1. Double Play—Liz Carroll and John Doyle
This will hit the stores March 3, and so should you to get it. Is Liz the best Irish fiddler in the world? John the best guitar accompanist? Who knows? Who cares? This is brilliance. Three songs and a ton of tunes make this an early contender for Album of Year in our Livies. A stunner from two of the biggest winners in the biz! They just keep getting better.
2. Lovers’ Well—Matt and Shannon Heaton
These two are magic. Every time. Matt on guitar and vocals, with Shannon on flute and vocals. Magic, we tells ‘ya. Whether it be a driving reel or a gorgeous song, these two can do it all, and no one does it better. Wasn’t there a James Bond thing about that? Anyway, who else could give you a beautiful rendition of a traditional Thai song, sung by Shannon in fluent Thai, with it sounding like an Irish trad masterpiece! Hmmm?? Who else??? All the tunes and songs celebrate love and all things lovish—and these two have a perfect right to do it. Two of the happiest wed and most in-love people we know. Brilliant to the bone.
3. Moving On—-Denis Carey
Denis Carey of Tipperary is one of Ireland’s great composers and pianists. His credits would fill a large book, and no need to get into them here. A true musical master. This piano player and accordionist has produced 12 wonderful tunes—more actually—with the likes of Paul Brock, Enda Scahill, Zoe Conway, Martin O’Connor, Manus McGuire and Ferghal Scahill as guest stars. There are others. You get the idea. It has already won a major Award in the States, and this album will be heard and studied a long, long time. Wow!
4. Elizabeth Crotty—-Concertina Music From West Clare
The RTE has released a wonderful salute to Elizabeth Crotty, the iconic concertina player from West Clare. Gone now for many years, this album is a loving tribute to that kind, gentle and marvelous musician and spirit who is so revered—and rightly. True, true trad at its best. A wonderful lady and a wonderful album from the RTE. Crotty’s Pub is still there in Kilrush, and her spirit can still be found there after her passing 49 years ago—and it can also be found on this album. Wonderful. Thank you, RTE.
5. Masters of Tradition RTE
Another incredible collection from RTE. Masters of Tradition covers 42 of Ireland’s great musicians recorded in concert between 2003 and 2007. This album is a directory of the who’s who. We also have what is one of the last recordings or appearances by the legendary, Frank Harte singing The Lambeg Drummer. The whole thing is magic and a must have for your collection. Both this album and the Crotty album were sent to us by Copperplate in London. Check their website. The BEST.
6.Irish Pirate Ballads and Other Songs of the Sea—Dan Milner
We didn’t think we would love this album as much as we do. Great stuff, and much of it rare! Our favorite is Larry Maher’s Big 5-Gallon Jar. Milner has a perfect voice for these songs, and is ably assisted by some wonderful guest artists including Mick Moloney, John Doyle and Robbie O’Connell. It is a wonderful album, and a great addition to the music. A gift of a surprise!
7.The Lucky Smile—Rachel Hair
Scotland is producing a bumper crop of innovative harpists lately, and another one is Rachel Hair. Unbelievably—after all, we ARE talking harp here—she has a style all her own that is very, very tasty. The girl can play, and she is solid to the ground. She knows her music, all right. If you like harp, you’ll love this! Welcome to the big leagues, Rachel!
8.Emily Smith—Too Long Away
Speaking of Scotland, this gal is out with a mega hit. We were not familiar with her, but Matt and Shannon Heaton got us her newest, and we are gobsmacked. What a voice, and what taste!! Of them all, we best love her own composition, Come Home Pretty Bird. This woman is a star. Wait until the Yanks get onto her! Anyway, here she is with husband Jamie McClennan (originally from New Zealand) backing her on tasty fiddle and guitar. She’s gonna be a powerhouse internationally— already is in Scotland. Big Awards—and more coming. Holy Moley, this gal is terrific!!
9.Tony McManus—The Maker’s Mark
Speaking of Scotland,everybody in the business knows who Tony McManus is. A master guitarist. The deal here is that each of the tunes is recorded using a different guitar from a master maker of today. Cool, hey? Nice way to get some incredible music out, and help some really talented luthiers get a leg up! Tony does his usual superb playing. We don’t care for all the tunes—but most of this is so special, we have replayed it again and again. A winner from a winner! Love guitar played perfectly? Love Irish music, with a few other forms in the mix? Get this album, out on Compass.
10.Paul McKenna Band—Between Two Worlds
Latest winner of this group from the Greentrax label. Scottish. (Speaking of Scotalnd.) Greentrax is the automatic mark of quality, as this label releases yet another stunner from a long list in recent years. This quintet is so trad, and so modern at the same time that the band reminds us of others who have fused so many different influences. The Paul McKenna Band is young, very hip, very talented. This group has every indication of being really important in coming years. We love ‘em. More!!
11. Geraldine Bradley—From The Rising Spring
What a singer! Great voice. Her natural métier is sean nos, but she is one of those who could sing the phone book and we’d love it. This woman is the deal. Be she singing in Irish or English, she is a right winner. Brilliant piece of work from a truly talented woman with a gift of a voice. A very, very classy act, altogether!! Go, you good girl! Go!