Well it’s time for the major market muscle of the Livies. Our annual recognition of the best of the best in Irish music for 2013. A great year, to be sure, for the music. Here they are. Livies. Along with TG4, the biggest music awards of the year for Irish trad musicians and singers. The big Gazoo. Here we Go!
FEMALE VOCAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Laura Smith
Laura Smith released her long awaited album, Everything is Moving in 2013. It is a masterpiece performed by the best we have ever heard in the business. No arguments. The best. Get a copy and try to disagree. Miraculous. Transformative.
MALE MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR: Maurice Lennon
Speaking of long-awaited albums, Stockton’s Wing founder, Maurice Lennon offered his wonderful album, The Little Ones. Maurice has moved way past the drum kits and flash that became Stockton’s Wing. He is a master musician, and this is a master album.
The group’s self-titled first album is simply wonderful. Superior instrumentals meet wonderful harmonies. The group pointed out to the international trad community how long it had been since fabulous harmonies have been heard in the music. Socks In The Frying Pan became immediately important in the music for reminding groups worldwide how crucial great singing and harmony should be in a vocal/instrumental group. Socks rocks!
COMPENDIUM ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Masters of their Craft from Tara Records
Irish-based Tara has been a Hallmark of excellence for decades in Irish music so you would guess that any album of their best would be fabulous. You would be right. You must have it. Thanks, Tara.
FEMALE INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Liz Carroll
You know Liz Carroll has to win this. Our Chicago musical heroine has produced another stunner, this time entitled On the Offbeat. When any musician has been as excellent as long as Liz Carroll has, you can only wonder how much longer she can continue at this level. Apparently, the answer for this fiddle genius is forever. Wow.
CONCERT OF THE YEAR: A Mighty Squeeze
Jimmy Keane and John Williams together at Chief O’Neill’s pub, Chicago, in November, 2013. A packed house saw the perfect concert, the best musicians, who also know how to entertain. Two hours of tapping your foot to the very best Irish music, while sharing tons of laughter. A perfect night from two perfect musicians.
FEMALE MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR
Niamh Ni Charra, the extraordinary concertina and fiddle player gave us Cuz in 2013. The album is dedicated to the memory of Chicago musician Cuz Teehan. Far more than any tribute to Cuz is the inspired and gifted musicianship on display here, from one of the hardest working gals in show business. Niamh is a force of nature and her talent leaves us stunned.
MALE INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: As It Happened
From the wonderful Danny O’Mahony, who is a great button box player. He is joined in this masterpiece by the unbelievable Micheal O’Raghallaigh on concertina. Fantastic stuff. This is the pure drop and the real deal from two of Ireland’s best. If you don’t have this, get it. We listen to this CD over and over and have played it a ton of times on our show here on LI, The Bill & Imelda Show.
FEMALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR: Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh
With this album Ar Uair Bhig An Lae (The Small Hours), Muireann Nic Aamhlaoibh is the best female singer in Irish music. Wait. Didn’t we just way that about Laura Smith, above? No. Laura’s music and songwriting transcends Irish music alone. Murireann masters Irish music. As the lead singer for several years of the wonderful Danu, she has had the time and the space to really perfect her art. She has been in the business a while now, and she has never stopped improving. This album, therefore, is further revelation. With Ar Uair Bhig An Lae. Muireann has become Queen Muireann. All hail!
MALE VOCAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: The Hard Way Home by Paddy Homan
Paddy Homan was our Male Singer of the Decade for the years 2000-2010. We have all waited a long time for this new album, and it is well worth it, to say the least! There are these incredible talents in this music such as Paddy Homan, for whom we eventually run out of words. All we can say is: Paddy is absolutely the best. And this album is a pure delight. We’ve run out of adjectives. A truly gifted and important artist.
VOCALS/INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Roots of the Banjo Tree
This album was released by what is now the hottest group in traditional music, We Banjo 3. The album is a miracle of musical insight. The only thing that tops this album is the band’s live appearances. Incredible stuff. We look forward to their next effort, to come out in mid-2014. If you are anywhere near Irish music, you know who this group is. Stunning.
MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR:
This album came to our attention this year from Copperplate in London and it is thoroughly, totally wonderful, front to back. Mick Sands has a great voice for Irish music. So do lots of people. What separates great singers from the rest is their understanding and intuitive feel for what they are singing. Mick Sands is real and true—down to the ground. There is no fancy engineering, echo chambers, overdubs, or any of that nonsense here. This album is one of the simplest, yet most complex creations we have heard in a long time. If you like a great and true Irish voice, presented with complete integrity, then this album is for you. We have no idea how this treasure slipped by us in the first place, but the important thing is, we have it now, and so can you. This is the deal.
You may have noticed that some of these awards look redundant, such as Female Vocalist and Female Vocal Album of the Year. It is a transparent, but necessary, ploy to get out as much recognition as we can for these artists. It’s the best we can do! The best YOU can do is to support these artists, buy their albums, listen to them here and attend their concerts.