Irish Internet Radio and TV from Dublin, Ireland.
Hope all is well in Dublin at headquarters! Here in Chicago, we have finally, completely had it with winter. Blizzards. Cold. Ice. Skidding cars. Skidding people. Bah. Humbug.
Well, we have received about 70 albums in the mail in the last couple months. So, here are the best of ‘em. There will be 9. This will be fast. Brace yourself, Bridgid:
1. Altan! They are JUST out, as of March 1, with their 25th anniversary album on Compass. This is cool. They went back into their own catalogue and picked out their favorites and re-recorded them with the RTE Orchestra! It is great. Totally trad? Nope. But, no band has stayed so true to the tradition over the years. So, this is something different, and it is lovely. Top, top stuff.
2. John Doyle and Karan Casey have teamed up and have Exile’s Return out, also on Compass. There are 12 songs. John Doyle’s masterful guitar and both of their wonderful voices are fully employed here. A stunner of an album from two of the best in the business at the top of their games. Geez, we have played this a lot on the radio show already, and the listeners love it as much as co-host, Mary Ann Keifer and I do. Totally enjoyable, fore and aft. Winners.
3. We have loved Hanneke Cassel’s fiddle playing since we first heard her years ago with Cathie Ryan. Here she is with her latest, For Reasons Unseen. Her fiddle playing just gets better and better. There IS some great Irish work here, all right. We only wish she would have put more of it down on the album. There are other styles here, which show her total musicianship, but leave the Irish trad aficionados wanting more. It is a wonderful album, so we shouldn’t whine. But, like the recent String Sisters, it will not appeal to listeners seeking a full Irish album. She is great, and you should have this, in any case. We remember her as a young girl in the music. Now---all grown up, and a woman of musical substance.
4. Outside Track is a new band out with a self-titled album, recorded in the Scottish borders region. We want to name them, this is so good. Norah Rendell, from Vancouver—vocals, flute, whistle, Ailie Robertson—a Top TIR Award winning musician from this paper, and a Livies winner on harp from the world’s largest Celtic music site, LiveIreland.com. One of the best new harpists in the world. Mairi Rankin, singing, playing fiddle and step dancing---out of Nova Scotia and, yes, part of THAT Rankin Family. Fiona Black out of the Scottish Highlands on piano accordion, fiddle and flute. Wow! Cillian O’Dalaigh from Germany on guitar and flute. Wow again! This is the best new group we have heard in quite a while. Stunning. This album is just the beginning. Wow! (Did we already say that?)
5. Fidl has their latest out, Fidil 3. All three fiddlers prove that when you have this much talent, you can offer albums that continuously amaze in their virtuosity and different sounds, all brought to the party by three fiddles! If you dare to think you know what three fiddles sound like, you are wrong. These are young masters at work, and we love them to bits. Damien McGeehan, Aidan O’Donnell and Ciaran O’Maonaigh are all from Ireland and all known to us from their many other projects. But, it is together that they reach this crescendo, A brilliant format for brilliant musicians. Find it.
6. Conversation at the Crosses is from two master Irish musicians, and it is an early contender for Instrumental Album of the Year. The conversation takes place between Pat O’Connor on fiddle and Eoghan O’Sullivan on button box and flute. This is for the real, true trad fan. Masterful. Wonderful. There are 12 cuts, loaded with magic. This is the pure drop. If YOU’RE the pure drop, find it. Recorded in Miltown Malbay in Clare. Irish music. Real Irish at its core, down to the bottom and up to the top.
7. The RTE Masters Series is on board with Willie Clancy The Gold Ring. An awful lot of people would tell you Willie was the best uilleann pipes player of all time. Hard to argue. Surely an immortal. Two cd’s here with a staggering 65 cuts. Definitive. Important. He passed in 1973, but his musical legacy is so vital to the tradition and Miltown Malbay, his home town, we can’t go into it here, and might not try it is any format. The all-time master? Well, if not he, who? If you love real, true genius piping, here it is. Alpha and Omega.
8. Nightingale, from Boston, has a new one. Jolie. This trio is unexcelled in their arrangements and amazing musicians. We were hipped to them by two of their biggest fans, the fab Matt and Shannon Heaton. Piano accordion, fiddle, bouzouki, guitar, vocals, all the tasty stuff. Becky Tracy, Jeremiah McLane and Keith Murphy have come up trumps. We love this album, and so will you.
9. Le Cheile has Out of the West. This group is a London-based quintet sent to us by Alan O’Leary at Copperplate Distribution and Promotions. Copperplate is the best and only handles the best. Le Cheile is wonderful. These guys make you feel that they are right there with you in an incredible session. They have a ball, and just play it ahead. Lay it out, and “Bob’s ‘yer uncle”. This is the stuff we all love. The vocals are not to be believed. Every now and then we hear an album and smile through the whole thing. This is one of those. Terrific, wonderful music.
Notes: You can hear all of these on partner Mary Ann Keifer’s and my Monday night show, Ireland Tonight (BOTA) on WDCB, 90.9fm or www.wdcb.org It is on from 8-9 Chicago time, and features the best in real Irish music. Join us!!
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