Reveiw: “Ne’er Duwels” by The Ne’er Duwels

The Ne’er Duwels, based in Southern California, have their first album entitled, “Ne’er Duwels.” The album is a polished and professional outing. Which is hardly surprising considering the band includes Ken O’Malley of The Twilight Lords, experienced studio and touring musician Patrick D'Arcy and grammy winning percussionist Forrest Robinson.

One of my favorite tracks is The Boys of Barr na Sráide, which features world rhythms and a fine performance by the fourth member of the band, Bryan Dobbs on guitar. There is also a fantastic rock-inspired version of She Moved Through the Fair” (featuring Brett Anderson of the Donnas), and a gorgeous original song Ceol Míol Mór (Music of The Whales) that highlights D’Arcy’s uilleann. Other highlights include Crossing the Atlantic featuring Kevin McKidd, best known for starring in Grey’s Anatomy) and their version of Caledonia (featuring Hale May) is both gentle and lively.

There’s much more than I have mentioned, and all the tracks feature the skillful blending of modern and classic styles. It’s a fantastic work and worth listening to on repeat.

Artist: The Ne’er Duwels

Album: The Ne'er Duwels

Review: “If the Skies Be Ablaze” by Sligo Rags

sligorags5

Ingenuity and the ability to meld several genres into one musical masterpiece are what catapult Sligo Rags into the stratosphere of excellent acoustical acts. Amazing musicians in their own right, Michael Kelly, David Burns, Jonathan Baer, and Eli Marcus together, however, are a tour de force of musical energy. The power of each performance with jazz-like solos and inventive arrangements captures the listener’s attention and will have their audience humming these melodies long after the performance is over. Their latest album, If the Skies Be Ablaze, is yet another compilation of breathtaking arrangements. Each of these traditional tunes and songs is given Sligo Rags’ unique treatment to make them fresh and relevant to today’s multigenre audience.

“Limehouse Blues / I'll Tell Me Ma,” “Ragtime Annie / Waxie's Dargle” and “Black Velvet Band / Foggy Mountain Breakdown” are perfect examples of this style. For instance, “Limehouse Blues / I'll Tell Me Ma” combines a popular 1922 British song written by the London-based duo of Douglas Furber and Philip Braham with a traditional Irish children’s song. The song starts with a rhythmic guitar and bass and then soon adds an overlay of a melodic fiddle with driving percussion. While the song has been recorded countless times by various artists and remains in the standard jazz repertory, Sligo Rags manage to truly make it their own by combining more of a folk style of playing while managing to keep key jazz ingredients, like solos that the band throws around to each other shifting seamlessly and a constant driving rhythm. Thus, when it suddenly shifts to the melody of “I Tell Me Ma” it just works and seems a natural progression. Likewise, “Ragtime Annie / Waxie's Dargle” does the same with a traditional bluegrass fiddle tune and a traditional Irish folk song about two ladies from Dublin discussing where they are going to get money for an outing. Finally, “Black Velvet Band / Foggy Mountain Breakdown” joins an Irish song about being incarcerated and transported to a penal colony with a classic bluegrass instrumental written in 1949. Yet, in each of these, Sligo Rags blends the genres amazingly well, showing the audience that simply, music is music.

Nevertheless, there are numerous tracks for the traditionalist. The album starts with “The Night Visit” being played slow and solemn. However, it quickly picks up the energy as it tells the story of a soldier visiting a young lady. Filled with numerous solos, the song maintains its tone of mystery mirroring the tale it tells. Additionally, there is the sad allegorical tale written by Tommy Makem, “Four Green Fields,” the lively song of “Reilly’s Daughter,” as well as “Bold O’Donohue” and “The Rare Auld Times.” While each of these songs stick closer to their roots, the musicianship exhibited in each truly sets them a world apart.

In short, If the Skies Be Ablaze is an album that truly should be in every music lover’s collection. The blending of numerous genres, the arrangements, and the sheer energy of their performance make it an absolute five star musician’s buffet.

Artist: Sligo Rags

Buy Album: If the Skies Be Ablaze

Stephen Mc Sweeney is a High School English/Drama teacher.  Besides writing for the Celtic MP3s Music Magazine, he enjoys acting, writing and playing Celtic music.  He can be seen as one of the members of the band Terrible Musicians, where he plays percussion and mandolin.

 

Review: “Mountain Rose” by The Gothard Sisters

MountainRoseCover

These three marvelously talented sisters have come a long way from playing for tips at their local farmers market. Having been recognized in 2011 by Celtic Radio for Album of the Year and again in 2013 by the Irish Music Awards as the Best New Irish Artist, these sisters continue to be recognized nationally and internationally.   Coming from the Pacific Northwest, while their music is certainly based in the Celtic Music genre there are obvious western and Canadian influences. Their music possesses a warmth and authenticity that connects to their audiences in an engaging and energizing manner. Their latest album, Mountain Rose, is no exception. Released in June 2015, this album showcases their ever growing maturity where old classics continue to evolve and original songs shine and blend well with the style of music that influenced them.

While the Gothard Sisters do record some traditional songs and covers that highlight their roots they give these songs their own personality. It is an intricate blending of the old and the new. For example, some of the more traditional tracks on this album are the Scottish anthem “Auld Lang Syne” and the Americana tune “St. Anne’s Reel.” The percussive nature of “Auld Lang Syne” gives the song a very intimate and humble feeling, as one sitting around a campfire celebrating a comfortable new years with their loved ones. However, the fiddle does a wonderful job in highlighting some of the important phrases while keeping the signature melody. Then at the end, the track certainly takes on more of a celebratory tone that comes with a new beginning. “St Anne’s Reel” showcases the girls’ Americana roots reminding the listener of their origin. The vigor of the fiddle and the brilliance of the phrases will certainly get the listener’s attention and give them a desire to move. Likewise, the addition of Andy Stewart’s “Queen of Argyle,” the welsh lullaby “All Through the Night,” or otherwise known as “Ar Hyd y Nos,” and Kate Rusby’s “I Courted a Sailor,” are wonderful arrangements that are while truthful to the original have a personality that is singular to the Gothard Sisters.

In addition to these tracks are numerous originals. “The Bandit,” which is written about a raccoon in the woods, is a lighthearted fiddle tune that is punctuated by a bright tambourine. Then halfway through we hear this very clean and energizing percussion solo that gives the tune a different dimension, showcasing their ability for multilayered arrangements. “Mountain Rose Waltz” then gives the album a new element by highlighting the classical training these sisters had growing up. The alternating style of playing, bowing and plucking, is playful to the ear while the rhythm of the waltz is comforting. Slowly you can feel yourself just swaying along to the hypnotic beat with a smile on your face. Other enchanting original tunes and songs on this album are “Cat in a Bush,” “Chaos in La Casa,” “It Was Beautiful,” “Grace O'Malley,” and “The Boatman's Call.”

All in all, this album continues with the standard of excellence that one comes to expect from The Gothard Sisters. Whether it’s an arrangement of a traditional song or an original you will not be disappointed. The energy, the musicianship, and emotion that radiates with each note can’t help but make you smile and want to hear more. I can not recommend them enough. Buy the album and if you get a chance to see these ladies perform, don’t miss the opportunity. You will not regret it.

Artist: The Gothard Sisters
Buy Album: Mountain Rose

Stephen Mc Sweeney is a High School English/Drama teacher.  Besides writing for the Celtic MP3s Music Magazine, he enjoys acting, writing and playing Celtic music.  He can be seen as one of the members of the band Terrible Musicians, where he plays percussion and mandolin.

Ginger Ackley

Band: Ginger Ackley
Homepage: http://www.gingerackley.com

Newest CD: The Elf King's Horn (2015), It's Time (2010), All Earth's Children (2010)

Description: Ginger's music is Celtic – with at Twist!  A Texas native happily transplanted to Ohio, Ginger has taken her life-long passion for music, combined it with a love of history and tradition, and mixed it all  into a delightful style of Celtic Folk. Performing both traditional and original songs, she sings while accompanying herself on one of her six autoharps, or  jams with other folks  on her penny whistles. She has been described as a songwriter “in the old style,”  and her most recent album “The Elf King's Horn” reaches into the magical and new age music!

Personal Fact: Before I really started singing outside of a small set of friends, I traveled on a cruise in 2005 with Danny O'Flaherty and his Celtic group.  They had a song writing contest among the group where the song had to be about leaving one place to go to another.  It had to be upbeat and positive.  The judges of the contest were Danny O'Flaherty, Danny Doyle, Andy M. Stewart and Aoife Clancy.  There in the middle of the Caribbean, I wrote “It Is Time” which won the contest.  I've never stopped playing and writing music since!

Similar: Mary Black, Aoife Clancy, Loreena McKennitt, Jean Ritchie, Alexander James Adams, Peter Paul and Mary, Burl Ives, Andy M. Stewart

Jesse Ferguson

Band: Jesse Ferguson
Homepage: http://www.jessefergusonmusic.com
Buy_CD: The Butcher Boy (2014), SHIFT (2013), The Parting Glass (2011)

Hometown: Cornwall, Ontario, Canada
Description: Jesse Ferguson is a folk musician from Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. He strives to connect with the past through traditional songs while making them relevant to today’s listeners. He sings and plays several musical instruments including: guitar, mandolin, harmonica, and bodhran.  He also posts videos of traditional and original music on YouTube (www.youtube.com/BardofCornwall.

Similiar: Stan Rogers, Jim Malcolm, Great Big Sea, Jim Malcolm, James Taylor, The Beatles