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Family and Friends: Seven Irish Music cds

Kerry Dexter's picture
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Irish music has a way of touching emotions and reaching hearts across time and place and language. That seems to be true, too,  whether you hear the music at a big stage show, at a lively pub, in a living room. or through a recording. Take a listen to several newer releases and a pair of longtime favorites to learn more of Irish music.

The New Broom takes its title from a saying known in Ireland and with counterparts around the world: “A new broom sweeps clean, but an old one knows the corners.” That wry and generous sentiment infuses the music here, with the part of the new broom held by fiddler Willie Kelly, and the old broom role filled by flute player Mike Rafferty. The pair join up for reels,  jigs, and hornpipes mainly drawn from the Irish tradition.  It’s a fine collection, crisp, melodic, and open, great for listening and dancing. It’s likely you will at least be tapping a foot along as they play their way through The View Across the Valley, Speed the Plough, and The Green Fields of Woodford.

Shannon Heaton will likely have you tapping out the beat, too, on several of the jigs and reels she offers on her album The Blue Dress. Heaton is known as a singer as well as a flute player, but on this project she lets her flute stand forth on tunes traditional and new,   including the the upbeat set called 44 Mill Street, the title track The Blue Dress Waltz, and, as Shannon herself describes the 99 High set, “polkas as you’ve never known them."

Donal Clancy adds tasteful guitar backup on The New Broom, and he is the guitarist also on The Clancy Legacy, where he joins up with his cousins Robbie O’Connell and Aoife Clancy. Each of them has a fine career on his or her own. Each is also part of the next generation on from The Clancy Brothers, whose lively style brought Irish music out of the pub and onto the world stage in the 1960s. On this recording, their first as a group, the three easily and naturally trade lead and supporting roles on songs and tunes which range from Jug o’ Punch to Lilies of the Field to The Flower of Kilkenny.

Family is the foundation of things for From The Green to the Blue as well as The Lindsays, who are husband and wife Stephen and Susan, offer up a set that shares the feeling of a relaxed evening of tunes and songs in your local pub. The pair now and then add just a taste of flavors beyond Ireland with a range of instruments including saxophone, accordion,  and trumpet, but it is Stephen’s singing and Susan's flute and whistle which anchor things through a set which in includes Blue Green Bangle, The Rambling Pitchfork, and John o’Dreams.

Friendship and family also anchor the recording T With the Maggies. Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill, and Moya Brennan all have outstanding careers in music as solo artists and with a ranges of bands and groups. They also share a background of growing up in the same corner of Country Donegal. As they crossed paths over the years, the idea emerged that they should do a project together, and so they have. As befits a recording with origins in Donegal, most of the tracks are in Irish, music drawn from the tradition as well as more recently composed pieces, and there are songs in English as well. On her own, each of these women easily commands listening. It is a real joy to hear them work together in generous collaboration. Songs include Wedding Dress, Ceol An Phiobare, and Mother Song, the last one which the women wrote themselves.

To add to this invitation to Irish music during this time of year when people across the world think of Ireland, also listen in on two  longtime favorites:

Fine Winter’s Night is an album of songs and tunes centered around the winter season. Its gathering of Irish and American music old and new makes fine listening any time of year, though. It is from Shannon (you met her above) and Matt Heaton.

Cathie Ryan's album The Farthest Wave is right for any time of year, as well. Her thoughtful choice of songs from Irish and American tradition is enhanced by her equally thoughtful songwriting, drawing from those traditions and carrying them on.

Kerry Dexter is the Music Editor for Wandering Educators.
Kerry's credits include CMT, the folk music magazine Dirty Linen, National Geographic Traveler, Strings, and The Encyclopedia of Ireland and the Americas. She also writes about the arts and creative practice at Music Road. You may reach her at music at wanderingeducators dot com.

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