Archive for October, 2010

Playlist 10-31-2010

Special Halloween/All Saints/Samhain show. See links for information!

Artist – Tune – CD – Label
Martin Hayes – The Brown Coffin/The Good Natured Man – Martin Hayes – Green Linnet
The Amstrong Family – Soul Cake – The Wheel of the Year – Flying Fish
The John Renbourn Group – Death and the Lady – A Maid in Bedlam – Shanachie
Liz Carroll – The Ghost/The Hatchlings/The Long Bow – Lake Effect – Green Linnet
Ed Miller – Burke and Hare – Live at the Cactus Cafe – Wellfield
Aly Bain and Ale Moller – Hangman’s Reel – Fully Rigged – NorthSide
Pam Swan – Dance to your Shadow – Dance to your Shadow – Evil Twin Music
The Outside Track – Troll/Sean’s Slip – The Outside Track – Bedspring Music
Loreena McKennitt – Stolen Child – Quinlan Road
Tommy Makem – Brugh na Boinne – Ancient Pulsing – Red Biddy Records
The Bothy Band – Old Hag You Have Killed Me – Old Hag You Have Killed Me – Mulligan Records (Compass reissue)
Robin Williamson – The Kintail Witches – Five Humorous Tales of Scotland and Ireland – Pig’s Whisker Music
Stan Rogers – The Witch of the Westmorland – Between the Breaks… Live! – Fogarty’s Cove Music
Dervish – I Buried My Wife and Danced on Top of Her – Playing with Fire – Kells Music
Maddy Prior and Tim Hart – False Knight on the Road – Summer Solstice – Shanachie
Phil Cunningham – Ceilidh Funk – The Palomino Waltz – Green Linnet
Steeleye Span – King Henry – Below the Salt False Knight on the Road – Ten Man Mop or Mr Reservoir Butler Rides Again – Shanachie
The Shee – Happy Halloween – A Different Season – Shee Records
Old Blind Dogs – The Cruel Sister – Live – Lochshore
Old Blind Dogs – The Ritual – The World’s Room – Green Linnet
Battlefield Band – Bad Moon Rising/Rising Moon Reel – Home Ground – Temple Records
Sinead O’Connor – I Am Stretched on your Grave – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got – Chrysalis
Mantis – Graves Torment – Mystic –
The Pogues – Worms – If I should Fall From Grace with God – Island

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Playlist 10-23-2010

Placeholder for the Pledge Drive show
– I have to listen to the recording of the show, can’t remember the playlist!

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Not even a dirty nor’easter could keep the crowd at home.  With the rain bucketing down and the wind whipping hard enough to make the old Orangedale United Church shudder (literally), the stage was set and the performers ready to go.

The first turn of Irish fiddler Maire O’Keefe and guitarist Paul MacDonald was pleasant but lackluster at best, with no insights into the performers’ personalities; however, their second turn was much better and their performance later at the Festival Club was better still.

Storyteller Jim St. Clair was a wonderful addition to the “usual” fabulous music found at this festival.  Using the moaning winds and the wood beams’ creaking, he spun a dark tale of a man who sold his soul to the devil before sailing to Cape Breton.  He has a wonderful voice and an expressive face and a collection of local tales that everyone should listen to.

In the last week, we’ve attended a lot of excellent concerts, but the sets that Chrissy Crowley on fiddle, Darren McMullen on guitar and Jason Roach on piano blazed through were among the very best of the best.   The trio started hot and kept cranking it up with each tune until the church was bouncing to the pounding feet of the crowd and musicians.  Crowley’s enthusiasm and impish personality was infectious.  Funny, quick with the comeback and passionate about her musicianship, she should be one of the next stars coming out of Cape Breton.  As the woman sitting next to me said, “This is the future of our music.”  And a damn fine future it looks to be.

Reviewed by C. Keegan

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The word for the Waters of Iona concert is “uneven.” From start to finish, the show kept going through rough patches only to turn out a polished set immediately after.  It had the informal charm of a casual gathering of friends,  rather than performance.

Goiridh Dòmhnallach meandered through the  bilingual, Gaelic/English introduction before he finally began to sing.  It took a bit of encouragement, but he convinced the crowd to sing the Gaelic chorus and overwhelm the strange hollow sound coming from his mic (which persisted the entire show).  He invited harpist Ailie Robertson to accompany him on his next song, but, at least from where I was sitting, the harp kept overwhelming his voice.

For the next set, Robertson was joined by Fiona Black on accordion.  Sound problems aside, their section was excellent, starting with Black’s accordion creating a moody musical cocoon for the first set.  The second set was all light, featuring Robertson’s harp on “The Quaker Boy.”  They ended with “The Favorite Dram,” which gave Robertson the chance to make the entire crowd envious of her newest musical commission: writing about the ties between music and whiskey, and about all the onerous research she has to do touring many, many, many Scottish whiskey distilleries.

Joanne MacIntyre had a rough start to her set.  Clearly nervous, she repeatedly stumbled over her lyrics and turned to Dòmhnallach for prompts.  She had her nerves under control for the second, where she turned out a wonderful performance with a song, title translated to “My Love Has Left,” that got better with each verse.  By the time she got to the end of her set, she had regained her poise and, with Lewis MacKinnon and Dòmhnallach, turned out one of the highlights of the evening, a sailing song.

With such a fine finish to the first half, the beginning of the second was fated to start just a bit rough.  MacKinnon sightread a song that he had translated from Irish into Gaelic, stumbling now and again.  He found his rhythm again with the Gaelic anthem “Oran do Cheap Breatuinn.”

And then the evening took a little side trip, when Dòmhnallach tried something that was a bit too high concept.  With Hector MacNeil acting as translator, Dòmhnallach told a story about Hugh of the Small Head and his dying vow to protect his family in death as he had in life.  It was an interesting experiment in bilingual storytelling but the choppy back-and-forth between languages made it difficult to follow the story or to get a sense of the Gaelic rhythm.

Luckily, singing resumed and the energy level picked up.   MacKinnon and Dòmhnallach powered their way through a waulking song, managing to remain serious for about three-quarters of the very long song before they gave into temptation and got a little silly checking watches, feigning skipping, and giving the audience their best one-legged balance.

Back on track, the evening was yet again diverted by MacIntyre, who when invited back on the stage, wanted to discuss her brother’s paintings, which were hung in the church.  Eventually, the now-trio got around to singing the great Runrig song “Chi mi’n Geamhraidh,” starting out very rough until they hit the harmonies, which powered them to a great finish.

The last act, Carl MacKenzie and Patricia Chafe, brought everything back into balance with their classic Cape Breton fiddle and piano music.  Fans leapt to their feet, applauding, at the end of their first set and after all the others, too.  These two musicians are masters of their genre, effortlessly spinning out strathspey after strathspey, jigs, and reels.  MacKenzie closed out their part with a jaw-dropping rendition of “Tulloch Gorum,” with many variations, each one receiving thunderous applause.

The evening wobbled to a close with the finale.  Part one was vocals-only, with the instrumentalists playing silent bookends to a stirring delivery of “Taladh na Beinne Guirme” featuring Dòmhnallach (who co-wrote the song, with Brian OhEadhra) in his best voice of the night.  The full-on finale with everyone singing and playing was awesome, leaving us with fond memories despite the roughness.

Reviewed by C. Keegan

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Every wonderful night of Celtic Colours boasts at least four or five topnotch shows scattered all over Cape Breton island.  Tonight, we took the slow road to the Lions Club in the Village of St. Peter (only getting lost once!) for Ceilidh on the Canal.

The line-up for this show was brilliant.  Starting out with a fiddler representing the future of Cape Breton music, with two short segments from an established singer/songwriter/poet, a reunion of fiddler cousins, and ending with an amazing new powerhouse group, the evening was the sort that made you want to brag to people later that you’d been lucky enough to have been there.

Mckayla MacNeil, a (barely) sixteen-year-old fiddler from “right down the road” and her accompanist Clifford Carter, opened the show with several fine sets, including a splendid rendition of the ever-popular “Brenda Stubbert’s Reel.”  MacNeil’s fans were in force, cheering her on with loud gusto.  She’s likely to be a regular at the festival for many years to come.

A familiar face at the festival club, Wally MacAulay added comedy and poetry to the music.  Interspersing amusing semi-autobiographical introductions with ballads that demanded you listen and take note, MacAulay’s two interludes were the sort that sidled into your brain, where the songs and poems would keep repeating, demanding thought and examination.  His unconventional vocal style takes some getting used to, but it worked well tonight.

Closing out the first half were Glenn Graham and Rodney MacDonald, a pair of fiddlers who happen to be cousins.  The duo was backed by keyboardist Joel Chiasson and guitarist Patrick Gillis dressed in full thug finery of hoodie and shades.  The concept of a Cape Breton ‘hood distracted me until the band began cranking out incredible tunes!   Starting out strong, each tune drove the next into higher gear, dragging  MacDonald out of his chair to stepdance.  That alone was worth the price of the ticket.  It isn’t every night you get to see a former premier of Nova Scotia step dance, or come to think of it, blaze away at the fiddle.

The Outside Track has the makings of a new supergroup.   Composed of vocalist/flautist Norah Rendell, harpist Allie Robertson, accordionist Fiona Black, guitarist Cillian O’Dalaigh, and Cape Breton fiddler Mairi Rankin, The Outside Track tears through their sets.  You get a lot of everything with this band: songs, tunes, and some bang-up stepdancing from Rankin and O’Dalaigh.

The finale was a no-holds barred rendition of “The Ballad of St. Anne’s Reel.”  The stage was a forest of blazing fiddle bows, with MacAulley belting out the lyrics and everyone else churning out fabulous mayhem.  You really should have been there!

Reviewed by C. Keegan

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The Acadian community of Cheticamp welcomed us to a party, but the first act didn’t seem to want to dance with us.

Marc Boudreau, backed by guitarist Chris Babigneau and Hilda Chiasson-Cormier on piano, put his head down and fiddled up a storm, seemingly in a hurry to get his set over and done with so he could get off the hot stage.  Wonderful fiddler, but he didn’t make the effort to engage with the audience.  Music, 8; stage presence,4.

De Temps Antan, however, came prepared to party.  Singing their way to a rousing start, the trio ripped through their too-short set.  With the traditional “dancing feet” and enthusiastic playing, they pumped energy back into the audience, got us to clapping and looked as though they were having the times of their lives making us happy.  This is definitely a group to watch out for.  KZYX listeners will be happy to know that we bought both their CDs to get your feet tapping.

The headliner for the night, Lennie Gallant, was a new name for us but clearly not to the crowd, which lit up when his name was announced.  Gallant’s music, to these American ears, sounds like a cross between country western and Cajun, which makes sense, no?  Not exactly Celtic, Gallant’s music would be a fine addition to the Audible Feast, Fred Wooley’s Sunday afternoon show.  His lyrics, those in English at least, are witty, and his songs are thoughtful.

The finale was, as one could predict by now, wonderful.  Everyone got into the sheer joy that music can bring.  Even Marc Boudreau got up and step danced a bit, but the dancing star of that set was Chiasson-Cormier who danced while playing her keyboards.  It was a great ending for an evening of bilingual music in the charming and beautiful community of Cheticamp.

Reviewed by C. Keegan

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Imagine if you will the perfect concert experience: a delicious dinner with friends you haven’t met yet, a site that’s beautiful and acoustically excellent, and musicians overflowing with talent.  That was the Monday evening concert, Across an Ocean and a Sea: Thar Cuain is Mara.

The Union Presbyterian Church in Albert Bridge hosted the event, beginning with a community Thanksgiving dinner in the adjacent dining hall.  The church itself was decked in autumn glory, with garlands of leaves and lights spanning the walls, with an altar spread with cornucopia and the fruits of the harvest and a mysterious set of bagpipes tucked off to the side.  All that stage needed was musicians.

Mary Jane Lamond acted as both emcee and the first act, managing the former with a dry wit and the latter with a clear, strong voice that filled the church with unaccompanied Gaelic songs.   The crowd provided percussion, tapping out the rhythm with their feet.  Triona Ni Dhomhnaill joined her for a bit of puirt-a-beul (mouth music for dancing), before the stage was handed over to Lewis MacKinnon.

MacKinnon has a wonderfully rich, slightly rough voice.  He sings with  an intensity that has him bouncing while he plays his guitar.  Starting out with a song often played on Oak and Thorn,” ‘S Gann Dirich Mi Chaoidh,” reportedly the first Gaelic song composed in the New World (and popularized by the great Scottish band Ossian in the 1970s), he followed with two more tunes, including a duet with Lamond, until they closed out their section with a waulking song.

We’d seen Liz Doherty the night before, but this time, in a smaller venue with better acoustics, her band’s stellar craftsmanship came through.  Ian Carr’s deft guitar work, which had been lost in the Whycocomagh Gymnasium, was a beautiful addition to the excellent fiddling of Doherty and Louise Hunter.  Jim Wood’s accordion and bodhran playing could be appreciated properly.  They tore up the place with their set, closing the first half with a bang.

When four of Ireland’s greatest women musicians come together, you can be assured of a magical evening.  T with the Maggies, a superb combination of Triona Ni Dhomhnaill (she is the “T”), Maighread Ni Dhomhnaill, Mairead Ni Mhaonaigh and Moya Brennan, sounded like earthbound angels. Each singer on her own or with her band is amazing.  Combined as T with the Maggies, their individual talents are augmented and their genuine affection for each other creates a lovely warmth that flows out to the audience.  Moya Brennan’s selkie song broke hearts, while the “mishmash” song brought the joy back.  “Domhnach Na Fola,” a song written in response to the British government’s (too little too late) apology for Bloody Sunday, set the hairs up on my neck with its angry/sad lament.  They finished their set with the charming “Wedding Dress” song.

To wrap up the evening, T with the Maggies invited Liz Doherty back onto the stage for a manic rendition of  a love bet gone wrong song involving a Gruagach.  Mary Jane Lamond found a space on the tiny stage, where she and the Maggies sang an Irish version of one of Lamond’s Gaelic songs.  And, for the grand finale, somehow all the musicians managed to cram together on the stage to churn out a fantastic version of “Fear a Bhata” with each singer taking a verse and the entire audience singing along with the Sèist (chorus), ending the evening with music in everyone’s hearts.

Reviewed by C. Keegan

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