Truly a delightful handful of new CDs to look at this month, so I’ll get right to it.
The first one arrived in the Post just as I was finishing last month’s column. Kennedy’s Kitchen’s new release “The Birds Upon the Trees” has been with me a solid month and seldom has a day gone by that I didn’t put it on for another listen. After a string of memorable CDs, this is by far the best they’ve done and it has something for everyone. A load of finely done instrumental pieces, some powerful vocals, masterful renditions of traditional tunes and some new tunes as well. One bit I particularly enjoyed is a new ballad written by John Kennedy about his Grandfather, Patrick Coyle, who, as a young man, fought in the Easter rising. I am a fan of rebel songs and it’s a thrill to be present at the birth of a new one written with the love and respect that this one so obviously was. It’s a joy each year to watch Kennedy’s Kitchen perform at local shows. They play it trad and their love for the music is always evident. It’s great to know that a local band (Northern Indiana) have developed a style as unique and entertaining as these folks have. They are a delightful bunch of people as well. One last point, this CD takes the prize for beautiful cover art as well.
I owe Maryann Keifer another thank you for turning me on to the next CD. She called to alert me about a band called “Socks in the Frying Pan” and when Maryann mentions a band, I listen. As usual, she was right, and I hope some festival promoters are listening as well and will book these boys from County Clare to dazzle us at local fests this year. The band is made up of brothers, Shane and Fiachra Hayes on accordion, fiddle and banjo, accompanied by Aodán Coyne on guitar and vocals. These boys add new proof to the argument that the best musicians come from Clare. Personally, I won’t weigh in on that issue but I will say that these three certainly know their way around traditional music. Great job on the vocals here, especially on “The Slipjigs and Reels”, one of my favorites. They mix in just a taste of bluegrass with a spirited rendition of “Shady Grove” and bash out the most inspired version of “Bonny Light Horseman” that I’ve heard in awhile. Just got the bloody CDs in the shop and already I’m going to have to call them to get more. That says a lot in this day of downloading. Wrap your ear around their 4th track, “Aoife Johnston’s Freakout”, a polka and reel set that makes me wish I could dance. Gotta play this for Kim Bigler and see what she can cook up for choregraphy. This is seriously some of the best new stuff to come down the pike in awhile and I like it. I just hope the boys get some bookings in the area so I can see them live. Hint, hint, hint.
Compass Records continues to release top quality CDs by the top Celtic artists and they’ve just released another gem from Irish vocalist Heidi Talbot. Having come a long way from her roots in County Kildare, Heidi teams up with her producer/husband John McCusker to release her latest solo recording, “Angels Without Wings”. Joined by a who’s who list of singers and musicians, Heidi’s new CD feels a little country in places, a little bluegrass in others but throughout the entire recording her beautiful soprano voice rings out. Not your traditional Irish CD but damned sure lovely and enjoyable.
Anyone who has ever spoken with me for more than 3 minutes knows that I am not a big fan of Irish/Celtic rock. I am a big fan of Larry Kirwan, of Black 47 fame, and I seriously consider him a musical genius. He’s now put together a sampler of rock that covers the genre completely. “Larry Kirwan’s Celtic Invasion” is the new release and I have to admit I like it, for the most part. All tracks are “rock” but no two are alike or even similar. He has sifted out the best of the breed and pulled definitive tracks and the result is interesting. Listening to it I was exposed to bands that admittedly I had previously dismissed out of hand but now I see that I was missing some good stuff. My favorite track is John Spillane’s “Buile Mo Chroi”, which is just stunning. Rock fans will eat this collection up and others will, if they open their mind to it, find fun they would have normally missed. Nice to find a CD that makes you open your eyes and reconsider your preconceived notions.
I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe Saint Patrick’s Day and remembers to honor the teachings of Saint Patrick. Party hardy but let’s not make horse’s asses of ourselves.