It feels like being away for long time and the fondness if overwhelming. I am talking about Ireland’s hottest export, Lúnasa. They have a new album out called Cas. And this is not just like any of their past albums. Here, the have guest vocalists and I will talk about it later(and why I am giddy). Let’s talk about their music first. They released their self-titled debut in 1997. I did not discover them until I got my hands on Otherworld which really changed they way I feel and look at traditional music. They are purists in terms of staying true to their musical heritage but they also love innovation.
Cas is na album driven by rhythm and texture. Each track is like sparkling wine-smooth and seasoned with age and experience. I suppose that after two decades of devoting their lives of the perfection of their craft, they can teach newbies how surf the winds of our ever-changing musical fads. But some fads come and go. Only the ones distilled with intelligence maintain their effervescence and thus remain precious.
It’s been seven years since their last studio album. And perhaps this is why Cas sounds so different. That time apart may have created the gestation process that resulted to a birth of .a new sound. I admire artists who have the patience of staying away from the musical spotlight in order to come up with something fresh. It takes a draconian kind of patience and control to achieve that. Sometimes it is our fear of being forgotten by the community that drives us to work tirelessly to maintain that following. But very few can take the challenges of art over ego.
So in this album we are blessed with guest voices: five vocal tracks from Natalie Merchant, Tim O’Brien, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Daoiri Farrell and Eric Bibb. I am familiar with the works of each of these artists, most notably that of Natalie Merchant. The album got its world premier via LiveIreland.
Cas is a joy to have. Lúnasa can still deliver tradition the way you love it, but they have added a new layer of musical approach, one that will take us to a new journey-and our lovely relationship with their music for years to come.
Kevin Crawford – Flutes and Whistles, Trevor Hutchinson – Stand-up Bass, Cillian Vallely – Uilleann Pipes and Whistles, Colin Farrell – Fiddle, Ed Boyd – Guitar
Take a fish out of the water and it will struggle to find its way back. This is what Traditional Irish music is like to true lovers of the genre-we thirst when we have been deprived for so long!
Music in the Glen is a new album by the trio of Brendan Mulholland (flute) and founding Réalta members Conor Lamb (uilleann pipes, whistles) and Deirdre Galway (guitar). Check out the album liner notes for more info about the background of each track and also the contributing artists.
I admire the clarity of each instrument and the passion that all contributing artists have put forth in this project. You have fast and slow tracks creating a balance of mood all throughout this recording. I’ve already featured these musicians previously, Brendan Mulholland (with Jen’s Hill and Tuned Up), Conor Lamb and Deirdre Galway (for Réalta). So you see, I expect nothing less and my excitement has been rewarded with a grand listening experience which makes me smile track by track.
Music in the Glen has eleven tracks. Reels, waltzes, jigs and airs all featured with creative twists and turns that make traditional music such an exciting experience to listen to. My personal faves are The Sweetheart (because I am writing this on a Valentine’s day), Lament for Limerick (because it is not often to hear a piano in a trad recording), My Sister’s Cat(listen to the instrumental duel between Mulholland and Lamb starting at 2:13, and how I held my breath until Deirdre Galway resolved in with her guitar, I think I died there!) and many more.
If you are a purist or just new to Traditional Irish music- or just trying to learn how to play the instruments; then get this album! I assure you that you will enjoy it.
Watch this stunning video and check out that fantastic duel I was talking about.
If you are an avid fan of Celtic music then songs in Wide Waters by Hibernia will sound familiar to you. Susan Toman (Celtic Harp) and Ellen MacIsaac (Voice) have captured the ‘great Celtic songbook’ in this album. Comprising of 14 tracks from Ireland and Scotland, they are sung in Gaelic and in English.
Beautiful in its clarity and simplicity, Wide Waters captures the essence of how these songs were supposedly performed hundreds of years ago. Around every art, I think it’s the sentiment that’s the very foundation of every creation. The aesthetics may change with time, but the raw emotions around these songs remain untamed across centuries.
Songs like Bothan Àirigh Am Bràigh Raithneach, The Water is Wide, An Coisir and the captivating ‘s Toigh Leam Fhìn Buntàta ‘s Ìm / Tha Fionnlagh Ag Innearadh / Hùg Oiridh Hiridh will always remain as my favorites in this album.
Here’s a brief bio of the artists from their CD Baby profile:
Susan Toman – Based in Ottawa, Ontario, Susan Toman enjoys a diverse freelance career as a harpsichordist, Celtic harpist, and music instructor. She holds a Doctorate in Music from McGill University and is an Associate Faculty member at Carleton University. Susan came to the Celtic harp (as many do) with a background in keyboard instruments and a love of Irish & Scottish music. Having first studied with Annabelle Renzo, she then continued her studies with Grainne Hambly in Ireland. In addition to giving solo and collaborative concerts, she frequently performs at weddings and other events. Upcoming performances include the NAC’s Fourth Stage, and the Irish Ambassador’s residence.
Ellen MacIsaac – Ellen specializes in the Irish traditional singing style and repertoire in Irish Gaelic and English. Since 2000, she has been involved in traditional singing in Ottawa, giving guest lectures on sean-nós (old style) Irish singing, and performing at local céilís and sessions and further afield. In 2012, she won first place in the sean-nós competition at Canada’s first Irish-language festival and competition, Oireachtas Gaeilge Cheanada, and represented Canada at the 2012 Oireachtas na Samhna, Ireland’s Gaelic-speaking festival. Ellen lectures at the University of Ottawa in the Modern Languages Department as part of the Minor in Celtic Studies and is an associate vocal instructor in the Celtic Music Performance option at Carleton University’s Music Department. She created the Ottawa Celtic Choir in 2007, and acts as its musical director and musical arranger.
Orla Fallon’s newest album Sweet By and By dropped around March last year and it is making its way into international ears. I highly recommend it for those who are following the Nashville music scene because this album is very much close to that flavour of music. What strikes me as interesting is that, although Celtic Woman is a show that showcases the powerful vocals of Irish singers, Orla Fallon took the different route in her solo effort. I was intrigued if she’s going the Sarah Brightman path of grand operatic style or the Moya Brennan path. I am glad she took the latter and added her own twist to the soft rendition of classics and new songs.
My personal favourite is her version of Love Me Tender by Elvis Prestley. I think she really delivered the songs how it is meant to be sang- gentle as morning dew.
Sweet By and By has twelve tracks and these tunes will take you on a journey from Ireland to Old America. Feet Of A Dancer is a potential single. That is one track that like playing again and again because it is so beautiful. Everything about the album sparkles with superb production. Her harp skills are always present and this album is a joy to listen to.
Get your copy of Sweet By and By here: http://orlafallon.com/?product=sweet-by-and-by
I love obscure tunes and the history behind them. For example I learned that Coventry Carol has a long history that dates all the way to the 16th century. And learning about one song will also encourage you to look at the wide vast of knowledge that covers holiday tunes.
Once in Royal David’s City is not something you get to hear in mainstream recordings(of pop and non pop singers). But Celtic Woman took the chance to pin this wonderful gem. So and I learned something about this Christmas carol. Here’s an interesting info from Wikipedia:
Originally written as a poem by Cecil Frances Alexander. The carol was first published in 1848 in Miss Cecil Humphreys’ hymnbookHymns for little Children. A year later, the English organist Henry John Gauntlett discovered the poem and set it to music. Cecil Humphreys, meanwhile, married the AnglicanclergymanWilliam Alexander in 1848 and upon her husband’s consecration became a bishop’s wife in 1867. She is also remembered for her hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful.
Since 1919, the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at the King’s College ChapelCambridge has begun its Christmas Eve service, with Dr Arthur Henry Mann‘s arrangement of “Once in Royal David’s City” as the Processional hymn. Mann was organist at King’s between 1876 and 1929.In his arrangement, the first verse is sung by a boy chorister of the Choir of King’s Chapel as a solo. The second verse is sung by the choir, and the congregation joins in the third verse. Excluding the first verse, the hymn is accompanied by the organ. This carol was the first recording that the King’s College Choir under Boris Ord made for EMI in 1948. Among others who have recorded it are Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Chieftains, Daniel O’Donnell, The Seekers, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Petula Clark, Jethro Tull, Sinéad O’Connor and Sufjan Stevens, St. Paul’s Choir School and most recently by the Irish group Celtic Woman in their album Voices of Angels.
Now this blog is not just about that one song but about an album that contains twenty Christmas tunes from Celtic Woman. I think this is also a ‘practical’ approach because when we are hosting a party, we don’t want an album to end too soon and then we are forced to put a new album in (I am an albums kind of guy as opposed to playlist) and this is it!
The Best of Christmas has a more Classical Pop appeal than Celtic. For Jazz lovers there are swinging songs like Let it Snow. I love this song so much as I always associate Christmas with something Jazzy.
Yes twenty songs will not disappoint you. Better grab this album while it is hot!
November 17, 2017
Ryan MacNeil has that keen ear for tradition and mainstream smarts.
Chill-out, party music, these are the terms that evade Celtic music genre for a long time. But multi-instrumentalist Ryan MacNeil has become a mediator between the great divide, and I am talking about tradition and mainstream music. If you think about it, most of the things out there are marketed in disposable pop. You know, tunes geared towards the 20-something working crowd with too much stuff in their playlist, they forget most of the artists in the morning after.
Shuffle(as the title implies) will feel at home in any playlist or genre that you might (mis)place it. It has that oomph and verve associated with Jazz music but also the sweetness of Pop that will not alienate even avid listeners of the podcast generation. I like his cover of Wild Mountain Thyme. He has a knack for arranging each song with appropriate grooves like Reggae, Folk, or an occasional dip of Electronica. Though his music is rooted in Folk, he knows what is going on out there and he is attuned to the vibe of the young generation.
There are introspective numbers here that begs to remain in one’s playlist for a long time, like the instrumental track Summer Evening. Here, he pours his gift of playing exquisite notes without sounding too New Age. Shuffle is an artfully crafted album that will sound good (albeit stylish) anywhere, anytime and it deserves more attention!
You can get your copy of Shuffle here: https://www.ryanonthepiano.com
The Dead Kings artwork.
I always think that the soul of Irish music is in the sean-nós style of singing. Why? Because it is a sound not like any other. It has that stillness that is both ancient and haunting. For someone to sing that, one has to embody the the atmosphere of the old Ireland. One song came to my attention recently and it is called The Dead Kings. Here’s a brief background provided by performer Lorcán Mac Mathúna. According to him, it’s a recently (live) recorded song by the Irish poet Francis Ledwidge, who died in 1917.
Complete soundcloud link-https://soundcloud.com/evolutionofsound/the-dead-kings
Ledwidge was known as the poet of the Blackbird. He was killed in the First World War in Paschendael on July 31 1917.
It is such an inspiration to see artists continue to perfect and pay homage to this wonderful musical art form. I would like to hear more of these.
Additional info: Recorded live at Musictown2017 during The Book of the Dead at The Chester Beatty Library. Written by Francis Ledwidge, music composed by Lorcán Mac Mathúna and Eamonn Galldubh. Performed by Lorcán, Éamonn, and Martin Tourish
Occasionally, something comes to awaken us from the stupor of so much mediocre music out there. The Go Set band are the answer to that. It is futile to resist such bewitching music-a combination of Celtic and punk energy that grab you by the collar and shake you all over the floor. It is great to have an album to jam to when you want something unique (but at the same time catchy enough) that will delight fans of any genre of music.
One Fine Day got its release around August of this year along with their US tour to promote the new album. Raise a Glass is is making waves via YouTube(taken from Rolling Sound) and this video showcases their live appeal.
How it all started?
When singer/songwriter J. Keenan and bassist Mark Moran formed The Go Set in 2003, it seemed only natural to combine the elements of the music they had grown up on. Having both been brought up on everything from traditional celtic and folk music, to early seventies punk rock, and with a voice for political perspective and social conscience, The Go Set embarked on a unique musical journey. Combining the folk elements of the bagpipes, accordion, and mandolin, with distorted punk guitars and a rock n roll ethos, The Go Set created a sound and direction all its own…-from their official website.
One Fine Day contains new tunes plus live recordings. If you are a fan of the band then this album will feel like collector’s release, and you will be able to explore the extent of their artistry beyond the confines of the recording studio. I personally like Drums of Chelsea and Rooftops but simply because I can relate to the lyrics.
There are so many energetic tracks that you will enjoy especially if you love bands like The Pogues, Dropkick Murphys and the like. There are six members in the current lineup.
There was a commotion when the Outlander books by Diana Gabaldon got released in the 90s. I had no idea that years later they would finally end up in the small screen! Good reviews came pouring in and I found myself watching each episode.
I love the great thought that was put in many aspects of this show-cinematography, costumes etc. At first I was hesitant to watch because I thought it’s no different from the many TV shows that they are putting out there. But it is not.
If you are keen on watching every episode of Outlander, then you might have noticed the opening theme. It’s by Bear McCreary featuring the voice of Raya Yarbrough. It’s called The Skye Boat Song. I think it is a fitting intro to a beautiful series that will inspire people who are into Scottish history (or historical shows of any form).
I will surely follow this series. I could not add anything more than what has already written by fellow bloggers. But let me tell you this. When life is hard, you turn to stories not just for escape, but also for encouragement. These shows give you hope. You learn about yourself through the characters. Yes, strange as it may seem reading or watching beautiful movies or TV shows can be a form of personal reflection.
Never loose hope. Never give up. And most of all, strive to be happy, when happiness seems fleeting.
I hope you can take something inspiring out of the songs that I recommend-and the shows where they came from.
Moya Brennan made an official announcement yesterday regarding the soundtrack to the animated series Prisoner Zero. If you’re keen on reading my posts then you might have read something from two years ago regarding this topic.
If you are in the US, UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand you can now stream the TV show that Aisling Jarvis and I composed all the music for, Prisoner Zero, on Netflix!! Go check it out! Can’t wait to hear what you all think of the music -Moya Brennan
I think everyone will love this TV series as the trailer looks great. And yes you can hear the music of Moya Brennan and Aisling Jarvis right there! The music sound’s really edgy and this is something really great coming from the mother and daughter team.
Moya Brennan started her career as the lead vocalist of Clannad. She pursued a successful solo career and worked with diverse artists including Paul Young, Shane MacGowan and Michael McDonald. Her voice can be heard in major Hollywood films and she tours tirelessly.