Nuala Kennedy – new album

Nuala Kennedy - new album and tour

Scottish-based Irish traditional singer and musician Nuala Kennedy celebrates ten years as a solo recording artist this coming January with the launch of Behave The Bravest, her fourth solo album.

Recorded over six months, in three continents, while touring with the Nuala Kennedy Band in Sydney, Australia; Los Angeles, California and in her adopted city of Edinburgh, Scotland. The record was mixed by the much-lauded producer Paul Savage of Chem 19, Glasgow and mastered by Grammy award-winning engineer Adam Berg in L.A. Behave The Bravest features two iterations of Nuala Kennedy Band, one based in Scotland and one in America, reflecting her heavy international touring schedule.

The material on Behave The Bravest harks back to Kennedy’s origins as a player and singer of traditional music in Ireland. Old traditional ballads of loss and immigration, continue to find resonance in the modern world, while two of the songs sung in Irish Gaelic attest to Kennedy’s love of the national and first official language of Ireland.

Kennedy is renowned for her creative reworking and reimagining of traditional songs and the jewel in the record is undoubtably her flowing interpretation of ‘Fair Annie of the Loch Royanne’ one of the great traditional story-ballads and one of several songs on the record with a strong female lead character. Kennedy enjoys researching traditional song and she weds a serious pedigree of traditional musicianship and deep understanding of the history of her native music with a light-hearted musical spontaneity.

Recorded live in studio Behave The Bravest is testament to the superlative performance skills of Kennedy and her fellow musicians. You can watch a video of the opening track ‘Lovely Armoy’ which Kennedy found in the Sam Henry Collection.

Nuala Kennedy is known world – wide as a superlative performer of traditional music and is one of the most in-demand musicians on the global folk scene. She has recently graced the cover of Irish Music Magazine, Sing Out! and regularly appears on the mainstage at festivals around the world. Recognized for her cross-genre collaborations, she has performed and recorded with American songwriter Will Oldham (an album that received 5 stars from MOJO magazine) as well as cutting-edge Canadian composer the late Oliver Schroer (nominated for a 2012 Canadian Folk Award).

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Nuala Kennedy has a fresh, singular take on Scottish/Irish traditional music.

Artist’s website: www.nualakennedy.com

“mellifluous flute playing and delicately ornamented singing” The Scotsman

“frisky, excitingly vital and wonderfully original” ****Songlines

“a flute player and composer of remarkable finesse, fearless of the unknown” The Irish Times

‘Lovely Armoy’:

BATTLEFIELD BAND – Beg & Borrow (Temple COMD2107)

BATTLEFIELD BAND - Beg & Borrow (Temple COMD2107)The idea behind this album is simple but the execution is rather less so. The Straits of Moyle are just twelve miles wide which means that on a clear day you can stand on the Mull of Kintyre and see the Ulster coast. Legends are full of conflicts between the Scots and the Irish but there was also trade and, inevitably, music. Beg & Borrow celebrates the musical trade between the two countries.

Battlefield Band is now a trio and well illustrate the international nature of Celtic music. Piper Mike Katz is from Los Angeles, fiddler Alasdair White from Lewis and singer/guitarist Sean O’Donnell from Derry. They have recruited twelve special guests to celebrate this global musical community. Furthest flung is Australian piper Barry Gray and the nearest to home is Robin Morton who, although actually Irish, is the boss of Temple Records and the studio in which he produced the record and plays bodhran. Other famous names are Christine Primrose, Alison Kinnaird, Mike Whellans and Nuala Kennedy.

In contrast to the modern style of bands giving their sets short, snappy titles the tracks here are billed rather more formally so we begin with ‘Reels’, ‘6/8s’, ‘Song’, ‘Slow Air & Jig’ and so on. I’m no expert but I suspect this was how they would be noted on dance cards in the 18th and 19th centuries – Scottish country dancing was the ballroom dancing of the period after all. There is sometimes something rather formal about the style of playing, too, although the record opens with a robust set of Irish reels featuring the melodeon of Leo McCann. The 6/8 set – ‘Drunken Man’s Frolic/We Will Go Merrily Sailing/Charlie Over The Water’ is rather more stately.

My favourite tunes are the strathspeys, possibly because we don’t hear them very much this far south. Their rhythm is quite different from the jig and the reel and although the dance is described as being stately and often slow the tunes themselves are bouncy and expressive. Of course Mike Whellans’ contributions with the moothie and Jim Kilpatrick’s snare and bass drums add uniquely to the tracks on which they appear and Alison Kinnaird gets an almost solo on ‘Ellen’s Dreams’, a tune written by her husband, Robin Morton.

The first song we hear is ‘The Blantyre Explosion’ powerfully sung by Sean O’Donnell with the addition of a Gaelic verse by Christine Primrose. I would have liked to hear more of her on this track but later she is joined by Nuala Kennedy for ‘An Gille Mear’ which she translated from Irish Gaelic to Scots Gaelic. That seems a bit esoteric to me but it’s a lovely track. Christine returns the compliment on Nuala’s song ‘Mo Bhuachaill Dubh Dhonn’.

Beg & Borrow is an album you have to give some time to. The music here is something over and above the usual mix of Celtic music while still being firmly rooted in the traditions of Scotland and Ireland. While many musicians try to push the envelope, Battlefield Band and their friends have found plenty to explore in its dustier corners.

Dai Jeffries

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Artists’ website: www.battlefieldband.co.uk

The Alt – Irish supergroup releases debut album

Alt

The beautiful mountain Knocknarea in Ireland’s County Sligo is said to be the final resting place of the ancient Irish warrior-queen Maeve. The ‘Alt’ is a storied glen on the side of Knocknarea, and it was in the shadow of this glen in the little village of Coolaney that the three master Irish traditional musicians in The Alt – John Doyle, Nuala Kennedy, and Eamon O’Leary – first gathered to rehearse.

The old ballads, winding tunes, and freshly discovered songs that each artist brought to the table reflect the pure love of the song that has made Irish music so beautiful and compelling over thousands of years. It’s this same love of the song that the Irish brought to America, nestling into their new homes in Appalachia and forming the bedrock that would bring us American country, bluegrass, and old-time music. The Alt are fully aware of this history, and in fact chose to record their debut album in the quiet isolation of a small cabin in North Carolina’s Appalachian mountains. Alone with just the scurrying sounds of little mice accompanying them, each of these master musicians was able to use their partnership to touch at something deeper in the music, something swift and beautiful and magical that
has always run beneath these songs.

Each player in The Alt is a leading light of today’s folk scene and though this could be easily called a supergroup, at its heart The Alt is really a celebration of friendship and song. Guitarist and singer John Doyle, whose family hails from around Knocknarea, was born and raised in Dublin, lives in Asheville, NC, and is one of the pre-eminent guitarists and vocalists of his generation. His ground-breaking work with Irish band Solas and with Karen Casey has influenced many other artists and his style of guitar accompaniment is iconic in Irish music. He met flautist and singer Nuala Kennedy at Celtic Colors and while touring in Europe and the two hit it off while exploring songs and tunes in common. Nuala is herself a singer and songwriter well known internationally for her beautiful vocals and her unusual arrangements of traditional songs as showcased on multiple solo albums for Compass Records.

Looking to add a third voice to the band, John suggested his long-time friend and fellow Dubliner Eamon O’Leary, who also plays guitar and bouzouki. O’Leary is one of the most in-demand Irish vocalists and guitarists in the US today thanks to his subtle and beautiful work with Jefferson Hamer in The Murphy Beds. Each artist in The Alt delved into their own pasts to draw forth the songs on their debut album. Though each member is a fine songwriter in their own right, for this first album The Alt give their attention to traditional Irish songs. Some of the songs they grew up hearing and others they have collected along the road, from friends and mentors, from archival recordings and written collections. Gathered in the mountains of North Carolina, The Alt recorded their debut album in just three days, a testament to the ease each member feels with their native music. The singular sound of The Alt that came from this recording session is greater than the sum of its parts; at once delicate, deliberate and always in deference to the song at its core.

Artists’ website: WWW.THEALTMUSIC.COM

‘Lovely Nancy’ live: