Margeson On The Music Christmas Irish Music Review Dec 2013
One of the most frequently asked questions we get is, “What’s for Christmas? Is there a great stocking stuffer to be recommended?” Obviously, yes. If the answer weren’t “yes”, we wouldn’t have a column, would we? But we DO have a column, thank goodness, and even better, we have some great Christmas stocking stuffers for your Irish Trad Music lover this year. If you look back over all of our columns for 2013, any one of the CD’s would be a great idea. Remember, we don’t even review them in the first place, unless they are terrific. But, space and our dictatorial editor requires us to keep these recommendations to only five. Get ready, Santa. Here they are:
1) The greatest vocal CD we have ever heard in the music is this year’s Everything is Moving by Laura Smith. It is on the Borealis label. Nova Scotia’s Laura Smith is a creative genius songwriter with a stunning alto of a voice. A gift from God and Canada. This is the one. You can get it directly from Laura on her website, and we know Borealis will sell it to you. If your local trad music dealer doesn’t carry it, they don’t know their business. Go somewhere else. Get this CD! It is a stunning achievement and a friend forever. We have listened to no album this year nearly as many times as Everything is Moving.
2) There is a great bit of business out of the Smithsonian archives this year called Classic Celtic Music. It goes back into the Smithsonian Folkways label and brings you 23 tracks of traditional brilliance. It is all here, ranging from Kevin Burke through Willie Taylor to Brian Conway. You can get the CD from Smithsonian Folkways for only $11.98. You must have the hard copy in your hands.Do not buy is digitally. The reason is the notes in the album. Fabulous. As the website says, “Few genres carry such a rich and deep history as Celtic music.” How true, how true. That history is beautifully unveiled here. If you are a real, true trad fan, you must have this album. Your life will be less and you will die impoverished without it.
3) We have a tie for this recommendation because it is a chance to flog two fabulous new CD’s and give them both equal billing. Maurice Lennon, he of Stockton’s Wing fame, has a solo album, The Little Ones, on Clo Iar-Chonnachta. By everyone’s admission, Maurice would be one of the top five Irish fiddlers in the world. This album shows why, and it is a treasure. We waited a long time for Maurice to get to this solo creation. Here it is. He doesn’t have the drum kit and noise of Stockton’s Wing getting in his way. On this album we get to hear Maurice, and he is a wonder. A gift. Tied with him is Liz Carroll with her album, On the Offbeat. Her guest stars backing her are a blast of excellence, as is the CD itself. All kinds of new tunes from Liz. She didn’t really record for years, then she blasted out with two remarkable CD’s, Lost in the Loop, and Lake Effect, and then did a number of variable CD’s with John Doyle. This particular CD, however, comes after a decent gap of time and has been eagerly awaited by trad fans for a few years. Worth every minute of the wait. There are some tunes on here that rank right up there with two of her classics form the earlier years, “Pauline Conneely’s” and “That’s Right, Too”. Liz is still smokin’. If you have an Irish fiddle player in your life, here are the two albums to get and waste no time about it.
4) Masters of their Craft is a wonderful CD from Tara. They dug back into their vaults and picked out a number of tasty treasures for this compendium treat. Everyone from Christy Moore to Clannad on to Liam O’Flynn are on it. Tara is musically one of the great labels of all time, so it makes sense that their vaults would be as rich or richer than anybody else’s. And so they are. This is another one of those treats that we cannot recommend highly enough.
5) Let’s have another tie for the last recommendation. When it comes to trad, you can’t do better than the album As It Happened, with Micheal O’Raghallaigh and Danny O’Mahony. These two button box and concertina masters have created a not so minor masterpiece here and we love it. Imelda Bhroga and I play it constantly on our LiveIreland weekly program as do Maryann Keifer and I on the WDCB weekly show, Ireland Tonight. These two musicians are where it’s at for the true trad cat. Niamh Dunne is the everfab singer for Beoga. She is just wonderful, and her first solo album is Portraits, and is a major find. Find it. Do we have to mention Cuz by Niamh Ni Charra? Do you NOT have it? It will win a lot of Awards and is something of a revelation. Stunning. Two Niamhs. Two bits of perfection!!
So, our Top 5 recommendations for your Christmas Stocking Stuffers have turned into a Top 8 because of a cheap and transparent trick designed to give more exposure to some wonderful musicians! We hope you also latched on to how we skillfully interwove a flagrant flog for our radio shows, Ireland Tonight and the Bill & Imelda show. To complete that flog, let us tell you that Ireland Tonight is on every Monday at wdcb.org at 8pm Chicago time. The Bill & Imelda Show comes out of Dublin, Ireland every week on Sunday 1800 GMT (noon Chicago). Merry Merry!!