NIALL HANNA – Autumn Winds (own label)

Autumn WindsI have to say out the outset that this is rather lovely. Two years ago Niall Hanna received a Young Musician’s Platform Award from the Arts Council which gave him the opportunity to collect and record some traditional songs, mostly from Ulster. He threw in a couple of original compositions and Autumn Winds is the result. Of course, he had a singular advantage in that his grandfather, Geordie Hanna, was a notable singer and two of the songs come from his repertoire.

The album opens with an original song, ‘The Autumn Winds’, a typically lilting piece of Irish music which could be traditional and that says a lot for it. It’s about memory and loss. I must have noticed this before but Autumn Winds brought it home: how many Irish songs are named for a place, whatever the subject matter. Niall follows suit with his second original piece, ‘Sweet Lough Neagh’. After the title track comes ‘Lough Erne Shore’, originally collected by Paddy Tunney. Despite very few points of similarity it reminds of ‘Belle Isle’ as constructed by Bob Dylan who set the song on the banks of Loch Eiron. Given the number of Irish songs that travelled to the Americas I’m sure there’s a link.

‘The Granemore Hare’ is fairly well known but ‘The Mountains Of Pomeroy’ turns out to be a version of ‘Reynardine’. Niall says that the melody is commonly played as a barndance march but the lyrics were written by one George Sigerson. ‘The Stately Woods Of Truagh’ is the first song from Niall’s grandfather and tells of a soldier saying goodbye to his true love before riding off to fight in the Battle of Benburb. It has a happy ending as he survives and comes home to marry her. ‘The Rambling Irishman’ breaks the titling rule and is a song of emigration as is ‘Erin’s Lovely Home’, another song from Geordie Hanna. There is a set of reels and finally we have a real favourite of mine, ‘Banks Of The Bann’.

The album was produced and arranged by Niall and Dónal O’Connor who plays keyboards. Also in support are Ciaran Hanna on concertina and whistles, Rachel McGarrity on fiddle and percussionist Dermot Moynagh of Lonesome George. The arrangements can be delicate based on Niall’s multi-tracked guitars or as lively as ‘The Rambling Irishman’ demands.

Dai Jeffries

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‘The Mountains Of Pomeroy’: