Reviews of recent releases from Irish and Irish American artists.
Cashier No. 9
To the Death of Fun
Belfast has for many years been a hub for contemporary Irish music. One of the newest acts to emerge from the hometown of Van Morrison is Cashier No. 9. After securing gigs opening for Snow Patrol and playing at the famed Glastonbury Music Festival, the quintet has finally released their debut album, To the Death of Fun. Their vocals sound like you’d find them in Venice, CA: a lovely array of harmonies reminiscent of Crosby, Stills and Nash. On the heels of the explosive success of new folk interpreters like Seattle’s Fleet Foxes and London’s Mumford and Sons, Cashier No. 9 is emerging onto a music scene primed for their style.
Their track “Goldstar” uses bells throughout the song, establishing a bopping rhythm and lending an air of frivolity. It is a catchy song, like a new-age Beach Boys number broken up by a much welcomed harmonica solo. Cashier No. 9 is an inventive alternative pop band with great potential and a solid debut album.
Ian Walsh and Kevin Buckley
Keeping It Reel
What caught my ear initially on Ian Walsh’s and Kevin Buckley’s album Keeping It Reel, was the chemistry between the two players, which extends from over two decades of playing together. It really shines through in this record, a blend of American roots music and traditional Irish tunes, because their fiddle and guitar portions were in large part recorded live.
Both award-winning fiddlers, Walsh and Buckley understand the richness of sparing instrumentation. On the opening track “Mayor Harrison’s Fedora,” they keep the focus of the reel on the fiddle and allow the bodhran and guitar to work as interchangeable fills. The song, a reference to a former mayor of Chicago, is a playful and intimate recording.
They then explore the Irish in the Appalachians with the old song “Say Darlin’ Say,” enlisting Tommy Martin on the uilleann pipes. The arrangement allows for hints of Celtic traditional fiddle playing while remaining very true to the song’s American country roots. The album is crisp, fun and expertly played: a comforting Sunday morning record.
Brendan Begley and Caoimhin O Raghallaigh
A Moment of Madness
This trad duo combines button accordion and fiddle to record favorites of the Irish music world. Brendan Begley embraces a simple style with his accordion, avoiding over-ornamentation with a more straightforward melodic interpretation than many trad listeners are used to. Caoimhin O Raghallaigh complements this with his fiddle, driving the rhythm of the album with his precision.
The album is traditional but somewhat rigid. Perfect for the Irish dance world but perhaps a little too regimented for the everyday listener. “Cronin Slippery Jig” is an entrancing track, though, where the pair’s commitment to that stripped-down sound really pays off.
Begley’s story is included in the inside cover of the album: once a Dublin schoolteacher, one day he read his horoscope, which made a welcome suggestion: “Follow your heart. A moment of madness is better than a life of logic.” Begley took this nugget of astrological inspiration and moved to Dingle where he and O Raghallaigh used that phrase, “A moment of madness,” for their album.