Irish Internet Radio and TV from Dublin, Ireland.
Welcome to the 2012 Livies. Along with TG4, these are the most eagerly anticipated Irish Traditional Music Awards of the year. The reason? LiveIreland's unprecedented and instantaneous worldwide reach in its readership. When any site like LiveIreland is the 900 pound gorilla in the room, it's paid attention to. It is our honor to recognize the Best of the Best with the 2012 Livies. So, here we go:
Male Vocalist of the Year - Denis O'Sullivan
This brilliant singer with Chicago Reel was a massive discovery for us in 2011. More the shame on us for not fully appreciating his incredible style and beautiful voice sooner. From Ireland, he is now officially a Chicago treasure and one of the very top singers in the tradition. Period! Never mind his multiple All-Ireland Singing Championships; this is a massive new talent. An incredible voice who will be around for years, and we're the lucky ones for that.
Musician of the Year - Brendan Hendry
This Northern Ireland fiddle player defines what it means to be an Irish musician. His style and taste are impeccable, and nobody deserves this award more. A stunningly gifted musician as evidenced on his two albums so far, Stringtones and Tuned Up. His grasp of the music and soulful playing is what the Irish fiddle is all about. As with all the great musicians, when you hear this artist playing the fiddle, you are hearing Ireland. A master.
Album of the Year - Ceol Sidhe (Shee Music)
Ceol Sidhe is the winner for this prestigious Award. Here's the deal. Micheal Hynes, Charlie Lennon, and Steve Cooney are three of the top musicians in the tradition. Just as importantly, their musical taste is impeccable. Each is a wonder on their instruments--Michael Hynes on concertina and button box, Charlie Lennon on fiddle, and Steve Cooney on guitar. You already know that. What is extra-special here is that in these 19 cuts on the album, we have musicians who get it. The real deal. These are not musical children trying to impress you with how fast they can play. They don't play fast. They play perfectly. This is a stunning album of traditional music performed in the style and tempo that best display both the musicians and the melodies. It takes master musicians to pull this kind of thing off. These three nail it.
Vocalist of the Year - Norah Rendell
The Minneapolis-based singer has done it perfectly with her group, The Outside Track. Her voice is made for the powerful arrangements of the group. It makes no difference here that she is also a superior wooden flute player. She is a killer singer. We don't know how or when she got this good. Maybe it has always been so. The important thing is that this is a woman at the top of her game and she is set for a long run in this business. With this album, Norah has established herself among that top class of the top elites. An easy choice this year.
New Group of the Year - Full Set
This Irish-based sextet of young musicians and singers has stunned the trad world with the force of their entry onto the scene with the album, Notes at Liberty. The album is perfectly conceived and executed. We can write about this all day. You have to hear it. There were many worthy contenders this year, such as Chicago Reel and The Outside Track. To be perfectly honest, this was the toughest choice of the year. The power of the group's instrumentals, and brilliance of the vocals--such as in our favorite, Half-Hanged McNaughton--establishes this group immediately, right now, instantly, this split second, as a huge new presence in the music. Full Set is stunning. We can only hope they stay together long enough to give us more, more, more. For years.
Song of the Year - Somebody Special / Matt Keane
This song was written by Don Stiffe and recorded by his friend and fellow Galway-area resident, Matt Keane. It is a masterpiece of what a love song should be and is available on Matt and his daughter Orlaith's album, Pictures in Time. Even better, Matt re-recorded the songs with a new arrangement utilizing a visiting Polish string quartet at Galway University. Matt tells us that this second version will soon be available with the rest of his work on iTunes. Find this. Post him through his webpage. Both versions are superb with his voice from God, but we love Somebody Special II even better. Either way, a gorgeous song, gorgeously performed by the Voice of the West. We called Matt the Voice of the West decades ago. Of the brilliant Keane family, he has always been our favorite. This is what a real man, and gentleman, sounds like when he sings. A stunning talent.
Female Musician of the Year- Niamh Ni Charra
Niamh Ni Charra is a brilliant fiddle and concertina player. Let's repeat. Brilliant. Her wonderful collaborative album this year, the Basque Irish Connection showed not only her musical ability, but her range. She is unique. We had known of her for a couple of years, and then had the good fortune to see her when she substituted for Enda Scahill in a tour of America with The Brock-McGuire Band. Manus McGuire, Paul Brock, and Denis Carey are the epitome of the best Irish instrumental group. Niamh filled in perfectly with the top level of the music. She is a wonder. A hard-working musician, her career is assured. Like Matt Keane's song, she is Somebody Special.
Vocal/Instrumental Group of the Year - The Outside Track
Two albums now from this multi-national contingent have stamped them not only as yet another new force in the music, but among the top groups in the world. The Outside Track is traditional, creative, and brilliant on every cut. A stunning collection of taste, musical ability and incredible depth of knowledge for ones so young. We won't list each of the musicians by name. Suffice it to say that they all join singer, Norah Rendell in producing incredibly creative and vibrant music. This group tore it up at Irish Fest in Milwaukee this past summer. It has been a long time since we have seen three new groups make such a splash in one year, as have The Outside Track, Full Set, and Chicago Reel. They are here. They are now. They are fantastic.
Concert of the Year - Brendan Hendry / Brendan Mulholland / Jim Rainey
This trio came in from Northern Ireland for Irish Fest in Milwaukee. As you have read above, Brendan Hendry is this year's Male Musician of the Year. Next year's is probably the flute player, Brendan Mulholland. Jim Rainey did a lovely job of accompaniment on guitar. The lads offered a weekend-long tutorial of music and concerts of perfection. We have known for a long time what an incredible musician of soul and substance Brendan Hendry is. Brendan Mulholland on wooden flute came as a stunning surprise of an introduction. Brendan has a new album coming out in 2012 and he is the early favorite for next year's Musician of the Year. We can tell you that Mulholland equals any flute player in the music today. He is magic. Their albums show masters at the top of their form. This is the way Irish music is supposed to sound and it has never sounded better than in those concerts.
Thunder on the Horizon Award - Oonagh Derby
We have never done this before. Harmony Street by Oonagh Derby is a fantastic album. This talented woman from Northern Ireland has a voice from heaven. She is a superior songwriter and a massive talent. It is thrilling that Ireland can still produce such as she. Here's the thing. This is not a traditional album. As we said, we have never done this before. I mean, it's just not traditional. But, she is that good. You heard it here first. Find her. Find this album. Find something brand new and special.
Musical Dawn Award - Goitse
As the sun comes up, so rises Goitse. The group was a big-time hit at Irish Fest in Milwaukee. They are brand new on the scene, and they are fantastic. We love them. We want to be their driver and roadie. We want to hang around. Get the idea? This is a great sound, a fresh take on the tradition, and a force to be reckoned with. Goitse has it all, and it is all fab. Great, great stuff in song and tune.
Event of the Year - iBAM
This event was presented by the Chicago Irish American News and The Irish Heritage Center in Chicago. iBam (Irish Books, Art, and Music) is unique and the best celebration of the diversity of Irish culture in the world, perhaps save Irish Fest in Milwaukee. It is different from Milwaukee. Be it literature, music, or any other form of art, the most surprising thing is that nothing at this level is offered in Ireland, itself. All kudos to the Chicago paper and the Center for an incredible achievement. Does this sound like a "hometown decision"? If it does--and it obviously does sound that way--so be it. Yet and still another reason to be proud of Chicago. Next year's iBam promises to be even better. Make plans. Save money. Fly in from around the world. It is that good, and it is that important. http://ibamchicago.com/
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