JANET DOWD – Home (Blue Cow Records)

HomeAlthough Janet Dowd writes songs, and there are three of her own compositions on Home, her particular forte is in covering other writers. Her subjects are mostly Irish and an album like this will serve to introduce British audiences to some new songs, but she also encompasses Scotland and Australia and unless you are a particular fan of the writers involved these too may be songs you haven’t heard before.

The album opens with Eric Bogle’s ‘All The Fine Young Men’ which has been covered quite frequently (but good luck finding Eric’s original these days). It features producer Donogh Hennessy on guitars, keyboards and programming with strings from Niamh Varien Barry. Janet’s strong, clear voice does full justice to a song that should be rated alongside ‘No Man’s Land’.

Irish songwriters have a sentimental streak and Tommy Sands indulged his on ‘County Down’, a song of the auld country calling the expatriate home. It features Alan Doherty on whistle and Colin Henry’s Dobro, an instrument which appears several more times. Quite why a resonator guitar should suit celtic songs so well, I can’t say, but it just does. The theme of home, and not being there, returns in Dougie MacLean’s ‘Garden Valley’, Janet’s own ‘Westport Town’ and, supremely, Brendan Graham’s ‘My Land’.

The second Australian represented here is The Waifs’ Josh Cunningham whose ‘Lighthouse’ actually has someone coming home and happy to be doing so. Another highlight I must mention is the traditional ‘Súil A Rúin’ which again features Niamh Varien Barry and Pauline Scanlon’s backing vocals.

Home manages to combine the simplicity of emotion in both writing and singing with arrangements that are always interesting without being too clever or overwhelming the songs. Beautifully done.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: www.janetdowd.com

LUMIERE – My Dearest Dear (IRL Records IRL075)

Lumiere My Dearest DearThe art of successfully bringing ‘folk’ music to a wider audience has been surmounted before by the likes of Steeleye, Fairport and The Corrs and with the duo Lumiere it looks as if we have another artist batting for ‘our’ side. Whether we in the folk world deserve it or not remains to be seen as sometimes it would appear a thankless task pleasing the die-hard ‘traditionalists’. Personally speaking, to scorn anything ‘commercial’ would, in my opinion be churlish as both Eilis Kennedy and Pauline Scanlon have fine voices and, when joined by the more brittle vocals of guest Sinead O’Connor on Continue reading LUMIERE – My Dearest Dear (IRL Records IRL075)

KYLE CAREY – Monongah (Self-Released)

A bit like President Obama I feel that Ms Carey is a ‘nice’ person. It’s not that I know her personally of course but judging her on the merits of this album I feel that all is right with the world. This could also have something to do with the fact that Lunasa’s Donogh Hennessy is sitting in the producer’s chair and in company with a guest list of musicians including Trevor Hutchinson (Bass), Aoife Clancy (harmony vocals), Neil Fitzgibbon (string driven things) and the crisply tuneful glissando mandolin of John Kirk this album really is something of a gem. If I said that the recording should be played relentlessly on BBC Radio 2 then I hope that there are enough producers out there to take note to steer the album in the direction of Mike Harding and Aled Jones etc. Continue reading KYLE CAREY – Monongah (Self-Released)

LUNASA – The Merry Sisters Of Fate

LUNASA The Merry Sisters Of FateA nice opening set-up from Donogh Hennessy’s driving rhythmic guitar settles comfortably in to the jig ‘Aoibhneas Eilis Ni Cheallaigh’ with Kevin Crawford’s flute and Sean Smyth’s fiddle taking up the lead lines.

The rather nifty segue from the second tune ‘Jimmy Ward’s’ into the closing ‘Not Safe with A Razor’ is a typical demonstration of the band’s main strength, that of the art of arrangement. Many of today’s aspiring Celtic musicians could take note for a well-structured arrangement is pivotal in keeping the audience’s attention.

Adding colour are Cillian Valleley’s pipes and underpinning it all is Trevor Huthinson’s double bass. The addition of Hennessy’s electric guitar adds warmth on ‘The Kilarney Boys of Pleasure’.

All of the tunes on this 11 set album go with a swing and the self-assured way in which they are put across leaves you in no doubt that Irish music is in safe hands and continuing to break the boundaries of musical prejudice.

Pete Fyfe

Originally posted – 17-May-2001

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