Tag Archives: Irish folk music

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.

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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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Artist Profiles: Mirella Murray

Mirella Murray

Mirella Murray (accordion) grew up in Claddaghduff, Ireland. Her father John Joe, is a leading sean nos dancer,from Inishark Island, Ireland, and has a deeply-rooted understanding of, and love for, traditional music. Mirella studied the piano accordion under the guidance of from Mary Finn (a great player from the musical Finn family of Ballymote, County Sligo). She and fiddler Liz Kane won the All-Ireland duet in 1995, while Mirella gained the title on the piano accordion that same year. The pair performed together for years and toured in France and North America with Comhaltas.

Later, Mirella teamed up with the fiddle player Tola Custy and they played throughout Ireland and Europe as part of various tours and festivals. Their album, Three Sunsets received critical acclaim and was voted one of the top five albums of 2002 by The Irish Times.

Mirella has accumulated a vast store of tunes from her travels, and musicians such as Sharon Shannon, Lunasa, and the Bumblebees credit her as a source for many uncommon melodies.

Discography:

Three Sunsets (2002)
The Girls Won’t Leave the Boys Alone, with Cherish the Ladies (Windham Hill Records, 2001)

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Artist Profiles: Moving Cloud

Moving Cloud

Moving Cloud was based mainly in Ennis, County Clare. This quintet was one of the finest traditional bands playing for dancing in Ireland in the 1990s. They were also a stellar concert band featuring five accomplished Irish musicians. The group played a wide variety of dance styles: jigs, reels, horn pipes, barn dances, clogs, waltzes, polkas and flings. Maeve Donnelly and Manus McGuire were former members of the group Buttons &Bows.

Musicians: Paul Brock (accordion and melodeon), Maeve Donnelly (fiddle), Manus McGuire (fiddle), Kevin Crawford (flute) amd Carl Hession (piano).

Discography:

Moving Cloud ‎(Green Linnet, 1995)
Foxglove ‎(Green Linnet, 1998)

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Artist Profiles: Arty McGlynn

Arty McGlynn

Arty McGlynn, born in Omagh, County Tyrone, is one of the leading guitar players in Irelands. He starred playing guitar at the age of eleven, influenced by the great jazz guitar masters. By the age of fifteen, he was already playing professionally various genres of music. Near the end of the 1970s, Arty focused his interest on Irish traditional music and released his first solo album, McGlynn’s Fancy. It was the first album in which the guitar was played in an authentic traditional style. Eventually, it became a classic recording.

Arty therefater became one of the most in demand musicians in Ireland. He performed and recorded with Enya, Christy Moore, Paul Brady, Donal Lunny and Liam O’Flynn. He also played as a member of celebrated groups such as Planxty, Patrick Street, De Danann and The Van Morrison Band.

Arty recorded as a duo with fiddler Nollaig Casey. They released Lead the Knave (1990) and Causeway (1995).

Discography:

Lead The Knave (Ringsend Road Music Group, 1989)
McGlynn’s Fancy (1994)
Causeway ‎(Tara Records, 1995)

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Artist Profiles: Nollaig Casey

Nollaig Casey

Nollaig Casey has a great international reputation as an exponent of Irish traditional music on the fiddle. She is a winner of several All-Ireland titles for fiddle-playing and traditional singing. She has played with the RTE Symphony Orchestra and has recorded and toured with a variety of artistes including, Planxty, Moving Hearts, Liam O’Flynn, Mary Black, Elvis Costello, and most recently with Donal Lunny’s band, Coolfin. Her television appearances include the BBC TV series Bringing it All Back Home and A River of Sound.

She collaborated with Arty McGlynn as a duo, Nollaig Casey and Arty McGlynn. Their first album together, Lead the Knave (1990), was awarded the Belfast Telegraph Entertainment Media and Arts Award for excellence in the field of Folk Music. Their second album together. Causeway (1995, Tara Music), features Nollaig’s superb singing for the first time, and nine sets of original tunes composed by Nollaig and Arty, and includes the harmonica playing of Brendan Power. They also arranged and played music for the soundtrack of the feature film Moondance as well as Hear My Song, the feature film based on the life of singer Joseph Locke.

In 2015 she recorded an album with her sisters, virtuosa harp player Máire Ní Chathasaigh and fiddler Mairéad Ní Chathasaigh.

Discography:

Lead The Knave (Ringsend Road Music Group, 1989)
Causeway ‎(Tara Records, 1995)
Irish Heritage ‎(Outlet, 1998)
The music of what happened (Old Bridge Music, 2004)
Heartstring Sessions ‎(Old Bridge Music, 2008)
Sibling Revelry, with The Casey Sisters (Old Bridge Music, 2015)

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Artist Profiles: Robbie O’Connell

Robbie O’Connell

Internationally acclaimed singer-songwriter Robbie O’Connell brings an inspired vision and new voice of Ireland to American audiences. Robbie O’Connell was born in Waterford, Ireland and grew up in Carrick-on-Suir, County Tipperary. In 1979 he moved to the United States, to Franklin, Massachusetts.

First coming to international prominence touring with his legendary uncles The Clancy Brothers, he has appeared in such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall and Madison Square Garden. Loved by metro audiences for his appearances with Green Fields of America, Seamus Egan (of Solas) and Eileen Ivers (of Riverdance), O’Connell’s songs have been recorded by celebrity artists such as American country artist Kathy Mattea.

In 1993 he released “Never Learned to Dance,” an album of original songs. This was followed by “Older But No Wiser” with the Clancy Brothers in 1995. Next came the “Clancy, O’Connell & Clancy” album.

In 1998 Robbie released “The Wild and Wasteful Ocean” CD with Liam and Dónal Clancy. That same year, two additional albums came out: “Robbie O’Connell, Live, Humorous Songs” and “All on a Christmas Morning” with the group Aengus.

“Recollections,” a twenty-year complication album was released in 2001.

In 2006 Robbie started an ongoing collaboration with his cousins Aoife and Donal Clancy. The Clancy Legacy, their first album together was released in 2010.

In 2009, the second album by the Green Fields of America project came out.

Alternating between heart-breaking tragedy and side splitting hilarity, O’Connell’s songs define the Irish condition, both for natives and American-born, in intriguing and enthralling ways. His intimate, breathy tenor has long been a treat, and his wonderful sense of pace, effortlessly moves his listeners from profound sadness to riotous laughter.

Discography:

The Clancy Brothers With Robbie O’Connell – Live! (Vanguard, 1982)
Close To The Bone (Green Linnet, 1982)
There Were Roses (Green Linnet, 1986)
Kilkelly ‎*Green Linnet, 1987)
Tunes ‘N’ Tales Of Ireland (Folk Era Records, 1988)
The Love Of The Land (Green Linnet, 1989)
Never Learned To Dance (Green Linnet, 1993)
Older But Not Wiser (Vanguard, 1995)
Clancy, O’Connell & Clancy ‎(Helvic Music, 1997)
Humorous Songs – Live (Celtic Media, 1998)
Recollections Vol. 1 (2001)
The Wild & Wasteful Ocean ‎(Helvic Music, 2002)
The Clancy Legacy (2010)
The Greenfields of America (Compass, 2009)

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