The liveIreland Music Awards 2016 (2016 Livies)
Here they all are!! This is the 2016 Livies list of our 10 winners in the various areas of traditional music. This is the 12th year for the Awards, which are second only to TG4 as far as importance and distribution are concerned. Actually, as they are here on LI, you could well argue these are the most publicized Awards on a worldwide basis for our music. In any case, they ARE the best of the best and congratulations to all! The envelopes please!
Instrumental Cut of the Year: Tartare Frigate – Dallahan
From the dramatic guitar opening to the wonderful arrangement and the tremendous musicianship, this brilliant quintet scores as big on this cut as the rest of their tremendous album, When the Day Is On the Turn. The Tartare Frigate is a tune that has been around a while and recorded by others—but never like this! This cooks big time, and is an obvious choice for Instrumental Cut of the Year. Really hard to get out of your head!
Best Vocal/Instrumental Album: Jeremiahs
Surprisingly, the Jeremiahs with their self-titled debut album are one of the easier picks this year. Usually, it is a toe-to-toe battle for this Award, but the Jeremiahs must be recognized. This Dublin-based quartet is easily the most revolutionary group in The Top TIR this year. Throw out your idea of what an Irish “ballad” group sounds like, especially if you are thinking about the groups of yesterday. No one has ever sounded like the Jeremiahs, nor could they. This group is brilliant, absolutely fresh, and can be around as a major force in Irish music as long as they want to be. You read it here first. The Jeremiahs are tomorrow. Incredible.
Album of the Year: Buttons and Bows
It is called Return to Spring. The reason that it is the Album of the Year is easy. It is perfect, and the best album released this year. Manus McGuire, Garry O’Briain, Jackie Daly, and Seamus McGuire have put out several albums as Buttons and Bows (this is their fourth). No instrumental group, with the possible exception of Brock-McGuire or Lunasa, is more treasured among musicians. Whether it be Liz Carroll, Colin Farrell, or Michael McGoldrick, just mention the name, Buttons and Bows. Watch them smile. The music cannot be done better than this. Return to Spring is a treasure, and if you love the music, you must have it.
Best Male Musician: Tom Byrne
From the first notes of Tom Byrne’s self-titled album you are stunned. You are in the presence of a master musician and you may well have never heard anything like this before. It is not enough to say that Tom Byrne plays the harmonica. He is the Paganini of the harmonica. Think we’re exaggerating? Get ahold of this cd after tracking him down on the net, listen to it all in one sitting, and you will be speechless. As were we. Our pal, Paul Brock told us about this musician, and we owe Paul a big debt of gratitude! Be it Larry Adler, Toots Theilemans, Brendan Power, Charlie McCoy, The Murphys or anyone else—you have never heard harmonica like this. Throw away any preconceptions. Unforgettable.
Best Female Musician: Máire Ní Chathasaigh
She is the best harp player in Irish music. There are several great Irish harpists—we think of Michelle Mulcahy, Catriona McDonald, Ailie Robertson, and Emer Mallon. There are more. They are all uber-fab. But, then there is Maire. Her new album is called Sibling Revelry. Really, there are no words. Just know this. This was an extremely easy pick this year.
Male Singer: Joe Gibney
He is the lead singer for the sensational and aforementioned Jeremiahs, and he is from Dublin. Joe may well end up changing the way Irish groups sound. For years, producers and festival organizers have sought the “next step” for vocally based groups, following up on the likes of the Clancys. Many have tried, almost all have failed. The ground is littered with them. Most of these groups utterly collapsed because they were derivative and had little talent, while sounding like pub drunks. Not Joe Gibney. Not the Jeremiahs. He is unique and a blessing! The Jeremiahs album this year proves it. Just listen to King of Rome or The North Sea Holes. The future has come to call.
Female Singer of the Year : Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh
She is the best female singer in Irish music, and that is that. She has done several albums with the everfab Danu, as well as a number of solo projects. In 2015, the group came out with the newest album, Buan. She is stunning on the album (as usual), and may be the only vocalist today able to keep up with the powerhouse that is Danu. She is marvelous—and she is a great flute player, as well! At LI, we count ourselves Presidents of her and Danu’s fan clubs. She is a gift.
Best Song: Cold Missouri Water.
My LiveIreland partner, Imelda Bhroga and I became aware of this song just this year when we heard it sung by the brilliant Paul McKenna. It is about the Mann Gulch Forest Fire of 1949 in Montana. It is a bit of creative genius from Ontario in Canada by James Keelaghan. He wrote this quite a few years ago. Very seldom have we been more moved by a ballad regarding a real incident. Another easy winner. James Keelaghan is a sort of national treasure in Canada, and this proves why. It is on his The Recent Future album. There is something in the air or water supply in Canada that produces these magical talents. The song is an emotional AND historical revelation.
Best Instrumental Album: Colin Farrell
Colin released a starshine of an album this year, Make a Note. What is it about Manchester, England? Here is yet another brilliant musician from that city, playing both flute AND fiddle! He is based in the States now, and is the fiddler for the iconic, Lunasa in their American gigs, and others around the world. That SHOULD tell you how good he is, but it doesn’t. It is his virtuosity on both instruments that sets him apart. He is magic, and so is this beautifully produced and engineered album. Can it be done better? Doubtful. Highly doubtful. A master of his instruments and the music. We were stunned when we first heard it. Still are.
Best New Group: Connla
Connla is a quintet out of Northern Ireland, and a creative explosion. This brand new group released only a self-titled ep disc this year (only four cuts), yet took the international traditional music scene by storm. Their calendar is filling faster than anyone’s in the music, and you will see them soon. Brilliant. Wondrous singing, incredible musicianship, modern, trad, altogether. As with all the best, they are improving the music while honoring it. They are set for a VERY long run, and we will all be the beneficiaries! Up Connla!
The liveIreland Music Awards 2016 via Bill Margeson