Let’s do something a little different this month. First, a review, and then some good, old-fashioned, gossipy newsy stuff from inside the music. Sound good?
First, Fiona Mackenzie is out with a fab album, A Good Suit of Clothes—Songs of the Emigrant Gael. Epic title, hey? Boy, we like her voice. The entire album is in Scots Gaelic, with translations in the liner notes. Well, we THINK it is Scots Gaelic. How would we know? It could be in Irish, but as it is out on Greentrax, we suspect Scots! Anyway, as we said, we sure like this voice. Beautiful. The songs are very, very melodious, very musical. Lovely. And, the girl has soul. She can sing. Very comfortable with different keys and ambiences. This is a lovely album. There are some terrific backing musicians. Wonderful additional singers round it all out. This is where the music seems to be right now. A contemporary take on some very, very traditional sounding tunes. Almost all are traditional songs. Equally impressive are the liner notes. We don’t know what Greentrax has been slipping into their tea lately, but their last several albums have absolutely superb liner notes. I’m listening to the album as I write this. Gee. This IS lovely. Really. Anyway, back to the liner notes. Wonderful. Lots of great pictures, and complete descriptions, which help put the songs into the proper context. This is a beautiful album by a beautiful singer. A standout. We’ll be playing it a lot on the radio show. And, listening to it a lot at home. Get this.
Rating: Four Harps
Well, we see DeDannan has reunited in their 132nd reincarnation. Despite DeDannan (Frankie Gavin’s) many statements over the years that they were retiring, they never did. Not really. They’d play somewhere and then disappear. Then play again and disappear again. But, it HAS been a long time since there was an album. What was the last? Hotel Connemara? Anyway, all the original cats are long gone, leaving only Gavin. He has succeeded in grabbing Ireland’s best guitar player, Mike Galvin, for the group. The regular reader here has read of Galvin several times. Anyway, there is a big cover story on the new group on the cover of Irish Music Magazine. We’ll see. DeDannan’s place in the history of the music is secure. What a factory for great talent! But, there has been so much sturm und drang around Gavin and the group over the years, we’ll wait a little on this latest incarnation. Right. We’ll see.
And, there is SUCH a flap over the use of the very name, "De Dannan" ! Alec Finn, co-founder of the group with Gavin, apparently registered the name five years ago. Recently, Gavin had a couple gigs lined up in Castlebar, we believe, and the World Fleadh in Sligo. Alec brought his attorneys to bear and ordered Frankie not to use the name planned for the gigs, Frankie Gavin and DeDannan. Well, the whole thing blew up a couple weeks ago on Joe Duffy's RTE daily show, LiveLine. Charges and counter charges flying on the air, with current and former members of the group calling in, and box player Tony McMahon making a fool of himself. Apparently, he claimed that, as "accompanists", Alec Finn on bouzouki and Johnny McDonagh on bodhran were not entitled to be called musicians. Sheer idiocy, Tony. Seek help. Well, as you read this, the hard feelings continue between Frankie and Alec, which is a shame. Finn is essentially correct in his position when he says that if you use the name DeDannan, which---remember-- he apparently owns, you ought to at least, actually be DeDannan. As it is, only Frankie along with new players, is it really DeDannan? Nope. Frankie is hardly the most popular guy in the music, but he is a great player, to be sure. Shame to see all this, really---but there you are. What goes around comes around. And, there has been plenty of go-round with Gavin and Finn over the years.
As we speak, Shauna Mullin of The David Munnelly Band has her new, solo vocal album at the graphic designer’s. Should be out soon. She is, quite arguably, the best singer in the music right now. Or, do you prefer Maranna McCloskey? Deirdre Scanlon? Laura Smith? Or, The Queen, Cathie Ryan---who is WAY past due for a new album. Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh? Niamh Parsons? Shannon Heaton? Who? Well, whomever you fancy, Shauna HAS to be in the mix. Can’t wait. More later.
Speaking of The David Munnelly Band, they just put the finishing touches on their new album in Charlie Lennon’s studio in Spiddal, just outside Galway. Munnelly, with Shauna, definitely has the best vocal/instrumental group in the music now. No debate. So, we’ll get a double blast of the lovely Shauna, in her own solo release, and the Munnelly album. Great music in the pipeline. Watch this space.
Liam Clancy not well, at all. The last of the iconic Clancy Brothers. God bless him.
We are suicidal. We missed the Shaun Davey/Rita Connelly/Eilis Kennedy/Seamus Begley/Beal Tuinne/Noel Eccles/Gerry O’Beirne/Liam O’Flynn/Lawrence Courtney, et. al soiree’ of an evening at the National Concert Hall in Dublin last month. It was sold out. From what we hear, our prediction was right. The greatest concert ever in the history of the entire world. Wonder if they recorded it? Will find out.
We hear that the great show in Galway, Trad on the Prom, is still doing big business, as it should. Mairin Fahy and husband, Chris Kelly still putting out a wonderful evening of music and dance. If you are in Galway, don’t miss.
Nova Scotia’s Dave Gunning going back into the studio. Is there a better songwriter/performer on the scene? No. Google the lad. He is a total talent. Big-time, talented winner of a guy, and one of the nicest people in the music. We’ll have the report on the new one here first. He won Song of the Year here a couple years ago with his seminal, New Highway.
Listen to my new radio show!! Shay Clarke and I split Blarney on the Air into two one-hour segments every Monday night to better feature our music. I’m on every Monday night from 8-9 Chicago time on WDCB, Public Radio. You can, of course, stream live on the web at www.wdcb.org My show is the second hour every week and is subtitled, Ireland Tonight, as we feature the real, true Irish music for the real, true trad fan. Listen in!!