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There are three places you have to remember during this entire ramble. Copperplate in London, Rampant Lion in Villa Park, Illinois (USA), and Claddagh Record Distributors across the street here in Dublin. That is where you can get these fabulous Christmas stocking stuffers for the Irish traditional music fan in your life. Every year we are asked repeatedly what would make Christmas perfect for the aficionado, and every year we do the same thing. We lean back, close our eyes, and release the hounds of the imagination to remember what albums have really hit us just right in the previous year. Of course, this is all preparatory to next month’s annual Awards, second only to the RTE’s annual music recognitions in influence and importance, LiveIreland’s, “Livies”. But this is Christmas, Nollaig Druit, and all that. We love Christmas. We love Santa. And we love this music. We guarantee Christmas joy and resounding happiness with any of the following gifts. These Christmas recommendations are in no priority order, trust us. We’ll give you a brief description and you can take it from there. If all else fails, check out iTunes or DC Baby –but we love the three sources we’ve given you because they are filled with knowledgeable sources who love the music as much as you do. Just think. An actual person on the other end of your email who knows the music inside out and can help you in a million different ways. On to the list:
1.Ceiol Sidh features Steve Cooney, Charlie Lennon, and Michael Hynes. It is the top contender right now for Instrumental album of the year, and it is perfect. This is a CD chock full of traditional instrumentals performed by mature, superior musicians at the height of their powers. No rush-rush here. No reels at 735 Miles per hour. Irish music perfectly played . A quiet, unknown stunner that was brought to us by Copperplate Distribution, so we know they have it.
2.Matt Keane has been our favorite Keane singer for years. 10 or 15 years ago, we gave him the title, The Voice of the West. There are a few of these guys like Tim Dennehy, Don Stiffe, and Sean Tyrrell. Real men with creative and romantic hearts, plus voices from God. Matt Keane is brilliant, this album is brilliant, and we truthfully cannot think of anyone who would not love it. He is the real deal.
3.Chicago Reel has put out a stunner of a debut album. Appropriately, the group is headquartered in Chicago. However, don’t think for a minute that gives them any edge here in the pages of LiveIreland. They, quite simply, have put out an incredible album. It also does not hurt that Denis O’Sullivan is a very serious contender for Male Vocalist of the Year. We promise you that this group is set to explode on the scene in 2012—both in Europe and the States. Get ahead of the curve now. This is serious, big league fantastic music. Stunning. New group of the year?
4.From Green Grass to Bluegrass is from the Brock McGuire Group. Brock McGuire is the best instrumental group in Irish music. This album was recorded mostly in Nashville, along with bluegrass stars such as Ricky Skaggs and Bryan Sutton. The current hot flavor of the month in Irish traditional are albums featuring a mix of bluegrass and Irish traditional. Some of these are wonderful. Some are not. This is wonderful. It is the best of the lot, and whatever side of the ocean you are on, you will love this. Wow!
5.Michael Coleman 1891-1945 is out on Gael Linn. There are 48 tunes played by the Master. If you need an explanation of who Michael Coleman is, you should not be reading this column. The foundation stone for all Irish fiddle players, everyone who is in the music or loves the music, stands on his shoulders, and this is a wonderful collection of most of his recorded work. The brightest star in the firmament.
6.Right in the middle here, we are going to throw you a curve. There is a set of DVD’s, now out, called Come West Along the Road. It seems to feature videos of every great traditional Irish music artist in the history of the universe. This is the ultimate stocking stuffer. Forget the stocking stuffer part. This is the perfect gift. Wrap it up beautifully and give it pride of place. An unbelievable achievement. God bless RTE, and God bless us all. Everyone.
7.Full Set is a brand new group out of Ireland—well, brand new to us, anyway---and they are fabulous. This is another contender for New Group of the Year. Another contender with Chicago Reel for Vocal/Instrumental Album of the Year. And it is also a contender to make your Christmas special, indeed. This is a huge new force on the scene. Full Set is going to be around a long time, and be very, very big. Trust us. You want this album. Trust us. You want this album. Trust us…Are we repeating ourselves?
8.Outside Track is a group of Irish, Scottish, American and Canadian musicians who are pure magic. The name of this album is Curious Things Given Wings. It is another contender for virtually every award next month, including Female Vocalist of the Year for their singer, Norah Rendell. Just think. One year brings us the Chicago Reel, Full Set, and Outside Track. The future of the music has never been brighter. We love Outside Track. We adore Outside Track. We would drive their bus. But, they won’t ask. What we ask is that they keep recording and performing together forever. Well, maybe not forever, but you know what we mean.
9.Beal Tuinne. Since it is the greatest Irish traditional album we have ever heard, we would recommend it on any gift list. We have written and written about this album for the last three years. No wonder. It remains the best of all time. If you don’t have it--if you haven’t heard it, do it. Now. Thank us later with Christmas cookies.
10.If you’ve bought every one of these cd’s and now you want something that is completely Irish to the bone, but not traditional, look no further than Oonagh Derby’s Harmony Street. This singer from Northern Ireland has put out an overpowering first album of mature music and lyrics, perfectly performed. What a future. She is a star already. Get ready to tap your foot, and Imelda May, stand back.
Merry Ho Ho Ho and Happy Happy Happy in Dublin’s Templebar and around the world. Are those sleigh bells we hear?
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