Irish Music Review with Bill Margeson 18 August 08

Irish Music Review with Bill Margeson 18 August 08

Okay, okay, these things pile up. In the middle of last month’s writing assignments for The Chicago Irish-American News,, Irish Music Magazine, the Public Radio show with my co-star and brilliant music interpreter, Shay Clarke, these things pile up. Last month, we told you about a single album. The unequalled, Beal Tuinne. Did you get your copy yet? So, when you get 500 albums sent to you every year, guess what happens? They pile up. Brace yourself, Bridgid, here they all come in a blast of brief bits better binged upon by being busy bionic readers. We loved EACH of these, or they wouldn’t be here in the first place. If they sound good, check the Shop here on or contact David Lattimer through his e-mail here. They are NOT NOT NOT in priority order.

Sheridan’s Guest House by Dave Sheridan from Ireland is a joy of a thing. He has about 16 guest musicians on the album. He is a wonderful flute player out of Leitrim, we believe. A massive talent, and there is such a sense of joy in this album as he generously shares the spotlight with his musical friends. This is just flat-out wonderful. Rating: Four Harps

You can always, always count on Clo Iar Chonanachta to put out wonderful, traditional music. Now the label brings us Ben Lennon on fiddle and Tony O’Connell on concertina in a magical thing called, Rossinver Braes. Wonderful. Guest musicians include Charlie Lennon on piano, Alec Finn on bouzouki and guitarist, Jerry McNamara. A contender for Instrumental Album of the Year. If you love real Irish music, this one is for you. A wondrous and lively piece of work, altogether. Rating Four Harps

Be hip to the fact that Compass is releasing some of the old standards. If, like us, you only had the original Bothy Band albums on vinyl, rejoice. Check out the Compass website, and you will see this iconic stuff is being brought back to us in a modern format, and is as great as ever. The pictures on the covers also remind us that we were all once a lot younger, a lot thinner and a lot more interesting to look at. The Bothy Band helped change everything in trad. Check out the album titles like, Old Hag You Have Killed Me and Out of the Wind into the Sun and find it all again. This will be Four Harps Forever.

Fionnuala Gill is one of those Riverdance Anuna voices. She is wonderful. Her Sony album, Whispers of Love is a bit new agey, but there are gems included that make it all worth it, to be sure. Overall, and through it all, she is a lovely singer. If you are a trad purist, this is not for you. If you love a beautiful voice, Whispers of Love is for you. We encourage Fionnuala to do a truly trad album. One Enya is well enough. Fionnuala is well beyond that silliness. Rating: Three Harps

Trust Greentrax out of Scotland. Is there a better label in Europe? Wooed and Married is a fascinating and really interesting collection of music, all centering around Scottish weddings. It is the ultimate reference work. A must have for the Scotophile. The research is exhaustive and the liner notes are worth it alone! Wow! Now we know what “Jumping the Chanty” is! There’s even a picture! We love love love the wedding night tune, Come To Bed Boots and All. If there is a Scot in your life getting married, or if you just love Scottish culture along with the rest of the world, get this one. It is all from the Scottish Studies Archives at the University of Edinburgh. Fabulous. Rating: Four Harps

Compass has released the reunion concerts for Moving Hearts: Live in Dublin. The group formed in the early 80’s and include—are you ready?—Christy Moore, Donal Lunny, Declan Sinnott, Eoghan O’Neill, Brian Calnan, Keith Donald and Davy Spillane. Iconic, in many respects. Of course, as is expected, frequent group member changes eventually diminished Moving Hearts to almost a self-parody, but there WERE major years of real innovation moving trad along in modern, electrified directions with highly creative arrangements. Moving Hearts were groundbreakers. They were NOT trad. Well, in some ways, they were—–anyway, this reunion set of concerts shows the musical retrospective with real gusto. You will love it as much as the packed houses did at the shows! There is a DVD also available. Rating: Three harps

We were just talking about Compass re-releasing some of its Green Linnet catalogue, which it purchased from the defunct company a few years back. Among the re-releases is one of the great Irish albums of all time, Brokenhearted I’ll Wander by Dolores Keane and John Faulkner. Many, including us, regard Dolores Keane—at one time—as the greatest singer in the history of traditional music. This album reminds you why. Each note is a diamond unto itself, and cannot be changed. Dolores was given a gift from God, and here it was on a magical display for the world to hear. A stunning piece of musical power that is all the more wonderful today because of the number of far lesser talents who have followed and tried to imitate her. The best. Four Harps To Infinity and Beyond.

This one will be hard to find, and that is a shame. Noel Battle is a master harmonica player in the tradition of the Murphy Brothers, Charlie McCoy and the like. Noel’s album is a treasure, entitled, Music From The Reeds. This is Irish harmonica at its best. Heck, this is harmonica at its best, period. It is also a treasure house of real and seldom heard reels, jigs, hornpipes and airs. We love the airs best. This man has soul. Wonderful side cats on the tunes, as well. A winner. A stunner. Do the work to find this Indie gem. Get busy! Rating: Four Harps

We LOVE Novia Scotia’s David Gunning. He is a master singer and songwriter. The real deal. His new album is House For Sale. He was a massive hit at Irish Fest in Milwaukee a couple years back, and this will show you why. Each song is moving, highly intelligent, and downright fun in a lot of cases. What a keen eye for the human condition David has! David, come to Chicago! Google the lad, find him, his albums, and discover a joy for life. David Gunning is a big deal, trust us! Rating: Four Harps

Our pal, Billy Donnelly hipped us to Ray Moore. Scottish singer. Lovely album title and cover art, And then the birds sing (sic). Many of these songs are by Ray. All are great in his hands. As much as we love Scottish music, we have not been traditionally overwhelmed by Scottish male singers. Ray Moore is different. A resonant and moving voice with some great songs. Just check him out at and you’ll make a lovely discovery of a really gifted singer. Lovely. Rating: 3.5 Harps

We also love Billy McComiskey’s new album on Compass, Outside the Box. The first-ever album we bought in Irish music was Billy’s, Makin’ the Rounds, lo’ these many decades ago. He plays a GREAT button box. A master. He is, also, unfortunately associated with ceili music in Baltimore, his worldwide headquarters. The regular reader knows how we feel about ceili “music”. Dreadful. But, SOME great Irish musicians insist on loving it for some reason, and Billy is one of them. The few ceili tunes on this album are a result. Never mind. The rest of Outside the Box is exceptional. His box is a two-row B/C by Soprani, for those of you who follow these things. A great album from a really exceptional player. Great feeling and lift to it all. Ignore the ceili bits. They are fortunately, rare here. Get the album!! Rating: 3.5 Harps—bet you can figure out the missing half Harp rating point! Never mind! A great keeper of an album!

We’re out of time, space and work ethic. More next month, including a stunner just in from Greentrax in Scotland, Far Far From Yrpes, a fantastic homage and study of the Scottish music of WWI. Nuala Kennedy and Catherine McEvoy both have exciting flute albums out, (McEvoy’s is unbelievably super)and Brian Conway is up with a super fiddle album we adore. All that next month and more!