Ballads, Orchestras, Bluegrass, and a Touch of Belfast:
As Irish people came to North America, often times they were not able to carry much with them. They brought the tunes in their heads and hearts, though. That is part of the reason that Irish music became a foundation stone of the music that grew in the Appalachian mountains, and became bluegrass.
Green Grass; Blue Grass
The Brock McGuire Band, who are Paul Brock on accordion and Manus McGuire on fiddle, from Clare, Enda Scahill from Galway on banjo and mandolin, and Denis Carey from Tipperary on keyboards, brought their skill and acclaim as one of the top instrumental groups in Ireland over to Nashville, where they got together with cream of the bluegrass crop Ricky Skaggs, Aubrey Haynie, Bryan Sutton, and Mark Fain. The result was a high energy recording of bluegrass favorites, Irish tunes, and few French Canadian reels too for spice, that make up a lively and sparkling fifteen set collection. Standout cuts include Moving Cloud, Indian Springs, and Wild Fiddler’s Rag.
John Kinsella: Orchestral Works
Though it is not usually the first thing that comes to mind when people say Irish music, the classical music scene in Ireland is quite vibrant. The RTE Lyricfm label has decided to honor that with recordings featuring contemporary classical composers from Ireland, of which John Kinsella: Orchestral Works is one of the most recent. Symphony Number 6 is bright with horns, and Symphony Number 7 gives a nod to the influence of Sibelius, but it is Cuchuhlainn and Ferdia: Duel at the Ford that is perhaps most Irish, taking as its subject the epic struggle of the title which is described in the part of the Ulster cycle of Irish mythology known as the Tain. Musically, Kinsella begins with a quiet storytelling and then moves in to the clashing struggle of the battle, to conclude with a quiet note of aftermath . The RTE National Symphony Orchestra are the musicians who play Kinsella’s work here.
The Sailor’s Revenge
Bap Kennedy grew up in Belfast, listening to American country music as well as taking in what was around him. Both those things form strong background to his songwriting on The Sailor’s Revenge. So do his travels and experiences as a working musician, and his coming back to live in Ireland six years ago. Shimavale is a real place in County Down that turns up as the title to one of the songs, for example, and The Beauty of You, a love song, is a piece Kennedy heard the idea for in a conversation he was having with his wife as they drove along to Shimavale. Please Return to Jesus is an energy filled melody with lyrics that’ll have you thinking and laughing both, and perhaps remembering that religious divisions in Belfast and elsewhere play out in daily life. Solid contemporary songs with a Celtic twist, that twist enhanced by the work of Michael McGoldrick on flute, pipes and whistle, and John McCusker on fiddle. Mark Knopfler produced the album.
A Stor Mo Chroi: Songs of Love and Loss
A Stor Mo Chroi: Songs of Love and Loss is a two disc, many artist set thoughtfully chosen from recent and vintage cuts, and from songs that celebrate love as well as consider its loss. John Spillane has a gritty take on When You and I Were True. Lumiere offer a melodic and harmony filled version of the cautionary tale Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies. There’s Luke Kelly with his classic version of Raglan Road, and Loreena McKennitt with an equally classic Star of County Down. Karan Casey and John Doyle join up for False Lover John, Niamh Ni Charra brings her fiddling along to share Caillaech An Airgid, and Eddi Reader is backed by Allan Kelly on the haunting I Hung My Harp Upon the Willow. Grada, Skara Brae, The Dubliners, Sinead O’Connor, and T with the Maggies are among the artists represented, and the collection winds to a graceful close as Pauline Scanlon sings All the Ways You Wander, a song John Spillane wrote for his daughter.
Kerry Dexter writes about Ireland, Scotland, music and the arts at her site Music Road, Strings, Perceptive Travel, and other places.