The SíFiddlers, “SíFiddlers” • For those who like a lot of Irish fiddle – and fiddle solely, with no different melody instrument and nary a guitar, bouzouki, piano, or any such accompaniment about – then put this album in your must-listen record. And in case you like Donegal fiddling, effectively, it is best to transfer it to the highest of mentioned record.
The SíFiddlers is an ensemble of 13 feminine fiddlers from pricey previous Dún na nGall, together with well-established, famend performers like Altan co-founder Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh, Liz Doherty, and Brid Harper, and the vanguard of newer generations comparable to Clare Friel (of The Friel Sisters), Aisling Drost-Byrne, and Eimear McColgan; additionally within the ranks are Tara Connaghan, Theresa Kavanagh, Claire Gallagher, Melanie Houton, Roisin McGrory, Clodagh Warnock, and Denise Boyle. They initially got here collectively at a competition in 2018 – their set climaxing with 40-strong feminine fiddlers in all – and, extra just lately, for the published from this 12 months’s virtual-format Fleadh Cheoil.
The raison d’être for The SíFiddlers is simple however compelling: Donegal has a time-honored, exalted fiddle custom, producing luminaries like Tommy Peoples, Paddy Glackin, and James Byrne (father of Aisling), however it’s solely in latest a long time that feminine fiddlers – whether or not from Donegal or anyplace in Eire, for that matter – have been acknowledged and celebrated with any consistency. The multi-generational side of the ensemble clearly demonstrates how deep-rooted and sustained a presence girls have on this music.
Listeners might or might not respect the distinguishing traits of Donegal fiddle, comparable to its commonalities with Scottish custom, particularly by way of repertoire – strathspeys, Highlands, mazurkas – and frequent use of bowed triplets, derived from the affect of the highland bagpipes. However in any case, the SíFiddlers sound is exuberant and enthralling, whether or not they’re taking part in as a full ensemble (in unison, which isn’t as simple because it appears) or in smaller mixtures.
The Donegal fiddle tune canon is well-represented right here, comparable to with reels “Jackson’s/The Oak Tree”; mazurkas “Francie Mooney’s/Vincent Campbell’s”; a gloriously rendered hop jig, “The Silver Slipper,” paired with “The Rannafast Jig”; and a climactic trio of festive reels beginning – appropriately sufficient – with “Paddy’s Journey to Scotland,” the title and character of which underscores the Donegal-Scottish connection.
Simply among the many strongest tracks is the penultimate one, with Ni Mhaonaigh soloing on one in every of her signature items, “Tune for Frankie” – written for her late husband and Altan co-founder Frankie Kennedy – a sluggish, somber however not sorrowful G-minorish jig, with a delicate drone behind her; the ensemble then takes up one other Ni Mhaonaigh unique, “The Crimson Crow,” a dusky reel that toggles between a lower-end A component and a B half that elevates to the upper register.
By the way, there’s a fantastic story behind the ensemble’s title, which in accordance with Clare Friel comes through the late Kitty Sean Cunningham, a pioneering fiddler, dancer, singer, and storyteller from Teelin (one of many album’s tracks features a barn dance related to and named for her). The Gaelic phrase “sí” (generally given as “sidhe”), pronounced “she,” refers to supernatural beings and spirits of various temperament, look, and behaviors, together with the much-dreaded banshee. When Kitty Sean was a toddler, Friel explains, she was admonished for her intent to study the fiddle; if she did so, she was warned, she would absolutely be referred to as a “she-fiddler.”
“So we’ve taken what was a derogatory time period and we’re utilizing it otherwise,” says Friel. “It doesn’t have that connotation anymore, as a result of society doesn’t suppose the identical approach anymore.”
And someplace, Kitty Sean Cunningham have to be smiling. [sifiddlers.com]
John and James Carty, “The Wavy Bow Assortment” • Can all of us simply pause someday and supply a thought in appreciation of John Carty? It’s not that he hasn’t acquired acknowledgement earlier than – he’s a former TG4 “Conventional Musician of the 12 months” in spite of everything. However my goodness, you look (and pay attention) to his physique of labor, and he’s performed with so many notable musicians – Arty McGlynn, Andy Irvine, Kevin Burke, Alec Finn, Matt Molloy, The Chieftains, De Dannan, to call a couple of – and has an equally spectacular recording portfolio: solo releases in addition to an assortment of collaborations (together with the irresistible On the Racket) of various sounds and settings. He was even on the soundtrack for the 2015 Saoirse Ronan movie “Brooklyn.”
With Carty, Irish music is certainly a household affair: His father was a member of a well-known London ceili band, and his daughter Maggie is an achieved musician – in truth, Carty’s earlier recording was together with her – as his son James (he has a solo album, “Hiding Daylight in Darkish Corners”), as is sort of evident right here on “The Wavy Bow Assortment.” And as with a lot of Carty’s different work, the albums present a delightful range in preparations, temper, and repertoire, due in no small strategy to John’s expertise on fiddle, banjo, tenor guitar, and mandolin, and James on fiddle.
The duo are aided by some stalwart accompanists, lots of whom have been with John Carty for years: Brian McGrath (piano, organ), Shane McGowan (guitar, bass), Michael McCague (bouzouki), James Fromseier (guitar, bouzouki), Matt Griffin (guitar), James Blennerhasset (double bass), and a fellow named Mike McGoldrick on snare drum, rumored to be a reasonably good flutist. A particular visitor is Carty’s brother, James Sr., who performs flute on two tracks: “Corkscrew Hill,” three tunes from Clare flutist Michael Hynes – together with the titular jig initially – and “The Hearty Boys Set,” a brisk pair of jigs that features “Hearty Boys of Ballymote” from the taking part in of venerable Sligo fiddler James Morrison.
A few tracks have the crisply rhythmic vibe of the traditional ceili band or Nineteen Twenties-era classic Irish orchestra: the “Toss the Feathers” set (“Toss the Feathers/Inexperienced Mountain/Plough within the Stars”) and the “Drummer Boy” medley of flings – the latter has an infectious, finger-snapping bounce to it, John’s banjo completely arrayed with James’ fiddle. Different tracks show a contemporarily curated really feel: John leads the quirky, haunting “March of the Crows” (John credit Kevin Burke, who in flip cited Jackie Daly) on banjo, McCague and McGowan softly layering within the accompaniment and stress till James bursts in with “The Cran Man Jig,” with McGrath’s piano propelling issues alongside.
One other set begins with Andy Statman’s klezmer composition “The Flatbush Waltz,” famously lined by De Danann some years in the past and lovingly rendered right here by John on tenor guitar and mandolin, adopted by a pair of reels, “Colonel McBain” (traced to Scottish fiddler Winston “Scotty” Fitzgerald) and one other by the late Tommy Peoples, “Joe Cassidy’s,” all of which showcase John’s very good contact on tenor guitar for taking part in melody.
Equally pleasing are the tracks with a sparer, extra intimate high quality, together with a father-son fiddle duet together with McGowan that begins with the impassioned “Lord Galway’s Lamentation” (James’ concord is excellent) and concludes with that D-dorian masterpiece “Jenny’s Welcome to Charlie.” The Carty-Carty-McGowan combo is also on the helm on “O’Carolan’s Dream,” with John on tenor guitar; the primary cross by, with McGowan’s elegant backing, nearly seems like a harpsichord.
Not so by the way, “The Wavy Bow Assortment” continues Carty’s penchant for off-beat, intelligent, whimsical, or simply plain fascinating album titles (e.g. “Settle Out of Court docket,” “I Will If I Can,” “Yeh, That’s All It Is”). On this case, the title comes from a quote by legendary fiddler Michael Coleman, who upon seeing waves gently lapping alongside the shoreline of New York was heard to say “That’s how I like my bow hand to be” – in different phrases, effortlessly guiding his bow to crisscross the strings, AKA the wavy bow. Carty’s bought an ear for phrases in addition to music. [johncartymusic.net]