk rock fashionable. Since Donnie has published a number of solo albums with his own folk pop band. The "An Turas" project brings him back to some of the favourite songs from both his Runrig and solo times, and thus the album includes songs like "Dance called America", "The Cutter", "Chi min tir", "Heart of America", "Chi min Geamhradh".
The album was live recorded in a one-off concert at Celtic Connections 2008 in Glasgow, and saw Donnie Munro's band joined by three great fok musicians - fiddler Allan Henderson, accordionist Sandy Brechin and saxophone player extraordinaire Fraser Fifield - as well as on a couple of tracks the Glasgow Islay Choir. The show had the theme "An Turas" i.e. "The Journey", with a focus on emigration songs, as well as songs around wars.
Having experienced some of the special shows brought together at Celtic Connections, my hopes were high for this album to be something quite special. I was somewhat disappointed I have to admit. While the selection of songs is appealing enough, the presenation of the songs is in most cases not as spectecular as the original ones, and don't take the songs anywhere different. The excellent guest musicians are unfortunately most of the times very much in the background - you really have to listen out for the choir on a couple of songs not to miss it completely. The focus is throughout on Donnie's pop band.
So no doubt fans will find they need to have this album, for the rest of us maybe the original songs may be the preferred choice.
Michael Moll

Donnie Munro "An Turas"
Greentrax; CDTRAX323; 2008
Donnie Munro started off as singer for Runrig in the early eighties. He stayed with the Isle of Skye based band until 1997, when he wanted to start a political career. Luckily for the fans he was not elected and two years later he returned back to the studio to record his first solo album. 2008 he was invited to the Celtic Connections by Donald Shaw, the festival’s director, and his new album “An Turas” (the journey) was recorded live at this occasion.
He was accompanied by his band (drums, bass, keyboards, two guitars and backing vocals), the string players from RSAMD Glasgow conducted by Nicolas Zekulin and three highly talented and well renowned guest musicians: Fraser Fifield (soprano saxophone), Sandy Brechin (accordion) and Allan Henderson (fiddle).
The program was inspired by a visit to Ellis Island where the imprint of the millions of emigrant people still is exposed. Munro wrote “Heart of America”, a melancholic and rhythmic song, which is a perfect showcase for his soulful singing woven-into Frazer Fifield’s lamenting saxophone and Foss Paterson’s fine piano playing, a hauntingly beautiful track. Another composition by Munro, “Garden Boy”, has been interpreted in an almost symphonic way with a string quintet, arranged by Paterson and conducted by Zekulin, and the Glasgow Islay Choir. The fifteen songs also feature cover versions of several Runrig songs and other projects as well as traditional songs. “Strangers to the Pine” (Blair Douglas, ex-Runrig) is a rocking and melodic song with Brechin on accordion and again brilliant piano sound and singing. The traditional waulking song “Mo Chruinneag Bhòidheach” is an a Capella performance with again the Glasgow Islay Choir. Even though I am not a big Runrig/Munro fan I appreciate the excellent arrangements, Munro’s wonderful singing and the high class musicians. I am sure lovers of Munro’s music will be instantly hooked on this album.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup

Dave Morrison "A little farther down the line"
Label: Own label; 2007
California based singer/songwriter Dave Morrison has published a new album with 14 self-crafted songs. The CD cover shows David leaving a house with his guitar box in the hand. There’s an advertisement on the wall saying House for Rent (Tenant has become delusional and wandered off…). “A little farther down the line” he grabs his guitar and starts to sing. Jacques Kerouac comes to my mind, on the road…
The CD starts with “Times like these”, a melodic song with great mandolin and violin playing. Dave’s singing is superb no matter if he sings the blues like on the romantic ballad “Halcyon days”, or silent folksongs like “Long Way Gone”. But he also rocks the floor with rhythmic songs like “Everywhere I go”. My favourite song is “Once myself”, a wonderful melodic tune with words full of reminiscence and melancholy. Morrison remembers his youth when watching youngsters living their life with passion, carpe diem… Morrison is an excellent songwriter and he shares his wonderful music with you. Hear the brilliant arrangements, the inspired musicians and Dave’s beautiful singing, and listen to the skilfully written words full of experience and thoughtfulness. May be you’ll agree with me. This is one of the best albums of the genre I’ve heard lately.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup

Session A9 "Bottlenecks & Armbreakers"
Label: RAJ Records; 2008
Initially Session A9 was supposed to be a project to record a unique album, but sometimes the audience and listeners do not accept that. The success of their first album “What Road?” and their live gigs was so overwhelming, that the guys decided to let the music go on. And now the year 2008 sees the release of their second album, “Bottlenecks and Arm-breakers”.
The line-up speaks for itself: four brilliant fiddlers named Charlie McKerron, Gordon Gunn, Kevin Henderson and Adam Sutherland are joined by Tim Edey on guitar and melodeon, Brian McAlpine on keyboards and Iain Copeland on percussion. And then they invited guest musicians like Kris Drever (guitar and diddling), Ewen Vernal (bass), David “Chimp” Robertson (percussion) and Ross Martin (guitar).
Well these guys deliver a firework of ten traditional and modern hand-crafted tune-sets full of energy and passion, a good part of the tunes are self composed. The playing together of the four fiddles, McAlpine’s thriving piano, Edey’s guitar and melodeon work and the rhythm section with Copeland, Vernal and Robertson make this CD a single highlight. You can hear hauntingly beautiful airs, breathtaking dance tunes and brilliant samples of modern folk music.
I’ve seen Session A9 live at a midsummer festival and Charly said to me before the gig with a big smile in his face: “We will rock them”. And actually they did! Don’t hesitate and get this CD to prepare for your first Session A9 Live experience. But watch out these guys are pretty busy with their different projects.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup

Angus and Julia Stone "A Book like this"
Label: Own Label; 2008
Angus Stone and his sister Julia were raised in the northern beaches of Sydney, Australia. Shortly after having released their first EP “Chocolates and Cigarettes” they moved to London and started recording their debut album “A Book like this”.
Together with drummer Mitchell Connelly, the third band member, and a few talented guest musicians they recorded 13 self crafted songs. Five songs were recorded in London and produced by singer/songwriter Fran Healy, the rest under producer Ian Pritchett in Newport, Australia. In addition to the audio CD the package includes a DVD with nine awfully creative video clips. “The Beast” is a critical song about exploitation of labour and modern slavery. Julia’s singing alongside with Angus’ guitar playing and Fran Healy’s excellent piano and conga playing make this song my favourite and a perfect start for the CD; I got instantly captured by the sound. Breathtaking and mesmerizing melodies, enticing and stirring rhythms, two wonderful voices and perfect arrangements ensnare the listener and transport him in a different world full of daisies and rainbows, Alice in Wonderland brought to song. On several tracks we can hear beautiful string arrangements like on the title track or on “Silver Coin”. The latter also features brilliant drumming from Connelly, setting to music the rattle from a train; sound is getting visible. Julia’s sometimes queer singing and her charming accent and Angus’ beautiful voice match perfectly together. They are also brilliant musicians and multi instrumentalists, playing guitar, piano, harmonica and different brass- and woodwinds. On “Another Day”, a hauntingly beautiful waltz, Angus plays the trombone and Julia the trumpet and a bunch of family members and friends join the singing in their mother’s lounge.
The Stone sibyls have managed to release a remarkable debut album. This might be a milestone in the modern music scene, innovative and breathtaking sound coupled with mesmerizing visual effects on the DVD and the CD cover make this release a follow up to classic pop albums by the Beatles, David Bowie or Pink Floyd. You just can’t deny lending an ear to them, you will either love it or hate it. Guess what I do.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup

Lisa Haley "King Cake"
Label: Blue Fiddle Records; 2007
Two years after her Live Album (Folkworld Issue 34) Lisa Haley has published her new album “King Cake” with twelve original songs and a cover version. Together with her usual “Krewe of Kats”, the Zydekats, and some brilliant guest musicians and singers she has recorded two completely new tracks as well as new versions of some of her best Cajun and Zydeco songs.
The title track, one of the new songs, is an excellent sample of Haley’s stirring rhythmic songs, featuring Southern Blues singer/songwriter Keb’ Mo’ on harmonica and the Swamptone Horns. Haley’s violin and her singing are breathtaking and the Kats make an exceptional job as well. “Mardi Gras Party/Little Dreamer” is an outstanding mix of rhythms, as Cajun legend Joe Simien used to play them. It starts with a lively two step dance which stops abruptly and gives way to a romantic slow waltz, ending up again with the two-step; it is hilarious. “Louisiana” is a beautiful Blues ballad with wonderful playing together of violin and accordion. Boozoo Chavis’ “Paper in my Shoe” is a tremendous Zydeco tune and partly one of the two songs in Louisiana Cajun French. The other one, “Mardi Gras”, is a terrific tribute to the famous carnival in the Southeast.
Even though Lisa Haley lives in southern California, her music takes you immediately to the swamps of the Mississippi delta. Listening to her you enjoy hot rhythms, passionate singing, two-steps, waltzes, Blues…everything you need to feel the groove of Mardi Gras.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup

Kathy Chiavola "Somehow"
Label: My Label; 2007
Kathy Chiavola was raised in Kansas City, Montana, and grew up playing folk songs on her guitar. After her master’s degree in voice at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music she moved to Nashville and started making music in different Bluegrass and Country bands. 2007 saw the release of her forth solo album “Somehow” with 13 self crafted songs. The tracks have been recorded with some highly talented musicians and singers.
The CD starts with a typical Bluegrass song, “Makin’ New Memories”. Richard Bailey on banjo and Barbara Lamb on fiddle as well as the voices of Sharon and Cheryl White and Kathy Chiavola stand out. The slow “Azalea Waltz” features some fine mandolin playing by Butch Baldassari and great fiddling by Stuart Duncan. “Possom and Pearl” is a terrific Bluegrass song about Kathy’s two female terriers and “Near You” a hauntingly beautiful ballad with Rob Ickes on resonator guitar and Joey Misculin on accordion. Chiavola also sings the Blues on “You blew it Baby” and the Jazz on “Girl with a mission”, the latter featuring Chuscales’ brilliant guitar playing, Yiyi on cajon and Jeff Coffin on flute. Southern ambiance arises when Kathy sings “Italy calling”. Kenny Malone on congas, Misculin on accordion and Byron House on electric bass provide Latin groove. Finally the title track is a perfect showcase for Chiavola’s singing.
Chiavola has a wonderful voice, fully instructed and rich, and her songs are some of the finest compositions in the genre. The CD features rhythmic Bluegrass songs, jazzy tracks, Blues, Latin American sounds and romantic ballads. The recordings and arrangements are perfect and singers as well as musicians are brilliant. I really love this album.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup

Spiral Dance "The Quickening"
Label: Own label; 2006
1992 Adelaide based band Spiral Dance was formed by Adrienne Piggott, singer and songwriter with musical focus on myth, magic and legend. 2006 they published their fifth album “The Quickening”, a collection of old and new original songs, cover versions and traditionals. Pigott is accompanied by Kerryn Schofield (flute, whistles, and trumpet), Nick Carter (guitars), Paul Gooding (accordion, keyboards), Brent Miller (e-bass), Kevin Sheehy (drums, percussion, mandolin, keyboards, and double bass) and Ingrid Hapke (violin).
The core work of the album is a cycle of songs describing the eight sabbats of the Celtic tradition, starting off according to the Celts with Samhain and my favourite song “Holly Lord” from their debut album “Woman of the Earth”. Adrienne’s hauntingly beautiful voice is joined by Paul’s accordion and Kerryn’s flute. Guitar, bass and drums are playing a wonderful rhythm. Pictures of people dancing around a fire in the chilly night of Samhain are coming to my mind. The title song is dedicated to Imbolc, the beginning of spring, and is based on the music of Basque accordion player Kepa Junkera. Great percussion work, accordion and flute match perfectly to Piggott’s rhythmic singing. The beginning of summer is celebrated on Beltaine with “Weaving the Summer”, the tender sound of the flute and beautiful a Capella singing: “Hail to the summer”.
The second part of the CD presents us six more songs, beginning with Steve Knightley’s (Show of Hands) “The Oak”. The song stands out with hypnotic singing, dreamy airs and bewitching rhythms. “Voodoo Bayou” is dedicated to the people who suffered from the two great hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Groovy rhythms, soulful singing and jazzy trumpet and guitar sounds distinguish this original song. The CD ends with a traditional Irish song, “Tarry Trousers”.
This was the first time I heard this Australian band and it swept me off my feet. Adrienne’s seraphic voice, the high musical standard as well as perfect arrangements and recordings bring this album on top of my shelf. Creative song writing is coupled with mystical traditions and excellent musicianship.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup

Nathalie Nahai "Fortune Teller"
Label: Fuzzy Muskrat Records; 2007
Nathalie Nahai has been born in London to parents of multi-cultural influence including Iran, France, Scotland and Gibraltar. “Fortune Teller” is her second album recorded in the U.S featuring nine original songs and one cover version of a Charles Aznavour song. She’s escorted by some awesome good guest musicians.
Nahai is a gifted songwriter and has an extraordinary voice; you can hear it instantly when you listen to the CD opener “Polly ride on”. Her beautiful singing matches perfectly her fine guitar playing and the crew care for the brilliant musical background. “Overboard” is a melodic countryish song with Nahai playing banjo and producer Ryan Pitchford on pedal steel. La Bohème” sang Aznavour 1966 and Nahai does it with an incredible timbre like famous French chansoniers. „Where Children play“ is a melancholic ballad with Nathalie on violin and Wurlitzer. And finally Warren Ullom launches with his piano a brilliant Blues-Rock, ”Sly Girl”, a perfect showcase for Nathalie’s singing.
Nathalie Nahai is one of the young singer/songwriters who are able to create a unique style and surprise the listener with astounding creativity and musical competence.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup

Lunasa "The story so far…"
Compass Records; 2008
In October 1997, one year after coming together, the Irish five piece band Lunasa released their first self-titled album. Their initial line-up was Trevor Hutchinson (bass), Seán Smyth (fiddle) and Donogh Hennessy (guitar); Kevin Crawford (flute) and Cillian Vallely (uilleann pipes, whistles) joining them later. Today Paul Meehan (Karan Casey Band, North Cregg …) has replaced Hennessy on guitar, mandolin and banjo.
“the story so far…” is a compilation looking back on 10 years of the finest instrumental Irish music and six of the most innovative and creative albums in contemporary folk music. We can hear music from their first CD featuring Mike McGoldrick on flute and John McSherry on uilleann pipes, two musicians who’ve since then often been working together for different projects. “Eanáir” is a brilliant traditional set of tunes, offering rhythmic double bass and guitar with excellent solo playing by Seán, Mike and John. By the time of their second album “Otherworld” Crawford was a full-time member and McSherry and McGoldrick completed the line-up by turns. “The Miller of Drohan” is a rare sample of a rather melodic air with two low whistles (Crawford and Smyth), flute (McGoldrick), guitar (Hennessy), cello and double bass (Hutchinson). Vallely joined the band for their third album “The Merry Sisters of Fate” and Hutchinson included “Casu”, a great Asturian set of tunes, to the compilation. Lunasa never confined themselves to playing Irish music and so their forth CD “Redwood” is represented by a frisky Breton tune by Quemenar/Lefebre, “Fest Noz”. In 2004 the guys came together for an exclusive gig with invited audience at Kinnitty Castle to record their first full live CD. Hennessy, Smyth and Hutchinson played “Punch”, a set of a Scottish Concerto Strathspey coupled with two breathtaking traditional reels, as a trio. “Sé” was the first album recorded with Paul Meehan on guitar and the hauntingly beautiful tune “Leckan Mór” by Vallely is one of the excerpts. In addition to Meehan Tim Edey plays a second guitar and pipes, fiddle, flutes and whistles are involved in a lively dialogue. Two sets of tunes have been re-recorded with the new line-up and the opening track “Morning Nightcap” is also my favourite, energetic and rhythmic with wonderful harmonies.
This compilation is a perfect record of the bands musical development. Even though the older tracks are a brilliant listen you can hear the refinement of their arrangements and the perfection of their playing together on the new recordings. Five of the finest Irish musicians are looking back on their story so far … that sounds as if there’s more to come … I will certainly buy some more of their music.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup

Dao Strom "Everything that blooms wreck me"
Label: Own label; 2008
After her stunning musical debut “Send me home” the Saigon born singer/songwriter and prose writer Dao Strom releases 2008 her follow-up album “Everything that blooms wreck me” with ten self-crafted songs. Again she’s accompanied by Kevin Fox (bass, electric guitar) and Billy Brent Malkus (dobro, electric guitar). In addition we can hear a bunch of fine guest musicians on guitars, ebow, cello, accordion, violin, mandolin, keyboards, drums, harmony vocals and bells.
The CD starts with the title track, a sad and soft ballad with cello, finger-picked guitar and piano accompanying Strom’s lamenting voice. This is one of the more attractive and innovative songs on her new album. Unfortunately some of her creativity seems to be lost after her brilliant debut. Not only are most of the musical arrangements rather uninspired, most of the songs are melancholic and the words turn all around love and longing. There are few exceptions like the rocking “Lebanon, Missouri”. Electric guitar, drums and bass accompany Strom’s passionate singing. It is her singing that lacks some of the punch she had produced on “Send me home”. The a Capella sung “Traveller’s ode” for example does not really impress me. Guitar, dobro and mandolin as well as the voices of Strom and Aimee Bobruk make “Fields of California”, a country song, my favourite track.
For my personal liking she should have stuck more to the countryish songs which go very well with her rather raspy voice. Strom still is a talented songwriter and musician, but I really was disappointed. I expected more of her follow-up album.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup

Eliza Carthy "Dreams of Breathing Underwater"
Topic Records; 2008
Daughter of folk legends Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson, Eliza grew up in a world of music and has developed to one of the most recognised English folk musicians of her generation. Besides her by now ten self released albums she regularly works with her parents and participated on different musical projects like recently Simon Emerson’s “The Imagined Village”. Eliza is a wonderful singer and songwriter and a gifted musician playing guitars, violins, ukulele, melodeon and piano.
Her brand new release “Dreams of Breathing Underwater” features ten co-compositions with band member and multi-instrumentalist Ben Ivitsky as well as a cover version of Rory MacLeod’s “Hug You like a Mountain”. Eliza is accompanied by a bunch of excellent guest musicians and singers including members of Scottish band Mystery Juice, Mr McFall’s Chamber, Eddie Reader, Heather MacLeod and David “Demus” Donnelly.
From the rocking critical song “Follow the Dollar” to the melodic chamber music sound of “Two Tears” Eliza guides us through her world full of music and words. The dreamy ode “Rows of Angels” is followed by her lover’s waltz “Rosalie” and the Mexican mucho song “Mr. Magnifico”. The sound of wind instruments, accordion and strings, Tim Matthew’s (Mystery Juice) spoken words and Eliza’s passionate singing make this jazzy song one of the highlights of the CD. Reggaeish Zydeco rhythms dominate “Like I care”, while melancholic and psychedelic string music accompanies the three female voices of Eliza, Heather and Eddie on “Lavenders”. “Little Bigman” is a mariner song to sing along with the six voices and Mr McFall’s Chamber and “Simple Things” is Eliza’s way of singing a love song, soulful singing coupled with shuffling rhythm and the playing together of e-guitar and violin. “Hug You like a Mountain” sticks out with beautiful choral singing and the final “Oranges and Seasalt” reminds me with it’s arrangement for several voices, chamber orchestra and wind instruments of soundtracks for Hollywood movies.
Carthy’s new album is a stunning collection of songs of different genres, brought forward by brilliant musicians and singers, I simply love it. This is not folk, this is not rock, this is not pop, this is Eliza Carthy.
Adolf 'gorhand' Goriup

Garry Walsh "Penny Trumpets"
Label: Phaeton Records; SPINCD1011; 11 tracks; 40 min
Following on from his acclaimed first CD, fluter Garry Walsh continues the Cork and Louth theme in honour of his parents. The title tune Flanagan's Penny Trumpet is one of several charming Drogheda melodies here: The Sailmaker's Wife, Down the Twenties, Mrs Sampson's Delight and the carelessly named jig The Minister's Hole all come from Louth. The Watery Boreen, The Lady's Cloak and Griffith's Floating Road hail from West Cork - not that it's wet down there at all. Reels and jigs from elsewhere include The Rocky Road, Gossy's, Mrs McGrady's, The Meadow in Bloom and the obligatory Gan Ainm.
Among several slower tracks, the air Oilean na nAnam stands out: beautiful and haunting, with a North African edge to it in this arrangement. Another highlight for me is Dancing with Movita, a swirling reel written by Garry, followed by impressive fiddling from Maire Breatnach on The Rook and the Priest. Garry is joined by Maire on several tunes, and by various accompanists throught this album. He also plays whistle on a couple of tracks, and sings two songs: his own Purple Lady and the traditional ballad My Willie O, which add variety and a different tone. The flute is the main attraction here, though, carrying rare and familiar tunes, continuing the tradition, and adding something new. Penny Trumpets should be widely available, but in case of difficulty try
Alex Monaghan

Skelpaig "...aye?"
Label: Own Label; SKELPCD001; 12 tracks; 58 min
This fiddle and pipes/flute combo out of Glasgow is an instant triumph with their take-no-prisoners approach to Scottish music. The opening set of strathspeys and reels is big enough to kick sand in most people's faces: after two traditional heavyweights, Malt on the Optics shifts into overdrive, and The Stone Frigate cranks things right up to eleven, while Dancing Feet is simply off the scale. The set of jigs that follows would be quick for most bands, but seems leisurely by comparison. Kenny MacDonald's Jig shows a lovely touch on the fiddle, which slips a little when the pipes come in on The Kitchen Maid. The fiddle and whistle are totally in step for Up and Doon the Lift, one of about a dozen tunes here by fiddler Katherine Liley.
After a couple of pleasing slower numbers, David Adam picks up the whistle again for two of his own jigs. Up the Hill to Bolshan is a lovely composition, reminding me of fiestas in Vigo. A couple more hefty strathspeys bring us to Neil's Wee Tune, a dreamy solo lullaby by Katherine. She follows this with a large patch of her own reels and jigs, introduced by Michael Ferry's Farewell to Chernobyl and including such memorable titles as The Brechin Strum and Fiona Beaton, Rock Fiddler Extraordinaire. Then it's finale time, and you won't be surprised to learn that it's fast, furious and full of fiddly bits: Andy De Jarlis, The Tipsy Sailor, Bog an Lochan and three reels, with flute for starters and the pipes for the final dash, plus a wee sting in the tail.
I'm not saying it's perfect. There are several occasions where youthful enthusiasm triumphs over good taste and good time-keeping, but what Skelpaig lack in discipline is more than redressed by their bite and bounce. So who are these guys anyway? Katherine Liley plays fiddle, David Adam flits from pipes to flute to whistle, while David Sutherland covers guitar and bass. There's some slightly dodgy mandolin from Peter Hunter, and that's it. Tight, powerful, with strong highland roots, and enough rough edges to keep things interesting: an impressive debut CD. Get yourself skelped at, worth checking out before they hit the big time!
Alex Monaghan

V/A "Best of Scottish Fiddle"
ARC Music; EUCD 2098; 15 tracks; 64 min
This compilation concentrates on the playing of Gavin Marwick, definitely in my top ten current Scottish fiddlers, and three others who would probably make the top fifty: Jonny Hardie, Archie McAllister, and Alistair McCulloch. It includes tracks by groups such as Iron Horse, Old Blind Dogs, JCB and Coila which feature these same fiddlers, plus an air from the Hudson Swan Band which doesn't really belong here. "Best of" is a slight exaggeration, but there are fourteen well-chosen tracks on this CD giving almost an hour of fine Scottish fiddling.
The Buzzard, a slow reel from Jonny, sets the rather dark and brooding tone for many tracks. Davy Cattenach's excellent percussion accompanies this, as well as the eerie march Hills of Glenorchy and the downright chilling air Margaret Cromar. Gavin joins Jonny and Davy for three big stomping medleys: MacNeill of Ugadale, The Quiet Man and the final Rob Roy MacGregor. The Iron Horse tracks are among my favourites, as Gavin lashes into The West End Reel (named for the famous Edinburgh session) or conjures sweetness from Lynn Morrison's air The Sleeping Warrior.
Coila and JCB have more of a ceilidh feel to their sets: The Eavesdropper and Lady in a Bottle are familiar names, but The Heather Ale Jig and Ewan Mackenzie's Free Bass Accordion may not be. Alistair McCulloch plays a delightful version of Skinner's air Herr Roloff's Farewell, and Archie McAllister finishes a very fine set with Feadan Glan A'Phiobair. Other familiar names include The Lads of Laois, The Silver Spire and The Curlew. Grey Larsen's great jig Thunderhead makes an unscheduled appearance, but generally the notes are spot on in four languages. A nice selection, and a good introduction to Scottish fiddle music: as usual with ARC, all these tracks come from KRL albums so there's plenty to follow up if you like what you hear.
Alex Monaghan

Duncan Chisholm "Farrar"
Label: Copperfish Records; CPFCD003; 10 tracks; 40 min
If you only know Duncan Chisholm as the fiddler from Wolfstone, you only know half the story. Duncan has a gentler side, shown in his work with Ivan Drever and his three previous solo albums. I'm not saying Wolfstone are rougher than a highlander's underwear, but the delicacy and sweetness of the fiddle rarely cuts through the rock band sound. Farrar, on the other hand, contains none of the brash loud energy of Wolfstone: it is slow, gentle, contemplative, a truly magical fiddle album. You have to be in the right frame of mind - I have put this CD on a couple of times, and found myself missing the fire and fury of Wolfstone - but if you're in the mood for a softer touch you could do a lot worse than Farrar.
Starting with a traditional Gaelic air, Farrar is full of beautiful melodies. Understated piano and guitar intensifies the emotion. Duncan's own Farley Bridge is a super slow reel, feeding into Lorient Mornings, the first of two Gordon Duncan tunes. The overlaid reading on Mallai Chroch Shli is reminiscent of Blair Douglas or Paul Mounsey recordings, but there's no hint of over-production here. An old Galician air sets the scene for Shooglenifty's hit 2:50 to Vigo later on, and in between is another lovely Chisholm composition and the classic A' Mhairead Og. The album finishes with the soulful Alasdair's Tune by Charlie McKerron, and the truly great Gaelic air Beinn a' Cheathaich, achingly played.
It's not all misty morning music: Fred Morrison and Michael McGoldrick contribute a couple of driving tunes with Farewell to Uist and Glenuig Bay, and the 303 set of reels fairly rattles along. But make no mistake, this isn't Blazing Fiddles. It isn't even Slightly Smouldering Fiddles. There's no fire, and anything which looks like smoke is actually Scotch mist. But there is plenty of power and passion in this recording. Farrar will move you, quite differently from Wolfstone, but just as deeply.
Alex Monaghan

The Bothy Band "Old Hag You Have Killed Me"
Mulligan; LUNCD 3007; 12 tracks; 42 min
Originally released on vinyl in 1976, available on CD since the '90s and now re-released on the Mulligan label by Compass Records, this is one of the classic albums of traditional music and still holds its own in any company. With Paddy Keenan on pipes, Matt Molloy on flute, Kevin Burke on flddle and the engine room of Donal Lunny, Triona and the late Micheal O Domhnaill, the seven instrumental tracks are pure gold. Music in the Glen kicks off a set which includes the magical Otter's Holt by Junior Crehan. These versions of The Kid on the Mountain and Farewell to Erin are justly famous. My favourites also include Rosie Finn's and Sean Bui. Powerful reels and jigs are epitomised by Michall Gorman's and The Laurel Tree. The title track is of course an absolute Bothy Band gem, full of trademark tunes.
The three Gaelic songs come from the Scottish and Donegal traditions. The unforgettable power of the harmonies on Fionnghuala remains one of the highlights of The Bothy Band's career, and has inspired many artists since. Calum Sgaire and Tiocfaidh an Samhradh get a gentler airing. Micheal leads all three with his characteristic soft and strong vocals. Triona gives us The Maid of Coolmore from the ballad tradition, and delivers Sixteen Come Next Sunday with impish sweetness, another abiding memory from those '70s performances. All the Bothy Band recordings should soon be available in shops or from the new Mulligan website. Without going into music business politics, everyone seems happy that these albums are now available on their original label and it's certainly good news for fans that the Mulligan stable is in such good hands. This great music deserves to be cherished.
Alex Monaghan

V/A "Sia"
Label: LCC Benbecula; 12 tracks; 51 min
A collaboration between students and staff at Lews Castle College on the Hebridean island of Benbecula, this album is a mixed bag but the overall standard is high with several excellent tracks. Sia opens with a slightly new-age low whistle air, giving way to traditional jigs on whistle and fiddle. The old Ossian favourite Thornton Jig is powerfully played. Track 2 is the first of three piping treats, Grey Larsen's Thunderhead and Gordon Duncan's Panda given a thorough work-out. Bean a' Chotain Ruaidh is the first of four songs, and is sung in a deep rich voice by Archie Maclean. This heavy-weight Gaelic lament is followed by a modern singer-songwriter number in English, a Gaelic close-harmony arrangement, and a very pleasant folky interpretation of Mo Nighean Donn Is Toil Leam Thu by the intriguingly named young singer Somerled Smith. Something for everyone indeed.
The strength of Sia is in the instrumental music, particularly the pipes and fiddles of James Mackenzie, Angus Nicholson, Iain MacGillivray and Coll MacDonald. Eight of the twelve tracks are instrumental, three or four of them are crackers. The set of pipe tunes starting with Kantara to El Arish is one such, The Glencoe March set is another, enhanced by flute and whistle. The Witches' Coven Set is an interesting novelty, four women whistlers weaving Welsh tunes. The final track from multi-instrumentalist and programmer Matheu Watson (another intriguing name) is a wee gem, studio-crafted and great fun. If Sia is anything to go by, the Lews Castle College 1-year course is well worth checking out.
Alex Monaghan

Aidan O'Rourke "Sirius"
Compass; 4483; 10 tracks; 52 min
Every one of these ten tracks was written and arranged by this Blazin' Fiddles member from Oban, so you'll understand that Sirius wasn't built in a day. The opening numbers Falun Fine (Outbound) and Bah Hamburg hark back to tours in 2001, when Aidan was also playing with Tabache. More recently he inspired the fusion group Sunhoney, and at times the music here has that same elusive ethereal quality, but this album never strays towards the New Age or Easy Listening shelves. It's crisp and clear, with catchy melodies and powerful arrangements. Excitement is in plentiful supply: People's Park is an adrenalin rush in the Riverdance style, full and satisfying. Lochaber Drive is more in the West Coast style, evoking Aidan's Ulster roots with its driving rhythm and raw fiddle energy.
A dozen guest musicians add power and depth on most tracks: saxophones, trumpet, the usual back line, two other top Scottish fiddlers, plus Brian Finnegan from Flook and Harald Haugaard from Denmark. There's a delicacy and beauty to Aidan's fiddling on airs like Alyth and Mangersta Beach, both wee gems. Hinba and The Santa Cruz Redwoods are somewhere in between, grand and stately. With the final track, Falun Fine (Return), Aidan and friends pull everything together in a series of stunning solos from fiddles, whistle, trumpet, piano and sax. Sirius is bigger than one man, and the man at the centre of it is well worth hearing. Highly recommended.
Alex Monaghan

V/A "Accidental Death of an Accordionist"
Label: Brechin All Records; CDBAR005; 8 tracks; 26 min
Short, sweet, and utterly brilliant. Although this CD is only a selection of extracts from a stage play, a soundtrack or incidental music album, there are enough little gems here to decorate minor royalty. Not that Sandy Brechin or Annie Grace qualify for that title, but together they provide the best tongue-in-cheek ceilidh music I've heard in a long time. The combination of Gay Gordons, Canadian Barn Dance and Strip the Willow is the classic Highland recipe for a village hall dance, played with oodles of skill and more than a little irreverence on box and pipes, banjo and jaw harp, and of course the great Scottish stylophone. Marvellous stuff. Kate Martin's Waltz is the closest thing here to serious music, flawlessly played by Sandy, good enough to make Blair Douglas jealous.
Annie Grace sings two of the four songs here. Only You is perhaps the low point of this recording, but it's still highly entertaining. The Scottish Tradition is an update of the Corries' Scottish Holiday, a biting attack on Caledonian courtesies, and I'm very pleased to hear that moth-eaten melody Road to the Isles being re-used for The Pochlin' o' the Nyochles. I assume the male vocals are provided by Aly Macrae: he makes a great job of this mock Doric drivel, and his plummy parody of These are My Mountains is simply priceless. Allan Henderson has surpassed himself with the lyrics, but he probably won't get an OBE. Accidental Death of an Accordionist is definitely not to be missed by any devotee of Scottish culture.
Alex Monaghan

Aidan O'Brien "10 Years"
Label: Own Label; 12 tracks; 49 min
If you come across an uilleann piper with a pony-tail, a cheeky grin and a Brummie accent, this might be yer man. Be warned: he can play, he can play fast or slow, and he has broad tastes. Not that these are bad things. Aidan is open about his influences, Planxty, Moving Hearts, Mark Knopfler and Woody Guthrie among them: from the sublime to the rebellious. Brummie life added the Reggae and Bhangra to his Anthem 4 Birmingham, a Hearts-like arrangement of The Old Bush, and the jigs that follow have similar origins. Rome and Juliet is the first of several songs, none of which would be out of place or outclassed at a good Irish pub gig. Star of the County Down and Hard Ain't It Hard are fronted by Aidan, while Lindsey Butler steps in on vocals for Room in a Basement. There's a couple of reels, including O'Brien's, and then the unusual stratagem of three slow tracks to finish this album.
Slow airs seem to be something of an O'Brien speciality. Taimse ina Chodladh, The South Wind, Si Beag Si Mor, She Moved Through The Fair and Ar Eirinn are all sweetly played on pipes and whistles, and Aidan turns his hand to strings and keyboards too. He gets a little help from his friends, as usual, but most of the music on this CD is O'Brien enough. There's lots of variety in the twelve tracks here, even if the reels and jigs are a bit scarce by Irish standards. They say it takes over two decades to become a piper, but maybe Aidan O'Brien has managed it in Years.
Alex Monaghan

Aly Bain "The Best Of, volume 1"
Label: WHIRLIE CD 14 ; 16 tracks; 48 min
Where would you start choosing a compilation of Aly Bain's music? His early days as a Shetland fiddler, playing with his mentor Tom Anderson? His folk club gigs with Billy Connolly and others? His decades with Boys of the Lough, or his more recent partnership with Phil Cunningham? Or perhaps his many forays into overseas traditions? In fact, more than half of the sixteen tracks here come from Aly's TV series: The Downhome Sessions and The Transatlantic Sessions with musicians from North America, and The Shetland Sessions with his fellow islanders, as well as his original series Aly Bain Meets the Cajuns.
There's a full range of Aly's music here. The Barmaid Set and The Spey in Spate come from Scottish and Irish sessions, while Margaret Anne Robertson and Jeanna's Tune justify Aly Bain's reputation as a master of slow airs. The Shetland tradition is well represented by All Da Ships, Da Scalloway Lasses, Da Day Dawn and the adopted Margaret's Waltz. Moving North and East from Shetland, we find the beautiful tune Til Far and a pair of bear waltzes, all from Sweden. Aly is joined by the Savoy-Doucet Cajun band for the foot-stomping Midland Two-Step, by Tommy Jarrel for The Arkansas Traveller, and by Junior Daugherty for Lily Dale. Aly's solo CDs have been harvested for Terry Rasmussen's charming tune Aly's Waltz, and for the unforgettable track Waiting for the Federals. This fine selection finishes with a fiery fiddle duel between Aly Bain and Mark O'Connor on The Teatotaller's.

There's always something missing from Best-Of albums. For me, this recording misses The Hanged Man's Reel, a fabulous Quebecois showpiece which Aly recorded on his first album. The good news is that this is only volume 1: presumably my favourite, and some of yours, will be included in volume 2. I'm already looking forward to it.
Alex Monaghan

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