FolkWorld #46 11/2011

CD & DVD Reviews

Ceilidhdonia "Circadian Rhythms"
Brechin All Records, 2011

A circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle in biochemical or physiological processes. Likewise you might want to dance 24 hours a day to this lively mix of ceilidh and folk rock music led on by Scottish accordionist Sandy Brechin[9][38] (Burach,[32] The Sensational Jimi Shandrix Experience,[34] and the brain behind The Complete Songs of Robert Tannahill[42] and The Sunday Night Sessions[44]). Ceilidhdonia is an accordion quartet featuring Sandy himself, box players Gregor Lowrey, Jock 'The Box' McMillan and Gary Innes, plus luminaries such as fiddler Gavin Marwick and new Battlefield Band fiddler Ewen Henderson (see review below). Tunes written by Ceilidhdonia's box players (namely Sandy Brechin's nice jig "Your Drunken Fumbling Fingers", Jock McMillan's almost epic piece "White Russian" and the balkanesque "Canty's Travels", and Gary Innes and Ewen Henderson's jazzy "Waltz of the Guardian Angels") complement some trad and recent compositions by piper Gordon Duncan. Furthermore, guitarist John Inglis sings the traditional Scottish "Hielan' Harry", Steve Earle's "Galway Girl", his own "Glasgow's for Saturday Nights" and 1980s Scottish pop group The Bluebells' "Young at Heart".
The latter could have been the band's motto: here's ceilidh for the young, all night long!
© Walkin' T:-)M

Cheyenne Brown "Parallel Latitudes"
Bird Creek Records, 2011

Cheyenne Brown hails from Alaska, however, spent nearly a decade in Scotland studying the Celtic harp at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. She plays in a duo with cellist/singer Seylan Baxter, Thomas Zöller's Homebound concerts and European-American crossover North Atlantic Trio. Now Cheyenne brings it all together musically on parallel latitude, exploring the paths Celtic music travelled around the globe. The album takes off with some Funny Jigs, the name deriving from the weird titles of the selected tunes, namely Scottish fiddler Aidan O'Rourke's "Bah Humbug" (Aidan called it "Bah Hamburg" on his "Sirius" album),[37] Eilidh Steel's "Wearing the Bathroom Curtains" and Mike McGoldrick's "Farewell to Whalley Range". Here Cheyenne's harp is supported by the tablas of Hardeep Deerhe; the following set is a Scottish reel and an Appalachian tune, both with the same name, "Cold Frosty Morning" featuring the talents of fiddler Jon Bews and guitar and dobro player Dave Currie; an original tune by Cheyenne is sandwiched in. There are more own compositions, more Scottish stuff, e.g. "Ruairi Dubh," an old traditional melody I know only from one recording of the Battlefield Band,[40] and the late piper Gordon Duncan's popular "Andy Renwick's Ferret" (recorded by the Batties and many others). Let me just mention the title track, the improvisational "Parallel Latitudes" from Cheyenne's own hands.
Cheyenne is supported by Seylan Baxter's cello and the occasional fiddle, guitar and percussion. However, right in the centre is her beguiling harp playing, subtle but full of spirits.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Enda Seery "The Winding Clock"
Own label, 2010

Enda Seery is an Irish language teacher from 9 to 5, but when the clock strikes to pack in he gets out the odd Sindt or Susato. Living in the vicinity of Streamstown, Co. Westmeath, in the very midst of Ireland he presents traditional Irish music with an unhurried pace, a precise rhythm and a clear expression on his debut whistle album "The Winding Clock". The first set is kicking off with the "Roscommon Reel" and finishing off with the popular "Castle Kelly," Enda's own "April Sunshine" beautifully sandwiched in. He includes a couple of his own tunes - such as the jig, who gave the album its title, and the air "Fonn an tSruthain" (Tune of the Streams), relating to his hometown -, blending perfectly in in the traditional surroundings of more or less familiar Irish tunes. Let me mention the "Swallow's Tail" or "Congress" reels regarding the first, the slow air "Cailin na Gruaige Baine" (The Girl with the Fair Hair) and a couple of hornpipes for the latter, especially Paddy O'Brien's "Easter Sunday" hornpipe based on the Lunasa version on "The Kinnity Sessions".[28] Enda added some keyboards where he felt it necessary, he is furthermore backed up by guitarist John Byrne and bodhran player Colin Hogg. The album is not complete without Enda employing his siblings, button accordionist Ciarán, flutist Siobhán and fiddler Padraig Seery on Paddy O'Brien's "Fly in the Porter" and the well-known "Willie Coleman's Jig".
Already a skillful performer, Enda is only in his mid-twenties. So the clock isn't ticking and there's still more time to develop his craft. That's nice to think about.
© Walkin' T:-)M

MacDara Ó Raghallaígh "Ego Trip"
Laracor Music, 2011

MacDara Ó Raghallaígh is a traditional Irish fiddler from Rathmoylan, Co. Meath, a multiple All-Ireland champion, including three titles in a row with the Naomh Pádraig Céilí Band from 2004 to 2006. "Ego Trip" is his debut solo album, recorded live in the parish hall of Newtown, Co. Kildare in January 2011, and it is essentially an ego trip, entirely unaccompanied, or let's say in MacDara's words that main accompaniment is my right foot, and additional accompaniment is my left foot and loads of other feet that don't belong to me at all. Many tunes have been learned at home from kith and kin. Furthermore, flutist Vincent Broderick[37] is a composer often mentioned, MacDara seems to be a big fan, as is Josie McDermott. The first two sets feature seven compositions of these two only. I've known only Vincent's "Milkyway" reel[34] and Josie's reel "Peg McGrath's"[29] before. After this trip into the unknown, there is more familiar stuff in a sudden burst with Frank McCollum's hornpipe "The Home Ruler". Most tunes have been widely travelled, such as "Tommy Coen's Reel" (probably better known as "Christmas Eve"). "Bruach na Carraige Baine" is one of three slow airs MacDara likes to play and thrown in for good measure to take a break in the middle.
All things considered MacDara Ó Raghallaígh's "Ego Trip" is a superb fiddle album, though, it comes with the territory, addresses fiddlers almost exlusively.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Leo Rickard "Up, Down & Around"
Phaeton Records, 2011

Leo Rickard has been taking up the uilleann pipes way back in 1976, his uncle Jimmy Rickard being a member of the Leo Rowsome Pipe Quartette which did broadcast weekly from the 1930s to 1950s.[26] It's been now a decade since Leo Rickard recorded his debut album after he served his apprenticeship on the pipes, followed now by his masterpiece. The opening track is a set of Sliabh Luachra tunes; it is entirely performed with uilleann pipes only, but you won't miss anything, he is such a firm and inventive piper. Thus the occasional accompaniment of Raphy Doyle (guitar) and Lochlainn Cullen (bouzouki) here and there on the album just adds to the pleasure. Backing is a novelty compared to his debut album, and whereas Leo's debut was made up of traditional tunes only, he also included some newly composed tunes here featuring two of his own. Leo does a couple of dance sets, his pipes pitched in the common key of D is supplemented with his flat pipes pitched in C#. On Tommy Walsh's popular air/waltz "Inisheer"[33] he plays the main melody on the flat pipes while Ciara Maxwell plays some harmonies on a second set of pipes. Maybe their version is a bit too stiff and straight to reveal the melody's real beauty. Better works another slow waltz, "Far Away" by American fiddler Peter Jung, with Grainne Hope on cello and Julie Maisel on concert flute. This modern arrangement is nice and majestic. Leo also plays two variants of the jig "Nora Chriona" with an air sandwiched in between, featuring Grainne Hope on cello again. Finally, Darach de Brun (who is said to have accompanied Tommy Walsh to Inisheer in the mid seventies when the latter wrote his famous tune) contributed "Larry's Way", which is a strange but nice tune. The tension built up is finally resolved with the jolly "Blarney Pilgrim" jig on pipes and guitar.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Barcelona Bluegrass Band "Old Time Blues"
joan albert and kato music, 2011

From a duo to a full-blown outfit.[40] The Spaniards Lluís Gómez (5-string banjo) and Joan Pau Cumellas (harmonica) expand their line-up with singer-guitarist Miguel Talavera, a fingerpicking virtuoso, and double bass player Maribel Rivero, her being one of the most popular accompanists in Barcelona. Six out of eleven songs have been written by Lluís Gómez, who is an excellent banjo player. Grow envious listening to his duels with American banjo veteran Tony Trischka.[38] The other five tracks are a nice selection of 20th century tunes (Herb Remington, Russ Barenberg, Joe Zawinul). It's always starting bluegrassy before moving effortlessly into a gipsy jazz extravaganza, just listen to the manouche guitar solos by Valentín Moya and Josep Traver and Albert Bello on the traditional American song "Wabash Cannonball". There is a gorgeous version of Simon Jeffe's "Music for a Found Harmonica" - sorry "Harmonium", it is Joan Pau Cumellas and his mouthie which makes the sound of the Barcelona Bluegrass Band quite unmistakeable.
"Old Time Blues" is a pleasure to listen to, you won't get anything better on the other side of the Atlantic pond than this jazz-bluegrass crossover from the Spanish peninsula.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Paddy O'Brien "The Sailor's Cravat"
New Folk Records/Clo Iar-Chonnacht, 2011

Button accordionist Paddy O'Brien is a Jack of All Trades. Hailing from County Offaly in the midlands of Ireland, Paddy first played in public with céilí bands and in sessions. In 1978, Paddy came to the US to record an album with fiddler James Kelly and guitarist Dáithí Sproule (see review below). Paddy settled in Minneapolis in the mid-1980s. He currently tours and records with Irish traditional trio Chulrua,[35] and The Doon Céilí Band.[33] In a career that spans nearly forty years, he has accumulated some 4,000 compositions, stored entirely in his head. The "Paddy O’Brien Tune Collection Vol. 2", which includes 500 tunes, has been released in 2011.
This time he teamed up with fiddler Tom Schaefer and bouzouki player Paul Wehling, though it is essentially an accordion album. The trio plays the jigs and reels, including the one who gave the album title, the "Sailor's Cravat" reel, an old tune you can already find in O'Neill's tune collection. He relies heavily on tunes by fiddlers Paddy Fahy and Sean Ryan, with the latter he toured way back in the 1960s, some tunes have never been recorded before or even heard publically. Thrown in for good or whatever measure are two sets of hornpipes, a set of polkas and three a capella songs sung by Paddy's wife Erin Hart: the well-known "Flower of Magherally" and "Molly Bawn," the story of the latter being a good choice for this crime writer. Off the beaten track is the "Generous Lover," I only heard once in my life on "The Leitrim Equation" album,[39] Co. Leitrim being roughly the same area as Paddy O'Brien's native Offaly. (P.S.: This comment is probably rubbish. English band Pilgrim's Way is also playing the song; see review below.)
© Walkin' T:-)M

Kadril "Grand Cru"
Wild Boar Music, 2011

Kadril[21] is regarded as the Belgium folk rock band par excellence. In thirty years they popularised traditional Flemish music by playing it like Fairport Convention would play it if giving the opportunity, and accordion, hurdy-gurdy and pipes had a field day backed up by guitar, bass and drums. "Grand Cru," which means excellent wine, is a feast celebrating their 30 years anniversary with a 2 CD set, though the menu only features recordings from the last decade, namely the albums "Eva" (1999),[15] "La paloma Negra" (2004), "Se Andere Kust" (2005) and "Mariage" (2009).[43] There are also some live and studio recordings from the 2011 "That's all Folk" project, a series of film music as I understand, featuring Irish singer Daithi Rua amongst others.[43] The 30 tracks include Flemish songs and tunes, my favourite pieces being "Gestraft Bedrog" and "Hoogland". There is some nicely executed Spanish music, though I don't fully understand this album and its inclusion, maybe it's a reference to the period when the Lowlands were occupied by Spain in the 16th and 17th century. Fittingly to Amerika is een schoon Land there is an English language pop song, "Grey in L.A.", whereas "The New York Trader" is more in Kadril's Flemish song style. The band also gives it a try with the Swell Season's Oscar winning song "Falling Slowly".[38] Thrown in for good measure is a Breton andro, an Irish reel and a slow air on the pipes.
"Grand Cru" is a fine compendium of Kadril's recent Œuvre, as well as an introduction to traditional Flemish song performed in a contemporary, but not too newfangled context.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Battlefield Band "Line-up"
Temple Records, 201

The Battlefield Band has become more an institution instead of a band. Founded over 40 years ago, none of its founding members is in the band anymore, with Alan Reid[41] having left last year after writing one of the possibly best songs of his songwriting career with "Robber Barons."[40]
The current line-up is best on vigorous instrumental sets, featuring the bagpipes and whistles of Mike Katz[31] and the twin fiddles from Alasdair White[33] and new recruit Ewen Henderson, who also doubles on pipes.[43] This time the selection includes some Scottish and Canadian trad (such as "Mary Beaton's Reel", the quickstep "Highland Lassie Going to the Fair" and the song air "Iain Ghlinn' Cuaich"), as well as tunes by Mike Katz, Ewen Henderson ("The Pits" quickstep features a phrase from the "Starsky & Hutch" theme in the middle, watch out for it!), Capercaillie's Donald Shaw and jazz musician John Rae's "Easy Peasy". The album is finishing off with a Breton song air played as a gavotte, "Me n'vin Belek, na manac'h" (I won't go to Belek anymore).
The overall sound differs not too much from previous Battlefield Band incarnations. It is slowly evolving, though some kinky touches are employed now and then. Which brings us to the song compartment; guitar and cittern player Sean O'Connell switches between the interesting and the odd. Alongside Robert Burns's "Now Westlin Winds" of which Dick Gaughan made such a good job, there is Otis Redding's "That's How Strong My Love Is". Seemingly the band's manager Robin Morton persuaded them to make a folk ballad of it: What great words. The images conjured were as vivid as Burns's 'My Love Is Like A red, Red Rose'. Sean added a verse from the traditional ballad "The Water is Wide". Instead of Alan Reid's topical songs we now find a Gaelic ballad, "Mo Ghleannan Taobh Loch Liobhainn" (My Glen by Loch Leven), from the Fort William area where Ewen Henderson comes from and the Hendersons settle since the 1300s, and some Gaelic mouth music, "A' Bhriogais Uallach" (The Pompous Trousers). A novelty in the band's history, and one that was overdue for a long time.
This might not be the strongest Battlefield Band album and line-up of all times, however, with such a concept employed the Batties will be around for decades and many more CDs - or whatever it is called then - to come.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Micheál Ó hEidhin, Charlie Lennon, Steve Cooney
"Ceol Sidhe (Shee Music)"
Cló Iar-Chonnacht, 2011

Mícheál Ó hEidhin is an Irish musician, teacher, and schools inspector of music, born in 1938 in Connemara in the West of Ireland into a musical Galway/Clare family. He studied music at University College Cork under Aloys Fleischmann, and formed the Lough Luragn céilí band (featuring the likes of Tommy Coen who composed the famous "Christmas Eve" reel). Originally a piano accordionist he switched to the concertina because of a chronic back ailment. Mícheál never made an album because he felt not ready for it, but was eventually lured into the studio by Charlie Lennon[34] - like a fairy (sidhe) lures a human into the otherworld - to lay down some tracks. Supported by Lennon's fiddle and Steve Cooney's guitar backing, Mícheál Ó hEidhin leads into a musical world almost lost. Fairy music - alluring, soothing, gentle! "What's the Hurry" is the title of a single jig composed by Mícheál himself, and that's the spirit of the album: unhurrying and relaxed. 36 tunes are included - four by Mícheál, two by Charlie, otherwise it is pure trad. Slow airs are Mícheál's pride and joy, and he plays the well-known "Easter Snow" and "Na Geanna Fiaine" (The Wild Geese) as well as the rather unfamiliar "The Enchanted Valley" and "The Resting Chair" from Shetland fiddler Tom Anderson. "Limerick's Lamentation" is played as a clan march, a double jig and a slow air eventually. Mícheál travels way off the beaten track of jigs and reels and takes up the cudgels for rhythms which were almost on the brink of extinction. He tries Irish clan marches and Scottish strathspeys, and even clogs, flings and barndances. Overall it is a nice selection, and the package is complete with the very informative bilingual English and Gaelic sleeve notes.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Pilgrim's Way "Wayside Courtesies"
Fellside Recordings, 2011

Pilgrim's Way is a young band from Stockport in the North West of England, all in their late twenties: Tom Kitching (fiddle, mandolin - being a former BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Awards finalist), Lucy Wright (vocals, shruti, fiddle, and also some trademark Jew's harp playing), Edwin Beasant (melodeon, guitar, bass, concertina, harmonica). "Wayside Courtesies" features a selection of traditional English songs presented with a distinctive northern accent. Their song selection begins with "Only a Soldier" as recorded by Irish singer Paul Brady. There are familiar English songs such as "Martinmas Time" and "Adieu Lovely Nancy" (in the American version of that popular British broadside), and less familiar ones such as "The Handweaver and the Factory Maid". "My Generous Lover" (see the Paddy O'Brien review above for a comment on this song) is followed by the tune "Det Tømte Mjødkruset" from the pen of Norwegian hardanger fiddler Sturla Eide[36] (I really feel there is a Nordic touch in the trio's delivery). Rudyard Kipling's poem "A Pilgrim's Way," which gave the band its name, is featured as well, it has been set to music by Peter Bellamy.[38]
Don't ask me really what makes Pilgrim's Way such an instant success in my ears. Lucy's singing is gorgeous, the fiddle is driving the songs along, and the trio hypnotically draws me into their musical world.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick "Walnut Creek"
Fellside Recordings, 2011

Here comes that singer with his highly original guitar work and that folk fiddler with his jazzy swing. No need to introduce two living legends of the English Folk Revival. Both Martin Carthy[45] and Dave Swarbrick[45] celebrated their 70th birthday in 2011. They became a duo in the mid 1960s after Swarb took part on Martin's first two solo albums. They recorded a couple of duo albums together and separated when Swarb joined Fairport Convention in 1969. After 20 years they simply picked up where they had left, being an occasional on and off project ever since. "Walnut Creek" features live recordings from the UK and the US from 1989 to 1996, including their stint at the TFF Rudolstadt in 1992. The selection from Swarbrick's vaults includes songs both from the duo's and Martin's solo albums, mostly traditional English folk songs such as "The Deserter" and "Broomfield Hill". Martin does an Irish song as well, "Arthur McBride," and Swarb is responsible for some instrumental music: his own "No. 178" and the traditional Irish reel "Return To Camden Town", Charles Johnson's "Porcupine Rag" and Turlough O'Carolan's air "Mrs Bermingham".
Carthy/Swarbrick fans - and anybody interested in decent English folk music - add this to your collection!
© Walkin' T:-)M

James Findlay "Sport and Play"
Fellside Recordings, 2011

From Dorset in south west England comes this 20 year old singer, guitarist and fiddler, who won the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award title in 2009. James Findlay's incredible voice is way beyond his age. If you're closing your eyes and putting the image on the CD cover out of your mind, you visualise an eighty year old type of guy, though one who has retained his vocal powers. Well, James isn't. Likewise, his distinctive guitar and fiddle work is way beyond. On his debut album "Sport and Play" James Findlay is on his very own, supported just by Alex Cumming (accordion) and his sister Lucy Findlay (vocals). He almost exclusively tackles traditional English songs and ballads, the one contemporary exception is Jerry Bird's solemn "Black Hills of Mendip" about Somerset's coal fields. James' repertoire sounds familiar - "Dives and Lazarus", "The White Cockade", "The Foggy Dew", "Lakes of Shilin (an Irish drowning ballad probably best known as "Lakes of Coolfin"),... James discusses the songs and his sources in the sleeve notes.
The climax is the ancient fairy/surprise sex/Halloween/shape shifter ballad "Tam Lin" from the Child collection; you are not getting bored though at nearly nine minutes and delivered a capella. "Sport and Play" is promising, nah, what do I say, it's almost perfect. I can't imagine James Findlay getting any better, and if he will: what storm will he create then?!
© Walkin' T:-)M

Hedy West "Ballads and Songs
from the Appalachians" [Double CD]
Fellside Recordings, 2011

Hedy West (1938-2005) was born in Georgia, the daughter of a coal mine union organiser. Steeped in the area not that far from where Cecil Sharp collected British ballads which migrated to and were preserved in the Appalachians, she learned many songs which were handed down in the family (including the fragments which Hedy turned into the famous "500 Miles"). Hedy West lived in London for several years in the 1960s and recorded - besides a cut for Fontana - three albums for Topic Records, "Old Times and Hard Times" (1965), "Pretty Saro" (1966) and "Ballads" (1967). These three classic LPs have been unavailable for years, but are now re-released on a double CD on the Fellside label, because its boss was (and is) a big fan of Hedy's music and became frustrated being not able to share his devotion.
Hedy West sings accompanied only by her five-string banjo. Forty-one traditional songs from Britain and the US - from the epic narrations of the big ballads to facile children's and country songs: "Barbara Allen" and "Old Joe Clark", "Matty Groves" and "Pretty Saro". Versions of "The Foggy Dew" and "George Collins" have just been recorded by young James Findlay (see review above), "Beaulambkin" has mostly recorded as "Long Lankin," e.g. by folk rock band Steeleye Span[25] and Scottish singer Alasdair Roberts.[43]
The 2 CD set is a lavish and commendable production. Detailed sleeve notes have been provided by Fellside's Paul Adams and journalist Ken Hunt, plus featuring the original LP notes from Hedy West and Bert Lloyd. There Hedy West remarks: The songs readiest available to modern city folk are pop songs, sentimental, unreal songs that cheat, that don’t honestly describe life. The country songs may not be dealing with the supermarket world, but they do rise out of genuine, often deep experience, and they can provide nourishment for a people tired of a diet of artificial things. So listen for yourself to the lady who inspired and influenced contemporary performers such as English guitarist Martin Simpson (see review below).
© Walkin' T:-)M

Gráinne Holland "Teanga na nGeal"
Own label, 2011

West Belfast's Gráinne Holland is a young singer who has been grown up with the Irish language and Gaelic songs. Being a warm-up for Frances Black, Damien Dempsey and the Red Hot Chilli Pipers she eventually recorded her debut album "Teanga na nGeal" with guest musicians such as Donal O'Connor (fiddle), John McSherry (uilleann pipes) and Tony Byrne (guitar). The selection features a dozen Gaelic songs, both old and new, sometimes a blend of both. "A Bhean Udai Thall" is a song from Donegal, e.g. recorded by Irish band Altan.[46] "Meilte Cheann Dubhrann" are lyrics put to the tune of the "Blue Hills of Antrim" (see Altan singer and fiddler Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh on her "Imeall" album).[38] The title track "Teanga na nGael" is originally a Scots Gaelic song, "Báta an tSíl" is from the Isle of Barra off the Scottish north west coast illustrating the exchange between the Hebrides and Ireland (the song had been recently done by Northern Irish singer/songwriter Colum Sands and Scottish singer and harpist Maggie MacInnes).[43] There are a couple of translations from the English into the Irish, such as "Sloite na bhFiann" (original words by Peadar Kearney, the author of the Irish national anthem) and "An tSeanbhean Bhocht" (originally a well-known Liam Clancy song). Furthermore, there is a traditional Manx lullaby.
Gráinne Holland delivers everything with dexterity and wonderful vocal abilities. Her rendition as well as the backing, kind of a Gaelic jazz singer at times, dig these songs out of the relic box and make it as up to date as can be.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Fiona Cuthill & Stevie Lawrence "A Cruel Kindness"
Fellside Recordings, 2011

Splendid fiddler Fiona Cuthill and string virtuoso Stevie Lawrence are familiar to us from Scottish group Rallion[41] and formerly of bands such as Canterach, Real Time and The Iron Horse. Now they recorded their duo album "A Cruel Kindness," supported by uilleann piper Brendan McCreanor, harmonica player Fraser Speirs, harpist Rachel Hair, cellist Wendy Weatherby and banjo player Celine Donoghue, and described as self-penned tunes on fiddle and guitar/bouzouki with a touch or rock attitude thrown in for good measure. The rock attitude not only refers to their adaption of Jethro Tull's "Locomotive Breath," which leads into a slip jig called "Freudian Slip". Besides this and the traditional Scottish song "Lang Awa' Ship" all the tunes have been written by Fiona. The "Back on Track" set has already been recorded on the first Rallion album, and Steve's uneven, aptly titled "First Time Ever I Saw Your Fez" on their follow-up "One for Sorrow". Most of Fiona's is in the Scottish-Celtic realm, with some excursions to Norway ("Gjetost") and Quebec ("Le Vent du Nord", of course named in honour of the popular French-Canadian band).[42]
So if you're looking for beautiful fiddle-guitar album or just some tunes worth playing, you might find it on "A Cruel Kindness".
© Walkin' T:-)M

Seudan "Seudan"
Greentrax, 2011

Everything kicked off with the idea to copy an 18th century set of Highland pipes, namely the Black Set of Kintail housed in The Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. Hamish and Fin Moore[16] built a prototype (pitched in concert A) and did some recordings from the mid 1990s onwards. Almost a decade ago, an eight piece band called Na Tri Seudan (The Three Jewels) was formed, which developed into the present piping quartet of Angus MacKenzie, Angus Nicolson, Calum MacCrimmon, Fin Moore, all playing copies of the instrument in question. They are joined on the "Seudan" album by Ross Martin (guitar), Donald Hay (percussion) and Mac Morin (piano, sep dancing).
It is a musical journey back in time, taking piping away from today's competition scene and back into its original social context, Gaelic language and step dancing. The eleven tracks feature strathspeys and reels, jigs and quicksteps from the Great Scottish Songbook, so to speak. Kicking off with the well-known and often recorded "Tullochgorum," there is less familiar stuff as well as tunes you probably heard from the Battlefield Band, the Tannahill Weavers etc. "Thogail nam Bo" is a cattle-raiding song sung by Allan MacDonald[21] who also employs smallpipes and Jew's harp here and there throughout the abum. Allan also does the commemorative song "Piobaireachd Dhomhnaill Duibh" and "Fhir a’ Chinn Duibh," of which only a fragment survived. Furthermore, Kathleen MacInnes does a couple of waulking songs. So there is much variety, and the Seudan album should be received well way beyond the hardcore piping scene.
© Walkin' T:-)M

June Tabor & Oysterband "Ragged Kingdom"
Topic Records/Westpark Music, 2011

It's been twenty-one years since English singer June Tabor[45] joined the Oysterband[42] to produce one of the more memorable folk rock albums of all time, "Freedom and Rain". Two decades later they came together again with songs about mystery, magic and mayhem. The magic is till there as is the energy, from the very first few notes of "Bonny Bunch Of Roses," the great song about the Irishmen's hero Napoleon Bonaparte (just compare the version of Bert Lloyd).[38] June Tabors weathered voice blends perfectly with the still youthful and rebellious sound of the Oysterband. They combine the best of both worlds, and you will never fall into any sentimentalism. Comparing with "Freedom and Rain" there is a new maturity and emotional depth at work, and even greater variety. Alan Prosser picks some clever licks on acoustic and electric guitars, Ray Cooper[42] bows a haunting cello, while Ian Telfer keeps his fiddle rather in the background this time. Overall, the atmosphere is melancholical and gloomy, you get the creeps later on when June is singing the Somerset spring carol "Judas Was A Red-Headed Man". In comparison Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" is rather relaxing; it is performed as a duet between June and the Oysterband's John Jones,[41] and could have been heard sometimes in the past. Other selections include some Child and other traditional British ballads, Bob Dylan's "Seven Curses" and Shel Silverstein's "Hills Of Shiloh". "Ragged Kingdom" finishes off "The Dark End Of The Street," probably best known in its soul version from the Commitments movie, though I cannot see the end of the road yet, and it's not dark there but burning bright.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Naragonia Quartet "Batiska"
Appel Rekords, 2011

The Belgian group Naragonia was formed way back in 2003. Their previous two duo albums got some rave reviews,[38] though they didn't touch me that much. Now Toon Van Mierlo (accordion, saxophone, whistle, pipes), who plays with Embrun[40] and Hot Griselda,[40] and Pascale Ruben (accordion, fiddle), who once performed with Griff,[46] teamed up with fiddler Wouter Vandenabeele of Ambrozijn,[32] Olla Vogala[20] and Transpiradansa[40] fame and guitarist Maarten Decombel of Snaarmaarwaar.[46] On their album "Batiska" they are additionally supported by Gilles Chabenat's hurdy gurdy. The album is named after a submarine type that can descend deep into the sea where a whole new wonderful world can appear. The quartet is an absolutely new band with a particular repertory. Resembling the sound and level of groups such as Austria's Hotel Palindrone,[45] it is straighter and more powerful than the duo, nonetheless subtle and at times jazzy and experimental. Their repertoire is mainly consisting of original compositions, mostly from Toon Van Mierlo. There are mazurkas and scottische, but also waltzes and jigs, andros and bourrees - fit for either bal folk or concert.
I quite fell in love with "Batiska." So: Come aboard! Join in the ride! There are worlds to discover beyond any imagination!
© Walkin' T:-)M

Cherish the Ladies "Country Crossroads"
Big Mammy Records, 2011

Cherish the Ladies[41] has become an Irish-American music institution since getting together way back in 1985 as the first all-female traditional Irish music outfit. Besides founding members Joanie Madden (flute, whistle) and Mary Coogan (guitar) the current line-up features Mirella Murray (accordion), Gráinne Murphy (fiddle), Kathleen Boyle (piano) and Deirdre Connolly (vocals). Their 25th anniversary tour took them to Nashville, Tennessee, and instead of wasting time between gigs they booked a studio and invited a couple of old and new friends including old band members Eileen Ivers, Liz Carroll and Liz Knowles as well as luminaries from the Nashville music scene such as banjo player Alison Brown. Despite being a crossroads album, the Ladies' instrumental sets stay true to the traditional Irish repertoire and idiom, and five-string banjo and dobro simply blend in - contrary to recent Celtic-Country collaborations and crossover projects such as "Green Grass Blue Grass"[45] and "Buffalo in the Castle".[41]
Side by side with traditional fare rest several tunes from Joanie and one by Kathleen. The most country is in the song selection: Deirdre Connolly sings "Ar Éirinn Ní Neosfainn Cé Hí" (For Ireland I'd Not Tell Her Name), the dobro leading the song a bit away from a straight Irish rendition. Maura O'Connell gives us Dick Farrelly's "We Dreamed our Dreams" (the writer is probably better known for his "Isle of Innisfree") and the traditional "The Verdant Braes of Skreen", and country music singer Vince Gill does Andy M. Stewart's "Donegal Rain" (Gill previously sang on the Chieftains’ Nashville albums). Eventually, Nanci Griffith presents an unique version of Ewan MacColl’s popular ditty "Dirty Old Town", which is neither the original MacColl version nor the roguish Pogues variant covered all over the place. This also says a lot about Cherish the Ladies' approach to the material: it sounds familiar after all, but is highly original in the end.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Gerry O'Connor, Gabriel McArdle, Martin Quinn
"Jig away the Donkey"
Lughnasa Music, 2011

Fiddler Gerry O'Connor from the North East of Ireland is the best known of these three, being a member of Irish groups Skylarks and La Lúgh.[31] Button accordionist Martin Quinn, hailing from South Armagh, N. Ireland but currently living in Co. Longford, has toured with bands such as Lá Lugh and Dorsa, and recorded an album together with banjo player Angelina Carberry.[30 ] Last but not least, concertina player and singer Gabriel McArdle is a native of Co. Fermanagh, N. Ireland, with a repertoire drawing heavily on the Ulster tradition. On this album he is doing four traditional songs, including "The Holland Hankerchief" learned from a fellow Fermanagh singer, Boys of the Lough's Cathal McConnell.
This trio got together when doing the Pure Irish Drops Tour in Germany in 2007, and eventually recorded in Gerry's son Donal's (see the At First Light review down below) studio at their family home. Besides the above-mentioned songs, the trio is exploring the musical tradition of South Ulster - Counties Armagh, Monaghan, Cavan and Fermanagh that is. Three fine musicians playing tunes they like, jigs and reels as well as hornpipes and highlands - more a house and kitchen session in an area not much effected by tourism. The album title derives from a reel played in two versions at the end, Mick Hoy's and Eddie Duffy's "Jig Away the Donkey," respectively, meaning: run on, speed up, which is a bit misleading I feel, because this album is not about showing off, though they can speed up if necessary and if they feel like.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Danny O'Mahony "In Retrospect"
Own label, 2011

Article: Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann 2011 - Fun for All the Family

Irish button accordionist Danny O'Mahony from Ballyduff in North Kerry is an All-Ireland champion on the box and with the Shannon Vale Céilí Band; the latter as recently as 2011. Supported by Patsy Broderick (piano), Cyril O'Donoghue (bouzouki) and Johnny McDonagh (bodhran), Danny mostly plays a B/C and a D/D# Paolo Soprani from the 1940s, with two tracks played on a D/C# accordion from the 1930s. It is a D/C# Iorio accordion custom-built for Tom Carmody, who recorded with the James Morrison Quartet in 1920s New York. Tom's mother was Danny's great-grand aunt. His debut album features a grand selection of traditional Irish tunes, including a tribute to Tipperary accordionist Paddy O'Brien and his compositions. There are also some nice selections way off the beaten track, e.g. the hornpipe set "Ward's"/"The Quilty Fisherman" and Sean McCarthy's song air "Shanagolden". Danny plays at a relaxing pace, nothing fancy, nothing spectacular. However, his box playing is strong-solid and as expressive as can be.
© Walkin' T:-)M

John Doyle "Shadow and Light"
Compass Records, 2011

Dublin-born guitarist and singer-songwriter John Doyle proved to be the fantastic accompanist in the American-Irish band Solas,[32] as well as duo partner of fiddler Liz Carroll[39] and singer Karan Casey.[42] His second solo album "Shadow and Light" masterfully brings together his mind-blowing guitar playing and vocal abilities with his song-writing and story-telling talent. Only one song, the English "Bound for Botany Bay" is taken from the tradition. Overheard from Mike Waterson, John rewrote it and turned it into an essentially Irish story. His seven original songs include a children's song, an American Civil War ballad about Irish born General Meagher, the Yukon gold rush, as well as tales about the Great Irish Famine and the crossing to the US on the proverbial coffin ships. John's own great-grandfather survived torpedoing by a German submarine when he tried his crossing (I heard John sing this song when playing with Karan Casey at last year's Tønder festival):[43] Ah, sure I wasn't meant to go to America. John Doyle did it successfully, and made Minnesota his adopted home.
On "Shadow and Light" John is accompanied by Tim O'Brien (mandolin), Alison Brown (banjo), Stuart Duncan (fiddle), Mike McGoldrick (uillean pipes and flute) and others. With or without them, there's much light in here and hardly any shadow.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Dan Milner, David Coffin, Jeff Davis
"Civil War Naval Songs"
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, 2011

As the songwriting of John Doyle shows us (see review above), the US American Civil War, which started 150 years ago, is still on the people's mind. So it is on folk song collector and singer Dan Milner's. After "Irish Pirate Ballads and Other Songs of the Sea"[39] Milner boarded again - this time on Yankee warships blockading Southern harbours and rebel raiders trying to disrupt the Northern shipping trade. The 1860's war at sea saw both introducing new ironclad warships and maritime mines as a novel weapon. Dan Milner liberated 13 period wartime ballads from both Union and Confederate sides off of the library shelves, maritime songs about the men-of-war (The Alabama, The Brooklyn, The Monitor & Merrimac, ...), the battles, and the mariners and marines who sailed them. The one song I heard before is the broadside ballad and minstrel song "The Bold Privateer," which John McCusker recorded on his "Goodnight Ginger" album.[26] You probably recognize some tunes used ("Brennan on the Moor", "The Bonnie Ship the Diamond", "The Heights of Alma"); "Farragut’s Ball" is a parody on the popular Irish ditty "Lanigan's Ball". There is a parlor song and a shanty as well. Eventually, "The Blockade Runner" turns into a battle between English and Anglo concertina, played by Harry Lowrey and Arthur Garnett, respectively.
Dan Milner as the voice of The Immigrant shares vocal duties with David Coffin (The Yankee) and Jeff Davies (The Rebel). Their crew uses only instruments available 150 years ago - banjo, concertina, fiddle, dulcimer, piano -, so this record sometimes sounds more like a history lesson than a listening pleasure. History buffs will have a field day anyway! The booklet contains extensive liner notes written by Dan Milner and historian James Bradford.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Jidder "Music of Skåne"
Kap Syd, 2011

Skåne is an area in the south of Sweden, the dismal home of Henning Mankell's Wallander mysteries, but also the home of some beautiful and light traditional Swedish music. The music took inspiration from the traditions of the North as well as music coming over the Baltic Sea from continental Europe, which developed into dances such as the slängpolska and engelska, or remained rather unchanged such as the quadrille. The fiddle is a common instrument as it is in entire Scandinavia, but also the flute is quite familiar in Skåne. The trio of fiddler/singer Maria Bojlund, flutist/bouzouki/mandolinist Markus Tullberg and bouzouki/guitarist/singer Gabriel Hermansson delivers old songs of love and war (booklet with lyrics and background in English) and tunes, featuring many polskas, a quadrille and an engelska, as well as a wedding march and a dockedansen.
Altogether it is not Nordic music as you usually get to hear. It makes an enjoyable listening, and Jidder produced, in my humble opinion, one of the most entertaining Swedish albums of the 2011 season.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Rakija "Ojda!"
Rakija Records, 2011

German CD Review

Rakija is the name of a Serbian brandy, but it is also the name of an outfit of Serbian and Norwegian musicians based in Oslo. The band was formed in 2007, featuring Biljana Dragišić (vocals), Merete Fjeldbo (vocals), Irena Banjeglav (violin), Janko Radovanović (guitar), Atle Tømmervik (trumpet), Are W. Thoma: (bass) and Halvor Dahle (drums and percussion). Since then, it has established themselves as a very popular live band, especially in Norway. Rakija's debut album "Ojda!" (which is a happy exclamation) features eight catchy songs, including the traditional Serbian song "Čije je ono devojče" and the Bulgarian wedding song "Ela se vie". "Rakijina rukovet #01" is a medley, kicking off with a traditional Serbian tune, crossing the border to Macedonia, and returning via a Roma song to Serbia and the Kosovo. This set was made up when Rakija toured Serbia in 2010. The title song "Ojda, Ojda!" has been written by Priština-born guitarist Janko Radovanović, as well as “Izgubljeni grad" (The Lost City); he left the town with never returning. Jelena Popović's "Nema zemlje te" (No Country Worth Dying For, put to music by Janko Radovanović) sums up Rakija's anti-war attitude. (The booklet contains all the lyrics.)
From passionate vocals to a furious merry-go-round, Rakija really makes drunk and happy. Živeli! Cheers!
© Walkin' T:-)M

Various Artists "Masters of the Irish Harp"
RTÉ lyric fm, 2011

The symbol of the harp is to be found all over Ireland, on coins, on passports and on pint glasses. A recent addition is the harp-like silhouette of the Samuel Beckett Bridge spanning Dublin's River Liffey, a shot by photographer Dave Walsh features the CD cover of "Masters of the Irish Harp". This compilation by Ireland’s national broadcaster RTÉ proves that Irish harp music is alive as never before, including sixteen harpers such as Gráinne Hambly,[33] Laoise Kelly,[44] Anne-Marie O’Farrell, Siobhán Armstrong, Michelle Mulcahy,[44] Máire Ní Chathasaigh,[38] Cormac de Barra,[44] Tríona Marshall, Janet Harbison.[17] The sleeve notes supply background information about all the performers and the chosen tunes. The music can be as fashionable as the Samuel Beckett Bridge, e.g. Welsh harpist Helen Davies[23] plays the song air "An Leannán" with Palle Mikkelborg on trumpet and Mikkel Nordsoe on guitar - as performed for the Dalai Lama when he was visiting Denmark in 2003. On the other hand, Paul Dooley[42] takes us centuries back in time, playing the wire-strung harp with his fingernails and damping the strings with the fingertips. Certainly there is the music of the blind travelling harper Turlough O'Carolan (1670-1738) included, who blended ancient Gaelic harp music with the then novel Italian Baroque music. Aibhlín McCrann, Kathleen Loughnane[41] and Dearbhail Finnegan perform some Carolan pieces, the latter being born and raised near Carolan's birthplace in Nobber, Co. Meath. The CD is finishing off with Gráinne Yeats playing "Farewell to Music," Carolan's last piece of music, written on his death bed.
© Walkin' T:-)M

At First Light "Idir"
Own label, 2011

At First Light is the Belfast based collaboration between uilleann piper and whistle player John McSherry,[42] fiddler Dónal O'Connor and percussionist and piper Francis McIlduff. Their second album "Idir" kicks off with a Breton ridée learned from the group Pennou Skoulm,[39] followed by Fintan McManus' "Guns of the Magnificent Seven," the reel being turned into a 9/8 slip jig. More extravaganza is to follow with "Brelydian" from the "Six Days in Down" sessions, a collaboration between McSherry, O'Connor and American slide guitarist Bob Brozman,[44] and the Renaissance tune "La Volta" and the Asturian "El Garrotin". Otherwise it is an Irish mix of the old and the original. John's "Pipers of Roguery" captivates with some duelling pipes, the trio going wild - but to a large extent it is a surprisingly relaxed affair, eventually slowing down with the song air "Maire an Chuil or Bhui". Finbar Furey's piping piece "Roy's Hands" requires every dexterity and finesse that is possible; it nearly starts like one of those descriptive pieces like "The Fox Hunt," however, without coming to any conclusion and it is left to our imagination what Roy's hands are all about. The trio doesn't employ any regular guitar and bouzouki player, the recordings feature Paul McSherry, Michael McCague, Tony Byrne and the Asturian Ruben Bada. Furthermore, Ciara McCrickard is playing some fiddle and singing two characteristic Northern Irish songs, a macaronic version of the anthem "Aird Ui Chuain" and a measured take on "Courting is a Pleasure" (compare it with the "Buffalo in the Castle" version).[41]
Three accomplished Irish musicians play a gorgeous selection of brilliantly executed tunes! Traditional music that feels at home in the 21st century! So - what else do you want?
© Walkin' T:-)M

Tim Readman & Jennie Bice "Out of the Green"
Big City, 2011

Tim Readman, originally from Newcastle upon Tyne, England, has made Vancouver, British Columbia, his adopted home. When not writing reviews for the Canadian folk magazine Penguin Eggs, he is playing gigs with a mixed repertoire of original songs, contemporary stuff from The Beatles to Madonna, and last but not least traditional music from Britain and Ireland. The latter is featured on his recent album "Out of the Green", a selection of six traditional and four contemporary folk songs. It kicks off with the Ron Kavana version of the ancient English drinking song "(John) Barleycorn", followed by Shane MacGowan's boozing "A Pair of Brown Eyes". Trad music alternates with more recent tracks: Richard Thompson's "How Will I Ever Be Simple Again?" is followed by the classical murder ballad "Who Put the Blood?" (courtesy of Karan Casey) and "The Sheep Stealer" (thanks to The Voice Squad; Martin Carthy also used to do it, see review above). With gentle vocals and an easy-going folkrock-like delivery, driven by Tim's guitar as well as mandola (Ed Weaver), fiddle (Jennie Bice) and accordion (Allan Dionne), "Out of the Green" is in some way as characteristically Canadian as the rolling western prairies or the gentle hills of the Ontario countryside.[36] This always makes it enchanting and entertaining to lend an ear!
© Walkin' T:-)M

Paul McGlinchey "The Boys of the Town"
Own label, 2011

Flutist Paul McGlinchey[37] hails from Omagh, in the Northern Irish Co. Tyrone. On his second album he celebrates the music of his native area. The Boys of the Town are Ryan O'Donnell on bouzouki and Arty McGlynn on guitar, both bred and born in Omagh, as well as Derry man Seamus O'Kane on the bodhran. The triple All-Ireland flute champion has recorded a splendid tribute to the wooden wind instrument. Paul puts the throttle to the metal when attacking the jigs and reels, including the late flutist Vincent Broderick's "The Milky Way" of which I just said I heard it only once before, when reviewing the album of fiddler MacDara Ó Raghallaígh (see review above). However, Paul is also capable of delivering a set of rollicking hornpipes and two straight marches composed by Arty's uncle Arthur Kearney. Furthermore, he has included a redowa, which is a waltz-like dance from the European continent, as well as two popular Irish slow airs, "Cape Clear" and "Taimse im' chodhladh".
Altogether, Paul McGlinchey's "Boys of the Town" offers an enjoyable hour of music - for flute fans in particular, but for any Irish music aficionado as well.
© Walkin' T:-)M

Steve Kaufman "Get Started on Bluegrass and Country Guitar!
A Complete Lesson for Beginners" [DVD Video]
Homespun, 2011

Since more than thirty years Steve Kaufman is performing Country, Bluegrass and Western Swing as well as Irish and Appalachian fiddle tunes on the flatpicking guitar. He published many instructional CDs and Videos, his latest "Get Started on Bluegrass and Country Guitar" starts at the very beginning and is aimed at the aspiring guitar novice. First of all, Kaufman is explaining the guitar parts, tuning etc. and giving a lot of practical tipps. You get to learn your first chords and simple strumming and play "Down in the Valley" and "Aura Lee" (nice one, because of its chord changes), as well as alternating bass patterns and play "Blue Ridge Cabin Home", "Amazing Grace", "You Are My Sunshine" and "Wabash Cannonball" (though not as elaborated as the Barcelona Bluegrass Band does it, see review above :-)). A booklet is supplied as pdf file including staff notes and tabs. Kaufmann introduces right hand techniques and gives first hints to play lead. "Wildwood Flower" is a mixture of single notes and strums. After the standard fiddle tune "Soldier’s Joy" he deals with hammer-ons and pull-offs. After 90 minutes you might be able to play a decent "Shady Grove". If not start again, if you got it, move on - there probably is another Steve Kaufman DVD around to enter the next level.
© Walkin' T:-)M

"Pipe Up - Irish Traditional Music Resource" [DVD-ROM]
Na Píobairí Uilleann, 2011

"Pipe Up" by Dublin's Society of Uilleann Pipers is a DVD-ROM for Windows, Mac and interactive Whiteboards (which most Irish schools now have as part of their educational technology), introducing the basics of traditional Irish music to school students (in fact to anybody who's interested). Language is both in Irish and English, as you choose. The first part introduces the instruments, namely uilleann pipes, harp, tin whistle, fiddle, flute, banjo, bodhran, accordion, concertina, and strings (bouzouki, guitar, mandolin). The pipes are introduced with a video featuring music and information; bag, bellows, chanter, drones and regulators are explained. You can dig more details, such as the history of the pipes, with some pdf files, and watch some video performances. The other instruments are not be dealt with in such detail. Part 2 shows short video clips of traditional musicians playing the main tune types. The 'Air' section had five samples with slow airs such as "Sliabh na mBan" or "The Mountains of Pomeroy"; marches, jigs, reels, hornpipes and polkas are presented too. The third and last part is an interactive tin whistle tutor. It starts wird simple exercises playing scales, continuing from easy melodies such as "Mo Ghile Mear" to more advanced tunes such as the "Munster Cloak". You can play along to an animated interface, choose speed and display in staff notation or ABC. More tunes are on pdf (unfortunatly not linked to any sound samples).
I like best to see the artists in action. It's Irish music and its current protagonists in a nutshell: piper such as Sean McKeon,[39] harpists Kathleen Loughnane,[41] Laoise Kelly[44] and Michelle Mulcahy,[44] fiddlers Jesse Smith[25] and Gerry Harrington,[34] flutists Harry Bradley,[40] Catherine McEvoy[36] and Paul McGrattan,[25] banjo player Angelina Carberry,[30] bodhran player Donnagh Gough,[42] accordionist Danny O'Mahoney,[46] concertina player Edel Fox,[43] bouzouki player Mick Conneelly,[21] guitarist Donal Clancy,[32] and many more.
© Walkin' T:-)M

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