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KAREN RYAN – The Coast Road (Clo Iar-Chonnacht CICD 188)

This is the kind of recording that harks back to the old days of “Paddy In The Smoke” and Danny ‘Concrete Fingers’ Meehan playing at The Favourite. Possibly aimed at a more traditionally biased audience Ryan’s style of fiddle playing (sometimes opening with the predominantly two chord piano introduction so beloved of Irish set dancers everywhere provided by long term associate Pete Quinn) will give some indication to those like myself who used to sit at the altar of the likes of Raymond Rowland, Liam Farrell and John Bowe. There are plenty of great standards including “Sally Gardens”, “Miss McCloud’s” and “Saddle The Pony” but it’s Karen’s beautifully fluid whistle playing on “The Swallow’s Tail/The Sunny Banks/The London Lasses” set that does it for me. This may not be a rip-roaring album or one that’s trying to be ‘different’ but if its rock solid performances of some excellent tunes you’re looking for I’d suggest you check it out. PETE FYFE

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist web link: www.karenryan.net

The boys are back in town… Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley…

Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley have been bringing their unique sound to audiences across Europe and America since the early 1990s, when a chance meeting at a music session created one of folk music’s most enduring partnerships.

Known for their soul-stirring songs, exhilarating tunes and a love of the craic, Chris (concertina) and Denny (guitar and vocals) ensure that no two concerts are ever the same.

Chris grew up surrounded by folk music of all kinds – his home was a regular haunt for passing folk singers and musicians. Denny, born in Co. Limerick, is drawn to the inheritance of age-old slides, slow airs, slip jigs and wild reels.

Founder members of the band Last Night’s Fun which received international acclaim and a loyal fan base over 11 years together, they have in recent years returned to their roots as a duo. Continue reading The boys are back in town… Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley…

Kris Drever with Éamonn Coyne & Megan Henderson (EP, Reveal Records)

This EP serves as a brief reminder of the sheer power of storytelling that is harnessed by Kris Drever’s remarkable and characteristic voice. Bereft of any needless ornamentation, Drever sings with a stark purity that instils a knowing sense of sincerity and urgency in his delivery, effortlessly drawing the listener in to something that is more akin to a conversation than a performance.

There is possibly a limitless array of material from the folk genre that one would wish to hear Drever tackle, and we’re treated to several such standards here. “Parcel Of Rogues” receives a more rumbustious treatment than some of the more usual preachy readings, whilst retaining the tenor of its ardent lyrics, and a breathtaking race through “Shady Grove” gives off some truly exhilarating, frenetic vibes. A more relaxed performance is evident on Sandy Wright’s “Wild Hurricane,” one of those magical moments where the potency of singer and songwriter combine to achieve an exceptional synthesis.

There is an impressive range packed in to this abridged release. The assured driving force of Éamonn Coyne’s banjo sets things off to a rollicking pace on several occasions, accompanied by the sprightly flourish of Megan Henderson’s fiddle, and the commanding, rhythmic authority of Drever’s own guitar on a lively combination of traditional and contemporary tunes, positively brimming with sheer joy and energy. In contrast, Drever’s own delicate composition, “Lament for Glencoe,” offers a blissful, serenity-filled few minutes.

There’s nothing fancy here, and it may only last around fifteen minutes, but you might well struggle to find a more accomplished, more enjoyable fifteen minutes of music on this year’s release schedules. Mike Wilson

Artist web link: http://www.krisdrever.com/

RURA – Break It Up (Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX364)

I don’t know what it is…maybe it’s the water…Highland Spring naturally (!) that they’re drinking inScotland but the skirl of the pipes is causing many ‘folk’ audiences in the UK to prick up their ears. It will possibly come as no surprise then that the band Rura are creating something of a buzz with this, their first release on the evergreen Greentrax label. Opening with the march/reel “Oran nan Mogaisean (Song Of The Moccasins)” they follow in the footsteps of The Tannahill Weavers and The Battlefield Band where, rather than use a full drum kit they opt for David Foley’s driving bodhran. Of course this draws your attention to the more organic process of ‘acoustic’ music and the excellent combination of Steven Blake (pipes/whistle), Jack Smedley (fiddle/vocals), Adam Holmes (vocals/guitar) and James Lindsay on bass. This is a band that can seriously ‘rock’ when pumping out Murray Attaway’s (Guadalcanal Diary) song “Allegory” or just as easily lull you into a false sense of security with the final track “Lament For Donald Ban” where the plaintive fiddle is supplemented by the inclusion of the pipes in full cry. No messing about, Rura can get down and dirty with the best of them. PETE FYFE

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist web link: www.ruramusic.com

ROUGH ISLAND BAND – Where To? (Own Label)

There may be no indigenous music as such from the Isles of Scilly but that doesn’t stop members of the local community of St Agnes from expounding the merits of living on the ‘Sun Isles’. This is endorsed by the bright and breezy opening instrumental “Periglis Slip-Jig” fronted by Piers Lewin’s whistle joined by brother and special guest Giles Lewin of The Carnival Band on fiddle. The rest of the band; John Elliott (bass guitar), Joe Keelan (guitar) and James Sills (percussion) are by no means ‘rough’ and, via their input show that living on an island twenty-eight miles from mainland Cornwall does nothing to dampen the musical spirit. This is a refreshing album in that it’s basically a bunch of mates getting together for a session and turning it into something rather more tangible. Much like unearthing doubloons (unlike the car in those annoying Paul Whitehouse ads for Aviva) this album keeps throwing up nuggets of pure gold. Lewin, Elliott, Sills and Joe Keelan all have a hand in the song-writing but for me it’s the rather morose but equally edifying “Mostly Gone”, a tale of disillusionment overcome by the majesty of living on the Scillies that does it for me. On a final note I could say that the repetitive nature of the lyrics on the track “All Here Now/A Rough Lament” by guest Tom Dyson sucks (I can’t believe I just said that) but it doesn’t as it brings back memories of early Lindisfarne and the band have even thrown in the kitchen sink (literally) for good measure. For me, this album provides a somewhat quirky but thoroughly enjoyable listen and well worth purchasing…you even get the added incentive of a ‘rat bag’ made from using sailcloth off-cuts (how environmentally friendly) so even if you don’t like the album as the band say you can use it as a wallet. Nice one! PETE FYFE

Artist web link: www.roughislandband.com

SARAH McQUAID – The Plum Tree And The Rose (Waterbug Records WBG104)

Much like her heroine Bess Of Hardwick (“Hardwick’s Lofty Towers”) Sarah McQuaid has the intelligence and tenacity to cultivate her lyrics so that the legacy of her song-writing will remain long after she has passed away. If that sounds morose it isn’t meant to be. It’s just that McQuaid’s way with words will draw you in and leave you feeling as if you’ve just stepped from an invigorating shower. She’s the kind of writer who conveys her thoughts brilliantly via the media of music and, take for instance the opening track “Lift You Up And Let You Fly” within a few short verses she is able to let the listener know the pain but understanding in watching a child’s development and eventual release into the world with all the compassion of a mum who (hopefully) doesn’t watch Jeremy Kyle.

It has to be said that from a listener’s point of view this is where the producer and musician Gerry O’Beirne’s skill in utilising Bill Blackmore’s flugelhorn is an astute piece of placement. Think of Christy Moore’s “All For The Roses” if you’re unsure where you’ve heard this thought process before and, whilst on the subject of instrumentation much as I’d like to name every musician who contributed to this beautifully crafted album I’m afraid I can’t as I haven’t got the space. Let’s just say I’m bowled over with the creative input from everyone involved. In truth I could write a whole book on the subject of Sarah McQuaid’s way with words but perhaps that is best left to the lady herself. If you require any further incentive why not check out the gorgeous single “The Sun Goes On Rising” below and, like me I’m sure you will be seduced by Sarah’s alto vocals and perfectly solid performance. In the meantime I suppose I’ll just have to kill time waiting expectantly to hear the next album which if it’s anything like this recording will receive another ten out of ten. Highly recommended…buy it, buy it, buy it! PETE FYFE

If you would like to order a copy of the album (in CD or Vinyl), download it or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the banner link below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist web link and current tour dates: www.sarahmcquaid.com