Music Reviews

Music reviews from Kristin McGowan.

By Kristin McGowan, Contributor
October / November 2016

New music of Irish and Irish American interest.

Legacy, Volume 2

Celtic Thunder

This familiar, favored collection of incredible talent begins with an extraordinary rendition of the other-worldly “Now We Are Free” featuring Keith Harkin, who later in the album sings his original “Lauren & I,” a beautiful song made more interesting when learned it was written at the request of a female fan whom he had never met.

The second track, the traditional “Isle of Innisfree” is sung by Emmett O’Hanlon, the Irish-American, Julliard-trained vocal stand-out of this album. The exquisiteness of old standards is revived when delivered by such incredible talent as O’Hanlon. He also sings a gorgeous rendition of Phil Coulter’s “Remember Me” in English and Spanish.

Returning from his stint on the television series Glee, original member Damian McGinty is back singing pop favorites “Home” and “Breaking Up is Hard to Do.” As a group, the triumph of this album is the Cape Breton folk song, “Song for the Mira,” which showcases the impeccable harmonizing for which Celtic Thunder is famous.

For fans of Celtic Thunder, this album is a must.

(SMG / $11.49) 

Box Sets

John Redmond

Accordionist John Redmond’s Box Sets is a tribute to his beloved family and homeland of Ballindaggin, County Wexford, as well as friends and favorite places in the U.S. During a trip back to Ireland to convalesce after a cycling accident, John’s many walks and childhood memories inspired this original collection of jigs, reels, waltzes, slow airs, polkas, and hornpipes. Many of the tune names were spur-of-the-moment suggestions of friends, such as “Trig Jig,” in the opening set, and “McGurk’s Wall,” after a photo gallery of famed Irish musicians. Other tunes are pulled from his past – his memory of extracting honey from his father’s bee hives for the jig “The Bee Frame” and the smell of his mother’s brown bread baking in the polka “Mother’s Brown Bread.”

The first trio of jigs, “From Hook Head to Iona / Trig Jig / The Moats of Craan,” springs from time spent walking around wind turbines and breezy hikes up Mount Leinster. Lively originals, they are a bright start to the album. The two waltzes – “Kathy’s Waltz” and “The Horseshoe Waltz” – are a contrast in tone; the first a light and lovely tribute and the second a deeper, more meditative sound. His flawless execution of his reel sets and hornpipes is bright and uplifting, a fitting reflection of his road to recovery and time spent with the people he loves.

John Redmond has created a gorgeous collection of tunes – all original; all worth repeated play.

(John Redmond / $15)

Highs and Bellows

Mick McAuley

This latest solo album from accordionist Mick McAuley bursts open with two dynamic sets of reels and slides before slowing down with a sweet rendition of the traditional air “As I Roved Out.” It is a beautiful fusion of Mick’s voice and legendary Kilkenny guitarist Colm O Caoimh, who accompanies Mick on this acoustic collection of traditional music and song.

Mick is a one-man-Irish-band of sorts, playing the accordion, concertina, whistles, guitar, and melodeon; the last most recently in Sting’s Broadway production, The Last Ship. He is also a singer, songwriter, and composer, with six original tunes on this album including “The Ballycotton Jigs” (“The Pinemarten / Road to Costa Rica / The Ballycotton Jig”) and the very pretty “Doireann’s Waltz.”

The arrangement of “The Sparrow” polkas (“John Walsh’s / The Sparrow / The Continental”) is delightful, as is “The Fairy Set,” which includes the traditional “The Fairy Jig,” Liz Carroll’s “Liam Child’s,” and Mick’s own composition, the quite sunny and happy “Penney’s Favourite.”

A lightening-round of reels, “The Bird’s Nest / The Moving Cloud,” closes the album with a thunderous incentive to get up and dance… and to play the entire album again.

(GAF Studios / $15)

Doolin

Doolin

Accomplished musicians, all from Toulouse, France, individually entranced by the lure of Irish music, now combine their talents into an upbeat mix of traditional instrumentals, favorite ballads, and original compositions. The theme of Doolin’s self-titled album is the Great Hunger, and the selections are thoughtful, intelligent, lively, and introspective. “Chanson Pour John” tells the emigrants’ story; “Reel Africa,” “Ballad of Hollis Brown,” and “Famine” examine the more contemporary effects of poverty, weaving the music and rhythms of Africa, American country, and French electronic rap with a traditional Irish sound.

Doolin blends the French and Irish sounds, sometimes leaning more to one than the other, but always with a beautiful balance, especially in “Le Jupon Blanc” (the white petticoat), a traditional Irish jig introduced to Paris and Amsterdam, an original French song backed by fiddle, tin whistle, and bodhrán.

This is a fascinating, intriguing, and expertly crafted album.

(Compass Records / $15)

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