SINEAG MACINTYRE – Lòn Bàn (Greentrax CDTRAX396)

Lòn BànSineag MacIntyre is from Kilphedar in South Uist; a town steeped in Gaelic singing tradition. With this raw material alone, it is not surprising that she inevitably forged her own musical path. Her career began in 2004 with the album Laithen Sgoile on the Lionacleit School’s in – house label, before going on to establish herself on the Scottish folk scene…and picking up her fair share of musical and academic awards on the way. Lòn Bàn is her most recent offering, and her debut on the illustrious Greentrax label. Even as a ‘layperson’ to the Gaelic tongue, this album feels well curated and thoroughly balanced, in an environment in which unaccompanied traditions intermingle with fully backed, and comparatively contemporary writings.

‘O, Thoir a-nall am Botal’ ; a flute-laden drinking song, composed in the wake of a particularly bleak winter which killed hundreds of cattle, kicks off the album, followed by two love songs; one from a male perspective and one from a women’s vantage point. ‘Laoidh ‘Statue’ Ruaidheabhal’ is a hymn praising the protection which the statue of Our Lady of the Isles (located on Rueval Hill) brings to the South Uist community. At times it is haunting and a bit unsettling, an impact made by the drone of the pipes which carry much of the song.

‘Allt an t-Siucair’ comes from the pen of poet Alexander MacDonald, and in many ways, it is another song of praise, this time, however, one which praises the natural beauty of ‘Sugar Brook’; a small stream which ran between MacDonald’s own home and that of a neighbour. This pretty melody is next followed by ‘Cuireamaid Dandaidh/ Puirt-a-Beul’; an initially unaccompanied piece, described as “a song a mother might sing”, before the bodhran ushers in a set of reels, accompanied by fiddle and guitar.

The latter part of the album again manages to go between the polarities of life, encompassing both beauty and sorrow from one song to the next; ‘’S ann Diluain Ro’ La Fheill Micheil’ for example, is an unaccompanied waulking song, told from the female perspective, in which the protagonist laments the drowning of her husband, father and three brothers. This is followed by ‘Sean’s a’ Bhriogais Leathair’; a comedic song, with an upbeat melody, where our male protagonist recalls the romantic conquests of his youth…all thanks to his (presumably irresistible) leather breeches.

With the bonus string of cameos from the Scottish scene, (including Kathleen MacInnes and Luke Daniels) this well-presented recording must be commended as nothing less than a noteworthy milestone , at an important point of an already impressive career.

Christopher James Sheridan

Label website: https://www.greentrax.com/music/product/sineag-macintyre-lon-ban

Sineag MacIntyre and Kathleen MacInnes:

LUKE DANIELS – Singing Ways To Feel More Junior (Gael Records GAEL017)

Singing WaysSinging Ways To Feel More Junior by Luke Daniels, is a wonderfully eclectic collection of a dozen songs, most of which are Daniels’ originals. It goes in many different directions (occasionally at the same time) and presents shades of folk, funk, blues, jazz and Americana, and while some of the tracks have slightly more edge than others, there is a definite sense of sweetness and brightness contained throughout.

The album opens with ‘Penny In The Slot’; it’s catchy, it’s fun and it bizarrely borrows from the 2003 ‘Fast Food Song’; incorporating the less-than-immortal line “McDonalds, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut” into its lyric. Just as bizarrely, however, it works. While This Americana vibe is continued into the album’s second track (‘Only Love I’ll Leave To You’), it is the steady, danceable rhythms of ‘The House That Jack Built’ which introduce us to the album’s funkier elements. These grooves are very enjoyable, and are followed up by the beautifully delivered, (if comparatively melancholic) title track.

Following this number we are once again guided down the well-travelled Americana route through the quirkiness of the uplifting mandolin-led ‘Let’s Not Waste Another Day’ and ‘Strange Power’, before we get to the bluesy Presidential piss-take; ‘Elizabeth Trump And Sons’, one of two topically tinged numbers on the disc; with ‘Better The Devil You Know’ featuring on the album’s last quarter. Indeed, even at this late stage, we continue to hear new approaches and new experiments; the eerie but engaging soundbites which introduce ‘What Becomes Of Gilgamesh’ or the closing number, (Stevie Wonder cover) ‘Don’t You Worry About A Thing’, which boasts another tremendous vocal take, and proves the perfect conclusion to an interesting, enjoyable, if at times off the wall journey through this collection of “new songs for grown-ups.”

Christopher James Sheridan

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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’s website: www.lukedanielsmusic.com

‘The House That Jack Built’ – official video:

CARA DILLON – Upon A Winter’s Night (Charcoal CHARCCD008)

upon a winter's nightIn the absence this year of a new Kate Rusby festive collection for folk fans to warm their chilly cockles, Cara Dillon, aided and abetted by husband, musical partner and producer Sam Lakeman, steps up to the seasonal plate for her first Christmas offering, Upon A Winter’s Night, an 11-string stockingsworth of traditional nuggets, hymns and originals.

It’s one of the latter, the title track, written by Sam and Noah Lakeman, that kicks things off, a jaunty Nativity scene setter that also features Uilleann pipes, Luke Daniels on accordion and Kathryn Roberts on backing vocals. There’s three other originals, Cara and Sam providing the piano backed ‘Standing By My Christmas Tree’ with its interpolation of ‘Silent Night’ and bells-pealing keyboard notes as well as the simply arranged lullaby closer ‘Mother Mary’, he on acoustic guitar and she joined on vocals in the final refrains by a family affair of Colm, Noah and Elizabeth Lakeman. The third is Sam’s own instrumental contribution, a lively woodland romp with ‘The Huntsman’, again featuring Jarlath Henderson on Uilleann pipes and Daniels on accordion alongside fiddle from Niall Murphy and James Fagan’s bouzouki with Ben Nicholls providing stalwart bass.

The other numbers are the couple’s arrangements of, by and large, very familiar seasonal tunes, first up, introduced by Murphy’s fiddle sounding like a hunting horn, being a traditional folk-sounding reading of ‘The Wexford Carol’ that gathers to fulsome fiddle finale. Rather less known, based on a traditional Polish carol, ‘Infant Holy, Infant Lowly’ is another lowing lullaby and introduces John Smith on guitar. Considerably better known is the evergreen ‘The Holly and the Ivy’, here taken at a swayalong tempo on the back of fiddle, pipes and accordion and featuring guest viocals from both Roberts and Sam’s father, Geoff.

By contrast, while often given a rousing chorus flourish, here ‘O Come O Come Emmanuel’ is an altogether more contemplative affair etched out by just her voice and Sam’s piano, a fine companion piece to the wholly a capella ‘O Holy Night’, Adolphe Adams’ 19th century setting and translation of a French poem (Midnight Christians) on which she duets with older sister Mary, their version joining a list that includes Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Bing Crosby and, more recently, Ellie Goulding.

This is, in turn, followed by another breath of fresh winter air with ‘Mary Bore A Son To God’, one of the earliest known Irish language carols and sung here in the original Gaelic (‘Rug Muire Mac Do Dhia’),a slightly softer reading than that previously done by Horslips with Henderson’s Wilson taking the fiddle parts.

Finally, once whisperingly recorded by Bono, there’s another traditional Irish carol, ‘The Darkest Midnight’, which taken from the Kilmore Carols collection of South Wexford (albeit a trimmed down version) is again arranged for just her voice and Sam’s acoustic guitar and piano, another lovely grace note to a collection that very much has its mind set on celebrating the real meaning of Christmas. A touch more contemplative than Rusby’s South Yorkshire offerings perhaps, but likely to prove an equally enduring bauble on folk’s festive fir.

Mike Davies

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

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’s website: www.caradillon.co.uk