Tag Archives: St. Patrick’s

Music for St. Patrick’s Day 2017

There’s always a bit of a letdown when St. Patrick’s Day rolls around. Instead of celebrating a culture filled with the Celts’ vibrant art and mythology, grand writers and even grander musicians, I get goofy leprechaun graphics, cheap, green beer specials and dreadful Irish brogues hawking everything from Celtic-inspired party favors to get lucky sweepstakes.

The general theme, whether it is a car dealership sale or your local St. Patrick’s Day parade, seems to dictate everything be painted bright green, decorated with dippy looking leprechauns and the occasional fake pot of gold. Now, I’m okay with taking on faeries, because little people with wings flying around are just wrong. Get a fly swatter or a can of Raid because I’m pretty sure faeries are carriers or rabies or Lyme disease. Unfortunately, much of the music doesn’t get much better with cheap knockoffs of pub bands or the not quite Enya singers. The good news is that I can do a little something about music with a few suggestions for your St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Tara Music has re-released Fuaim by Clannad. Hailing from County Donegal in North West Ireland, this is the real deal in Celtic music. This reissue allows listeners to revisit Clannad’s early years and wallow in the goodness of “Na Buachailli Alainn,” “La Brea Fan Dtuath,” “Strayed Away” and “The Green Fields Of Gaothdobhair.”

 

Clannad – Fuaim

 

Speaking of re-releases, Real World Records has pulled some goodies off the shelves for reissue like Peter Gabriel’s Big Blue Ball. Guess as the founder or Real World, Mr. Gabriel has got a fair amount of pull. While more of a world music fusion project than a strict Celtic recording, Big Blue Ball slips in some offerings like “Deep Forest,” “Rivers” and “Altus Silva” that are well worth snagging.

 

Big Blue Ball

 

Pulling some other gems from the shelves Real World has reissued Anatomic, Seed, Volume 1: Sound System, Volume 2: Release, Volume 3: Further in Time, Capture 1995-2010 and Pod all from the Afro Celt Sound System catalog. Again, there’s a good deal of musical cross pollination with other genres, but don’t overlook tracks like “When I Still Needed You,” “Beautiful Rain,” “Mother,” “Drake,” “Seed,” “Nevermore,” “The Other Side,” “Colossus” and “Go on Through.” The Afro Celt Sound System sound remains timeless.

 

Afro Celt Sound System – Volume 1: Sound System

 

Afro Celt Sound System – Volume 2: Release

 

Afro Celt Sound System – Volume 3: Further in Time

 

Afro Celt Sound System – Seed

 

Afro Celt Sound System – Pod (remix album)

 

Afro Celt Sound System – Volume 5: Anatomic

 

Afro Celt Sound System – Capture 1995-2010

 

This Day Too: Music From Irish America by Terence, Michael and Jesse Winch has a friendly Irish bar feel. Out of the Washington, DC area, the Winch brothers get some help by way of fellow musicians and singers Patrick Armstrong, Tina Eck, Eileen Estes, Brian Gaffney, Conor Hearn, Seamus Kennedy, Nita Conley Korn, Zan McLeod, Brendan Mulvihill, Connor Murray, Dominick Murray and Madeline Waters. And just by the names, that’s a whole lot of Irish. This Day Too: Music from Irish America offers up tracks like “The Wonder Hornpipe/Austin Tierney’s/The Thunder Reel,” “Lally’s Alley/Cat’s Tail & Gravy,” “Earl’s Chair/The Green Groves of Erin/Sailor on the Rock” and “In Memory of Michael Coleman/Hughie’s Cap/Forget Me Not.”

 

Terence, Michael and Jesse Winch – This Day Too: Music From Irish America

 

Arc Music has put out Celtic Mystery with tracks by artists like Ron Korb, Altan, Noel McLoughlin and Golden Bough.

 

Various Artists – Celtic Mystery

 

Real World Records has another reissue on tap this year with Martyn Bennett’s Grit. This was a stunning release and time hasn’t diminished it in any way. Fierce and explosive, Grit is razor-edged fusion that astonishes as much as it entertains. You should check out tracks like “Blackbird,” “Chanter,” “Why” and “Ale House.”

 

Martyn Bennett – Grit

 

Looking for something on the sweetly folksy side, you might want to check out Midnite String Quartet’s Celtic Heartstrings out on the Roma Music Group label. There are some sweet string versions of “The Blood of Cu Chulainn,” “The Irish Rover” and “Carrickfergus.”

 


Midnite String Quartet – Celtic Heartstrings

 

This year seems to be the year of the reissue and as luck would have it Robin Williamson’s Glint At The Kindling/Five Bardic Mysteries/Robin Williamson reissue is out this year. Tracks off the Glint at the Kindling featuring Mr. Williamson, as well as Sylvia Woods, Chris Caswell and Jerry McMillan or better known as the Merry Band and tracks from his 1985 spoken word release Five Bardic Mysteries sports such tracks as “The Road the Gypsies Go,” “The Woodcutter’s Song,” “Lough Foyle,” “The Dialogue of the Two Sages” and “Three Celtic Nature Poems.”

 

Robin Williamson – Glint At The Kindling/Five Bardic Mysteries/Robin Williamson

 

Golden Bough wraps up their sound in the goodness of Celtic harp, violin, accordion, mandolin, bouzouki, guitars, tin whistle and bodhran. Their offering Celtic Festival jaunty nod to St. Patrick’s Day.

 

Golden Bough – Celtic Festival

 

If that’s not to your liking you could always check out Noel McLoughlin’s Song for Ireland is out on re-release.

 

Noel McLoughlin – Song for Ireland

 

As if The Dubliners needed any additional introduction, Arc Music has the goods on this Irish standard and has put out a special 2-CD set of The Dubliners with Luke Kelly. This compilation features such tracks as “Song for Ireland,” “The Sun is Burning,” “Free the People,” “Donegal Danny,” “Now I’m Easy,” “Whack Fol de Diddle” and “Irish Rover.”

 

The Dubliners – The Dubliners with Luke Kelly

 

Newfolk Records has put out Beoga’s Before We Change Our Mind and Tallymoore’s Drive for your listening pleasure. Either by single track or full recording, these two bands shouldn’t be overlooked.

 

Beoga – Before We Change Our Mind

 

Tallymoore – Drive

 

Celtic music favorite Kila’s Kila Alive out and is a kick in the pants and will have dancing on the tabletops faster than the green beer special with offering like “Mutatu,” “Electric Landlady,” “Babymouse” and “Raise the Road.” If that weren’t incentive enough Alan Doherty is a guest on the recording.

 

Kila – Kila Alive“>Kila Alive

 

Released in 2016 Deliverance by The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc is a stunning CD. Combining the fiddling traditions of Norway, Sweden and the Shetland Islands, Deliverance is simply spectacular with tracks like “Talons Trip to Thompson Island,” “Flinken” and “Da Scallowa Lasses/Lorna’s Reel” to snare your inner fiddler.

 

Nordic Fiddlers Bloc – Deliverance

 

The clever Celtic band West of Mabou put out West of Mabou in December of 2016, but shouldn’t be overlooked. The group offer up jaunty numbers like “Rannie MacLellan,” “The Foxhunter,” “Slip Jigs” and a plummy “Temperance Reel/Devil’s Dream.”

 

West of Mabou – West of Mabou

 

For you hard rocking Celtic fans The Rumjacks’ latest release Sleepin’ Rough was release last year, but you might want to check your local music scene because the band is on tour in the US in March and April.

 

The Rumjacks – Sleepin’ Rough

 

Finally, there is the double CD/DVD set Affinity by Atlas. Lovely and atmospheric, Affinity is a lushly masterful collection of music by guitarist Cillian Doheny and concertina player Cillian King with fellow musicians Maria Ryan, Lucia Mac Partlin, Sean Warren, Michael Shimmin and Nicky Scott.. Don’t miss this one.

 

Atlas – Affinity

 

Should you find yourself sitting in a bar somewhere wearing a cheesy shamrock hat, surrounded by paper leprechauns and drinking green beer while listening to a Celtic Goth band murder “Whiskey in the Jar,” just remember that the Celtic spirit takes many forms. And, if approached by faeries grab a shoe!

Sláinte mhaith, my friends.

headline photo: Beoga

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Music Guide for 2016 St. Patrick’s Day

Dark forces are gathering or rather green forces are gathering. People with gallons of green dye are waiting for that moment when they will turn any available body of water green in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day from Indianapolis’s downtown canal to the Chicago River to the White House’s south lawn fountain to Tampa’s Hillsborough River to Savannah’s city fountains.

Whether you’ve got Irish heritage in the blood or are just out on the prowl for parades and parties, the St. Patrick’s Day tradition has taken off in a huge way with parades that will be snaking their ways through the streets of cities far and wide from Dublin to New York City, from Boston to Buenos Aires, from Chicago to Montserrat, from Munich to Tokyo.

While there’s little resemblance to its origins of a religious, non-alcoholic (as bars in Ireland were closed until a change in the law in 1961) public holiday in honor of the 5th century patron saint of Ireland, there can be no doubt that everyone’s welcome to be Irish for a day.

Caving to the marketing extravaganza, one can now don green colored wigs, glittery shamrock tattoos, a flashing green cowboy hat or sequined fedora, green party beads and even party Luck of the Irish nail decals in order to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. There’s also a St. Patrick’s Day dog bandana and St. Patrick’s Day beard ornaments or beardaments as advertised on Amazon.

You can festoon party spaces with shamrock light sets, shamrock garlands, Irish inspired tablecloths and deck it all out with a set of lucky shamrock disposable dinnerware that includes cups and napkins, all of it under the proud waving St. Patrick’s Day House Flag with a green clover design. I have a harder time with the St. Patrick’s Day popcorn tin, the Little Debbie St. Patrick’s Day cakes, the Philadelphia Candies milk chocolate covered Oreos, the packages of milk chocolate dipped Rice Crispy Treats and the Lucky Shamrock St. Patrick’s Pasta, but I guess pasta lovers shouldn’t be left out of the celebration of Irish heritage.

Of course you can’t have a raucous parade or a green beer orgy without a little Celtic music, the real gem of the holiday. I suppose in some circles their might be a readings of James Joyce or John McGahern, but I think you’ll need to stock up on the whiskey. If you’re sticking with music for your St. Patrick’s Day celebration we have some lovely picks this year.

Nuala Kennedy -  Behave the Bravest
Nuala Kennedy – Behave the Bravest

Vocalist, flutist and whistle player Nuala Kennedy’s Behave the Bravest on the Under the Arch Records label is a charmer with dulcet vocals, flute, guitar, accordion, double bass and fiddle. Tracks like “Lovely Armoy,” “His Bonnet So Blue,” “Mo Bhuachaill Dubh Dhonn/Young Tom Ennis” and “Urchnoc Chein Mhic Cainte” will keep the mood easy and mellow.

Solas - All These Years
Solas – All These Years

Bright and crisp, All These Years by Solas on the THL Records label is a treat filled with banjo, mandolin, fiddle, accordion, bodhran and catchy percussion. Goodies include “Roarie Bummlers,” the sleekly smooth “Standing on the Shore,” “Lucy Locket’s/The Quiet Pint/The Sleepy Sailors,” the folksy “Wandering Aengus” and “Unnamed Shetland Reel/Da New Rigged Ship.” There’s also “Little Bird of Heaven,” “As I Went Out Walking” and “Sixteen Come Next Sunday.” Actually, there’s not a bad track so you might just go all out and buy the recording as a whole instead of by track.

Jamie Smith’s Mabon -  The Space Between
Jamie Smith’s Mabon – The Space Between

If you’re looking for some Celtic with a decidedly sophisticated flair, Jamie Smith’s Mabon’s The Space Between is just up your alley. This sleekly silky sounding recording had got the goods with tracks like “The Space Between,” “Frank’s Reels,” “Returning From Where I’ve Never Been,” “The Accordionist’s Despair” and the rich and rocking “Drum ‘N’ Breizh.” This recording is packed tight with truly kick ass accordion, fiddle, guitar, bouzouki and mandolin work and well worth a listen.

Various Artists - Celtic Colours Live – Volume 3
Various Artists – Celtic Colours Live – Volume 3

The Celtic Colours International Festival has put out its Celtic Colours Live Volume Three. Delightful and it supports the good and righteous cause of Cape Breton’s Celtic Colours International Festival. This recording covers the festival’s 19th year’s live performance in fine form with offerings from The String Sisters’ “Liam Childs/Balkin’ Balkan/E-B-E Reel,” The East Pointers’ “Meals by Maurice: Uncle Dimitri / Mj’s Favourite / Meals by Maurice,” “Dusky Meadow Set: Dusky Meadow/Sandy MacIntyre’s Trip to Boston/Beaton’s Delight” by Kenneth MacKenzie with Mac Morin and Patrick Gillis, The Barra MacNeils’ version of “The Underachiever” and “Cape Breton Set: Michael Anthony MacLean’s Birthday / Kilrack’s Strathspey / The Mortgage Burn / Mutt’s Favourite Reel / The Rubbermaid Collection / The Burtons of Glen Nevis / The Yetts of Muckart” by Liz Doherty, Lucy MacNeil with Lisa MacArthur and Shemas MacNeil. This is a fine collection and an excellent mix of the live Celtic music tradition.

The Gloaming - The Gloaming
The Gloaming – The Gloaming

One can hardly go wrong with violinist and fiddler Martin Hayes, pianist Thomas Bartlett, vocalist Iarla O Lionaird, guitarist Dennis Cahill and hardanger fiddler Caoimhin O Raghallaigh or better known as the group The Gloaming. Their 2014 release of The Gloaming, out on the Brassland label, is finely drawn, arresting and distinctive. While not the party mix variety of Celtic music, the music of The Gloaming is breathtaking in its musical twists and turns, drawing deeply on the Celtic soul. Masterful lovelies include “Song 44,” “Allistrum’s March,” “The Girl Who Broke My Heart,” “The Sailor’s Bonnet” and “The Old Bush.”

Eileen Ivers - Beyond the Bog Road
Eileen Ivers – Beyond the Bog Road

Called the “Jimi Hendrix of the violin” by the New York Times, Eileen Ivers has Beyond the Bog Road on tap this year. Out on the Entertainment One Music/ENT. ONE MUSIC label, Beyond the Bog Road is a celebration of the Irish immigrant and the journey to America. This lively charmer boasts tracks like “Walk On,” “Farewell My Love And Remember Me,” “Crossroads,” “Linin’ Track” and the fabulous “Irish Black Bottom.” Incorporating bluegrass, roots and Americana threads, Beyond the Bog Road certainly gets the party started.

Looking for a big, bold and a cinematic feel, you might want to check out the 2014 Green Hill Productions’ release of Celtic Garden by David Arkenstone. Celtic Garden offers up “Celtic Garden” and “Nocturne” both featuring David Davison, as well as “All Souls Night,” “Deliver Me” and “Into the West” from the movie The Lord of the Rings all featuring Charlee Brooks.

Jim Wood and Scott Miller - Celtic Revival: Traditional Irish, Scottish & Old English Hymns
Jim Wood and Scott Miller – Celtic Revival: Traditional Irish, Scottish & Old English Hymns

Green Hill Productions is also behind the 2014 release of Celtic Revival: Traditional Irish, Scottish & Old English Hymns by Jim Wood and Scott Miller for those looking for a sweet, old home feel. Mr. Wood and Mr. Scott offer their carefully crafted takes on “All Hail The Power Of Jesus’ Name,” “The Shepherd’s Dance,” “For The Beauty Of The Earth” and “Amazing Grace.”

 2002 - Celtic Fairy Lullaby

2002 – Celtic Fairy Lullaby

Dreamy and plush Celtic Fairy Lullaby by the group 2002, out on the Galactic Playground Music label, is one of those Celtic/New Age combos that is filled with harp, flute, piano and soaring vocals. Charming and enchanting, this is indeed music to dream up fairies with tracks like “Seoithín Seo Hó / Gartan Mother’s Lullaby,” “Cariad,” “Éamonn an Chnoic,” and “Thugamar Féin an Samhradh Linn.”

Celtic Wonder
Celtic Wonder

Allegro label’s 2015 release of Celtic Wonder with Deanta, Altan, Reeltime, Cherish the Ladies and Niamh Parsons has got the goods with offerings as “An Paistin Fionn,” “Green Grow the Rushes Oh,” “The Bantry Girl’s Lament” and “The Jug of Punch” and “Dulaman” by Altan.

Loreena McKennitt - The Journey So Far The Best of Loreena McKennit
Loreena McKennitt – The Journey So Far The Best of Loreena McKennit

Loreena McKennitt’s 2014 double CD set of The Journey So Far The Best of Loreena McKennit on the UMe label is another lush production. With favorites like “The Mystic’s Dream,” “The Bonny Swans,” “The Mummers’ Dance” and “The Lady Of Shalott,” fans get the full force that is Ms. McKennit. Other goodies on this double set include “The Old Ways,” “Beneath A Phrygian Sky” and “All Souls Night.” Fans get a nice mix of album and live versions on this recording.

Putumayo presents... Celtic Café
Putumayo presents… Celtic Café

Other goodies fans might want to check out are Putumayo’s 2015 Celtic Café with artists like Michael McGoldrick, Dougie MacLean, Calum Stewart and Cara Dillon; Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy on the 2015 Linus Entertainment release called One; Altan’s 2015 release of Widening Gyre with guest artists like Mary Chapin Carpenter, Eddi Reader, Mairead, Jerry Douglas and Tim O’Brien; Whiskey in the Jar: 30 Irish Drinking Songs by various artists and Dolphin & Dara Records label import offerings Essential Irish Music Collection and Na Fianna’s Unearthed.

I’ll end this with a quote from Irish piper Brian Finnegan, “There’s no other profession in the world where you can get to meet such amazing characters – the real people of the country that you go to. Music kind of invites you to walk into these lives. They’re not great academics, or geniuses – they’re just ordinary people, like you and me. That’s the lovely thing about music, and it’s the same with art and the same with poetry.”

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Music Goodies for St. Patrick’s Day 2015

O'Neills Pub in Dublin
O’Neills Pub in Dublin

St. Patrick, the revered 5th century saint, patron saint of Ireland and often thought to be the first bishop of Armagh, wasn’t Irish. According to his accounts in the Confessio, he was actually a 16 year-old kidnapping British Isle victim. Pirates supposedly snatched the boy up and sold him as a slave to Ireland. No worries, it ends well as he was returned to his family after six years. But here the story gets interesting. Relying on a vision after becoming a cleric to the Catholic Church, St. Patrick returns to Ireland as a missionary to minister to the spiritual conversion of the people in a land where he was once a slave.

Okay, there’s no mention of this being part of a revenge tour to straighten out those pagans once and for all which is a little sad. Crediting himself with thousands of baptisms, St. Patrick would become one of Ireland’s most venerated holy men and all without an official canonization by a pope. He is also fabled to have driven all the snakes out of Ireland, too bad that Ireland never had snakes to begin with and is most likely to be a metaphor for driving all the pagans out of Ireland.

Now that all of us can rest easy about the snake situation and Ireland and it’s highly doubtful we could get a return visit from the good saint to battle the serpents lounging about in many of our legislative bodies, we’ll just have to drink deep of the day with some fine music. Here are a few new goodies to get your jig on to or to soothe your Celtic soul while you immerse yourself in some green tinted beer.

 

The Alt - John Doyle, Nuala Kennedy and Eamon O’Leary
The Alt – John Doyle, Nuala Kennedy and Eamon O’Leary

 

Under the Arch Records has released The Alt by John Doyle, Nuala Kennedy and Eamon O’Leary. This sweet Celtic folk CD doles out dulcet tunes like “Lovely Nancy,” “One Morning in May,” “The Geese in the Bog/Covering Ground” and “Cha Tig Mor Mo Bhean Dhachaigh.” Wrapped in a backdrop of guitar, bouzouki, mandola, flute and whistle, listeners will find this a pleasing collection of tunes as this trio of musicians and vocalists evokes the Celtic spirit with mellow ease.

 

Various Artists - Celtic Colours Live 2014 – Volume Two
Various Artists – Celtic Colours Live 2014 – Volume Two

 

Canada’s 2014 Celtic Colours International Festival has out the 16-track compilation Celtic Colours Live Volume Two that is sure to be a fan pleaser. Listeners get a dose of Vasen’s “Fanny,” We Banjo 3’s version of “Shove the Pig’s Foot a Little Further in the Fire/Fine Times at Our House,” Maeve Gilchrist and Nic Gareiss’s “The Sandhunter,” Sharon Shannon and Alan Connor’s “Blackbird: Padraig O’Keefe’s/The Happy One-Step” and Sharon Shannon and Natalie MacMaster’s “Jean’s Reel.”

If that weren’t enough there’s also Mary Jan Lamond and Wendy MacIssac’s “Hoireann o Rathill iu o,” David Francey’s “Torn Screen Door” and Beolach’s extended combo of “Prayerful Hymn/Traditional Strathspey/Golden Anniversary Strathspey/The Way to Mull River Reel/John Morrison of Assynt House/The Pibroch of Domhnall Dubh Reel.” Delicious and expertly worked Celtic Colours is a delightful blend of traditional and new tunes to celebrate Celtic music.

 

Celtic Cross - Saoirse’s Heart
Celtic Cross – Saoirse’s Heart

 

For a change of pace Celtic Cross has put out Saoirse’s Heart. Opening with a rock back and a rap section on title track “Saoirse’s Heart,” this kick ass group moves into more familiar territory on “Monster” before lapsing into the country inspired “Jameson Johnny.”

Saoirse’s Heart is a mixed bag with poppy additions of “Land’s In My Blood,” the rock edged “Water’s Edge” and the folksy bluesy “Best Days.” Keeping to the Celtic flavor, Celtic Cross is fresh and bold.

 

Fiona Joy Hawkins - 600 Years in a Moment
Fiona Joy Hawkins – 600 Years in a Moment

 

Fiona Joy Hawkins’s 600 Years in a Moment on the Little Hartley Music label is a quietly lush recording captured by rich piano work, sumptuous vocals and sensuous violins, as well as a whole host of instruments from around the world like a Hopi drum, a Hungarian tarogato and an African udu cleverly incorporated to create a global Celtic sound that is familiarly exotic.

Keeping to an overall restful mood, 600 Years in a Moment moves through elegant tracks like “600 Years,” “The Journey,” “Gliding” and “Captured Freedom.” Soothing and charming, 600 Years in a Moment is more for quiet Celtic contemplation rather than drunken bar rowdiness.

 

 Shantalla - Turas

Shantalla – Turas

 

Appel Rekords has on tap Turas by the group Shantalla. Rich in the Scottish, Celtic and folk traditions, Turas is all the quick, bright and best of the Celtic tradition. Meaning journey in Irish, Turas offers up acoustic bright work with “The Braemar Poacher,” “Johnny Doherty’s,” “Marching in Jig Time” and “Fair & Tender Maidens.”

Shantalla is comprised of the talents of guitarist and bouzouki player Simon Donnelly, fiddler and viola player Kieran Fahy, singer and bodhran player Helen Flaherty, guitarist Joe Hennon, Uillean piper and flutist Michael Horgan and accordionist and whistle player Gerry Murray. Stunning and electrifying, this is one of those CDs you don’t want to miss.

 

Various Artists - Putumayo Presents Celtic Cafe
Various Artists – Putumayo Presents Celtic Cafe

 

Our friends at Putumayo have a sweet little compilation out this year with Putumayo Presents Celtic Café. Rounding up a bevy of Irish and Scottish singer/songwriters, Celtic Café includes Dougie MacLean’s “Are Ye Sleepin’ Maggie?,” Capercaillie’s “Him Bo,” Manran’s “An Eala Bhan,” Calum Stewart’s “Looking at a Rainbow Through a Dirty Window” and Battlefield Band’s “Tramps & Hawkers.”

 

George Donaldson - Road
George Donaldson – Road

 

With the recordings The World in My Mind and The White Rose already under his belt, George Donaldson has his CD Road on tap for this year. Intimate and smoothly wrought, Road offers up tracks like “Ordinary Man,” “Bright Blue Rose,” “The Leaving of Liverpool,” “How Long Will I Love You” and “The Town I Loved So Well.”

The Road showcases Mr. Donaldson’s charmed vocal along the lines of the singer-songwriter vein of Celtic musical tradition.

 

Altan - Widening Gyre
Altan – Widening Gyre

 

One of the standouts this year that all the fans surely will be clamoring for is Altan’s Widening Gyre out on the Compass Records label. Surely, Altan, with 35 years in the business and recordings like Gleann Nimhe/The Poison Glen, Harvest Storm, Blackwater and Local Ground, is the gold standard in Irish music. The hearty musical fare of Widening Gyre offers up such goodies that it’s difficult to not go all gooey and swoon.

Recorded in Nashville, Tennessee, Widening Gyre gets a clever Americana and bluegrass boost with Compass producer and co-founder Garry West and some friends like Darol Anger, Alison Brown, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas and Tim O’Brien.

While there’s not a stinker in the lot, fans should check out “Maggie’s Pancakes/Piobaire an Cheide/The Fril Deal,” “No Ash Will Burn,” “White Birds” with Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Tin Key/Sam Kelly’s Jig/The Gravediggers” and “The House Carpenter (Gypsy Davy).” “Cúirt Robin Finley” and “Samhradh (Slow Reel)/Aniar Aduaidh (Jig)/The Donegal Jig” make this a must have recording.

 

Very Best of Celtic Thunder
Very Best of Celtic Thunder

 

Let’s say you have Celtic Thunder, Act Two, Voyage, Voyage II, It’s Entertainment!, Heritage, Mythology and/or Holiday Symphony and you are just dying for more. Well, luck would have it the Legacy label has just put out the Very Best of Celtic Thunder.

With twenty tracks on this very-best-of CD, Celtic Thunder get “Heartland,” “Danny Boy,” “Hallelujah,” “My Land,” “She Moved Through the Fair” and “Seven Drunken Nights.”

 

Kila - Suas Sios
Kila – Suas Sios

 

The Irish folk band Kila has just released their 10th studio recording Suas Sios. With previous recording as Handel’s Fantasy, Gamblers’ Ballet, Luna Park and Tog E Go Bog E, Kila has stepped out with fancy free Suas Sios.

Wildly original and infectiously quirky, Suas Sios kicks Celtic music in the pants with the raucous title track “Suas Sios,” only to make us year for more with offerings as “Mac Lir,” “Jigs,” “Rachel Corrie,” “Am” and “Fainne Or an Lae,” not to mention the kickass cover art by Dutch artist Marije Braakman. Definitely a treat!

 

Sarah McQuaid - Walking Into White
Sarah McQuaid – Walking Into White

 

Currently on a U.K. tour to promote her latest, Sarah McQuaid has hit the streets with Walking Into White. Soulful and intimate, Walking Into White is singer/songwriter Ms. McQuaid’s follow up to her When Two Lovers Meet and the Plum Tree and the Rose.

Shot through elegant guitar lines, Walking Into White blossoms with offerings such as opening “Low Winter Sun,” before giving way to lovely tracks like “Where the Wind Decides to Blow,” title track “Walking Into White,” “Jackdaws Rising” and “Leave It for Another Day.” Ms. McQuaid closes out Walking Into White with a graceful rendition of “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.”

 

Liz Madden’s Legacy
Liz Madden’s Legacy

 

Valley Entertainment has released Liz Madden’s Legacy. Enchanting listeners with her crystalline vocals, this Irish-American singer/songwriter thrills with inspired interspersed Gaelic chants against the English vocals.

Backed by acoustic guitar, Ms. Madden makes the most of this recording by keeping the sound folksy and simple. But it’s far from simplistic with the musician, arranger and producer Fionan de Barra of Clannad, Moya Brennan and Riverdance fame, not to mention some guest performances by Joanie Madden of Cherish the Ladies and Eamonn de Barra. Legacy lays bare the goods with “Will You Go Lassie Go,” “The Night Visiting Song,” “Scarborough Fair,” “Wayfaring Stranger” and the expressively stunning “Grainne’s Lament for Diarmuid.”

 

 Tempest - The Tracks We Leave

Tempest – The Tracks We Leave

The group Tempest packs a punch on The Tracks We Leave on the Magna Carta Records label. Incorporating Celtic, Scandinavian and other folk traditions, Tempest offers up some rousing numbers on The Tracks We Leave that are as rich and rewarding as they are addictively fun.

Plying listeners with quirky twists and turns, Tempest wows from the opening “Rantin’ Rovin’ Robin,” title track “The Tracks We Leave,” before dipping into upbeat romps like “Vagabonds” and “September Jig.” Other notable goodies include “Fog on the Bay,” “The Brown Coffin” and “The Leitrim Set.”

 

The Shams - One and All
The Shams – One and All

 

If you’re looking for some hard-edged, kick dirt in the face Celtic music for St. Patrick’s Day, you might want to check out the San Francisco-based, Irish rock band The Shams and their latest EP One and All. This rock-centered, rebel-souled group kicks out with offerings like “Sunset Paddy’s,” “Go On Home Boys,” “Not Bothered” and “Drinks Are On Me.” With a razor edged punk feel it’s only fitting that end the EP with the blistering “Sick To Death.”

 

Discover Music from Ireland
Discover Music from Ireland

 

ARC Music has a lush two-CD set titled Discover Music from Ireland. This compilation has tracks by Florie Brown, The House Devils, Sean Talamh, Noel Mcloughlin, Golden Bough and Kieran Fahy. Some of the goodies include “Humours of Ennistymon/Monaghan Jig,” “The Collaraine Jig / Sharks’ Favourite / Far from Home / Maids of Mt. Cisco,” “Song for Ireland,” “The Hills of Connemara” and a stunning rendition of “Molly Brannagan / Jennie’s Chickens / Drowsey Maggy” by Pied Pipers. And if that weren’t enough there’s also Cunla’s “The Lament for Ten (People),” “Lament for Eoin rua/ Caislean An Oir” and Maidhc Dainin O Se’s “An Buachaillin Ban/Eibhlin Og/The Dainty Dish Before the King.” Certainly, a mouthful after a couple of pints.

Let me end this with a sweet little Irish blessing for your St. Patrick’s Day.

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

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St. Patrick Sounds

Susan McKeown - Sweet Liberty
Susan McKeown – Sweet Liberty
With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner it’s once again the season to wrap yourself in the warm green glow of some fine Celtic music. Whether you are refreshing your Celtic collection with the latest releases, golden oldies or those quiet gems that might have passed you by, World Music Central has some fine picks for your listening pleasure.

First up are two wonderful CDs that fans might have missed but should be on everyone’s St. Patrick’s Day playlist. Sweet Liberty, release in 2004, and Blackthorn: Irish Love Songs, released in 2006 by Susan McKeown are two gloriously sparkling CDs full of that heartbreaking Celtic loveliness that is Ms. McKeown’s trademark.

Luna Park by the group Kíla, released in 2003 on World Village, is another one of those CDs that might have gotten lost in the shuffle, but is delightfully rich Celtic fusion. Drawing on Celtic, folk and world influences, fans will enjoy the genre interplay on such tracks as “Glanfaidh Mé,” “Wandering Fish” and “Maith Dhrom.”

The group Solas, of Another Day, Waiting for an Echo and Sunny Spells & Scattered Showers fame, has released For Love and Laughter out on Compass Records. This CD opens with the raucous romp “Eoin Bear’s Reel/Tune for Sharon/The Rossa Reel” and goes on to wow with tracks “Tilly’s Jig/The Happy Traveler” and “John Riordan’s Heels/Hiban’s White House/The Lisnagun Jig.”

Real World has just released the soundtrack I Could Read the Sky with Iarla O’Lionaird. Best known as the lead vocalist for Afro Celt Sound System and previous solo recordings Invisible Fields and The Seven Steps to Mercy, I Could Read the Sky is the evocative soundtrack to director Nichola Bruce’s movie I Could Read the Sky, based on the photographic novel by writer Timothy O’Grady and photographer Steve Pyke.

No Irish collection would be complete without the classics and if you are talking classics you are talking The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem. The live recording Reunion with such great tracks like “Isn’t It Grand Boys,” “Whistling Gypsy Rover” and “Red Haired Mary” will have fans kicking up their heels in sheer delight. The Rising of the Moon: Irish Songs of Rebellion and Come Fill Your Glass with Us are two more classic recordings by Tommy Makem and The Clancy Brothers that no collector should be without.

In the 1970s, highly creative folk bands revolutionized Irish music. Among them, the Bothy Band stood out. Listen to 1975: The First Album, Old Hag You Have Killed Me, Out of the Wind into the Sun, or try the sampler The Best of the Bothy Band. Other Irish folk classic albums that belong in everyone’s collection include: Harvest Storm by Altan, Redwood by supergroup Lunasa, and Volume 1: Sound Magic by Afro Celt Sound System.

New Irish music albums were released in recent weeks in time for Saint Patrick’s. Celtic music fans will enjoy: The Incident by Irish band Beoga that describe itself as a "trad band on anabolic steroids"; Double Play by fiddler Liz Carroll and guitarist John Doyle; the self titled album The Green Fields of America, a band led by the legendary Mick Maloney; and the relatively recent Woman of the House by Irish American band Cherish the Ladies.

We hope we’ve filled your cup with some fine Irish picks and wish you a rowdy good time on St. Patrick’s Day.

Photos: 1 – Susan McKeown, 2 – front cover of 1975: The First Album by The Bothy Band.

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