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Archive of recordings from Ireland
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Anam
Riptide
Green Linnet (www.greenlinnet.com)

Anam display their varied Celtic roots with a vengeance without giving up on the idea of being a late 20th century band. This quartet of vocals (including marvelously waif-like tones from Aimée Leonard, from Orkney), guitar (Brian ó hEadhra, with ties to Ireland and Newfoundland), bodhran (also Leonard and ó hEadhra), button accordion (Treasa Harkin of Dublin), mandolin and bouzouki (Neil Davey of Cornwall) can both reel, rock, and romance, with only a few sleepers on the whole record. They are at their best when it's just the acoustic quartet, pulling no punches and playing with fire on the traditional tunes and songs, and with beautiful passion on the airs and ballads. Instrumentals like "Cornish Gavottes" (with the help of guest artists John Martin's fiddle and some jazzy saxophone from Phil Bancroft) have both grace and brawn. Listen! When they add the rhythm section is when they can get into a bit of trouble; one or two pieces with the bass and drums are the kind of light radio pop I can do without, but they can pull it off as often as not and produce some solid Celtic rock. The semi-acoustic "Mary and The Soldier" is the best of this lot, with lively vocals, driving rhythm guitar and bass, and a little help from Rory McLeod's harmonica. Songs like this hearken back to the best of DeDannan or early Altan, and that's fine company to be in. - CF

Photo: Charmaine Rohde
Sound file: "House on the Hill," traditional, P.D.
Other sound samples available on the Anam web pages


Alan Kelly
Out of the Blue
Kells Music (kellsmus@pipeline.com)

Alan Kelly is a piano-accordion player from Ireland whose skill and sensitivity should do much to establish his chosen instrument alongside the more usual button box. He plays with great expression and delicacy of touch, the triplets flowing from his fingers, and has made a sophisticated, rather than a rip-roaring, CD of a repertoire that's mainly Irish, though also touching base in Scotland and Quebec. Although fiddle and flute appear occassionally to share the melody, many of the tracks feature the accordion firmly centre stage, with tasteful accompaniment from guitar and percussion, some mildly exotic flavour being added by the presence of African drums alongside the traditional bodhran. Coolly jazzy syncopations and rolling fretless bass give a contemporary edge to the "Gusty's Frolic's" slip jig set and the "Trip to Dingle" polka. This is an album that glides by very agreeably, and a name I'm sure we'll be hearing more of. - Brian Peters


James Keane
With Friends Like These
Shanachie (www.shanachie.com)

James Keane left Dublin for New York in 1968, and somehow I hadn't come across his work before the present CD arrived. He's a ferociously good button-box player, amongst the best Irish stylists I've ever heard, with flair, ferocious attack, enviable accuracy and glittering ornamentation. And it's small wonder that a musician of such caliber should have, in his Dublin days, got involved with the very best traditional musicians on the scene. The roll-call for this album is dazzling, including Liam O'Flynn, Tommy Peoples, Paddy Glackin, Matt Molloy and others, and while the high anticipation generated by a stellar cast-list can sometimes lead to disappointment, that doesn't happen here. Using different combinations of collaborators, Keane creates a variety of colorings for the reels, jigs, polkas and airs, ranging from simple but spot-on duets between box and fiddle to bigger, swing-style arrangements, and though the more traditional sounds work best for me, it's uniformly excellent.

Keane adds a couple of fine compositions to the repertoire, there are great versions of "The Rights of Man" and many less well-known tunes, but my personal highlight is Liam O'Flynn's spine-chilling uilleann pipe playing on the slow air "Black is the Colour." A master of his instrument striking sparks off some of the all-time greats of Irish music - who could ask for more? - Brian Peters


Matt Molloy and Friends Music At Matt Molloy's;

Various Artists
Lament
(both Realworld/Caroline)

The political, social and economic conditions in Ireland have been well documented and well ignored through the years, and a certain fatality and simplicity comes into every conversation about the island. We speak of "the troubles" and know well of what we speak. We also hear "the music," and it means so much more than a few notes on a fiddle. On these two albums, we hear of the music and the troubles, in a sublime simplicity and a rapturous joy. Lament is a stunning piece of work compiled by Nigel Rolfe and Brian Masterson. Each of the 14 songs are a solo lamentation for instrument or voice for one of Ireland's great performers, dedicated to the loss and anguish of "the troubles." These songs can be stark and shocking, like singer Allana O'Kelly's wordless vocal, "One Breath." or it can be resonant and funereal like the accordion piece that follows by Tony MacMahon. Pianist Michael O Suilleabhain lends a romantic "Plunkett," and Christy Moore an evocative performance that returns the beauty to the much-maligned "Danny Boy." Each track is simplicity incarnate, a call to the spirits of life in the face of devastation.

Music At Matt Molloy's discovers and displays the other side of the same coin, the joy found in that same simplicity. Flute player and pub owner Molloy explains that "the music is more than just sitting down and playing a tune. It's the talk and the drink and the humour" that brings it alive, and this recording is as close to capturing it as you'll come without a plane ticket. You can almost smell a pint or two as the music spins out of this disk, and the fiddlers and accordion squeezers pull on a note and the pipers wheeze their droning tune. Young musicians and old converge to share the reels, jigs and songs of a dozen generations. Playing beside Chieftain Molloy are Arty McGlynn (guitar), Noel O'Grady (bouzouki), a marvelous solo vocal by Mick O'Grady, and a dozen more folks in groupings from duets to octet, keeping the all important spirit of the music alive. There are plenty of hokey beer-drinking bands and thrashing revolutionaries with electric guitars, but to understand the music of the troubles and the island that contains them both, the artists and their songs on these two disks are essential listening.

Celtic, Irish, Scottish and Bristish Isles Menu

all material copyright 1998 RootsWorld