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:

SEAMUS BEGLEY – The Bold Kerryman (IRL IRL093)

SEAMUS BEGLEY The Bold KerrymanI frequently have to remind myself that there is more music out there than any of us can ever listen to – which is my excuse for not having come across Seamus Begley before.

Seamus is well known as half of the Irish/Australian duo Ceolas and for his ongoing partnership with Jim Murray as singer and accordion player. I’ve tracked down about six albums of his work but he probably recorded many others over his forty year career. He’s also worked with Tim Edey who is his principal instrumental supporter on this set of mostly traditional material. The album opens with ‘Táimse Im Chodladh’ and ‘The Lough Tae Boat Song’, both unfamiliar to me. They are followed by a stately version of ‘The Banks Of The Sweet Primroses’ featuring a shared vocal by Damien Dempsey as the material becomes more familiar.

Seamus has a warm voice that brings an intimacy to his performances and the album is so very restful. Like many Irish singers, he seems to consider that a song worth singing should be sung no matter its source. So we have an old Fenian song ‘Wrap The Green Flag Around Me Boys’ followed by ‘Portland Town’ (nothing to do with Derroll Adams) and Annie Laurie. The album closes with John Denver’s ‘Today’ and Paul Metzer’s greatest hit ‘Farewell To The Gold’. In his hands ‘Today’ sounds like a traditional love song.

The Bold Kerryman is a sweet, gentle album which might have benefited from an instrumental interlude to give it a change of pace. It is, nevertheless, a splendid set of songs in both Irish and English that might just lull you into untroubled dreams.

Dai Jeffries

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An air and a song performed live by Seamus Begley and Tim Edey:

TIM EDEY TO RELEASE SOLO GUITAR ALBUM – with special Scottish guest musician Patsy Reid

TIM EDEY 2013Tim Edey has announced that he will be releasing a solo album of guitar music this Augustaugmented by a string quartet led by popular Scottish fiddler Patsy Reid (you may remember Patsy from Breabach).  The album will be officially launched at Kent’s Broadstairs Folk Week in Tim’s home town and he will be closing the festival on Friday, August 16 with support from Devon duo Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin (recently featured on folking).

Tim’s hot property in the contemporary worldwide Celtic music scene, his melodeon and guitar playing is featured prominently on Christy Moore’s 2011 album, and his touring and recording credits read like a who’s who of the Celtic scene: Capercaillie, Sharon Shannon, Lunasa, Michael McGoldrick, Seamus Begley, Altan and Mary Black. Tim has also recorded an album with guest musicians Tim Edey: The Collective.

Tim has been in demand since his wins at the RADIO 2 FOLK AWARDS in 2012 where he picked up both BBC  “MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR” and the BEST DUO award (with Brendan Power). He has guested on BBC Radio 2’s Good Morning Sunday, Mike Harding and Simon Mayo  shows, BBC Radio 3’s “World on 3” and Radio 4’s Midweek and been seen on BBC South-East, Ireland’s RTE1 John Murray show and, with The Chieftains on Later with Jools Holland

Dividing his time between Scotland and Kent, he also released the eclectic The Best of Tim Edey – a superb 18-track album that charts the course of his career to date and showcases his collaborations with luminaries from the Celtic music world including Sharon Shannon, Ross Ainslie, Seamus Begley and Mike McGoldrick. It includes the track “Why”? which evolved into a tune questioning the condition OCD to which Tim is no stranger and with which he feels music has helped him cope.

Tim will be making several key appearances across the Atlantic this year. In July, he will perform at one of Canada’s biggest festivals – Stanfest – before appearing with top international fiddler Natalie MacMaster and Donnell Leahy in Ontario and, in October, returning to Cape Breton’s world famous  Celtic Colours festival followed by a Canadian tour with multi award-winning JP Cormier, the Canadian bluegrass/folk/Celtic singer songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.

Back in the UK, Tim will appear at Derbyshire’s Edale Folk Festival in May and in August, Towersey Festival and Broadstairs Folk Week where he will launch his guitar album and do a CD signing. Then in November, he has been invited to return to Dougie Maclean’s Perthshire Amber Festival.

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Artist’s website: www.timedey.co.uk