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Picking the best of all the great Irish music CDs released in 2013

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Highway Lines has gentle brushstrokes of bluesy guitar licks, introspective songwriting and gentle delivery, making it a perfect easy listening companion of Irish tunes on a Sunday morning as you repent for sins at the pub the night before.

To hear the album, visit www.cdbaby.com/cd/thomasjohnston.

Damien Dempsey: Almighty Love
I’m willing to wager that Irish history will be told 50 years from now using Damo’s music today. Since Seize the Day in 2004, when he warned about Celtic Tiger greed, Dempsey has been chronicling Irish life with a reporter’s eye for detail, and he continues the trend on Almighty Love.

“Canadian Geese” is a metaphor for the young Irish fleeing their homeland to escape the ravages of a battered economy, singing “in my mind I up and join them and we glide out of Ireland’s eye.” Dempsey’s brand of folk can be tender or forceful on the turn of a dime, making him one of Ireland’s greatest live folk singers working today.

Clannad: Nádúr
Nádúr (pronounced ned-dur), is the Gaelic word for nature and the title of Clannad’s new disc.  It’s a fitting title as the album sees the family band – siblings Moya, Ciarán and Pól Brennan and their twin uncles Noel and Padraig Duggan – back together on record as the full original line-up for the first time since the 1989 album Past Present.

“Turas Domhsa chon na Galldachd” is classic Clannad — ethereal Gaelic poetry sung in otherworldly harmonies, a muted bagpipe in the distance providing that extra tingle to the spine.

While the past is referenced in the new music, Clannad wisely chose not to dwell on it.

On “The Fishing Blues,” southern fried harmonica bounces along with acoustic strumming and a playful bass line that makes a Southern Comfort cocktail just that.

Barleyjuice: This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
As the name would imply, the songs on this album are as about as dainty as a charging bull. The band has finally cracked that mythical code of producing an album that sounds exactly like their legendary live shows!

“Parish Jig” is the kind of track you’d put on before raping and pillaging a virgin island for her buried treasure. In a vocal delivery that can be best described as coming to after a long hangover and drooling on the pillow through each syllable, Brewer shouts, “Heave away this plastic Mary/for the truth shall be named and the rest shall remain in the dear old Catholic guilt” as a means to cranking up the raucous ditty called “Catholic Guilt.”

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