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:

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