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Here they are and here we go. No Irish music Awards are so quickly spread around the world, nor so massively read about, thanks to the incredible reach of LiveIreland. As usual, these Awards represent the best of the best for the past year. Stunning stuff, and congratulations to all the winners. The envelopes please!!
Female Vocal Album of the Year
Kat Eggleston has given us a gem. The album is Speak and it is a masterpiece. She wrote almost all the music. Gorgeous. Her guitar playing is complex and beautiful, and the voice---perfect. This former singer for The David Munnelly Band and Bohola has played a blinder. Kat. Her guitar and her songs. Each time we listen we hear more. And, we listen more. An easy and spectacular choice.
Male Musician of the Year
Kieran Munnelly of the David Munnelly Band. His flute playing is so multi-dimensional and his bodhran playing so exciting, he also seems an easy choice. And, he is. Never mind he has a wonderful singing voice. This lad has his degrees in the music from Limerick University and is a powerhouse. A few years ago he released a generally unknown winner of a recording, In Safe Hands, with his friend, fiddler Aidan O’Donnell. It was wonderful. Now, Kieran is one of the lynchpins for the best vocal/instrumental group in the business, The David Munnelly Band. He and brother David are the deal. But, with the band’s new album, Tight Squeeze, Kieran arrives at the top, all on his own. Permanently.
Compendium Album of the Year
People and Songs of the Sea is an important masterpiece from Scotland’s Shona McMillan and her Greentrax label. The album is of the men and women, predominantly in the Scottish fishing industry, who earn their livings every day in the face of great danger and with great courage. It would, however, be a mistake to think of this as a “Scottish album”. It is an album of the world’s seas and the brave men and women who live by it and on it. It is impossible to encapsulate the wonderful songs and tunes offered from a variety of artists here, many noticeably from the Scottish fishing communities themselves. It is, as we said, a masterpiece. You should own this, and when your courage for every day life may flag a bit, you can listen to this music and stand yourself up. A wonderful, wonderful thing of an album.
Composer of the Year
Limerick and Newport, Tipperary’s Denis Carey is Ireland’s best all-round piano player. A master. This year’s album, Moving On also cements his spot as one of Ireland’s truly great composers. Independently released, it offers many of the Island’s best musicians joining Denis in performance of his 12 new tunes on the album. It is a stunner of a creation from a consummate professional, and a gifted writer. Wow!
Vocal Cut of the Year
Not a new album, but new to us, Start of a Dream from Galway’s Don Stiffe offers a new giant on the scene. An incredible---and I do mean incredible---voice, and a great guy. Good Lord, this album is phenomenal. But, let’s choose Dimming of the Day as the Vocal Cut of the Year. Any song from this album would qualify, but the important thing is this. Don Stiffe. He will be with us a long time, and we can’t wait for the next song. And, the next, and the next…..masterful. Beautiful.
Female Vocalist of the Year
Deirdre Scanlan released her first album, Faces, this year. Incredible. She is the seven-time All-Ireland singing champion, and this album shows why. She is also one of the gardai in Clare!! Yup! A police officer who can sing Eileen McMahon like no one else in the world. Her album is like her voice. Strong. True. She is, somehow, a throwback to those fabulous female altos of the 60’s and 70’s. Stunning. Must hear to believe---and you WILL believe!!
Instrumental Album of the Year
Reelin’ in Tradition by the Mulcahy family is the easy choice. The album is being handled by the unequalled Alan O’Leary out of Copperplate Distribution in London, and he handles only the best. The Mulcahys won this Award with their last album, and we suspect they will again with their next album! Mick, Michelle and Louise are the real, true deal. Michelle is best known for her harp work, Louise for her uillean pipes and father, Mick for his button box. But, Louise and Michelle seem to play every instrument ever made---and they play them perfectly. Indescribable. We’ll settle for the word, “fabulous” and leave it at that. If you love trad, and you do, why would you not have this album? Every note perfect.
Instrumental Cut of the Year
Swooping Molly from Martin Simpson’s, True Stories. This is a musician and singer who has been so great for so long that it is easy to take him for granted. A mistake. This new album is wondrous. He is a great singer, writer and guitar player. There is no one in the business who so perfectly melds his guitar work and voice together. His voice is lovely, his playing intricately nuanced and his writing is a thing of beauty. All this comes together and makes Martin Simpson eligible for virtually every Award we give. So, let’s give him this one. Small thanks, indeed, for all he has given us.
Male Vocalist of the Year-Male Vocal Album of the Year
Just in under the wire for this year’s Awards is the Male Vocalist of the Year, who is also winning this year’s Male Vocal Album of the Year. Paddy Homan, originally from Cork. This is the first time we have ever combined these two Awards for one singer. There is a very simple and good answer as to why. He is the best male singer we’ve heard in 25 years of writing on the music. His self-titled, first album is an instant classic. He is a tenor, but don’t think “tenor” in the usual sense of the word. This is the real voice of Ireland. Simple. Unadorned. Clear. Perfect. A long run is surely in store for this major new force on the scene. Good God, this man can sing.
Trad Fusion Album of the Year
Lover’s Well from Boston’s Matt and Shannon Heaton. This album blends so many forces and trends so brilliantly, it is impossible to follow them all. Shannon is a great singer and flute player, and Matt’s harmonies and intricate guitar accompaniment are perfection. Guest musicians drop by on the album, but make no mistake, Matt and Shannon are the reason for the season. They don’t come any better. This album celebrates love. These two are in love and it comes through in every tune and song. There is even one in Thai, as Shannon is a fluent speaker!! Who would have thought you could combine Irish trad and Thai and come out a winner? Well, Matt and Shannon, that’s who! This is magic.
Female Musician of the Year
Uh, that would be Shannon Heaton on Lover’s Well. Shannon has her own style on the flute. We hear a lot of Sligo and Roscommon. But, best of all, we hear a lot of Shannon. It takes such talent to combine the musical/cultural threads represented in this album into a fabric that is so strong and so vibrant. No duo has so continuously improved year by year over the course of their careers, and now Matt and Shannon take their rightful place at the top, while Shannon joins the iconic masters of the flute from Kevin Henry, Kevin Crawford and Dennis Watson through Matt Molloy and Kieran Munnelly to Shannon Heaton. She is an artist down to her socks. This woman is the bottom line in flute playing. A trad treasure.
Newcomer of the Year
Christa Burch for Love of the Land. Produced at the increasingly influential Dennis Cahill’s Chicago studio, this California singer has blown away everyone in the Irish music world with this stunning new album. Out of nowhere, Christa Burch has burst onto the scene. You will hear a LOT more of her and her voice soon. We have never heard a singer this good this immediately. Wow. Wow! WOW!!! It is so hard to describe any voice. Wait! No, it‘s not!! How about, “Perfect”? That is Christa. She is a stunner and a wonder. She is a singer. An Irish singer and she is among the tops in the field, right out of the shoot! Like springing full grown out of the brow of Zeus. Forgive us the classical reference, but we’ve got a new classic on the scene. Christa Burch.
Vocal/Instrumental Album of the Year
The David Munnelly Band has given us Tight Squeeze, and it is a perfect gift. This is the best vocal/instrumental act in the music, and they also give the best concert!! Start with the wizard, David Munnelly on button box, this year’s Musician of the Year, brother Kieran on flute and percussion, Paul Kelly of Tallaght on fiddle and mandolin with an assortment of guests on tour like Ferghal Scahill on guitar and fiddle, or Ryan Molloy on piano and you get the picture. The instrumentality and grasp of the tradition is total. Then, add Shauna Mullin on vocals. Is she the best female singer in Irish music? Quite possibly. She is an alto, with a voice so pure and powerful as to break your heart. The band worked their tails off on this album and it shows. It is perfection. Nothing else really comes close this year.
Special Merit of the Year
Scotland and the Greentrax label gave us Fiona Mackenzie and, A Good Suit of Clothes—Songs of the Emigrant Gael. Between the liner notes and Fiona’s beautiful, beautiful voice, we have an album that has everything. The songs! The information!! Best of all, Fiona!!!! What a voice, and what a talent! The album is important history. But, forget all that. It IS important, but forget all that. Focus on Fiona. Total talent, total beauty in the songs and a total winner. Special Merit, indeed. VERY special, indeed!! Fiona, you are just wonderful!
Album of the Year
The Irish and the Jews by Mick Moloney is the easiest choice of all this year. Featuring the songs of the turn of the 20th century, Mick is the master here. No one does this music better than Dr. Moloney, and he is in his wheelhouse. In our original review, we said the liner notes are worth the price alone, and so they are. But---but---this historical fusion of the Tin Pan Alley Irish and Jews produced such wonderful music for so long, it is now all a part of the American AND Irish cultures. For anyone foolish enough to think that the music came solely and unidirectionally from Ireland to America, wake up and get this album. It clearly shows that the musical ship sailed both ways across the Atlantic. These songs are vibrant, topical and fun, right to this day. And, they are Irish to the core. Irish-American. Equally valid. Equally important. Equally wonderful. We’re out of adjectives for Mick, and this album. If you don’t have it, yet, you don’t have a complete collection. This is critical stuff, and it is a ball. Crank it up, smile, and get your toes to tappin’. Thanks again, Mick.
Huge congratulations to all, and on behalf of trad lovers around the world, Thank You!!!!!!
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