Margeson On The Music Sept 08

Claddagh Records

Margeson On The Music

So much to do. So little time. Task at hand, a ton more albums to tell you about, as really good stuff continues to flow in. Early alert to next month’s column reviewing some great new stuff from Chicago’s own bohola. But, now, here it all is for this month!

Good heavens, Ailie Robertson of Scotland can play the harp! So, there are lots and lots of harp players, right? Correct. But, now, Ailie Roberts becomes the third in a full trio of the best of the best in the music. There are the unparalleled Michelle Mulcahy and Maire ni Cathasaig—and now comes Ailie with her debut album, First Things First. How many musicians do you know who have graduated with a Master’s from the Limerick University Irish music program? Well, there ARE several, aren’t there? But, how many also have an undergrad degree in Genetics from Oxford? I suspect we have just narrowed the field noticeably. In short, Ailie has chosen to follow her heart and hands into the music, and all of that is on display with this album. Don’t make the mistake of thinking all harpists sound the same. Wrong. Wrong. She is a superior musician, understands the tradition, has her own style and is at home in trad as in the jazz idiom. The amount of major awards she has won for her harp playing would fill this column. The awards don’t tell the story. Her music does, and the album is on Lorimer Records. Google them, or Ailie. Get this album. We are playing it constantly on the public radio show. This is wonderful. A major, new star. Rating: Four Harps

We love finding this wonderful stuff. Albums by Mae Robertson are wonderful stuff. What a voice. Now living in Alabama, this Scottish-American is blessed with a voice from above, and she knows how to use it. She has released a number of albums. Our fav so far is The Sun Upon the Lake Is Low. Google Mae or go to and find it. We think Rampant Lion in Villa Park may also have it. We haven’t found a prettier voice in a long time. She understands her art, and it is on full display in songs such as, Come All Ye Fair and Tender Maidens, Never Be The Sun and Irish Heartbeat. It is our embarrassment that we have not discovered her earlier. Well, we have now. She is a master, and this is a very, very special voice. All strength and beauty as she stays within her range while she opens her heart. Terrific on every level. All her albums are brill ; this is our fav so far!! Rating: Four Harps

Catherine McEvoy is one of the best flute players we have heard in a long, long time. She is from Leitrim, we believe. Never mind all the titles she has won, and all that. She is a virtuoso, with an unequalled grasp of the tradition. The name of the album is The Home Ruler, after the iconic hornpipe of the same name. Teacher, musician, master of her instrument. If you love, really love, the pure tradition of the wooden flute, played along with the likes of the fabulous Geraldine Cotter on piano, or Felix Dolan on the keys, this is for you. A stunner. A wonder. Holy moley! It is on, of course, Clo Iar-Chonnachta. Rating: Four Harps

Brian Conway is one of the great fiddle players in America. He is out of New York and an exponent of the Sligo style, redolent of the greats like Michael Coleman, James Morrison and Paddy Killoran. His new album is Consider The Source. We first saw this brilliant player a couple years back when he was at a concert in The Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago with Felix Dolan on piano and Joe Burke on button box. The resultant album from that evening was a fav of ours, and this will be, too. All the frills, ornamentation, lift and rhythm are there, as you would expect. What you would not always expect is the fab turn of phrase, the wonderful grasp and deep understanding of the very roots of the music. This is a man about his business, and he is one of the best, as is this album. It, again, is on Clo Iar-Chonnachta. There are certain artists, who you know—you just know—you are going to love everything they do. And, there, alone among them all, is this one label, Clo-Iar-Chonnachta. We have never NOT loved an album released by this label. It is magic. Rating: Four Stars for artist, album and label!!

· So much more to review—the aforementioned bohola releases, and a wonderful album from Scottish singer, Margaret Stewart. Another is Absolutely Irish featuring EVERYBODY, it seems, and out on Compass. Plus, a wonderful new discovery on, surprise, surprise!!, Clo Iar-Chonnachta from two prodigies, Oisin and Conal Hernon, who will knock your socks off. Young. Brill. And, their whole futures ahead of them on Oisin’s button box and Conal’s banjo. Stunning.
· Haven’t flogged the Public Radio show in a while. Begin flogging here: Blarney on the Air, every Monday night from 7-9 Chicago time on WDCB, 90.9fm, or Tune in for all the fun!
· Congrats to all in Milwaukee at the Irish Music Archives for one of the great nights in the music. The archives hosted The Brock-McGuire Group, the best instrumental group in the tradition, no questions asked. The evening began with a talk by Paul Brock of the band, himself on the central and major role played by America in the development and, indeed, saving of Irish traditional music. Both talk and concert were one for the ages! There is NO organization in the world anywhere near what Ed and Chuck Ward have created in Milwaukee—with the help of literally thousands of volunteers and supporters. We were again stunned by the Ward Archives of Irish Music. Unbelievable, and getting better daily!!
· Ta!