The rush of seasonal concerts will soon be over, but it doesn’t mean you can’t get your fix of great traditional Irish music afterwards.
We will deal with a couple of new releases this week that will bring you hours of listening pleasure, and for the musicians among you some inspiration for new material, or at least a new approach to the old.
The Sligo-based group Dervish has been around a long time, and while she wasn’t an original member of the dynamic band, Roscommon neighbor Cathy Jordan has fronted the troupe as the lead singer for 20 years.
And she has only gotten around to releasing her own recording, All the Way Home, in recent weeks in prestigious launches at Celtic Connections, the Temple Bar Trad Festival and in Sligo and Roscommon.
The CD is well worth the wait because Jordan wanted all the right pieces -- and artists whom she wanted to contribute to it -- to be aligned and available to make a different sounding CD.
There is a sensibility and maturity in the crafting of this 11-track effort that should raise Jordan to the front ranks of singers from Ireland because she has chosen, wisely and well, material that suits her and her ability to interpret the new and old songs that appear on it.
Working closely with Swedish producer and musician Roger Tallroth, Jordan introduces us to her songwriting and tunesmithing side, though primarily through singing which she has done since the age of three, soaking it up in the oral family tradition as she grew up on a farm in Curradrehid outside of rural Scramogue.
The sense of longing and belonging for one’s homeland is tastefully covered in “The Road I Go,” “River Field Waltz,” and “In Curraghroe,” with Jordan’s caring and careful polishing of Irish history and way of life in song, verse and melody.
So we welcome “The Bold Fenian Men,” “Eileen McMahon,” “Slieve Gallion Braes” and the “Banks of the Foyle” to new life courtesy of Jordan.
With Dervish, Jordan is known for her puckish wit and attempts to charm the audience with her intros to the songs.
Tallroth’s “The Jordan Jig” creates a happy tone for the CD, and a nice bit of humor comes through “Ould Ballymoe,” a song that seems written for Jordan’s devilish personality.
She gives us a sober and delicate rendition of the song air “Lark in the Clear Air” that many still associate with the early Sunday morning RTE radio show hosted by Ciaran MacMathuna, Mo Ceol Thu, where it was the theme song. In her liner notes she laughingly refers to it as the last peaceful thing in a large Catholic household where kids are then rousted out of bed for Sunday Mass.
The title track “All the Way Home” (Blix Street Records) describes the kind of journey that Jordan has been on, and why she can reflect back on the simple and happy childhood she had and how it influenced her life afterwards.
There were good times and hard times for the Irish and challenges to be met all the time, but looking back at it on balance, a great way to grow older and wiser. Good advice for these troubled times once again.
It is always exciting news that a new Altan album has been released, and once again the 13 tracks on Gleann Nimhe/Poison Glen on Compass Records focus heavily on the rich vein of Irish culture to be mined in Donegal.
Don’t be put off by the dark title as the music is as heavenly as this bucolic place down below Mount Errigal, an inspiring beacon for Altan’s music over the years.
Fans of Mairead ni Mhaonaigh’s singing will not be disappointed here as six of the tracks feature her lovely voice in a song selection that is well sourced and varied.
The album got a great airing on the current tour when Altan breezed into the Big Apple for a sold out concert at the City Winery in SoHo.
On display was the usual fiery double-fiddling by Mairead and Buncrana native Ciaran Tourish, one of the best tandems in Irish music, along with the nimble fingers of box-player Dermot Byrne (also from Buncrana) accompanied by founding member Ciaran Curran (Fermanagh) on bouzouki and Derryman Daithi Sproule on guitar and vocals who played with Mairead and the late Frankie Kennedy before Altan formed back in Donegal.
Like Jordan, Ni Mhaonaigh brings a freshness to the old air “Cailin Deas Cruite na mBo (The Pretty Girl Milking Her Cow).”
A newly composed song by Tourish’s nephew Martin, “An Ghealog,” makes a stunning debut here, graced by Mairead’s dramatic rendition showing why she is one of the more soulful voices in the Irish language.
While there are tunes from Paddy O’Brien, Cathal McConnell, Tommy Potts and Sproule’s own composition, “The House on the Corner” onboard the CD, it’s the Tirconnail heartbeat that you feel here.
Channeling seminal influences like the Dohertys, the Campbells of Glenties and always “Francie Mooney” and so many others from the rugged and beautiful hills, valleys and coastline is what makes Altan the merry missionaries they are, carrying their music from shore to shore calling us home to County Donegal.
Here's Cathy Jordan performing 'All The Way Home':
And here's Altan performing The King Of Meenasillagh, Lamey's, The High Fiddle Reel: