Tag Archives: Celtic music

Glamorous recital from Canadian Singer and Harper Loreena McKennitt in San Sebastian

The “Lost Souls Tour”, an extensive tour of Europe, also ended up in Spain (Valencia, Murcia, Granada, Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza, and finally in San Sebastian). And, after Thessaloniki, Athens, Izmir, Ankara, Istanbul, Abenberg, Munich, Berlin, Freiburg, Mainz, Florence, Milan, Udine, Macerata, Rome, Molfettá, Cervere and Lyon, Canada’s Loreena Mckennitt will have completed one of her more clamorous and also “glamorous” European tours. Elegance is not only in fashion shows, but also in some theatrical scenes, such as the Victoria Eugenia venue.

Loreena has nearly forty years of professional activity, and it seems as if time had not passed through her, especially her music. And the voice, that incredible voice, is, next to her inseparable Celtic harp, hallmark of one of the most personal and unmistakable artists of the broad contemporary musical spectrum.

She doesn’t know about labels or upstart commitments: she started, and continues to do so, from an unequivocal musical and literary tradition anchored in Ireland and Shakespeare in equal parts, but she has managed to expand her borders until she reaches the sensual East, the torrid Morocco, the canonical Hellenic civilizations, and has even set its sights on the Spanish mysticism of the literary Golden Age and has sung to the asceticism taken from San Juan de la Cruz, just to mention a few ports in which she has landed.

Loreena McKennitt – Photo by Richard Haughton

Her current tour, based on the themes of her latest published CD, “Lost Souls“, is protected and supported by the rocking chair of a phenomenal instrumental quintet: Brian Hughes (guitars, bouzouki), Caroline Lavelle (cello, recorder, vocals), Dudley Phillips (electric bass), Robert Brian (drums, percussion) and the sensational violinist Hugh Mash, true virtuoso, builder and vehicle of the loudness displayed by the ensemble.

Loreena, on the other hand, launched, more than ever, her arsenal of exhibits and possibilities: not only the well-known and already cited harp (less used than in the past), but also, the very “folkie” accordion, the gliding synthesizers and, the wonder, her latest “discovery”, the piano, not so much with classical connotations as close to jazz “pathos”. Thus, the creator of “Santiago” and “Bonny Portmore” has approached an increasingly globalizing and, in any case, always creative sound.

Cast aside this time, some sounds frequently used in other times not too far away: the medieval hurdy gurdy and those deeply rooted in Celtic culture, the “uileann pipes”. Particularly, I miss those telluric gadgets, always supplanted in modernity by the versatile keyboards. Yes, a shame.

But, despite that, the provision of Loreena McKennitt live always elevates you near the seventh heaven. Prodigy of diction, elegance, lyrical intensity, expressive emotion, the voice and music of the incomparable artist (because there is no other that does what she does, although outstanding and personal approaches have emerged: in some passages, the Gaelic Enya In others, the Guipuzcoan Olatz Zugasti) is one of the most rewarding experiences that the ear, so often punished, can perceive of the listener conducive to receiving flashes of beauty without a story.

The repertoire did not miss the opportunity to approach some of her “great hits.” “Lady of Shalott”, based on a poem by Lord Tennyson, with its more than ten minutes of brilliant poetic display, was, without a doubt, a high point in the recital. Her Arabic, turquoise and Mediterranean melodies also made an appropriate act of presence. Gaelic references and Marrakesh-ish were not lacking, nor was the (and above all) the captivating, almost dreamlike, always bucolic world of Irish legends and essences. W.B. Yeats did not walk very far, but now the singer is very determined to recreate her own literary world, with songs from her harvest.

Musically, the proposal balanced between the admirable, renovated “folk” of the 21st century, and winks to almost hard rock and jazz, not improvised but very measured instrumental moment. Above all and all, a sublime voice, between soprano and the sharp outbursts of a texture unattainable by other vocalists. Only Joan Baez would be up to it in this regard. Or Nina Simone.

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The Lorient Festival Dedicates the 2019 Edition to the Music of Galicia

The new edition of the prestigious and established Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival (Brittany, France), directed since nearly a decade ago by journalist, cultural activist and producer Lisardo Lombardia (Asturias, Spain), will present a very attractive program, with special dedication to the music from Galicia (Spain), this year’s guest country. The festival takes place August 2-11 in Brittany.

Carlos Núñez

The extensive Galician representation will be led, of course, by Galician piper and flute player Carlos Núñez, a real popular legend not only for the Breton public, but throughout France, where his albums sell very well and where he’s a really popular person at all levels. The disciple of Paddy Moloney and the legendary Irish group, The Chieftains, has reached an enviable maturity, enthralling with his attractive visual and sound show to all possible audiences.

Milladoiro, on the other hand, is the most respected and prestigious band in the rich and varied panorama of the traditional sound of Galicia, a pantheon that also includes acts such as Luar Na Lubre, Cristina Pato, Susana Seivane, Múxicas, and a long etcetera. Milladoiro, with a resume of more than 20 albums and several soundtracks under their belt, is undoubtedly an example of quality, perseverance and loyalty to roots.

The new talent will be represented by Mercedes Peón, anthropologist, field researcher, composer, arranger and singer, with a stage show as current as groundbreaking, not far from the deliveries of Iceland’s Bjorg or Ireland’s Sinead O’Connor. A concert by Mercedes Peón never leaves anyone indifferent.

Aside from the “Galicia Special” of the FIL19 (Lorient Interceltic Festival), the programming of its ten variegated days also includes the performance of Balkan artist Goran Bregovic, who will be accompanied on such a sole occasion by none other than the Symphony Orchestra of Brittany.

In addition, veteran French folk rock band Soldat Louis, much loved among their countrymen, and Bagad Kemper Bagpipe and Percussion Band, representative of the hundreds of similar groups that swarm their country will be another point of interest. As well as the appearance of another veteran Hungarian group, Skolvan, of which we had no news for many years.

Fest noz at Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival

The Great Parade of the Celtic Countries, which gathers more than a hundred thousand people, between participants and spectators and is broadcast on television throughout the Hexagon [France], and the beloved daily sessions of dance and live music of the nightly “fest noz” are other inducements of this great event, that no good fan of the sounds and spirits of universal pan-Celtic music should miss in person at least once in a lifetime.

More at www.festival-interceltique.bzh

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Artist Profiles: Simon Thoumire

Simon Thoumire

Simon Thoumire was born July 11, 1970 in Edinburgh, Scotland. An acknowledged concertina virtuoso, Thoumire has dazzled audiences all over the world with his playing.

A winner of the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Young Tradition Award in 1989, Simon has always been interested in exploring different genres of music, releasing many records over the years delving into folk, jazz, improvisation and composition.

Simon has also pursued interests in the industry side of traditional music forming Foot Stompin’ Records in 1997, Scottish Traditional Music Trust (2000) and Hands Up for Trad (2003). United Kingdom Europe

Discography:

Exhibit A, with Fergus MacKenzie ‎(Iona, 1995)
The Big Day In, with David Milligan ‎(Foot Stompin’ Records, 2001)
Brothers In Music ‎(DUNS, 2004)
Third Flight Home, with David Milligan ‎(Foot Stompin’ Records, 2007)

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Artist Profiles: Tony McManus

Tony McManus

Guitarist Tony McManus was born in 1965 in Paisley, Scotland. He is a leading figure in contemporary Celtic music. His style is influenced by the entire Celtic diaspora – Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, Galicia, Asturias, Cape Breton, Quebec – along with still further-ranging flavors, such as jazz and east European music.

His skills are also in constant demand by fellow musicians and he has featured on over 50 albums by other artists, including Kate Rusby, Alison Brown, William Jackson, Brian McNeill, Liz Doherty, Colin Reid and Catriona Macdonald, in addition to innumerable live guest appearances.

Other collaborations include his celebrated partnership with master Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser. In 2005, McManus released a CD with Breton fretless bass player, Alain Genty titled Singing Sands.

Discography:

Tony McManus (Greentrax, 1996)
Pourquoi Quebec (Greentrax, 1998)
Return to Kintail, with Alasdair Fraser (Culburnie, 1999)
Ceol More (Compass, 2002)
Singing Sands with Alain Genty (Compass, 2005)
The Maker’s Mark (Compass, 2008)
Mysterious Boundaries (Compass, 2013)
Round Trip, with Beppe Gambetta (Borealis, 2015)

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The Stylish Celtic Flute Allure of Flook

Flook – Ancora (Flatfish Records, 2019)

Flook, the Celtic flute powerhouse, is back with a fabulous new album. Ancora is Flook’s first studio album since 2006 and the four musicians have delivered another gem. Flook performs original contemporary instrumental pieces rooted in Irish folk music traditions. The primary composers are the two flute players, Sarah Allen and Brian Finnegan.

Flook – Ancora

The music of Flook revolves around masterful flute and whistle melodies and their exquisite interplay, supported by the trance-like beat of the Irish bodhran frame drum and string instruments.

Ancora features various guests that contribute influences from other global musical traditions and new tonalities through several unexpected, delightful musical instruments like the Theremin, steel drums, hurdy gurdy, hammered dulcimer and the pandereta asturiana.

The current Flook lineup includes Brian Finnegan on flutes and whistles; Sarah Allen on alto flute, concert flute and accordion; Ed Boyd on guitars, bouzouki and piano; and John Joe Kelly on bodhran.

Guests include Simon Chrisman on hammered dulcimer; Phil Cunningham on piano accordion; Amadou Diagne on percussion; Philip Henry on lap steel guitar; Trevor Hutchinson on acoustic bass; Melvin Ifill on steel drums; Matthias Loibner on hurdy-gurdy; Conor McCreanor on acoustic bass; Niall Murphy on fiddle; Patsy Reid on cello, viola, violin; Eva Tejedor on pandereta asturiana; and Mark Tucker on Theremin.

Ancora is an impeccable example of exceptionally expressive, shape-shifting Celtic music craftsmanship

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Glasgow Gets Hometown love from Mary Ann Kennedy

Mary Ann Kennedy – ‘Glaschu’ Home Town Love Song (ARC Music EUCD2833, 2019)

Scottish singer and arranger Mary Ann Kennedy (Màiri Anna NicUalraig) celebrates her hometown, Glasgow and her Gaelic roots in ‘Glaschu’ (Glasgow in Gaelic). ‘Glaschu’ brings together captivating song, insightful poetry and superb Celtic music from the Scottish and Irish traditions, featuring bodhran, whistles, and uilleann pipes.

Mary Ann Kennedy – Glaschu

Gaelic is spoken by an estimated 60,000 people in Scotland and Mary Ann Kennedy is involved in the promotion and safeguarding of the language. She sings beautifully in Gaelic throughout the album and the CD booklet includes the lyrics in Gaelic and English.

Mary Ann Kennedy goes beyond Celtic arrangements and instrumentation and incorporates classical chamber music elements, blues, mesmerizing folk ballads, evocative jazz (think of ECM), urban sound effects, and poetry readings.

‘Glaschu’ is a masterfully crafted recording enclosed in exquisite packaging. It is a tribute to the melting pot of Glasgow where various musical traditions and religions have coexisted for years. A wonderful place where Gaelic roots meets urban life.

Purchase Glaschu in North America

Purcgase Glaschu in Europe

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2019 St. Patrick’s Day Music

So, here we are. We’ve come to that time of year when I have this sudden insane desire to rip paper shamrocks from the walls and turn them into origami swans. With a few deft strokes of a Sharpie, I yearn to give every cheap, cheesy leprechaun a fabulous Salvador Dali mustache. I want to fill every faux pot of gold with squid and give every green, gaudy hat its proper due by handing it off to the nearest Labrador Retriever to be rendered into a slobbery, slimy cheap piece of felt as it so richly deserves.

It must be St. Patrick’s Day season.

I am currently without Sharpie, Labrador Retriever or squid, but, my fine readers, I do have music for your St. Patrick’s Day. I’ve got raucous music, soothing music, poetry within music, music so fine as to make a pint of Guinness shed a tear. I’ve got music with fiddles, music with guitars, music with pipes and music with voices so lovely it will give that Labrador Retriever pause and so drop that chewed hat. I’ve got music from across the ocean, music from down the road, music from across a green field and music from a dark wood. So, let’s get to it.

Irish Relaxation: Calming Celtic Instrumental Music and Beautiful Nature

Those seeking to find a kind of Celtic serenity this St. Patrick’s Day have to look no further than New Age NY Company’s Irish Relaxation: Calming Celtic Instrumental Music and Beautiful Nature. Celtic Chillout Relaxation Academy and Calm Music Zone offer up tracks like “Irish Relaxation,” Spiritual Awaking,” “Nature of Ireland,” “Irish Soundscapes,” “Patrick’s Day,” “Waves & Cliffs” and “Ancient Hills of Ireland” for those looking for a bit of Celtic Zen (I’m sure all you Druids out there have your own name for a Zen-like state so just fill in your own word).

David Arkenstone – The Celtic Heart

David Arkenstone has on tap for this St. Patrick’s Day The Celtic Heart. Sweet instrumentals like “Hearts Entwined,” “May Dance,” “the Promise Ring” and “Secret Wedding” are comfortably easy and enjoyable. This is perhaps a little sedate for a raucous St. Patrick’s Day party, but might be held in reserve if the mayhem needs to be taken down a notch or two.

The Outside Track. – Rise Up

The label Lorimer has put out Rise Up by a group called The Outside Track. Comprised fiddler and singer Mairi Rankin, singer and flute player Teresa Horgan, composer and harpist Ailie Robertson, composer and accordionist Fiona Black and guitarist Michael Ferrie, The Outside Track boasts such previous recordings like Light Up the Dark, Flash Company, The Mountain Road and Curious Things Given Wings. Rise Up possesses some real charmers such as “Dark Reels,” “Road to Rollo Bay,” “The Wahoo Set,” “Eleanor Plunkett” and “Happy Reels.”

Eabhal – This Is How the Ladies Dance.

Out of the Scottish Gaelic tradition comes Eabhal and their 2019 recording This Is How the Ladies Dance. Musicians Megan MacDonald, Jamie MacDonald, Nicky Kirk and Hamish Hepburn have crafted a fine fiddle and accordion soaked album on This Is How the Ladies Dance with delicious fare like “Beir Soiridh,” “MaSim,” “Windsong,” “An Ribhinn Donn” and “The Artist.”

Claire Hastings and her album Those Who Roam

Luckenbooth Records has on tap Claire Hastings and her album Those Who Roam. With her previous recording Between River and Railway under her belt, this Scottish singer and songwriter dazzles her way Those Who Roam with tracks like “The Lothian Hairst,” “Seven Gypsies,” “Jamie Raeburn” and “Ten Thousand Miles” with some truly spectacular vocals.

The Tannahill Weavers –Orach

Scottish group The Tannahill Weavers has put out Orach -The Golden Anniversary Album, out in the U.S. On the Compass Records label. This is a wonderful collection of traditional and contemporary song celebrates The Tannahill Weavers 50th anniversary and their 18th album with the group’s current line-up members Roy Gullane, Phil Smillie, John Martin and Lorne MacDougall and fondly honoring past band members. Fans get goodies like title track “Orach,” “Jenny A’ Things,” “Oh No!,” “The Asturian Sessions,” “The Ghost of Mick McDonnell” and “Gordon Duncan Set.”

Ciaran Tourish and Keven Doherty –Hotel Fiesta

The goodness just keeps on coming with Altan and 4 Men & a Dog heavyweights Ciaran Tourish and Keven Doherty and their release Hotel Fiesta. This album is a punch to the gut, a kiss on the cheek and a warm embrace all wrapped in one with tracks like “The Oak Tree (Jackson’s 1 & 2),” “Hawker’s Blues,” “A Visit to Ireland/The Lark on the Strand/Peter Byrne’s Fancy,” “Boots of Spanish Leather,” “Ur Chnock Chein Mhic Cainte,” “The Foxhunters/Dusty Miller,” “Dan the Man” and “My Love Is in America/The Cup of Tea/The Donegal Reel.”

Various Artists – Live Recordings from the William Kennedy Piping Festival, Vol. 2

If it’s piping you want, it’s piping you get with Live Recordings from the William Kennedy Piping Festival. This double CD set is a compilation from various performances at the William Kennedy Festival from 2003-2017. There’s more pipers here than you can shake a stick at, including Sean McKeon’s “The Maid on the Green/The Humours of Glin,” John McSherry and Francis McIlduff’s “Son Ar Rost/Song of the Chanter/The Foxhunters/James Kelly’s/The Limestone Rock,” The Goodman Trio’s “An Roguire Dubh/Airgiod Cailighe,” Paddy Keenan’s “The Broken Pledge/The Skylark/The Bucks of Oranmore” and Jarlath Henderson and Ross Ainslie’s “Jim Tweedie’s Sea Legs/Iain Ruadh/Thunderstruck/Angus Thing/Limestone Rock.” This is a sort of glorious piping overdose.

Grainne Holland – Corcra

Following up on recordings Teanga Na nGael and Gaelre, Irish singer Grainne Holland has out this year a whole CD’s worth of her own original songs called Corcra. Teaming up with a stellar cast of musicians including Aidan O’Rourke, Liam Bradley, Brendan Mulholland, Cormac McCarthy, Niamh Dunne, John Joe Kelly, Paul Dunlea, Conor McCreanor and Steve Jones, Ms Holland turns out a stunning collection of songs including “Mise Agus Tusa,” “Coinsias, Corp Agus Croi,” “Harry’s” and “An Ri Rua.” There will be no dry eye in the house by the time she’s done.

Farsan – Gaelic Traditions in the New World

Lead vocalist Mairi Britton, fiddler Katie McNally, pianist, accordionist, mandolinist and vocalist Neil Pearlman and border and highland piper Elias Alexander make up the group Farsan and their debut recording “Gaelic Traditions in the New World” is rich and rewarding and well worth a listen. Masterly moving through tracks like “Taladh A’ Phuilein,” “Pronn An Caoran,” “The Water Boiling Machine,” “Fear Drabastach,” “A’ Mhisg A Chuir An Nollaig” and “Gun Togainn Air Hugan,” Farsan turns out a recording that’s equal parts achingly lovely and joyfully jaunty.


Gary Innes –Imminent

Scottish accordion player Gary Innes shows off his chops on his recording Imminent. Leaning heavily on his own compositions, Mr. Innes casts a wide net over the tracks of Imminent, offering up goodies like “The Doctor’s Order,” the raucously wild “Welcome to New York,” the sweetly solemn “Sheerwater,” the completely entertaining “Alpha Runrig” and the easy mood of “Trade Winds.”


Hannah Flowers – Amhran na Cruite: Songs of the Harp

St. Paul, Minnesota native Hannah Flowers takes a turn in Irish with her recording Amhran na Cruite: Songs of the Harp. Angelic vocals and fairy compositions woven throughout tracks like “Buachaill on Eirne,” “Cul Tiubh na bPearlai,” “Urchnoc Chein Mhic Cainte” and “Dun Do Shuil” will surely earn Ms. Flowers a nostalgic tear at the thoughts of the old country.


Daoiri Farrell – A Lifetime of Happiness

If you are looking for some straight up Irish folk then look no further than Daoiri Farrell’s A Lifetime of Happiness. This is the real deal Irish folk fare to cozy up along with some properly pulled pints and a few friends. You’ll want to snag a listen to tracks like “The Galway Shawl,” “Valentine O’Hara,” “Theres the Day,” “Sweet Portadown,” “Rosie Reilly” and “Via Extasia” if for no other reason than Mr. Farrell’s plumy Irish vocals.

Brighde Chaimbeul – The Reeling

The Skye born, Scottish smallpipes player Brighde Chaimbeul’s recording The Reeling is shockingly good and I mean leaked out of the air, bubbled up from some strange lake good. Recorded live in a historic church in Cromarty, Scotland, the music of The Reeling sounds as if it had just lingered in the air for a couple of centuries before a wee lass captured it and put it down for the rest of us. Don’t believe me? Check out tracks like “A Bhriogais Uallach/Highean Donn nan Gobhar,” “Moma e Moma Rodila,” “An Leimras/Harris Dance” and “Gur Boidheach Nighean Donn Mo Chridhe.”

Jose Manuel Tejedor – Miraes

Brandishing pipes and whistles, Jose Manuel Tejedor gives listeners a taste of Spain’s Celtic flavor on Miraes. Mr. Tejedor lays down the goodness with tracks like “Automatas,” “Espiona,” “Miraes” and “Rihonor/Rio de Onor.”

In addition to Mr. Tejedor on pipes and whiles Miraes is packed bouzouki, mandolin, bodhran, violin, concertina and with some steel guitar from fellow musician Angel Ruiz on “Valles.”

Celtic Woman- Celtic Woman Homecoming Live from Ireland
Celtic Woman Ancient Land

If Celtic Woman is your thing, there are two out this season Celtic Woman Homecoming Live from Ireland and Celtic Woman Ancient Land.

This is rather typical Celtic Woman fare with “Mo Ghile Mear,” Dulaman,” and “Fields of Gold” gracing Homecoming and tracks like “Ancient Land,” “Homeland,” “Mna Na hEireann” and “Tara’s Tune” on Ancient Land. While not exactly to my particular tastes, I’m sure there’s some out there waiting with baited breath to get a listen.

Various Artists – Street Lights

It started out with a few folk. People like Dave Geraghty, Gary Lightbody, Bono, Conor O’brien,Loah, Roisin O, Cathy Davey, Galia Arad, Faye O’Rourke, Saint Sister, Little Green Cars, The High Hopes Choir and The Camden Orchestra, along with musicians Cian Boylan, Conor Brady, Ben Castle, Colm Mac Con Iomaire, Colm Quearney, Rob Malone and Graham Hopkins. Well, these folk put out the single “Homeward Bound” as a way to aid the homeless. Well, wouldn’t you know they put an album to carry their good works over. Street Lights, the album, teams up the likes of Damien Dempsey, Snow Patrol, The Frames, Vincent McMorrow, Villagers and Luka Bloom for a CD that will benefit Ireland’s homeless. Fans will want to check out Street Lights’s version of Paul Simon’s “Homeward Bound,” Damien Dempsey’s “Soft Rain,” Stephen James Smith’s spoken word coolness on “My Ireland” and Richard Hawley and Lisa Hannigan’s “Hush A Bye Mountain.”

Bangers Mash – Quicksand Cafe

Quicksand Cafe by Bangers & Mash, out on the Dancing Druid Music label might appeal those who want to gather up a gang of toughs and rock out this St. Patrick’s Day. Pulling together the talents of vocalist and percussionist Liam Hudock, electric bassist Seth Lesselbaum, vocalist and bodhran player Carole Lesselbaum, vocalist and guitarist Chad Herth, vocalist and fiddler Alexandra Adams, drummer Anthony Anastase and guest guitarist and drummer Brian Gabriel, Quicksand Cafe is a quick-paced Celtic steamroller as it rollicks along with tracks like “Fields of Athenrye,” “Star of the Country Down,” title track “Quicksand Cafe,” “Rambling Rover” and “Morrison’s Jig.”

YR Hwntws – Y Tribanw

From Wales there’s the stunning recording Y Tribanwr by the group YR Hwntws. Lushly sweet with jazzy overtones, Y Tribanwr is downright delicious. Corralling the talents of vocalist Gregg Lynn, vocalist, tabor player and percussionist Nia Lyn, fiddler Bernard KilBride, vocalist, flute and whistle player Imogen O’Rourke, mandocello player Dan B. James and double bassist and bass guitarist Dean Ryan, YR Hwntws has a tight, neat sound throughout tracks like “ Ym Mhontypridd mae ‘Nghariad,” “Aradwr a’i Ychen,” “Bro Morgannwg,” “Ffarwel I Dai’r Cantwr” and “Diawledig a Nefolaidd/Pibddawns Gwr Wrecsam.” The music is downright lovely, the recording excellent and the liner notes contain the Welsh lyrics to all the songs if you want to give your Welsh a go and the English translations if you’re a scaredy cat like me. Yeah, I think speaking Welsh might just need a wee bit of courage.

Lleuwen Steffan – Gwn Glan Beibl Budr

Another offering from Wales and a sort of off-the-beaten track comes Gwn Glan Beibl Budr. Fans might recognize Lleuwen Steffan’s voice by her previous recordings Tan, Duw A Wyr/God Only Knows and Penmon. While Gwn Glan Beibl Budr might be a tad more experimental than the Celtic Woman set would tolerate, but Ms. Steffan’s vocals on tracks like “Y Garddwr” and “Can Taid” are just too good to miss. Fans should check out the silky smooth vocals of “Cwm Rhondda” against some pretty fabulous percussion and instrumentation. Other goodies include the lazy smoky feel of “Caerdydd” and the sweet elegance of “Mynyddoedd.”

The Gloaming – The Gloaming 3

One of the real gems this year has to be Real World Records’ The Gloaming 3. So finely wrought, so utterly elegant, The Gloaming 3 is likely to cause normally placid people to turn to others and snottily ask, “Must you breathe in and out so loudly?” for fear of missing a single note. The Gloaming 3 gang of vocalist Iarla O Lionaird, hardanger d’amore player Caoimhin O Raghallaigh, guitarist Dennis Cahill, fiddler Martin Hayes and pianist Thomas Bartlett transform a voice and four instruments into a Celtic music lover’s wonderland. There’s no need to point out particular tracks, simply because it’s wonderful from the opening notes of “Meachan Rudai (The Weight of Things)” to the very last note of “Amhran na nGleann (The Song of the Glens).” All one needs to do is to surrender to the timelessness of each precious note and let the rest go hang.

I hope some of this music might go a long way to soothe the irritations of cheap green beer, insanely drunken revelers in matching T-shirts with “Irish you were naked” printed on the front and the stupidly obnoxious guy dressed as a leprechaun this St. Patrick’s Day. If not, my advice is to grab a Sharpie, a Labrador Retriever and a bucket of squid.

I’ll leave you with the Gaelic saying, “Giorraionn beirt bothar.” It essentially means “Two people shorten a road.” So, grab a friend, order up a pint, tell a tall tale and revel in some fine music.

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Artist Profiles: Flook

Flook in 2019

The idea of Flook was first conceived in Manchester, November 1995, when Michael McGoldrick (flutes), Brian Finnegan (flutes) and Sarah Allen (flutes, whistles, accordion) got together for one tour titled Three Nations Flutes. The unusual line-up included three flute players. Guitarist Ed Boyd was drafted in at the end of the tour and they changed their name to Fluke!, later to Flook.

In 1997, the band released Flook! Live!, which captured the three talented flutists at their best during the Sidmouth Folk Festival. Michael McGoldrick was part of the Manchester Irish scene from a young age. Brian Finnegan was raised in Armagh in Ireland while Sarah Allen was originally from London. Ed Boyd spent his childhood in Bath before he moved to Manchester and formed Red Ciel prior to Flook!

When Mike left to pursue solo projects in 1998, John Joe Kelly (bodhran), who was also a veteran of the Manchester Irish scene, was brought in full time, having previously appeared as an occasional guest.

Flook’s unique combination of flutes, underpinned by fluid guitar and hugely impressive bodhram playing made them one of the most popular groups on the live music circuit in the UK.

Flook won Best Band at BBC Folk Awards in 2006.

The group disbanded in 2008 and reformed in 2013.

In 2019, after a recording hiatus of 14 years, Flook announced the release of ‘Ancora’ in April 2019. The 2019 lineup featured the flutes and whistles of Brian Finnegan and Sarah Allen, the guitar of Ed Boyd and the bodhran of John Joe Kelly.

Brian Finnegan said, “Way back in 2005 when we released our 3rd studio album ‘Haven’, little did we know that it would be our last for almost a decade and a half. We took a break in 2008, followed our hearts and instincts and went our separate ways; had kids, got hitched, loved, lost, explored the musical world post-Flook. But when Flook came calling again in 2013, so the voltage returned and like all deep friendships it felt like we’d never been apart.

Part of the decision to re-group was the understanding that we had much left to say as a band, and a certain responsibility to our loyal fans, old and new, to create Flook music of the present, rich in both past and future.

The imagery associated with the meaning of ‘Ancora’ is abundant indeed. It is the Latin word for anchor, be that to the seabed or in the kith and kin of our lives. It also means ‘hope’ and ‘again’. The great Italian master Michelangelo was attributed as saying “Ancora Impara” on his 87th birthday, meaning “I am yet learning”. This resonated in us and was present throughout the process of recording ‘Ancora’. So, deeper in we go. Thanks for listening.”

Discography:

Flook! Live! (Small CD 945 1997)
Flatfish (Flatfish 2CD 1999)
Rubai (Flatfish4CD 2003)
Haven (World Village, 2006)
Ancora (Flatfish Records, 2019)

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Artist Profiles: Alasdair Fraser

Alasdair Fraser at the Carrboro ArtsCenter – Photo by Angel Romero

Alasdair Fraser was born on may 14 May, 1955 in Clackmannan, Scotland. He is widely acclaimed as a top performer, recording artist and teacher of the rich fiddling tradition of his native Scotland.

His vast repertoire spans several centuries of Scottish music and also includes his own compositions, blending a profound understanding of the Scottish tradition. Fraser is justly renowned for his ability to communicate with his audience through his personal warmth and wit as well as through music. His richly expressive playing transports listeners across a broad spectrum ranging from haunting laments drawn from the Gaelic tradition to classically-styled airs and raucous dance tunes.

In addition to releasing critically acclaimed solo albums, Alasdair’s compositions and performances have also been included on top selling Celtic and New Age compilation albums (Celtic Twilight on the Hearts of Space label, and Wilderness Collection and Celtic Odyssey on Narada). His solo violin can be heard on the soundtracks of several major films, including The Last of the Mohicans and Titanic.

Alasdair Fraser with Skyedance Band

In May 1996, Alasdair’s album Dawn Dance received the prestigious NAIRD (now AFIM) Indie Award for best Celtic album of the Year. This is the first album by Alasdair to feature entirely his own compositions. The music brings together the best of Scottish, Baroque, Rock and Medieval/Ancient ideas and features some of the best musicians in these respective fields. Shortly after the release of Dawn Dance, Alasdair and the other musicians decided to name their band Skyedance.

Fraser has founded five summer fiddling programs in the USA, Spain and Australia.

Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas at the Carrboro ArtsCenter – Photo by Angel Romero

In recent years, he has been touring and recording with American cellist Natalie Haas.

Fraser lives in northern California, in the United States.

Discography

Portrait of a Scottish Fiddler (Brownrigg Productions, 1982)
Skyedance, with Paul Machlis (Culburnie Records, 1985)
The Road North, with Paul Machlis (Sona Gaia/Narada, 1987)
The Driven Bow, with Jody Stecher (1989)
Dawn Dance (Culburnie Records, 1996)
Way Out to Hope Street, with Skyedance Band (1997)
Return to Kintail, with Tony McManus (Culburnie Records, 1999)
Labyrinth, with Skyedance Band (2000)
Legacy of the Scottish Fiddle, Vol 1, with Paul Machlis (Piano) and Natalie Haas (Cello) – released 2002
Live in Spain, with Skyedance Band – released 2002
Legacy of the Scottish Fiddle, Vol 2, with Muriel Johnstone and Natalie Haas (Culburnie Records, 2004)
Fire and Grace, with Natalie Haas (Greentrax Records, 2004)
In the Moment, with Natalie Haas (Culburnie Records, 2007)
Highlander’s Farewell, with Natalie Haas (Culburnie Records, 2011)
Abundance, with Natalie Haas (Culburnie Records, 2014)
Ports of Call, with Natalie Haas ( Culburnie Records, 2017)

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Artist Profiles: Aly Bain

Aly Bain

Aly Bain was born on May 15 1946 in Lerwick, Shetland, Scotland. Lerwick is a small, enchanting town on the Shetland Islands. Aly began learning fiddle at the age of eleven. Tom Anderson, his teacher, is acknowledged as one of the true masters of Shetland music. Aly developed a highly dramatic style of playing, matching his great tone and technical ability with genuine emotion. Alert to the musical potential of the dynamic interaction between Irish and Scottish traditions, he helped establish the Boys of the Lough. The group is now recognized as one of the best in the tradition.

Simultaneously, Aly pursued his solo career. Since 1986, he has been working with Pelicula Films on various television series dealing with folk music. The first series, “Down Home,” traces fiddle music from its roots in Scotland across the Atlantic to the United States and Canada. The second, entitled “The Transatlantic Sessions” (1995), featured many prominent artists, such as Emmylou Harris, Iris DeMent, Kathy Mattea, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Mary Black, Karen Matheson, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, Donal Lunny, Dick Gaughan, and Phil Cunningham.

Aly Bain (left) &Phil Cunningham (right)

Aly Bain and accordionist Phil Cunningham are two of the most celebrated musicians on the Scottish traditional scene. The duo first worked together on a television series in 1988, and embarked on their first tour shortly after. They were so well received that they have been touring Scotland annually ever since, in addition to frequent performances in Europe and North America.

In 1993, his autobiography, Fiddler on the Loose, was published, co-written by journalist and editor Alasdair Clark. He continues to tour extensively with the Boys of the Lough in addition to his collaborations with Phil and many other musicians.

Aly Bain also tours with Swedish multi-instrumentalist Ale Möller and with American fiddler, singer, guitarist and banjo player Bruce Molsky.

Discography:

Aly Bain ( Whirlie Records, 1984)
Aly Bain & Friends (Greentrax Records, 1989)
Lonely Bird (Green Linnet, 1992)
The Best of Aly Bain:Volume One:A Fiddler’s Tale (2008)

With Phil Cunningham:

The Pearl (Green Linnet, 1995)
The Ruby (Whirlie Records, 1997)
Another Gem (Whirlie Records, 2000)
Spring the Summer Long (Whirlie Records, 2003)
Best of Aly and Phil, Volume One (2004)
Roads Not Travelled (Whirlie Records, 2006)
Portrait (2010)
Five and Twenty (Whirlie Records, 2012)
Best of Aly and Phil, Volume Two (2013)

With Ale Möller

Fully Rigged (Whirlie Records/Northside, 1999)
Beyond the Stacks (Whirlie Records/Northside, 2007)
Meeting Point, with Ale Möller and Bruce Molsky (2013)

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