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Mich in Ogham

A good few years ago I began reviewing Irish music in the Danish Irish Society's Newsletter. Much to my surprise I got a lot of positive feedback from people and I decided to go online too. Again with a positive result. I'm amazed at the number of people who actually read the reviews. I have limited the number to nine for practical reasons, so whenever a new review is added the oldest one goes out.
Cheyenne Browne
Cheyenne Brown:
Parallel Latitudes
Hernon & Connolly
Hernon & Connolly:
Island Treasures
Macker
Fiontán Ó Meachair:
Irish Traditional Mandoline
Mórga
Mórga:
Mórga
De Danann
De Danann:
Wonderwaltz
Paul McCormack
Paul McCormack:
One More Round

O'Connor, McArdle
& Quinn:
Jig Away The Donkey
For the Sake of Aud Times
Morga
For the Sake
of Aud Times

Northern Lights:
Dubh agus Geal

Cheyenne Browne From the first bar of the first tune you know this is not an ”ordinary” harp CD. What are tablas doing on a Scottish harp album? Well, they work!! Harpist Cheyenne Brown’s CD Parallel Latitudes has many of these “oddities” and this makes it a very pleasant CD to listen to. Admittedly, a whole CD of harp music can be tough going, but with the addition of other interesting instruments in the hands of very capable musicians, I really enjoy listening to this CD.
Cheyenne Brown is born in Alaska, but has lived and studied harp in Scotland for the last nine years. She is a very talented harpist and has an MSc. in Scottish Ethnology. Her researching the harp would lead you to believe she would make a very traditional CD of harp music, but this is not the case. Although there are many trad tunes on the CD, most are contemporary and several are her own compositions.
On the tune Parallel Latitudes, which is written by herself, she plays the most beautiful unaccompanied harp. She calls it an improvisation piece with a turn of the trad reel John O’Groat’s in the middle – what great musicianship. The predominant other instrument on the CD is the cello (Seylan Baxter) and the two instruments go very well together.
Just when you think you have got the gist of the CD along comes track 7 with the addition of a banjo! If somebody had told me that harp and banjo would go well together I wouldn’t have believed them, but – shame on me – this is brilliant.
Tablas are not the only percussion instruments on the CD. Dave Boyd masters a whole array of percussion instruments which he plays very subtly throughout the CD. A fiddle (John Bews) has crept in on a couple of tracks and I wouldn’t have minded a bit more of that. That, however, is a small fly in the ointment on a delightful CD.
www.cheyenneharp.com
BCR001 (August 2011)

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Hernon & Connolly The new CD from flute player Marcus Hernon and box player Johnny Connolly: Seoda na n-Oílean / Island Treasures is indeed a treasury of musical gems: 16 wonderful tracks of traditional music from the west of Ireland. They are both brilliant musicians and their (relaxed) style suits the music very well. They don’t need to prove anything by playing at a 100 miles an hour. No, lean back and play so the notes can actually be heard seems to be the recipe here.
The CD was recorded in Hernon’s home and this leaves a very relaxed ambience hanging over the recordings.
At the launch of the CD in Copenhagen Folk Club, the two were joined by Hernon’s two sons Proinsias and Breandán (box and fiddle). Two great musicians who also turned out to be excellent sean nós dancers. On the CD they are also joined by Labhrás Hernon and another two masters who provide the backing: Tim Edey (guitar) and Brian McGrath (piano).
The treasury is full of jigs and reels with two hornpipes and a polka thrown in for good measure – no disturbing songs :-)
Maybe the CD is not for the newcomer to Irish music, but you don’t have to be a hardcore trad. fan in order to enjoy it. If you have “learned” to appreciate proper Irish music, this is a must! Whether you have it playing in the background or you are sitting in a deep armchair listening to all the fine details, you will enjoy it.
The CD is dedicated to “our own” Torsten and Birgitte who have played (pardon the pun) a major role in getting Hernon and Connolly to record this and we, the listeners, should also be very grateful that they succeeded.
So, if it’s jigs and reels played in a relaxed style you want, this is the CD for you.
CDFS 003 (October 2010)

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Macker Who needs big orchestrations and numerous instruments when you can make beautiful music with just a mandolin and a guitar (plus a very occasional keyboard)? Mandolin virtuoso Fiontán Ó Meachair has teamed up with guitarist Jim Murray and Tony O'Flaherty on keyboards to make the wonderful CD Irish Traditional Mandoline - Ó Life Go Laoi.
There are not many mandolin players within Irish Trad. Music these days and one can only wonder why. It's such a great instrument – when played by the right person. Fiontán Ó Meachair (or Macker – as he is known to his friends) is such a person. I have the good fortune of having known Macker for many many years and I have always loved his playing. I was thrilled to hear he had released a solo CD and I was not disappointed when I put it on. Macker has chosen some great old session tunes (The Gold Ring – Salamanca – Banish Misfortune etc.) and mixed them with classical and Italian tunes. As if this wasn't enough, he has also composed a good few tunes (which I'm sure are already being played in sessions all over) and he proves himself to be a brilliant singer with the two songs on the CD.
I have played the CD constantly since I got it and it's just getting better and better. I thoroughly enjoy Macker's playing and I hear new little subtleties on every listen to it. He is truly a great ambassador for the mandolin and one can only hope he will inspire more people to take it up, because it's an instrument which suits Irish music very well. The mandolin is a relatively small instrument, but Macker's sound is huge and combined with the guitar it's almost like listening to a “full” band.
Words don't justify this CD – you have to listen to it yourself and I can only agree with Arty McGlynn who wrote the sleeve notes: Buy it, borrow it or steal it, but get it and enjoy it!
www.myspace.com/fiontanomeachairmandoline
FOM 1001 (September 2009)

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Mórga When I look up Mórga in my Irish – English dictionary it says: Great, exalted and majestic. I can't think of a more apt description of this CD. If there is a risk of wearing out a CD, this is definitely in danger. It has been in my player constantly since I got it and when I don't listen to the CD, I have the mp3 version in my mp3-player. Mórga is a “new” band on the scene, consisting of four great musicians. Despite their young age they are all very experienced and master their instruments to perfection.
One would think these four musicians have been playing together for years and have released several CDs, but no. They started playing together in 2007 when they decided to revive the sound of the great Irish bands of the seventies. Here is where the Greek bouzouki comes into the picture. In the seventies there was no such thing as an “Irish bouzouki”, so of course Jonas Fromseier plays the Greek bouzouki when he is not handling a banjo. The box, fiddle and bodhrán are still the same and I think they have obtained what they set out to do: Create a sound that might as well have been taken out of the seventies.
Energy is the key word! They play with the confidence of older and far more experienced musicians. It's hard to believe this is a debut CD.
Yes, they play very fast, but contrary to many other fast bands, Mórga has the ability to play fast and well at the same time. The music is just so lively that one can hardly sit still and listen.
I'm really impressed with the tightness between box player Barry Brady and fiddle player Danny Diamond and they are perfectly backed up by the greek bouzouki and Dominic Keogh's bodhrán playing.
I like the fact Mórga haven't fallen into the trap of including a singer, because “you have to”. Their music is instrumental and it's no problem listening to a CD full of just tunes (12 sets), when they are played so well.
I will highly recommend this CD and to Mórga I will say, “Well done boys!”
PUG Records (July 2009)
www.morga.ie       www.myspace.com/morgamusic
You can hear Mórga live at this year's Tønder Festival

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De Danann Can De Danann exist without Frankie Gavin? Absolutely!!
The new CD by “Old” De Danann is great. It may not be “100% genuine guaranteed De Danann” as it says on the cover, but it’s very near to. There’s no comparison to the other band who call themselves (new) De Dannan. They have one original member easily outnumbered by Old De Danann. Admittedly, I haven’t heard New DD’s CD, but I have heard them in concert. To put it mildly I wasn’t impressed with their singer, whereas Old DD is once again joined by the mighty Eleanor Shanley.
You’d imagine that fiddler Mick Conneely was in for a hard job trying to recreate Frankie Gavin’s sound, but he is not. He is not trying to and maintains playing his own style which fits perfectly well with Old DD. He is a fine fiddler indeed. Of course Alec Finn’s bouzouki lays a foundation for the tunes and songs along with Johnny “Ringo” McDonagh’s bodhrán playing. The accordion playing is provided by the great Derek Hickey while Brian McGrath handles the banjo and keyboard. As if this line-up wasn’t enough, they are joined by bass player Trevor Hutchinson and backing vocalist Cian Finn.
Wonderwaltz is the wonderful name of the CD and hopefully it will be the first of many from their hands. There’s a good mixture of songs and tunes - 16 tracks in all and one better than the other.
I really must recommend this CD. The fly in the ointment is the non-existing website www.dedanann.eu which is mentioned on the cover, but that is a minor detail.
CACD 2201 (January 2011)

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Paul McCormack Here's a long overdue write-up about “Óne More Round”, Paul McCormack's latest release. I got this last summer at a session in Friel's, Miltown Malby, where I met Paul whom I hadn't seen in years. It was a very pleasant evening and Paul gave me this CD. Readers of this page will know that singing is not my top priority when it comes to listening to music, but there are exceptions. “One More Round” is one of those exceptions.
Paul writes his own songs and “Own” is with a capital “O”. Each and every song on this CD is sung so convincingly that you would think he had experienced everything himself. I'm sure that is the case with most of the songs. “Days in Doolin” is a spot on example of this. It really catches the atmosphere of sessions in Doolin in the old days (well, thirty to forty years ago anyway). This is a collection of happy songs, sad songs, songs of broken hearts etc - in short, songs about all aspects of life, sung with great empathy .
Paul plays a rake of instruments on the CD, but his main instruments are the guitar and harmonica, which he master very well indeed. He is also joined by other fine musicians. One fly in the ointment, though, is the inclusion of a spoons player - that wouldn't have gone down well in Doolin in the old times. All is forgiven because the other musicians and backing vocalists are very good.
I can't help comparing Paul to the great Christy Moore and that's a compliment. I’m not saying Paul is a replica of Christy Moore, but his approach to songs and tunes has a Christy ring to my ears. I don't know why it took me so long to write about this CD. It's not that I had forgotten it - on the contrary - it has been played over and over again on my CD-player since I came back from Ireland. That leads me to say that this is not an “Irish” CD in the traditional sense. Okay, the instrumentation is very Irish, but the songs and topics are very international (with an Irish twist :-) )
If you happen to come across a copy of this CD I'd definitely recommend you buying it. It's a very pleasant listening experience.
PMCCD01 (October 2013)

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Music and songs of South Ulster from three great musicians from the area. Master fiddle player Gerry O’Connor (Louth) is joined by concertina player and singer Gabriel McArdle (Fermanagh) and box player Martin Quinn (Armagh) on this new CD. They are all brilliant at what they do and I have praised them all before and after listening to this CD, I certainly haven’t changed my opinion.
Nothing can go wrong if you put three musicians of this calibre together - in fact the synergy effect oozes out of the speakers. Here are three people not just playing and singing Irish music, but playing ”their own” Irish music. They play and sing at a pace where every little finesse can be heard and it’s a pure pleasure listening to it. If you expect a ”Whiskey in the Jar”-type of Irish CD you will be very very disappointed, but if you are looking for a traditional Irish CD in its purest form, you must not miss this.That is what it is: Pure Tradition with a capital T.
LUGCD964 (September 2011)
www.southulstermusic.com

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For the Sake of Aud TimesI thought I had retired from reviewing music when we closed down the Danish Irish Society Newsletter. Still, getting the opportunity to review Mórga’s “For the Sake of auld Times” was a chance I couldn’t let pass me by. I got the CD just before Christmas and didn’t really have the time to sit down and listen to it properly. Instead it has been played over and over again while I have been doing other things. I have really taken to it and hardly a day goes by now where I don’t listen to it.
Since their first CD Mórga have changed one brilliant accordeon player with another. Dave Munnelly is the new “boxer” and he has always been one of my favourite box players. Being Danish I am probably a bit biased, but Jonas Fromseier is just an amazing banjo player. He has got “that” sound and feeling many banjo players lack and he is in the league with the best Irish players. Danny Diamond is a great fiddle player who has been breast fed Irish music, so it’s no wonder that he has become so good. The bodhran is normally not my favourite instrument, but there are a few players who can add something to the equation and Dominic Keogh is one of them (He is also heard on flute on the CD).
On paper Mórga is just another “standard” Irish line up, but they have a synergy effect which makes them so enjoyable to listen to. The production of the CD is just perfect - each instrument complements the others so well.
It’s interesting that such a relative young crowd is so heavily inspired by Irish music played in the 1920’s by the great masters in the US. But again – why wouldn’t they be? It was a period of wonderful music.
Many readers of my reviews think I don’t like singing, but this is not true, I just prefer instrumental music and that is what we get here. Twelve sets of the finest instrumental music I have heard in a long time and not a single song. Some would probably miss a song, but when the music is as good as this, there’s no need for songs.
Whether you are new to Irish music or have been listening to it for years, you will enjoy “For the Sake of auld Times”. Get hold of a copy and start wearing your CD player out – you will play it over and over again.
www.morga.ie
Morga002 (January 2014)

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Northern Lights I’m not the right person to review this CD. Readers of my reviews will know that I’m generally into instrumental music.
Still, I have to write about this CD. Songs sung in Gaelic and what I would call Nordic. It seems to be a mixture of Norwegian and Swedish, maybe even Nynorsk (but that’s only a guess - I have no knowledge of the language).
Lorcán Mac Mathúna (voice, shruti), Raphael De Cock (voice, hardingfele, pipes, jewsharp) and James Mahon (pipes -B set; concert pitch, whistles, flutes) manage to show the similarities - and differences - between Gaelic (sean nós) and nordic (kveding) singing. I could easily imagine that someone with no knowledge of Irish and/or Nordic wouldn’t know what language is being used when. The CD is full of surprises e.g. when two verses - sung in English - are included in an otherwise Nordic song.
The big question is, do I like it? I honestly don’t know. It is certainly very interesting and different to anything I have heard before. It is an anthropological experience I have enjoyed very much. I first heard it without having read the sleeve notes, but that was a mistake. The notes are very comprehensive and prepare you for what you are in for and what you have to listen for. Much more info on the project: www.lorcanmacmathuna.com/northernlights.
LMM011001 (September 2011)

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The scanned CD covers are probably protected by copyright and I don't have the permission to use most of them. If you feel your copyright is being violated, let me know and I'll remove the picture.
Remember comments are welcome!!

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