Margeson on the Music October 2015

The Instrumental Album of the Year for 2015 will be The Return of Spring by Buttons and Bows. This globally loved group has not recorded in years, but here they are—still fantastic. Brothers Manus and Seamus McGuire on fiddles, Jackie Daly on button box and Garry O’Briain on guitar have created another diamond that sparkles front to back. Buttons and Bows is one of the groups that always brings a smile to any trad fan’s lips. Just try it out. Say to any musician, “buttons and bows”. Watch the smile. When you hear 350-500 albums a year you know when you hear it. I was half way through this and I thought, “This is Instrumental Album of the Year.” I was right. Best cut? Oyster Island by Seamus. Imelda Bhroga and I play this a lot on our weekly show here. A lovely musette/waltz thing. The whole album is perfect. As you would hope. Do what you have to. This is one for the permanent collection.

Liam Kelly and Philip Duffy are out with Sets in Stone. Kelly is the flute player with Dervish, a band whose instrumental work is a joy. Liam Kelly is on fiddle—and the best bodhran player in the world, John Joe Kelly jumps in on some wonderful tunes in an understated but elegant bit of accompaniment. Paul Brock of Brock-McGuire hipped us to this album and we cannot thank him enough. He told me how wonderful this album is, and he is 100% right. A joy of a thing. Find it, if you truly love the real Irish music.

The Irish label, Clo-Iar-Chonnacta almost always brings incredible music to the fore, and Across the Sound by Oisin and Conal Hernon is no exception. We find ourselves listening more and more to the two brothers from Inis Mor in the Aran Islands. On button box and banjo, the young lads are joined by an old friend of ours, Tommy Keane on uilleann pipes and another pal, Jimmy “The Sleep” Higgins on percussion. This is an absolute gem. Be careful, these all-instrumentals can set you to dancing and laughing at the same time. Can be dangerous. Played with total musical maturity, tempos and arrangements. Perfect.

James Keelaghan is a great, great singer/songwriter out of Nova Scotia. He’s had an album on Borealis out for a few years called, “History: The First 25 Years”. We include it especially here because he is a terrific singer of great taste—but—herein we have The Song of the Year. “Cold Missouri Waters” by name. Thanks to Scotland’s Paul McKenna Band we came to know this song. It is about the 1949 Montana Mann Gulch Fire that claimed the lives of 13 heroic firefighters. Told from the perspective of the only surviving firefighter, jump foreman Wagner Dodge, it is awe-inspiring. Dodge actually died a few years after the fire from skin cancer, but here he relates what truly happened to a bedside visitor during his last few hours. No, song-writer Keelaghan was not there, the conversation is totally created—but totally accurate as to the facts. It is a gift to all of us. The album is fab, also, with lots and lots of other gems. I was listening to it again as I wrote this and I am still deeply, deeply moved by it. You will be, too. Best song I’ve heard since “My Bonnie” from another miraculous Nova Scotian, Laura Smith. I am still gobsmacked.

We adore LeVent du Nord, and their new album, Tetu reminds us why. Released by the aforementioned honored andloved Canadian label, Borealis, it is another winner. (Borealis IS Canadian music. Period.) Anyone who has seen Le Vent at Irish Fest in Milwaukee knows of their energy and entire joy in performance. We lovelovelove French Canadian music—and the best exponents are Le Vent du Nord and La Bottine Souriante. It is Celtic, familiar and totally different. The foot rhythms endemic to the music are fantastic and really get the blood going. LeVent also has really fine vocals added to the instrumental work. They are the deal, and you should get this one if you want to have a great time.

Speaking of Borealis—WOW! Here is Round Trip by two of the great acoustic guitarists working today, Tony McManus and Beppe Gambetta. Just wonderful. Such variety. Beppe sings on a couple, but the real story here is two masters at work on their instruments. The interplay and quality are stunning to the socks. The Irish pieces are indescribable and totally fantastic in extremis!! Borealis brings us yet another winner!
So much more for you next month, including a new fave from the wonderful David Gunning out of Nova Scotia. Don’t forget to listen to The Bill & Imelda Show each Sunday here on The most popular Irish music program in the world, now part of a brand new website makeover, it is on at 18:00 GMT. Join us. And, if you love Bluegrass, listen for Imelda and me on Chicago’s House Party, every Monday at 4:00 GMT on WDCB in Chicago.