Irish Internet Radio and TV from Dublin, Ireland.
Well, it has happened again. In writing a few in-depth reviews the last few months on Kevin Burke, Brian Finnegan and Alan O’Leary, we have let slip a number of goodies. So, brace yourself, darling. This is gonna be one of those machine gun columns covering 11 albums. One quick note. Have you Googled Copperplate Distribution as we have encouraged you? No? Copperplate is the best place in the world for the true trad fan, and if you are not familiar with it and Alan O’Leary, you cannot call yourself a real trad fan. And, best of all, sign up for Alan’s free monthly podcast. It is the best and most enjoyable trad music program in the world. No argument. Rest assured, we will continue to flog Copperplate. Our job is to bring you the best. And no, we are not affiliated with him. Here we go with a blur. This will be a rapid fire guide to the best stuff out in the past few months (or longer) that we haven’t told you about yet. Your job is to find it. Good place to start is the aforementioned Copperplate site or Claddagh in Dublin, and The Rampant Lion in Villa Park Illinois in the States.
1. Danu is out with a brand new treat, Seanchas. The group has had some personnel changes. This is their best album, showing total musical maturity and understanding. The early leader for Vocal/Instrumental Album of the Year. The tunes are sensational, deeply trad and played to perfection. It also has the added benefit of featuring the best female singer in the trad business right now, Muireann nic Amhlaoibh. This album is just about perfect.
2. The best female group in Irish music is The London Lasses. Easily. No debate. A sextet---well, there is one guy, Pete Quinn. But, this is about the women. Incredible musicians and singers. Never mind that they are all gorgeous. Well, that helps. The fourth album is By Night & By Day. This music is so wonderful, it stuns us that all the major Festival venues in America are not booking and flying the Lasses in. The festival bookers are totally asleep at the wheel. Now, you’re not. Get this spectacular piece of musical, trad business. Marvelous.
3. Michael McGoldrick is a god in the business, and we’re told—a great guy. His new album is, Aurora. Available through Compass. This man cannot put a step wrong. Lots of guests on the album, but he may be the definitive flute and whistle man in the music. His arrangements are heavenly. This is totally brill. A must have. It IS McGoldrick, for God’s sakes. The most copied guy in trad, and with good reason.
4. Speaking of McGoldrick, he co-founded the popular, Lunasa. The group is out with its newest, La Nua. It is not their best ever. Too much of that Middle East tempo, minor key crapola pioneered several years ago in an album entitled, East Wind from Andy Irvine and Davy Spillane. A tragedy of a dreadful album, as it featured a Balkan thing!! Lots of groups were, and are still, influenced by it. Pity. Deadly. Having said that, when Lunasa plays the real stuff—and there IS a lot of real stuff here---they are quite possibly the best in the music. We love Lunasa, and bow deeply at the Kevin Crawford/Cillian Vallely throne! Come home, boys!! Still and all, you, dear reader need to have this album. Wonderful in toto.
5. We’re only two years late to the dance on this one. Les Charbonniers De L’Enfer. My pal, Beth Parks, tells me that the name means something like Hell’s Charcoal! Anyway, French-Canadian. St. Lawrence/Quebecois thing. Fab. Quintet. All a’cappella. Remember La Bottine Souriante founders Andre Marchand and Michel Bordeleau? Incredible. The album is La Traverse miraculeuse, (sic). Unequalled harmonies to make you swoon. We play them regularly on the radio show. And, the foot rhythms! Driving, insistent, powerful, sexy, and we don’t understand a damn word. No need to. FAB!! Google the group. Wow!
6. Finbarr Fagan is a Chicago boy---one point in his favor, since he came here from Ireland. Point two for the lad is his new album, Live In Chicago. Point three is his voice. Well, he does Irish rock. Unlike almost all other groups and singers, he does it well. When he takes a trad tune and rocks it, we still like it. We have never reviewed an act like this in 25 years in this column, and it will be another 25 before we do again. Unless Finbarr puts out another album. A great time. Go see his show. Enjoy.
7. Kasir is a young trio from Denmark. Yup. Denmark. Their aggregate age is about 38 (just kidding). Good heavens they are wonderful. We have told you our music is worldwide, and here is more proof. They are young, incredibly capable on their instruments. If they sound a little too much like Flook, so what? These three will surely chart their own path. This is exciting music, and it is a thrill to see these young guns at the start of what will be a tremendous ride. Superb first effort from three young winners. Notice how we keep using the word, “young”? Jealousy. Go Kasir!!
8. Two years ago, flautist Catherine McEvoy was our Female Musican of the Year. Here she is with Micheal O’Raghallaigh on concertina and Caoimhin O’Raghallaigh on fiddle. The album is Comb Your Hair and Curl It, and it is perfect. Pure. Trad. Magic from three magicians. There is no album recently that we have listened to more. Just get it. You’ll hear the real drop. Stunning.
9. Caladh Nua is another young group out with a stunner, Happy Days. What a quintet! Fab songs meet wonderful, wonderful tunes—played to the last note. Think Carlow, Kilkenny and Waterford. Think brilliant. We have listened and listened and listened, and we still are. We are also late to this dance with this group, but we ain’t leavin’. We’re here now as long-haul fans and we can only hope these musicians stay together for still more magic. And more. And…..Caldh Nua!!! Spectacular beginning.
10. Finvarra’s Wren is a group out of Detroit. Mostly family. Now, when we think Detroit, we don’t think trad. But, now we might! This is a really tasty treat. We really like it! The Perkins family meets Cheryl Burns, Terence McKinney and Marty Sonenberg. Result? A heck of an enjoyable album, where we didn’t exactly expect one! Good on ‘em! They were recently at the Heritage Center here in Chicago. Hurry back! Lovely!! Oh yeah, the album’s title is Haven’t Yet Lost My Ears.
11. Last one. Out of space from Fuehrer Lattimer. Pulling Out The Stops is a cleverly titled button box album from Dan Possumato. Kevin Burke leads a host of guest stars whose very presence tells you this is good stuff, and indeed it is! Lots of tunes and songs---all trad and all solid!! Nice one, Dan!
Ta for now. Don’t forget to listen to Maryann Keifer and me every Monday night from 8-9 (Chicago time) on WDCB, 90.9 fm, and www.wdcb.org online. The best in trad. No nonsense. No foolishness. Irish music to the bone.
Follow me on twitter @billmargeson or twitter.com/billmargeson
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