Tag Archives: Irish folk music

Artist Profiles: Alex Caton

Alex Caton

grew up in England, Scotland and the East Coast of the United States. She first put a bow in her hands at the age of four and played violin through her college years at Binghamton University. As her interest in Irish and Old Time music grew, she changed her tunes (and her instrument name) and began playing and teaching fiddle on the side. But it wasn’t until she moved to the Charlottesville, Virginia area to work on a PhD in Anthropology that she found her true calling.

Alex fell in love with the music scene in Charlottesville and soon cast aside her career as a professional archaeologist (she worked up and down the East Coast of the United States, as well as in West Africa) to focus on fiddle music full-time.

Since 2001, Alex has lived in Gordonsville, Virginia, teaching Irish, Old Time and Gypsy music out of her home and playing with a wide variety of local groups including the Irish band, The Ryegrass Rollers.

Alex Caton

In 2003, Alex founded the all-girl gypsy group Las Gitanas, a precursor to Verbunk, the “groovy gypsy” band she started in 2007. But gypsy music didn’t replace Alex’s love for Old Time and Irish music—it just enhanced what she brought to the other Charlottesville groups she played in: Odd Legged Jenny (Irish-Americana), The Two Dollar Bills (Old Time) and an acoustic roots duo with Chris Leva, lead singer and guitarist for the Guano Boys.

In 2005, Alex started a fiddle camp held one weekend in August at the Brazenhead Inn in Mingo, West Virginia. What started as a small group of interested students has grown into a popular gathering for adults and children, beginners and pros, where Alex teaches different fiddle styles and other instructors come to share their expertise in guitar, bass, banjo Irish drum, voice and dance.

Alex’s self-titled CD was released June 7th, 2007 at the Gravity Lounge in Charlottesville. Chris Leva plus aclaimed vocalist and guitarist Pat Egan were just a couple of talented musicians who joined Alex on stage.

Alex Caton

From her base in Central Virginia, Alex Caton has a custom-built barn/music studio for classes and concerts, a coop full of chickens and huge garden.

Discography:

Alex Caton (2007)
The Sinners and the Saved (2009)
Swimming to Lindsey (2013)
Never Take a Daisy Down the Mine (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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Artist Profiles: John Carty

John Carty

Born in London, England and now residing in Co. Roscommon, Ireland, John plays in the Roscommon and Sligo styles of his family roots. He was named Traditional Musician of the Year for 2003 by Irish Television TG4. He has released a number of well-regarded albums and also plays with his band At the Racket.

Discography:

The Cat That Ate The Candle (Cló Iar-Chonnachta, 1994)
Last Night’s Fun (Shanachie, 1996)
Yeh That’s All It Is (Shanachie, 2001)
At It Again (Shanachie, 2003)
I Will If I Can (Racket Records, 2005)
Upon My Soul (2006)
Pathway To the Well (Racket Records, 2007)
On the Fly, with Patrick Street (2007)
It’s Not Racket Science – At the Racket (2008)
Meadbh (The Crimson Path), with Ann Joyce (Racket Records, 2010)
At Complete Ease, with Brian Rooney (Racket Records, 2011)
The Good Mixer (Racket Records, 2015)

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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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Lustrous and Fresh Areas of High Traffic

Damien O’Kane – Areas of High Traffic (Pure Records, 2015)

Often the first impressions that come to mind when handed a Celtic CD are of ethereal throated songstresses full of sorrow and longing for lost loves or traditional rowdy romps that seem to run quick and fast as if chased by the light, so cozying up to a newfangled take on the Irish Celtic traditions is a true delight.

Putting a new voice to those traditions is vocalist and musician Damien O’Kane. Those in the know might recognize him from such recordings Avenging and Bright, Banjophony with Ron Block, The Mystery Inch with David Kosky and Summer Hill.

Corralling a collection of mostly traditional songs on Areas of High Traffic, Mr. O’Kane has clearly and decisively put his own stamp on the music, fashioning a sound that’s fresh and easy.
It’s plain from the opening tracks of “‘Til Next Market Day,” that the music matters. There’s not a delicate fairy voice, a brash drinking song or an angry Celtic rocker in sight on this recording, instead there’s electric guitars, keyboards, piano, synthesizers wrapped up with Mr. O’Kane’s vocals and his own guitar and banjo work.

Joined by percussionist Cormac Byrne, electric guitarist Steven Iveson and keyboardist, pianist and synth master Anthony Davis, Mr. O’Kane takes the traditional past folksy into a sophisticated brand of folk that takes subtle dips into rock and jazz with aplomb.

Shimmering guitar and banjo lines provided by guest musician Ron Block remake traditional song “The Blacksmith” a standout track, just as the underlying rock sensibilities take “The Maid of Seventeen” beyond the expected.

And the goods just get better with the sweeping strains of “The Close of an Irish Day” or the dreamy moody sway of “The Banks of the Bann,” with additional vocals of Mr. O’Kane’s wife Kate Rusby.
Listeners get a dose of the inner musical workings of Mr. O’Kane by way of instrumentals “The Goddaughter Part 1” and “Interlude for Mama.”

The simply loveliness of “I Am A Youth” and “Erin’s Lovely Home” are as potent as they are soothing to the Irish soul. Areas of High Traffic closes out with a savvy version of “The Green Fields of America.”

Sleek and fresh, Areas of High Traffic is spectacularly rich and promises to break all the Celtic musical traditions it keeps.

Buy Areas of High Traffic in Europe

Buy Areas of High Traffic in the rest of the world

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The Best Ballads of The High Kings

Decade – The Best of The High Kings

Decade – The Best of The High Kings (Celtic Collections, 2017)

The High Kings, a well-liked Irish band that specializes in folk ballads released “Decade” – The Best of The High Kings’. The album contains the group’s most popular songs, a total of 18 tracks. Some of these include “Rocky Road to Dublin,” “Marie’s Wedding” and “Spancil Hill.”

The High Kings’ music cuts across generations, appealing to older music fans and younger people as well. Current band members include Finbarr Clancy, Brian Dunphy, Darren Holden and George Murphy.

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Artist Profiles: Mel Mercier

Mel Mercier

Mel Mercier is a lecturer in Music at UCC where he specializes in Irish Traditional Music, Ethnomusicology, Javanese Gamelan, Indian Classical Music and Ewe Dance Drumming (Ghana). Born in Dublin in 1959, he received his first bodhran and bones lessons from his father, Peadar Mercier, a member of The Chieftains until 1976.

Mel has performed and collaborated with pianist and composer, Micheal O Suilleabhain, for over twenty-five years and, throughout the 1980s, he performed extensively in Europe and the USA with John Cage and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. He has also performed and recorded with many of the leading Irish traditional musicians of the last thirty years and his Bodhran & Bones video tutor was released in 1991 by Interworld Music. Mel has given bodhr?n and bones workshops in the USA and Europe for more than twenty years.

Mel also composes music for theater, working regularly with Deborah Warner and Fiona Shaw (Medea at Abbey Theatre, West End London, Broadway ? Drama Desk Award nomination, Paris, and Rome 2000-3. The Powerbook at National Theatre UK, Paris, and Rome 2003-4. Julius Caesar at Barbican, Paris, Madrid, and Luxembourg 2005. Readings – Paris 2005. Happy Days – National Theatre, London 2007) He co-composed (with Linda Buckley) the music for Corcadorca’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2000 and The Merchant of Venice in June 2005.

Mel directs the UCC Javanese Gamelan and has been commissioned to write several contemporary works for the ensemble (Telephones and Gongs, 2004. Kelly and Andy, 2005). Mel was commissioned to write Panarama, the Signature Music for Cork 2005: European Capital of Culture.

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Artist Profiles: Melanie O’Reilly

Melanie O’Reilly

One of the most sensational musical pioneers to explode on the Irish scene, Melanie O’Reilly is now firmly established in the pantheon of creative Irish artists.

As a performer/singer-songwriter, her exhilarating and unique blend of Irish traditional music and jazz creates a powerful and haunting soundscape, exploring untouched frontiers, and which captivates audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

Born in Dublin, Melanie comes from a family of musicians and actors, and she spent most of her youth treading the boards as an actress and singer, while at the same time was a multiple- award -winner singing in Dublin’s Feis Ceol competitions.

Her passion for jazz began when her sister Clodagh introduced her the sound of jazz singers at the age of 11. Intrigued by the rhythms and scat improvisations of Ella Fitzgerald, she decided then that she would become a jazz singer, and she immersed herself in the music of other jazz giants such as Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. She also absorbed much by listening to Irish groups such as Horslips, Louis Stewart’s Trio and the Sean-nos (unaccompanied traditional) singing of Sean O Riada.

After an Arts Degree from University College Dublin, Melanie began her professional musical career, discovering the possibilities of mixing jazz with traditional Irish music and began to build phenomenal respect within jazz circles.

Melanie tours extensively throughout Ireland, Scotland, England, France and other parts of Europe and the United States. Venues of note include New York’s Cooper Union, the London Barbican, the Lorient Festival Inter-Celtique in Brittany, the Cork International Jazz Festival, La Fete de la Musique in Norway and the Royal Festival Hall in London; a special highlight of her international work was performing at the Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors festival in New York. Her 2004 concert with guitarist Larry Coryell at Dublin’s Green Room was noted as one of the top jazz concerts of the year by the Sunday Independent (Dublin).

Melanie is a regular performer on the BBC radio and TV and on Ireland’s National broadcast station (RTE) as well as being a frequent guest on French radio and TV. In 2004 she entered the world of radio broadcasting, being asked by RTE to record a series of interviews with American jazz musicians. Her interviews of Bobby McFerrin, David Benoit, Larry Coryell, Kitty Margolis and others will air under the name ‘Jazz on the Bay’ in 2005.

Melanie’s stunning Celtic jazz album Oilean Draiochta (Enchanted Island) received the critical thumbs-up from the artistic community as well as garnering wide radio play and has contributions from a host of renowned musicians such as guitarist Larry Coryell, and Irish traditional stars Tommy Hayes and Eileen Ivers. It also features songs that were the result of her collaboration with Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill.

Other recordings include the album House of the dolphins, a further development of Melanie’s fusion of Celtic jazz, and nominated for Best Contemporary Album and Best Contemporary Female Artist by Irish Music magazine.

Her subsequent album, Aisling Ghear (Bitter Vision), is a duo album with guitarist Sean O’Nuallain and has been released to wide critical acclaim. Two of her songs she has co-written with Nuala ni Dhomnaill, ‘Chugat an Puca’ and ‘Amhran na Milaoise,’ were chosen for the compilation albums -‘Realta ’98‘ and ‘Realta 2000‘ (RTE). She also featured on the recently released French album Lorient Festival Interceltique ‘Trent Ans/Thirty Years, a compilation of the best of Lorient.

Melanie’s album, Women who Left, is an original song cycle exploring 19th Century Irish emigration to America through a fusion of jazz and Irish traditional themes.

In addition to her performing and recording work, Melanie also enjoys her work as a music educator. Since 1994, she has taught jazz vocals in workshops and to individual students and has presented workshops in the Scottish Highlands and Islands and at Princeton University, the Chicago Irish Heritage Center the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, the National Concert Hall in Dublin and Napier University, Edinburgh.

In 2003, she was awarded a Visiting Research Scholarship by the University of California at Berkeley in the Celtic Studies program to develop and research the theme of Irish immigration for her songwriting and performing. She currently resides in Berkeley (California).

Discography:

Oilean Draiochta – Enchanted Island
Tir Na Mara-The Sea Kingdom (CBM, 1996)
House Of The Dolphins ‎(Mistletoe Music, 1999)
Women who Left
Thieves of Time (2011)

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Artist Profiles: Micheal Ó Domhnaill

Micheal Ó Domhnaill
Micheal Ó Domhnaill was born and raised in Kells, County Meath, Ireland. Mícheál and his sisters, Triona and Maighread grew up in Kells, spending their school vacation with their parents in Irish-speaking Rann naFeirste.

Their father, Hugh, was a musician, singer and collector of songs. Their mother, Brid, was a choir singer, so the children grew up in a very fertile musical environment. They received music lessons from an early age. Mícheál received piano lessons from the age of six until he was sixteen. At that age he decided to focus on the guitar, his preferred instrument.

Summers in Donegal brought the siblings into contact with their aunt, Neil?, a well-known singer who had a vast repertoire of songs in Irish and English. Other acquaintances made in Donegal were Pol and Ciarán Brennan (members of Clannad), and Daithi Sproule (long a member of Altan).

Mícheál and Triona came together with Daithi when they went to University College Dublin in the late 1960s. They played gigs around Dublin and Mícheál and Daithi spent a summer as the house band at Teach Hiuda? Bhig in Gaoth Dobhair (Gweedore), Donegal. Around 1970, the three siblings -Mícheál, Triona and Maighread – teamed up with Daithi Sproule to form Skara Brae.

Skara Brae produced an album of the same name, Skara Brae, in 1971, and broke up in 1972. The album was re-released in 1998 by Gael-Linn.

Then followed a stint with Mick Hanly in a duo named Monroe, which release the album Celtic folkweave in 1974. In 1975 he was a founder member of one of the most influential Irish traditional bands The Bothy Band. In the four years the band was together they toured extensively and recorded several highly acclaimed albums and although The Bothy Band broke up in 1979 their legacy still lives on in the young traditional bands coming out of Ireland today.

After the demise of The Bothy Band , Micheal moved to the United States of America where he played with many musicians including fiddle player Kevin Burke, also of The Bothy Band .

Later, he formed Nightnoise. The group began as a collaboration between American fiddler Billy Oskay, and Irish singer/guitarist Mícheál Ó Domhnaill. Together, they released the album Nightnoise in 1984. Three years later, Mícheál’s sister, Irish pianist/vocalist Triona N? Dhomhnaill, who had previously collaborated with her brother in Skara Brae, Relativity, and The Bothy Band; and Irish-American flutist Brian Dunning joined the original duo. Nightnoise, the band, was born. Nightnoise gained widespread recognition and acclaim throughout The United States and Europe.

Micheal returned to Ireland in the 1990s. He recorded the album Athcuairt/Reprise with fiddler Paddy Glackin

Micheal Ó Domhnaill died July 9, 2006, in Dublin. He was 54.

Discography:

Skara Brae (Gael Linn, 1971)
Celtic Folkweave, with Mick Hanly (1974)

With The Bothy Band:

The First Album: 1975 (Mulligan Lun 002/Green Linnet 3011, 1975)
Old Hag You Have Killed Me (Mulligan/ Green Linnet 3005, 1976)
Out of the Wind, Into the Sun (Polydor 2383456/Green Linnet 3013, 1977)
After Hours-Live in Paris (Green Linnet 3016, 1979)
The Best of the Bothy Band (Polydor 3170583/ Green Linnet 3001, 1983)
BBC Radio One: The Bothy Band Live In Concert (Green Linnet, 1996
With Kevin Burke

With Relativity

Relativity (1985)
Gathering Pace (1987)

With Nightnoise:

Nightnoise (Windham Hill Records, 1984)
Something of Time (Windham Hill Records, 1987)
At the End of the Evening (Windham Hill Records, 1988)
The Parting Tide (Windham Hill Records, 1990)
Shadow of Time (Windham Hill Records, 1993)
A Different Shore (Windham Hill Records, 1995)
The White Horse Sessions (Windham Hill Records, 1997)
Pure Nightnoise, compilation (2006)

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