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Decades Awards in Order 2000-2010
It is 10 years already. Ten years since the last “Best Of The Decade in Irish Music” list on LiveIreland! Ten years of magical moments in Irish music represented here by the very best of the very best of the very best. You get the drift. Each artist listed here has dedicated his or her life to the music, and they are the best there is at the tradition we all hold so dear. These Awards are not recognition of their talents. These Awards are a thank you. Gratitude for the joy, magical moments, talent, and heartfelt love of the common musical bonds that bind us---these artists have brought all of that to us. There are probably 500 artists and albums over the last decade who could have won these Awards. But, they didn’t. These artists did. So looking back over the last 10 years, here is our “Thank You” to each of these amazing people and groups. Do we sound like fans? You bet we are. Our job is to be subjective. OK, fair enough. Here are the musical icons who have done it all in the last decade. On to the new, with a bow to these magnificent achievements from 2000-2010:
PERFORMERS OF THE DECADE
All of the really great groups in Irish music tour as much as they can. When you are as terrific as Lunasa, there is a constant demand for your concerts that keeps you on the road constantly. So it is with this magical quintet of masterful musicians. Lunasa is deeply rooted in the tradition, and a force in the field. We love them. And, according to their concert demand, so do you. If God grants us another 10 years to write about great Irish traditional music, we hope you’ll hear in 2021 that Lunasa has won this Award again. Masters of the form, lovely guys, and a real embodiment of what traditional Irish music is today, and will be. Roll on, lads.
MALE MUSICIAN OF THE DECADE
Now, you might think that this would really be a tough Award to figure out. Not so. It may be the easiest of all. In Irish traditional music, as in every other form of art, you can usually be headed to an enjoyable fist fight in a pub if you want to argue who is the best fiddle player, the best bodhran whacker, the best flautist. Not so for this Award. Trust us. In the halls of Irish music, one musician is unanimously recognized as the best at his instrument. The best who ever was. Jimmy Keane on piano accordion has become what it means to be the best in any art form. It is not enough to say he is a master musician. When it comes to the piano accordion he is the maestro. He is rather like a musical combination of Ray Charles, David Beckham and Mickey Mantle. The best. Period. No argument. My God, this man is a gift! Long may you rule, Jimmy. To the literally hundreds of other unbelievable musicians who are out there playing fabulously, we apologize. But, you know as well as we do. There is no argument.
SONG OF THE DECADE
Nova Scotia’s Laura Smith is a genius. This singer/songwriter ran into so many health issues during the last decade, and yet. And yet, above all is her voice, her impeccable musical standards, and her unbelievable lyric-writing talent. The first time we ever heard My Bonny, we were in a car traveling 65 miles per hour and had to pull off the road. We listened to it then, three times in a row, and are still completely moved by it. Is it Laura’s voice? Is it her interpretation of her lyrics? Her lyrics, themselves? Her genius, which you can literally hear? Yes. All that and more. It cannot be done better than this. Singers throughout Ireland, America, and Canada bow to her. She rules. My Bonny and Laura will outlive all of us. And, they should. They are masterpieces. They are a gift.
INSTRUMENTAL GROUP OF THE DECADE
The Brock McGuire Band is Paul Brock on button box, Manus McGuire on fiddle, Enda Scahill on banjo/mandolin and Denis Carey on piano. Brock and McGuire formed the greatest instrumental group of all time back in the day, Moving Cloud, and only they could have followed up with something this good. Brock McGuire is the best instrumental band in the business. In a just world and universe, they would make $1,000,000 per concert. This is not a just world. If they are anywhere near, anywhere near you, go. See them. For at least once in our lives, we can say we saw the best at the height of their powers. We saw Brock McGuire.
FEMALE NEWCOMER OF THE DECADE
Eilis Kennedy lives on the Dingle Peninsula. She is the voice of Ireland. She is stunning. It is hard to think now that she has been active in the business for an entire decade. We well remember her first solo album of 2001, Time to Sail. We were as gobsmacked then as we are now by her voice and her taste. She is at the core of what an Irish singer should be. Not only from Ireland, she is Ireland at its best. Whether it be in her current efforts as a part of Lumiere, Beal Tuinne, or her second solo album, One Sweet Kiss, her talent is so special and so stunning that she has become a natural force. Up, Dingle! And, if prayers are answered, we will have this diamond around for several decades more. On behalf of all who have heard her, thank you, Eilis.
TRAD PROMOTER OF THE DECADE
Alan O’Leary runs Copperplate out of his London headquarters. With the possible exception of Harry Bradshaw formerly of the RTE, no one knows more about Irish music, its history, and its future, than Alan O’Leary. Never mind that he is one terrific guy. When Copperplate takes on an artist to promote, he or she is in the master’s hands. He knows everybody. Everybody knows him. Everybody respects him. Things just happen for Alan O’Leary’s artists. And, they may not even have an idea as to how or why. He is an excellent flute player himself. He understands the music in detail, and more importantly for his artists, no one understands the business better. He is a walking encyclopedia of Irish music, and Copperplate is a critical, worldwide outlet for the very best traditional music there is. Purely perfect.
CREATIVE PROJECT OF THE DECADE
No album has moved us more in the last decade than Shona McMillan’s People and Songs of the Sea. It is a stunning chronicle
of the history of the Scottish fishing industry, and its bleak future. Shona and her family are of the fishing community. This album is a blessing for all who would touch the brave souls and deep hearts of the communities now virtually gone in Scotland. That Shona has grabbed this moment in history to chronicle this for all time is a miracle of her intelligence, her heart and her commitment. She and the Greentrax label are not to be congratulated. They are to be thanked for giving us all an aural picture of courage and resilience.
This is more than simply music. This is important. A lighthouse of an album in an often dark world.
MALE NEWCOMER OF THE DECADE
Paddy Homan burst onto the Irish music scene in the late 2000’s. His first, self-titled album redefined what it means to be an “Irish tenor.” When we think of an Irish tenor, we think of some lad in a tuxedo and patent leather shoes on a concert stage. Paddy is more comfortable in a shirt and slacks. But, the voice. A gift from God. Paddy has done his homework, all right. He knows the music, he knows the songs. But good Lord, does he know how to sing them! Paddy Homan is the best male Irish singer we have ever heard. We said that when his album first came out, and we say it still. It is really no “choice” at all. Like Jimmy Keane, anyone who hears Paddy says, “Sure, he’s the best, I mean…he’s the best.” He’s a great guy, and all the rest. But what he really is, is a provocateur of the soul. It is as if God said, “I guess after all these centuries, I’ll make the perfect Irish voice.” That’s Paddy. Perfect.
FEMALE SINGER OF THE DECADE
Cathie Ryan is the pre-eminent singer/songwriter of her generation in Irish music. We have said that to you 20 times over the last 20 years. No secret. If you have heard her, you know it is true. If you have not heard her, you have not heard real Irish music. She is the Queen. Since she wisely left Cherish the Ladies 15 years ago, she has blazed new creative paths down which scores of other singers have followed. But, she is the leader. A perfectly gorgeous voice blends with unexcelled songwriting abilities. To a small degree, we are all played out about Cathie. We have used all the adjectives we know. She won this Award 10 years ago, and here she is again. An unstoppable beacon of taste and excellence. What else can we say, except get her music! You’ll hear. The greatest female Irish singer of all time. There. It has been said. Because, it is true. Beautiful music from a beautiful soul.
MALE SINGER OF THE DECADE
Len Graham. No man has done more for Irish song than this sensational voice from Co. Armagh. He and his wife, Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin, have both done so much for the real Irish music. Hundreds of songs, both in Irish and English, have been discovered or rediscovered by Len Graham. He is a researcher, as well as a wonderful singer. His voice. How to describe it? Think, cognac meets cream. Smooth. Lovely. Real. In every generation, there is a singer and student like this. Thank God that in our generation it is Len Graham. There is none better. The King. Long will he rule.
VOCAL/INSTRUMENTAL GROUP OF THE DECADE
We are out of words about the Munnelly Band. Whether it be with Andrew Murray, Shauna Mullin, or Kat Eggleston at the vocals, this talented group IS the best, driven by the Bullet from Belmullet (we love that phrase and wish we would have come up with it!) on button box. This group has consistently purveyed the very tops in Irish music for the last 10 years. Another surprisingly easy choice. The best live show in the business, and superior musicianship fused into something indescribable, as is an indescribably wonderful Munnelly, himself. Dear God. Munnelly. No act more fun and no act with more talent.
COMPOSER OF THE DECADE
The alpha and omega of Irish composition is Shaun Davey. Everyone else simply watches what he is doing, listens carefully, and tries to catch up. We don’t use the word a lot. He is a genius. From his most brilliant composition, Beal Tuinne, to his current work in Romania, joined with Granuaille to the Symphony for the Relief of Derry, no one since Sean O’Riada has shone as brilliantly as Shaun Davey in Irish composition. His wife, Rita Connolly, is a perfect musical collaborator and singer of his songs. We have no idea what to say about Shaun Davey and his contribution to Ireland. Someday we will get to meet him, and we hope he is not too embarrassed as we immediately fall to our knees and try to kiss his shoes. Another master. Big time. We are continuously amazed and stunned by this man and his creations. Genius.
TRAD/FUSION ALBUM OF THE DECADE
Rubai by Flook is another masterpiece. No group in the decade more brilliantly combined all the threads of music together rattling around out there in the world. No longer together, their final split-up was more than friendly, and the lucky fan in England can see their rare reunion concert and marvel again at what Flook brought to all of us. We saw them perform about seven times in person, and were blown away each time. The apotheosis of it all was Rubai. We introduced them in several concerts and were always mystified by the link that they instantly forged with an audience. Sarah Allen. John Joe Kelly. Ed Boyd. Brian Finnegan. They were magic, and we had them for most of the decade. Like a great kiss, they linger in the memory. We are continuously amazed and stunned by this group, and what they brought to the musical table.
FEMALE MUSICIAN OF THE DECADE
We have loved Liz Carroll on fiddle for 30 years. She may kill us for telling you how long it has been, but she was a child prodigy and now she is an adult wizard. No one has written more tunes, more great tunes, and played them as brilliantly as Liz. So many people in the world consider her the greatest Irish fiddler. Who are we to argue? Wow! 30 years on, we are still overwhelmed every time we hear her play. We love Liz Carroll. Hell, the world loves Liz Carroll. She is an American. She is an Irish traditional mega-talent. And she is a sweetheart. Does that sound sexist? So be it. We could care less. Liz Carroll is the total deal and there is none better. An easy lay-up of a choice for Female Musician of the Decade. La Liz.
ALBUM OF THE DECADE
The name of the album is Live at St. James Church, Dingle. The group is Beal Tuinne. Shaun Davey, Rita Connolly, Eilis Kennedy, and Seamus Begley joined others at this now-legendary concert and produced the most beautiful Irish album we have ever heard in over 25 years of writing about the music. We’re supposed to be professional. We’re not. We are this album’s acolytes. This album was brought to us by Alan O’Leary from Copperplate, and that means we owe him something forever. We have never been so completely moved in the thousands of albums we have listened to over the years. This isn’t a masterpiece. We don’t know what this is. But, it is way past a masterpiece. We are still speechless from the perfection of it. So, we’ll shut up. Just go find this album from Copperplate or anyone else, and get it. It is everything. It is Ireland in your hands, your ears, and your heart.
That’s it, and that is everything!
Follow Bill Margeson on twitter: @BillMargeson or http://twitter.com/BillMargeson
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