Gatehouse announce their second album

Gatehouse

“It is said that music lifts the spirit and this is so true on Gatehouse’s new album Heather Down The Moor. Garnering their repertoire from the North Connaught tradition, all the tracks are finely paced with the lovely choice of traditional songs in both English and in Gaelic, as in the title track; ‘Heather Down The Moor’, or the wonderful Connemara Sean-Nós song ‘Seán Bán’, interspersed with uplifting flings, hop jigs, a few reel selections, double jigs and barndances, all complimenting one another, making the whole recording a joy to listen to.  The arrangements are sophisticated, but not overdone, which proves how good taste strengthens and enhances the tradition, when done well.” So says Mairead Ní Mhaonaigh about the latest release by Roscommon based traditional group Gatehouse.

Since the release of their critically acclaimed solo album Tús Nua in 2016, the band has gone from strength to strength. Receiving a rare 5-star review from The Irish Times – the album was described as “an unerring gem” and “in that elusive ‘must have’ category for years to come”. Internationally famous fiddler Martin Hayes stated that Tús Nua was “beautifully arranged and recorded. Everything happening here is authentic.”

On this, their second record, Gatehouse have presented more intricate arrangements and augmented their attention to detail whilst supplementing their core sound with additional instruments, layers and colours, all adroitly guided by the hand of co-producer Dónal O’Connor. They have assembled some of Ireland’s finest musicians: John Joe Kelly on Bodhrán, Alan Kelly on Piano Accordion, Michael McCague on bouzouki and Conor & Paddy McEvoy on Fiddle & Piano. The band’s members John and Jacinta McEvoy, Rachel Garvey and John Wynne are steeped in traditional music and it’s no surprise that they are sought after to teach and mentor younger musicians at various Summer schools all over the country. The Wynne/McEvoy partnership goes back a long while. “Myself and John McEvoy really enjoy playing together and have performed at many festivals and events over the years,” says John Wynne. “In the last couple of years we thought about expanding and developing our sound so we decided to put the group together. We didn’t have to look too far because in addition to myself and John, we had John’s wife Jacinta on guitar and concertina.” When it came to a singer for the group, John McEvoy says: “We asked a young singer called Rachel Garvey to join us. She is also from Roscommon and is an All-Ireland winner in both Irish and English songs”.

The album features new tune compositions from the band’s fiddler, John McEvoy which were created especially for this record. With the tune arrangements the band wished to create an ‘on the edge’ feel hence the new tune title ‘On The Edge’. “John’s compositions give us a unique sound and by osmosis, they seem to fit in the musical style of north Connacht” Jacinta explains. “There’s a great lift, flow and rhythm to the music of Roscommon. There is great joy and heart in the musical style, I think.” Rachel adds “We chose some English and Scottish folk songs like ‘Heather Down The Moor’, ‘The Cocks Are Crowing’ and ‘The Death Of Queen Jane’ as well as going back to the roots and the source of the singing tradition with the Connemara Sean-Nós songs ‘Mo Cheallaichín Fionn’ and ‘Seán Bhán’. With the Sean-Nós songs we really worked on presenting them in a new and fresh melodic way”.

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‘Heather Down The Moor’:

GERRY O’CONNOR – Last Night’s Joy (Lugnasa LUGCD966)

Last Night's JoyGerry O’Connor is a fiddle player from Dundalk, not to be confused with Gerry O’Connor, the banjo player, who also appears on Last Night’s Joy, Gerry’s second solo album, notably on ‘Stereo Connor’. Google™, of course, does confuse them which makes life hard for us poor reviewers. There is a certain feeling of looking back about the record – I won’t call it nostalgia because it isn’t like that. It’s very much an acknowledgement of players who have preceded Gerry and the legacy they left.

The record kicks off with the title track, a jaunty set of reels. Individually they are ‘Andie Phaddie’s’, ‘Claude Finnegan’s’ and ‘Last Night’s Joy’ and their provenance is typical of Irish traditional music. All three came from Cathal McConnell at the last but Cathal learned them all from other players who got them from who knows where. ‘The Old Dash Churn’ is a set of double jigs of which the third, ‘The Torn Bag Apron’, sounds very familiar. The usual story obtains here: the tunes were collected forty years ago from players who were most active sixty years ago.

Gerry takes a break from the jigs and reels with ‘Bádal Na Scadain’, an air featuring Dónal O’Connor’s piano and moves into ‘The Hawk And The Hare’, a set featuring a jig and a polska written by nyckelharpa innovator Erik Sahlstrom. As you can tell, Gerry doesn’t restrict himself to Ireland – there are also tunes from Quebec, the USA and Cape Breton. As well as the three O’Connors already mentioned Last Night’s Joy also features accordionist Máirtín O’Connor which allows for the title of the final set, ‘O’Connor4’.

I sat down determined to concentrate on every note of the album but then I just wanted to look at Gerry’s biography and the next thing I knew it was finished. It’s that sort of record, one that will carry you away.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website: https://www.gerryoconnor.net/

‘The Hawk And The Hare’ – Stereo Connor live:

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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Artist’s website: www.facebook.com/niallhannamusic

‘The Mountains Of Pomeroy’:

STEPH GEREMIA – Up She Flew (Black Box Music BBM009)

Up She FlewI was beginning to muse about why it is that Irish, and indeed Scottish, musicians have such a deep desire to rework and circulate the music from their native lands and then I read that Steph Geremia is actually from New York. Up She Flew is Steph’s second album, almost ten years on from her debut and she is now ensconced in the north-west of Ireland from which much of her repertoire is drawn. North Connaught is her home and the source of her inspiration. Steph principally plays flute – more delicate and fluid than whistle or pipes – which makes this a very pretty record. She also plays soprano sax on two tracks and sings on one but doesn’t dwell on it.

Most of the material is traditional but among the credits you’ll find the names of Charlie Lennon, Martin Wynne and, venturing away from Ireland, Chris Stout. Steph is punctilious about noting the sources of her tunes so we learn that ‘The Housemaid’ is a version of ‘The Humours Of Glendart’ via Chris Sheridan and I suppose that we’ll one day read that a particular tune comes from the playing of Steph Geremia. I suppose, too, that that’s been going on for a few hundred years.

Steph has a fine supporting band, notably percussionist Jim Higgins and Aaron Jones on bouzouki and guitar but she remains on top of everyone and I suspect that co-producer Donal O’Connor has a lot to do with that. Even when Ben Gunnery’s fiddle or Michael Rooney’s harp is an integral part of a track it’s very restrained. If you’re a session player you’ll probably find several tunes that you’ll want to learn and if not, well, it’s a very pleasant album for a summer’s day.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website: http://stephgeremia.com/

‘Come Up To The Room I Want Ye/Ebb Tide’ – live:

MUIREANN NIC AMHLAOIBH – Foxglove & Fuchsia (own label MUNA 002)

Foxglove & FuchsiaFoxglove & Fuchsia is actually the third solo album by former Danú lead singer Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh. The first, Fainne an Lae, was released in 2006 and the second, Ar Uair Bhig an Lae, reached us in 2012. Muireann comes from the Dingle peninsula where she still lives and describes as “a musical Mecca”. Unsurprising then, that she has been able to surround herself with a fine bunch of musicians including Gerry O’Beírne, Dónal O’Connor, Séamus Begley and Pauline Scanlon.

There is a lack of snobbishness about the material that seems to typify an old fashioned and perhaps uniquely Irish approach to the selection of repertoire – if it’s good song, sing it. I’m going to get my one minor criticism out first off and it is that there are insufficient notes for us foreigners. It wouldn’t have taken much to inform us that ‘An Sciobairín’ is ‘Skibbereen’, although it quickly becomes apparent when we reach it. With so many songs in Irish we need a bit of help. The opening track, ‘Bríd Óg Ní Mháille’ is an old song of attempted matrimony from County Mayo and that’s followed by a set of slides. Then the mood and style change with the almost title track, ‘Where Foxglove’, written by O’Beírne. I found it a bit too sentimental at first but it’s growing on me. Next comes Archie Fisher’s ‘The Final Trawl’, a song I’ll never tire of. Muireann is accompanied by O’Beírne’s guitars and gorgeous vocal harmonies from Scanlon, Éllis Kennedy and Méabh Ní Bheaglaoich.

‘Muirisín Deas Is Nóra’ is another lovely song, an old poem set to a melody by O’Beírne. This is case where language doesn’t matter: I don’t understand the words but the sound is perfect and I suspect that it wouldn’t work in translation. Muireann plays flute and whistles but it’s her voice that is her lead instrument. That said, she does get to strut her instrumental stuff in a set of reels and another of polkas. ‘Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier’ is another example of the lack of snobbishness. It’s an Irish song, of course, that has travelled the world and Muireann got her version from Pete Seeger – across the Atlantic and back again.

Foxglove & Fuchsia is a splendid album, full of all manner of delights.

Dai Jeffries

Artist’s website: http://www.muireann.ie/

Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, Gerry O’Beírne and Dónal O’Connor live at The Gathering:

Ulaid & Duke Special – crowdfunding project

Ulaid

Ulaid & Duke Special would like to record (with a live audience) an album of material which they have written and arranged together called ‘The Belfast Suite’. They’re asking for your support in order to make this happen.

Ulaid are Seán Óg Graham, John McSherry and Dónal O’Connor. McSherry and O’Connor are the creative force behind the highly innovative traditional band At First Light, and Graham is regarded as one of Ireland’s finest accompanists and he tours and records with the successful and dynamic group Beoga.

Drawing on their influences from the traditional music world and pre-rock and roll song writing, Ulaid’s collaboration with Duke Special combines their talents to create an original work called ‘Belfast Suite.’ Exploring the collection of noted historian and antiquary – Francis J Bigger, they have written new compositions inspired by obscure treasures found among the Bigger collection and by the incredible story of the city of Belfast.

Why: 

Ulaid & Duke Special have been writing/arranging and performing together since early 2016 and would love to make a live record of the material that they have compiled i.e. ‘The Belfast Suite’. Having performed the music throughout Ireland and the UK in the Autumn of 2016 and having received a hugely enthusiastic response, the lads have decided to put this incredible music to tape! In order for this to happen, however your assistance is required.

When:

Friday the 20th & Saturday the 21st January 2017

Where:

Analogue Catalogue Recording Studio, Rathfriland, Co. Down – This amazing Analogue Recording Studio is set in a 3 storey stone mill overlooking the stunning Mourne Mountains in County Down. The live room will host the band and 45 lucky guests who will get to enjoy the live recording session and be a part of this amazing project

Who:

Ulaid (John McSherry, Dónal O’Connor & Seán Óg Graham) & Duke Special and ……….of course……… YOU !!……..

What:

A recording to tape (Analogue) with a live Studio audience, some booze, some grub, lot’s of craic, and the opportunity (should you holler and cheer loud enough) to be on the record.

  • They’ve got some great rewards on offer in return for your support:
  • an advance digital download of Ulaid & Duke Special’s ‘Belfast Suite’ before international release
  • a limted edition, hand signed Vinyl LP of Ulaid & Duke Special’s ‘Belfast Suite’ before international release
  • a credit on the recording liner notes
  • BUT BEST OF ALL  a VIP opportunity to join them in the recording studio to enjoy the session in person with complimentary food & drinks, and get to hang with the band after the show, plus all of the above!!

If successful, the money will be spent on venue hire, the audio engineer’s fee, accommodation for the band and crew, mixing, mastering, artwork, duplication, postage, travel costs, photography and filming of the events.

We look forward to celebrating its completion with you in the beautiful Mourne Mountains in County Down in January 2017.

WITHOUT YOUR SUPPORT THIS CAN’T HAPPEN SO THANKS EVER SO MUCH IN ADVANCE.

To participate go to:

http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/ulaid-duke-special-live-recording

Artists’ websites:  www.ulaidmusic.com / www.dukespecial.com