FolkWorld #58: CD Reviews
FolkWorld #58 11/2015

CD & DVD Reviews

ESG - Ensemble Sangineto "SeminisTerra"
Own label, 2014

www.ensemblesangineto.com

An Italian band presenting original titles and traditional tunes from different Italian regions. Their sound reminds me of medieval/early music bands – featuring harp, guitar and bowed psaltery. The album features primarily Ballads, sung by both male and female singer, sometimes with effective harmonies. This album is generally calming to listen to; just a couple of songs liven the cd a bit up, with lively clapping or tambourines accompanying sections of the songs
© Michael Moll


Monoswezi “Yanga”
World Music Network, 2015

Artist Video

www.monoswezi.com

Monoswezi stands for Mozambique, Norway, Sweden, Zimbabwe - the four nationalities represented in this unusual band. They bring together traditional style African songs and instruments (mbira and percussion) with Scandinavian Jazz on sax, bass and percussion. The songs are largel written and sung by Zimbabwian Hope Masike. An interesting collaboration where kindred spirits musically meet.
© Michael Moll


Sean Keane "Never alone"
Own label, 2015

www.seankeanesinger.com

Sean Keane is without doubt one of the most impressive folk singers from Ireland, with his unmistakable vocal style. This album is a whopper three CD collection featuring 45 songs, 39 of which are a collection from his previous nine albums, with six new tracks.
As we have become used to, Sean’s songs are ranging from traditional Irish via blues and country to pop and easy listening. While my favourites are the more folky songs, generally from his earlier recordings, Sean's voice suits any of these styles extremely well. He has the gift of choosing the right songs, manages to make any song his own, and turns every single one of them into something outstanding indeed.
Some of the new songs on this album are not the usual songs in a folk singer’s repertoire – they include Lady Antebellum’s “Never Alone”, the Beyonce song “Ave Maria” and Dylan’s “Make you feel my love”.
Listening to this album and Sean’s charming singing is just like coming home - it's warm and cosy, feels familiar (even if we don’t know the songs), and will make you feel relaxed and contented
© Michael Moll


Socks in the Frying Pan
"Return of the Giant Sock Monsters from Outer Space"
Own label, 2015

Artist Video

www.socksinthefryingpan.com

The Giant Sock Monsters from Outer Space have returned with their second album.[50] They have landed at Shannon Airport (thank God the Yankees needed a stopover for their trans-continental flights way back in the 1950s) and Ennis town in Co. Clare in the west of Ireland, the musical centre of the galaxy. Rumours have it that Erich von Daniken is writing a book about the extra-terrestrial origins of Irish music :-) Anyway, not alien about the Irish tradition in general and Clare in particular, this trio consisting of brothers Shane and Fiachra Hayes on accordion and fiddle/banjo, respectively, and accompanied by Aodán Coyne on guitar and vocals,[55] is fuelled with Irish Coffee (which an ingenious barkeeper had invented at the airport). Their outlandish artistry is evident from six maenadic sets of instrumental tunes, plus six songs such as "The King's Shilling", the American "Rollin' in My Sweet Baby's Arms" and Phil Ochs' "When I'm Gone".
Watch out! Them monsters are about to leave Clare and conquer the rest of the world ...
© Walkin' T:-)M


Andy Lamy "The New Blackthorn Stick"
Own label, 2015

Article: The Fiddle of the Woodwinds

www.andrewlamy.com
www.andylamyclarinet.com

In the jazz age of the 1920's/30's instruments as the banjo crossed over into Irish music. Indeed, Paddy Killoran's Pride of Erin Orchestra in New York was featuring brothers James and Paul Ryan playing clarinet and saxophone. Andy Lamy is a classical clarinetist (New Jersey Symphony Orchestra), and used to play only the tin whistle in Irish music sessions. However, the instrument with its sound possibilities has been included in klezmer and traditional Breton music, so why not Irish music? The Folk Police is wagging a finger and shaking a fist, but Andy's objective is not curiosity, rather the damn serious inclusion of the clarinet into traditional Irish music. He studied the genre with luminaries such as Brian Conway (fiddle),[40] Joanie Madden (flute)[46] and Mary Bergin (tin whistle),[30] and devised the approbriate sound and timbre, suitable techniques and ornaments. There are tunes of long standing taken from O’Neill’s collection or Scottish fiddler Nathaniel Gow, some have been recently composed (Irishman Junior Crehan or Cape Breton's Sandy MacLean), with a lot of that panache and style that travelled across the Western Ocean from Co. Sligo to New York. Andy himself wrote four of the tunes, including a jig for the late Irish American pianist Felix Dolan.[51] Altogether, you can clearly hear the voice of The New Blackthorn Stick on all tracks, but it is an ensemble album after all. Andy has invited his mentors and friends, including accordionists Dermot Byrne and John Whelan,[11] uilleann piper Jerry O'Sullivan, flutist Kevin Crawford[47] and harpist Floriane Blancke.[49] No doubt about it, the clarinet works very well — whatever the Folk Police maintains.

»There will be some people for whom it’s never right to have clarinet in traditional music, but I submit that some measure of curiosity about innovation has always been part of the Irishness and the Celtic culture at large. Recent examples of musical innovations include the banjo, the piano (which is new within the last century in traditional music), the low whistle, and the electric piano, the most extreme example of all! Electric piano is certainly even newer than the clarinet—but it’s been accepted right into the heart of ITM albums over the last forty years. I believe that if handled correctly and dosed properly, the clarinet can have its place!« (Andy Lamy)

© Walkin' T:-)M

Tríona Marshall "Between Two Ways"
Own label, 2015

Artist Video

www.trionamarshall.com

These days it is not unusual to perform fast-paced dance music on the cláirseach, the triangular Celtic harp, and thus "Between Two Ways" kicks off with a spontaneous set of four reels accompanied by Tim Edey on guitar. On the whole though, "Between Two Ways" offers the goods traditionally associated with the cláirseach, such as Turlough O'Carolan's "Farewell to Music". Accordionist Martin Tourish seemingly wrote half of the tunes on the album, including a modern planxty, a contemplative "Elegy (ft. Paddy Moloney on tin whistle),[37] and the aisling-style "Amhrán an Dá Bhothair" (sung by Seamus Begley).[39] Eventually, it is dance music again with Nathan Pilatzke stepping it out.
Portlaoise-born harpist Tríona Marshall is literally blending the two different ways of classical and traditional Irish music, and is well provided by her musical background: She studied harp at the Koninklijk Conservatorium in Den Haag and London’s Royal College of Music, was principal harpist with The RTÉ Concert Orchestra and played the music of Bill Whelan and Shaun Davey, then got hooked on the playing of traditional Clare fiddler Martin Hayes.[35] For more than a decade, Tríona had been the harpist of The Chieftains, properly filling the gap the late Derek Bell had left behind.[24] Recently she struck a musical partnership with Scottish singer Alyth McCormack.[58]
"Between Two Ways" draws on a wide range of influences to lift traditional Irish harp playing to another level, her performance though, howsoever exceptional, is empathic and considerate.
© Walkin' T:-)M


Fraser & Ian Bruce "The Best of Mrs Bruce's Boys"
Greentrax, 2015

www.ianbruce.org
www.fraserbruce.co.uk

Scottish brothers Fraser and Ian Bruce were successful folk entertainers during the first half of the 1980's. They played folk clubs and festivals, appeared on radio and TV, and released three consecutive LPs to critical and commercial acclaim: "Mrs Bruce’s Boys Vol. 1", "Veil Of The Ages" and "Mrs Bruce’s Boys Vol. 2". Fraser, however, dropped out of the music business to concentrate on his building and engineering company (www.fraser-bruce.com). Ian went on and today has recorded about 20 albums,[5] lately with fellow artist Ian Walker.[54] When Fraser laid his business into the hands of his sons, the brothers immediately started to compile an album of songs from their heyday in the 1980’s. There are 10 re-mastered tracks from their three studio albums, five live tracks recorded at The Royal Oak, Edinburgh in May 2015, and one song which has never been released before (the anti-war song "White Flower"): Ian Sinclair's "The King’s Shilling", Richard Thompson's "Down Where The Drunkards Roll", Pete St John's "Ring-a-Rosie", Cyril Tawney's "Grey Funnel Line", the Child ballad "Bonnie Susie Clelland" and the music hall drinking song "A Man You Don’t Meet Every Day". Welcome back, boys!
© Walkin' T:-)M


Gordon Gunn "Wick to Wickham"
Greentrax, 2015

www.gordongunn.co.uk

Born and raised in the town of Wick in the far north of Scotland, Gordon Gunn studied with the well-known fiddle teacher Margaret Henderson who put many of her pupils on a successful path. Since his 2000 album "Shoreside",[17] Gordon Gunn toured with Session A9,[28][36] and appeared on numerous recordings including Aidan O'Rourke's "Sirius"[37] and Blair Douglas's "Stay Strong".[38] His composition "Wick to Wickham" kicks off the final track of his new solo album, a musical illustration of a memorable 700 mile roadtrip from his home in Wick to play the Wickham Festival in South East England. The sets include several of Gordon’s own compositions, just mentioning a pair of fine uptempo waltzes, besides those of contemporaries (Scotsmen Donald Shaw and Fred Morrison, Irish accordionist Mairtin O'Connor, Canadian fiddler Oliver Schroer, ...) and several traditional tunes ("The Earl’s Chair", "Over The Moors to Maggie", ...). With Brian McAlpine (keyboards) and Phil Anderson (guitar) of The Gordon Gunn Band and additional help (Tim Edey on melodeon, for example) he creates an elaborate and thrilling tonal sound, at times tinkering with innovation, but firmly rooted in the age-long tradition of Scottish fiddle music.
© Walkin' T:-)M


Beppe Gambetta & Tony McManus "Round Trip"
Borealis Records, 2015

www.beppegambetta.com
www.tonymcmanus.com

Gambetta and McManus are widely regarded as superb acoustic guitarists. Beppe Gambetta[24] hails from the Italian seaport of Genoa; largely inspired by American roots music he is drawing on a wide range of ethnic influences to create his own musical universe. From the Scottish lowlands, Tony McManus is best known as a Celtic guitarist,[22][38] who has recorded with Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser[10] and Breton bass player Alain Genty.[31] However, only recently McManus explored the Mysterious Boundaries to classical music.[52] Their mutual "Round Trip" starts with "Bonny Mulligan" by mandolin and fiddle player Peter Ostroushko, leading from the Celtic fringe (traditional jigs and reels, Scottish bagpiper Gordon Duncan's "Sleeping Tune", Irish composer Peadar O'Riada, Cape Breton fiddler John Morris Rankin) to the Italian peninsula (the traditional peasant dance "La Bergamasca" from Northern Italy, popular Genoese cantautore Fabrizio de André's "Valzer per un Amore", and a chiming tune by bell ringer Angelo 'Giulin' Ferrari of San Michele di Castrofino in the town of San Cipriano) with detours including a religious Ave Maria from Sardinia and the Greek "Moustambeiko". Gambetta and McManus are two champions of the six-string, besides their specific execution the sum of all parts is a gorgeous celebration beyond particular styles and traditions.
© Walkin' T:-)M


Líadan "In Am Trátha: Well-Timed"
Own label, 2015

Artist Video

www.liadan.ie

Líadan is a captivating six-piece of lovely young Irish ladies,[39] twice equipped with fiddles (Valerie Casey, Claire Dolan) and flutes (Elaine Cormican, Catherine Clohessy) plus Deirdre Chawke on piano accordion and Sile Denvir on harp, they play their traditional Irish music with vigor and vitality. Five animated instrumental sets are the living proof, worth mentioning Elaine Cormican's "World's End Polka" and Catherine Clohessy's final reel "The Fedamore Touch". Sile, Elaine and Valerie share vocal duties, with the former two's predisposition for traditional Irish and English-language songs, and the latter's eclectic selection of the Child ballad "Fair Annie" and Strawbs frontman Dave Cousins' "Sail Away To The Sea" originally sung by Sandy Denny.
© Walkin' T:-)M


Buttons & Bows "The Return of Spring"
Own label, 2015

Artist Video

www.buttonsandbowsmusic.ie

"Buttons and Bows" was an Academy Award winning song from the 1947 western comedy "The Paleface". Sound engineer Philip Begley christened this Irish music quartet when they started out in the early 1980's; and the quintet went back now with a jig version of that song. Back then, Buttons and Bows played quite often for a decade or so, separated and did come together once in a while, their last CD was recorded in 1991. Button accordionist Jackie Daly[57] celebrates the characteristic music of Sliabh Luachra[42] everywhere he's allowed to play. Fiddler Manus McGuire was raised on the music of the legendary Sligo fiddler Lad O’Beirne, who regularly visited the McGuire household in the 1960s. He has recorded several albums, lately "Green Grass Blue Grass" with the Brock McGuire band.[45] His brother Séamus McGuire is a classically trained violinist (The West Ocean String Quartet),[52] but is also thrilled by the traditional fiddle style of his native Co. Sligo. Last but not least, Garry O'Briain has made a name himself as an esteemed accompanist (guitar, piano, mandocello) and record producer, lately he joined Scottish-Irish band Boys of the Lough. Recording for this album took place when spring made an early appearance in the Burren of North Clare, so they started with James Morrison's polka "The Return of Spring". It turned out to become a mix of the old and the new, original compositions and melodies taken from the Joyce collection, reels from the Sligo-American fiddle masters and Sliabh Luachra slides and polkas. One is caught right from the start, the Séamus McGuire's genteel "Oyster Island" in French musette style, but actually inspired by the sea-sounds near Oyster Island off the Sligo coast. Their performance is both laid-back and peculiar, just as cool as it was in the 1980's. Time has been good for these old hands...
© Walkin' T:-)M


Bryan O'Leary & Colm Guilfoyle "Where the Bog Is"
Own label, 2015

Artist Video

wherethebogis.bandcamp.com

Irish broadcaster and music collector Ciarán Mac Mathúna once paid a visit to the legendary fiddler Padraig O’Keeffe; when asked where his native townland Glountane lies, Padraig replied: “Where the bog is”. This was recorded not too far from where the bog is, a celebration of the music and sound of Sliabh Luachra on the Cork and Kerry border.[42] It features both well-known tunes and uncommon versions, selected from old recordings and manuscripts as well as overheard from master musicians such as Padraig O’Keeffe or accordionist Johnny O’Leary. Incidentally, the late Johnny O’Leary is the grandfather of Bryan O'Leary who did become TG4 Young Musician of the Year in 2014 for his skill on the his Paolo Soprani and Saltarelle boxes. This award took Bryan into the studio, but he decided to record a duo album and he brought in flutist Colm Guilfoyle (an instrument not that popular in the area, Billy Clifford being a notable exception)[43] and a couple of accompanists. The bog resounds with polkas and slides galore in all its splendour. Finally, there is a song thrown in for good measure, Brendan Begley[48] breaks into "Sweet King Williamstown", the local anthem of the town known as Ballydesmond today and a song synonymous with the Sliabh Luachra region.
© Walkin' T:-)M


Mark Lysaght "Collaborations"
Own label, 2015

www.facebook.com/
MarkLmusic/

This IT expert from Churchtown, Dublin has been playing guitar for nearly 40 years around town after attending the local Comhaltas session and experiencing the sound of the Bothy Band. Mark Lysaght was thrilled by skilled accompanists who created an uplifting and vibrant sound behind virtuoso melody players. Four decades later his "Collaborations" album features a beautiful selection of tunes and sets with musicians he played with over the years. Mark plays steel-string and nylon-string guitars (mostly standard tuning, occasionally alternative tunings) bouzouki and piano to accompany pipes, fiddles, accordions, flutes, banjos and whistles. Names you might have heard of inlude Breanndán Ó’Beaglaíoch,[48] Liz Coleman, Josephine Marsh, John O'Brien (younger brother to Mick O'Brien),[27] and Paul Kelly,[40] Mark's 14 year old son shows his prowess on the uilleann pipes; Mark is married to a niece of Liam Rowsome and granddaughter of Leo Rowsome of the great piping dynasty.[26] His wife Mary plays a cinematic "Fairy Queen" from the pen of the distinguished Folk/Baroque composer Turlough O'Carolan on the Boehm flute. Mark is not hiding himself, but he's understatement incarnate. His style of accompaniment is smooth and steady, supporting the tunes and the melody players. Eventually, he's in the front row as well, a haunting take on the old Scottish song "Black is the Colour of My True Love’s Hair" and the Victorian drinking song "Yarmouth Town".
© Walkin' T:-)M


Gráinne Holland "Gaelré"
Gael Linn, 2015

www.grainneholland.com

Gráinne Holland is a young traditional singer and braodcaster from Belfast. She attended the first Gaelic-medium school in the Northern Irish capital and got acquainted with traditional song in the Gaelic language.[46] So the common thread at her second album "Gaelré" (Era of the Gael) is the Irish language again, kicking off with "Síos an Sliabh", an Irish language version of a Robert Burns song, "Down the Moor". It had been translated by Donegal poet and storyteller Seán Bán Mac Grianna (1905-79) about whom Gráinne did a TG4 documentary a while ago. The connection between Scotland and Ulster is tightened by the Scots Gaelic song "Thug Mi Gaol" and, of course, the haunting "Airde Cuain" by Seán Mac Ambróis (1793-1873) in the extinct Co. Antrim dialect, written from the perspective of an Antrim man who has moved to Ayrshire, Scotland, from where he can still see his home. Furthermore I would like to mention "An Drúcht Geal Ceo", a Gaelic translation by Donegal writer Séamus Ó Grianna (1889-1969) of the song "The Foggy Dew", written in the aftermath of the infamous Easter Rising in 1916. All the lyrics are in the booklet as well as bilingual background infos. Gráinne Holland has a passionate and powerful vocal approach.
At the time of writing she is touring Germany with the Irish Folk Festival[57] and lets Gaelic song shine in all its beauty and brilliance. Her interpretation is both authentic and up-to-date, not at least thanks to excellent support from piper John McSherry,[42] fiddler Dónal O’Connor,[44] multi-instrumentalist Michael McCague,[54] to name just a few.
© Walkin' T:-)M


The Rambling Boys "What Next"
Own label, 2015

Artist Video

www.theramblingboys.com

These Rambling Boys of Pleasure, obviously named both after the popular song made famous by Andy Irvine and Planxty in the late 1970's and the 1957 album from Derroll Adams and Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, are no run-of-the-mill outfit, but well-known veterans of the Irish folk music circuit who got together in 2013 and decided to create their own sonic terrain. Gino Lupari has been the flamboyant bodhrán player and vocalist of the high-octane quartet Four Men and a Dog.[40] David Munnelly, the Bullet from Belmullet,[48] added his muscular box playing from the multinational Accordion Samurai[46] to the Irish retro outfit Mórga.[53] Mancunian fiddler Sean Regan was raised in a dynamic emigrant community and did play with Celtic rock outfit Toss the Feathers alongside flutist Michael McGoldrick. Alan Burke was the singer and guitarist of the Irish band Afterhours, where he gathered a big repertory of songs and ballads, without doubt the source of The Rambling Boys' takes on "Pretty Fair Maid", "Sadhbh Ni Bhruinneallaigh" and "You Rambling Boys of Pleasure". Regan and Munnelly also composed a couple of instrumental tunes which are executed with fire and finesse. Four stars out of four!
© Walkin' T:-)M


The Gothard Sisters "Mountain Rose"
Own label, 2015

Artist Video

www.gothardsisters.com

Seattle-based sisters Greta (guitar, fiddle), Willow (fiddle, mandolin) and Solana (vocals, percussion, fiddle) started out their musical career as classical violinists, playing with youth symphony orchestras and chamber music groups, at the same time taking part in competitive Irish step dance. So it was only a small step to form their own Celtic folk music group, which they did way back in 2006. They were awarded Best New Irish Artist at the 2014 Irish Music Awards, and "Mountain Rose" is their already third album, an amalgam of driving guitar and bodhran, fancy fiddling and gorgeous three-part vocal harmonies. The song selection includes the Welsh lullaby "All Through the Night" and the Scottish New Years anthem "Auld Lang Syne", both performed cool and crisp, as well as Andy M. Stewart's "Queen of Argyll" and Kate Rusby's "I Courted a Sailor". There is original music such as the story-song "Grace O'Malley", and the vocal tracks are completed by fiery dance sets. The presentation is youthful and fresh, while the roots and traditions are always kept in mind.
© Walkin' T:-)M


Deirdre Granville "Imram"
Own label, 2015

Artist Video

www.deirdregranville.com

Hailing from Dingle in the West of Ireland, Celtic harpist Deirdre Granville studied both traditional and classical music. She has performed internationally with both chamber orchestras and folk groups, had her fair share of TV and radio work, and also has been the founder and director of the Dingle TradFest. Now Deirdre took a sabbatical to record her debut solo album, featuring traditional and contemporary Irish harp music. Imram is a term from early Irish literature meaning voyaging and indicating a story about an adventurous voyage. She felt that this album should represent her own journey in music. This is not about the courtly harp performance in the guise of Turlough O'Carolan planxties and tunes, though she is playing the lever harp, Deirdre is rather bursting with energy - gentle if required, but powerful and passionate throughout. But "Imram" is no solo harp recording, it features suportive artists such as Gerry O’ Beirne and Tony O Flaherty. The album kicks off with two fine polkas penned and accompanied by guitarist Steve Cooney; there are compositions from Irish fiddlers Josephine Keegan and Brian Rooney as well as Scottish fiddler Aidan O’Rourke. Thrown in for good measure: a popular lament from Co. Kerry, a wedding march co-written by Deirdre and, after all, a favourite song sung by her grandmother, "An Baile atá lámh lei siúd", given in a rather classically trained manner, since Deirdre is usually singing at weddings. The final set of instrumental tunes, "The Border Crossing", anticipates the path she likes to follow in the future, straying away from the beaten track of pure Irish music and embracing other genres and styles. The track starts with a recently composed old-time melody from American fiddler Marc Simos, superseded by a Scottish bagpipe tune from film composer Jim Sutherland.
© Walkin' T:-)M


Theresa Horgan & Matt Griffin "Brightest Sky Blue"
Own label, 2015

www.facebook.com/...

From the Dingle peninsula in the west of Ireland comes a beautiful record of traditional and contemporary Irish song. Teresa Horgan is a singer, originally from Cork, who has performed with FullSet and The Outside Track, London-born guitarist Matt Griffin has relocated to Ireland and is roughing up the Dingle session scene. They joined each other to record some of their own versions of some of their favourite folk songs from Ireland, Britain and America. There is the ancient murder song "Cruel Sister", which they heard from Pentangle but put their own stamp on it. They also shaped the title track to suit them better, Ian Smith's "Brightest Sky Blue" (which has just been recorded by Fil Campbell too).[58] Further pieces include the traditional songs "As I Roved Out" and "Queen of Hearts" (the latter by way of Martin Carthy), Paul Simon's "Kathy's Song" and Leon Rosselson's "The World Turned Upside Down" about the 1649 digger's commune. With a background in orchestration, Matt is able to weave a colourful sound carpet and embed Theresa's lovely voice, thanks to the help and support of local musicians such as singer Pauline Scanlon, flutist Kieran Munnelly and accordionist Tony O'Flaherty.
When the sky is clear and blue in Dingle, you can only expect the best to come...
© Walkin' T:-)M


Battlefield Band "Beg & Borrow"
Temple Records, 2015

www.battlefieldband.co.uk
www.begandborrow.net

More than forty years ago, the Scottish Battlefield Band did belong to the pioneers which started and shaped the great folk music revival. Since then, this outfit managed to rejuvenate themselves from time to time (no original member is left) and give new input.[51] In the year 2015, the Battlefield Band is reduced to American-born piper Mike Katz and youngsters Alasdair White (fiddle) from Scotland and Sean O'Donnell (guitar) from Ireland. Their latest idea has been to explore and play the music and songs shared by the two living traditions of Scotland and Ireland, who have begged and borrowed much from each other since time immemorial. So they have invited twelve special guests (one for each of the twelve miles that separate Scotland and Ireland at their nearest point across the water), including fiddler John Martin (Tannahill Weavers),[33] mouth organist Mike Whellans,[37] flutist Nuala Kennedy,[49] American fiddler Tony DeMarco,[42] and last but not least Temple Records' own Robin Morton on vocals and bodhran. The sources have been the Malcolm MacInnes' Bagpipe Tune Collection and Goodman's Tunes of the Munster Pipers, as well as fiddlers from the Scottish Highlands (Nathaniel Gow, Scott Skinner[25]), the Shetlands (Tom Anderson) and Irish County Donegal (John Doherty). Harpist Alison Kinnaird[39] composed the lovely slow air "Ellen’s Dreams". Singer Christine Primrose[20] put Gaelic words to the song "The Blantyre Explosion" about Scotland's worst mining disaster in 1877 which killed 207 miners. A Hebridean waulking song rubs shoulders with the Irish aisling song "An Gille Mear", Robert Tannahill's[41] "One Night in My Youth" and "The Mickey Dam" about Irish labourers building the Milngavie waterworks in the late 19th century. After all this is no academic exercise, 15 fantastic artists from Scotland, Ireland and the Celtic diaspora are looking out for the common ground and push the boundaries once again.
Look out for background info and audio clips @ www.begandborrow.net!
© Walkin' T:-)M


Bellowhead "Pandemonium - The Essential Bellowhead"
Navigator Records, 2015

Artist Video

www.bellowhead.co.uk

It's all over now ... Time flies, this decade went by much too fast. The English 11 piece folk orchestra Bellowhead had been formed in 2004 (seems just like yesterday), and didn't have a clue that they'd be playing major festivals home and abroad, selling a quarter of a million records and winning eight BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. Early this year, singer and fiddler Jon Boden[52] decided to retire from the band and the remainder of Bellowhead sensed that they didn't want to continue without their striking frontman and burn out and slowly fade away: "The shows always finish on a high, and so should we!" Thus Bellowhead is history ... for now (who can foresee the future?) They will undertake two farewell tours in November 2015 and April 2016. To coincide they have released a Best Of album of some of their favourite tracks from the five studio albums.[33][38][47][49] Listen again to their great renditions of "New York Girls", "Roll The Woodpile Down" and "Whiskey Is The Life Of Man"! Better still, get up from the settee and seek out one of their sweaty shows. I have always regarded Bellowhead as a quintessential live band. Unfortunatly I've missed them so far, this is the last chance to catch them!!!
© Walkin' T:-)M


Sonerien Du "Frankiz"
Own label, 2015

Artist Video

www.sonerien-du.com

Sonerien Du, the Black Pipers, have been formed way back in 1972 to accompany traditional Breton dancers at their home in Pont-l’Abbé in South West Brittany. They soon became a successful live act of the great folk and trad music revival besides solo artists like harpist Alan Stivell[53] and folk (rock) groups as Tri Yann.[49] For more than 40 years Sonerien Du rocked the fest noz circuit, recorded 23 CDs[43][49] and played festivals throughout Europe. In these 4 decades about 24 musicians had joined the ranks, the last founding member Jean-Pierre Le Cam left in 2013. The line-up has completely changed, and their music did evolve from an acoustic setting back in the 1970's to a more electric soundscape, let traditional Breton instruments such as bombard and biniou, fiddle and accordion clash with guitar, bass and drums. Thus Sonerien Du sounds these days more like Tri Yann than ever before, or say one of the young Breton folk rock outfits that hang around and cross-fertilise each other. Still, the common thread is a smashing mix of traditional and original compositions to the rhythms of an dro, hanter dro, laride, ridee, waltz and mazurka.
© Walkin' T:-)M


Rose Clancy "fiddle : piano : bass"
Own Label, 2014

www.roseclancyfiddler.com

Powerful fiddling from an Irish American who also knows the Scottish and Cape Breton traditions, this CD is an excellent showcase for a player I hadn't heard before. Driving reels, jaunty jigs, waltzes and mazurkas, hornpipes and barndances, with an old march and a classic slow air too: the recording has all the right ingredients, and Rose Clancy cooks them up with skill. Her accompanists Brendan Dolan and Jon Evans explain the title fiddle : piano : bass - Brendan also plays flute and whistle on a few tracks, and there's a bit of cheeky cello from Bob Jennings, but mostly this is all about the fiddler. Rose was brought up with Irish music in and around Massachusetts, and has crossed the Canadian frontier many times in her fiddle career. She now teaches, plays and builds fiddles down at the fishy end of New England.
Reels by Jerry Holland, John Morris Rankin, Johnny Wilmot, Ross Ainslie and others break up the flow of Irish standards: Tuttle's, Ormond Sound, Knights of St Patrick, Moll Roe and the like. There are actually more jigs than reels here, and some interesting ones too, such as My Friend Sharon by Clare McLaughlin, Dancing Eyes by Sean Ryan, and The Admiral's Whiskers written for Rose's dog by Clayton Marsh. I haven't heard or played Nell Flaherty's Drake in a long time, but the tune Rose calls Coppers & Brass is a regular at my local sessions under the name Humours of Ennistymon. Greg Johnson's waltz Betty Moffett is a beauty, achingly played, as is the well loved Neil Gow lament. At the other end of the fiddling spectrum, Ms Clancy grinds out Dwyer's Hornpipe and The Pleasures of Hope with savage raw energy. The sleevenotes are brief but informative, and the packaging is modest, but the contents of this album are impressive indeed.
© Alex Monaghan


Sketch "Highland Time"
Skye Records, 2015

www.totalsketch.com

A few line-up changes since this group's previous CD Shed Life topped my 2012 chart,[50] but the message is unchanged: Scottish music with as much modern jiggery-pokery as they can get away with. Electronics, distortion, beat-boxing, loops, spins and twists, and things I don't even have a name for, are thrown behind pipe and fiddle music, reels and jigs at a hot dance tempo - and it works! There are also great sleevenotes with this CD - it even comes in a radically retro clear plastic case - so I can actually tell you about the music. Don't ask me what the album title means, though: I have absolutely no idea.
The core crew is fiddler Neil Ewart and technomancer Iain Copeland, plus new boys Angus Binnie on pipes, Seumas Maclennan on bouzouki, and Darren Maclean on vocals. Maeve Mackinnon's voice makes a cameo comeback on Failte Dhruim Fionn, and a host of pipers and whistlers put in guest appearances: Ross Ainslie, Ali Levack, and the late Fraser Shaw. There's a surprisingly small amount of strictly traditional material on Highland Time, but plenty of great tunes by modern composers in a trad style. Michael Rankin's, The Dodgy Chanter, The Jig Runrig, Splendid Isolation, Dr MacPhail's Reel and Lord McConnell of Lough Erne and Lochend are all fabulously well played and backed with a bruising techno beat. The Shooglenifty classic She's in the Attic is an unsurprising choice, and there are several compositions by Ewart in a similarly funky groove. Sketch have achieved a pretty optimal mix of modern and traditional here, making this another very enjoyable CD. My only serious gripe is that the whistle disappears in the mix occasionally - but as a whistle player I may be slightly biased!
© Alex Monaghan


Alba's Edge "Run to Fly"
Own Label, 2015

www.albasedge.com

Alba - Scottish, right? Wrong. This music has as much to do with the meaning of "alba" in Spanish or Galician as it does with its Gaelic meaning. Springing from New England fiddling and New York jazz amongst other things, this young quartet consists of siblings Lilly and Neil Pearlman on fiddle and keys, with Doug Berns on bass and Jacob Cole on percussion. Most of the pieces are Pearlman compositions, plus hints of traditional music in some places, but the Scottish roots are buried deep. Run to Fly is unashamedly contemporary, full of flourishes and flamboyant solos from all four players, ever shifting and surprising, with few islands of calm. The short Rising and Setting tracks serve as intro and outro to eight lengthy pieces of not quite experimental music, ranging from the complex cerebral HRK to the feel-good fun of Summer Scraps. There are some short vocal interludes, and one traditional song: The Bonny Ship the Diamond, powerfully sung by the Pearlmans but with a bit of uncertainty over the words. (Call me pedantic, but "around" and "down" make a better rhyme, and there's an important difference between hunting "a" whale and hunting "the" whale, unless you're Cap'n Ahab!)
The instrumentals are rock solid, and jazz solid, and folk solid as required. All four twentysomethings are consummate musicians, and they mesh together perfectly on even the most technically challenging pieces here. It's edgy, but never threatens to slip into the abyss. I suppose there is an American Scottish pedigree for this music in Alasdair Fraser, Katie McNally, James Ross and others. Alba's Edge don't stray onto the shakier ground of Farquhar MacDonald or David Milligan - maybe next time! For now their wackiest adventures are an extended loop in Scott and Rhonda, an irregular beat in General Jinjur and a bit of choreographed chaos in The Sordid Life of Scientists. These are balanced by the serene Willard State Park, a fabulous flowing piece with pools and rapids like a mature upland river which finally tumbles down to the plains. Something like that, anyway. I like Run to Fly. See what you make of it - there are samples and more information online.
© Alex Monaghan


Fourwinds "Fourwinds"
Own Label, 2015

www.fourwindsirishmusic.com

A recently formed quartet based in Dingle, Dublin and Ennis, these young musicians play with power and passion. There's a great rake of tunes including slip jigs, polkas, slides and hornpipes as well as the usual reels and jigs. Caroline Keane on concertina, Tom Delany on pipes, Daorí Farrell on bouzouki and Robbie Walsh on bodhrán rattle through seven instrumental sets. Daorí also sings four songs in a range of styles from American protest ballad to Irish pure drop: The Ludlow Massacre by Woody Guthrie, Farewell to the Gold which seems to have suddenly become popular in Ireland after the credit crunch, Clasped to the Pig from the modern end of Tommy McCarthy's repertoire, and the classic Rollicking Boys Around Tandragee.
Pipes and concertina handle chill-out tunes and hot solos with ease. There's a lovely relaxed take on Black Valley Reel closely followed by a gallop through The Bond Store. Delany glides smoothly over The Flags of Dublin, while Keane canters along Christy Leary's salty P&O Polka. There are a few ragged edges and missed opportunities, like the over-simplified version of The Dusty Miller and the slightly unsteady change into The Templehouse Reel, but that's not unusual in a debut recording from a group of twenty-somethings. The important thing for me is the spirit of the music, and that comes through strongly on every track from FourWinds. Never a dull moment on this album, and I bet they are equally exciting on stage. This band is definitely one to watch.
© Alex Monaghan


Orquesta Céltica Asturiana "Contra Viento y Marea"
Own Label, 2015

Artist Video

www.orquestacelticaasturiana.com

Folk ensembles are not particularly popular in northern Europe at the moment - the likes of The Treacherous Orchestra and Bellowhead are relatively rare these days - but in Celtic Spain there are many such groups. Orquesta Céltica Asturiana was founded in 2012, and is directed by cellist Mento Hevia who has composed about half of the material on this recording. With twenty musicians and a handful of guests, there's a big rich sound throughout Contra Viento y Marea. Fiddles, flutes, harps, gurdies, gaitas, accordion and percussion, cello, bass and guitar give a lot of scope for arrangement, but most tracks are all-in sessions in the traditional celtic style. This group draws on Irish, Scottish and Asturian traditions, as well as introducing new music in the Asturian idiom.
Orquesta Céltica Asturiana are at their best in their own tradition. Muñeiras, jotas and pasodobles are played with style and passion, lively versions of some well known Spanish melodies, as well as more unusual tunes. New compositions follow these forms as well as more lyrical pieces. There is one song here among a dozen instrumentals, by a guest singer, but the instrumental music could hold its own in any case. Contra Viento y Marea is the group's debut CD, and for such a large number of performers the sound quality is very good, clear and crisp with a reasonable balance of instruments. Asturian recordings are scarce enough, so if you have any interest in the music of northern Spain this album is worth seeking out.
© Alex Monaghan


Sophie Cavez & Balthazar Montanaro "Le 3ème Temps"
In/Ex Music, 2015

www.duomontanarocavez.sitew.com

France, Belgium, ... Hungary? This duo was born eclectic, and shows no sign of changing. Fiddle and push-pull box, virtusity on both sides, their influences span all of Europe and beyond, various classical traditions as well as jazz and folk music, and apparently octopus. Despite this, it is possible to place Cavez & Montanaro in the broad category of contemporary French folk, with groups such as Dédale, Djal, Bal, and other names ending in -al. Their repertoire seems to be mainly their own compositions, polyphonic on both instruments, with frequent use of pizzicato and other effects. This is their third album. The sleeve notes and website don't give much else away, so here's my take on what's going on.
Mahala is a Balkan style dance tune, a swirling maze of notes. Kaks Kirikut reminds me of Finnish music, Tsuumi Sound System maybe, smooth and dark. Titi Neti seems more Hungarian, fierce fiddle (Montanaro) and playful box (Cavez). Polska de Bonnes is a mixture, Scandinavian elements and Paris accordion fighting to the death with the Vikings winning in the end. Tamara is remarkably akin to George Formby's take on Morning Town - parallel evolution run wild. A couple of pieces play with the possibilites of Balthazar's baritone violin before the Reel des Eskimos which seems to be a traditional Canadian tune. The spiky C Minor Waltz is more like a modern classical piece. The jazzy Usual Happiness gives way to the final funky Minha Galera. Everything is technically brilliant and imaginatively musical, a great performance and an album I have gone back to time after time.
© Alex Monaghan


Freya Rae & Louis Bingham "Curlicue"
Waulk Records, 2015

www.louisandfreya.com

A multi-instrumental duo from opposite ends of Great Britain, these two twentysomethings play a mix of music from Denmark to Brittany, although most of the material on this debut CD is in fact Irish. Louis and Freya have also composed a handful of their own tunes, in a range of styles including Scottish and Balkan. Freya's silver flute tackles reels and jigs, hornpipes and hopsas, and she switches to clarinet for some of the Breton dances. Louis alternates guitars with banjos and bouzoukis for accompaniment and melody in equal parts. This core sound is augmented by family members Eryn Rae on fine fiddle, Paul Rae on the Balkan tambura, and Griselda Sanderson on nyckelharpa.
The opening jigs and reels set has Freya duetting with herself on matched whistles, before introducing the flute. More jigs follow, ending with the title tune, a Rae original on clarinet. Two quite contemporary waltzes lead into a set of reels, starting slow, with double-tracked flute this time, and the powerful fiddle of Freya's sister Eryn, finishing on Ed Reavy's tune The Shoemaker's Daughter. A sultry slow Breton air with lovely dark chalumeau tones shifts up a gear to become a rondeau dance tune, adding flute and guitar. Wooden flute carries Joe McHugh's Jig as a brief solo before the banjo takes the strain on Mrs O'Sullivan's. Balkan, Scandinavian and p-Celtic influences bring us to a couple of guitar solos, an air by Louis with ebow effects, and a pair of nicely arranged hornpipes. The final track of this entertainingly eclectic album returns to the Irish tradition with a great reel by Brendan McGlinchey and two session stalwarts.
© Alex Monaghan


Griselda Sanderson "Radial"
Waulk Records, 2015

www.grissanderson.com

Something of an experimenter, Griselda Sanderson is a Scottish fiddler with a classical background who released her first nyckelharpa album a few years ago and threw pretty much everything at it - African, Latin, New Age and of course Scandinavian pieces. This follow-up builds on her successful experiments, taking the nyckelharpa on a virtual odyssey from Sweden to Scotland and south to Spain and North Africa. Most of the melodies here are Swedish, but their settings are far from traditional, and there are several new compositions by Sanderson and her son Louis Bingham.
A mix of strings and percussion, Radial starts with an arrangement for nyckelharpa and Berber lute which reminds me of Andalusian or Turkish music. This rhythmic, hypnotic sound is replaced by the oriental cadences of East Wind, similar to Japanese classical pieces, with guitar harmonics and high pure bowed notes from Griselda. Sling is the first of many old Scandinavian melodies, a slangpolska dance tune. The Emigrants' Tune is another from Sweden, learnt from a 1974 recording but probably a century older, reminding us that Swedes also headed to the New World in the 19th century. In between these two traditional tracks is a Bingham creation, Crazywell Pool, gypsy guitar and Arab fiddle, like a mediaeval Hot Club number.
A couple of traditional Irish tunes leaven the loaf, but I prefer the Swedish pieces and Sanderson's own compositions: Journey to the Mill, Toby's Musette and the final Clattering Polska. Fiddles and violas join the nyckelharpa, with various drums and guitars, producing a very ancient sound despite the mix and match of rhythms. Griselda Sanderson has imagined a musical landscape for her nyckelharpa which is probably nothing like its origins but which has its own beauty and consistency. Radial is unique and fascinating, a new side to this exotic instrument, a real eye-opener.
© Alex Monaghan



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