Various Artists: The Rough Guide: Irish Music / The Rough Guide: Irish Folk

Jo Morrison wrote this review which first ran on Folk Tales which preceded Green Man Review.

When I first received these two recordings for review, I expected to find a distinctive difference between them. I anticipated that Irish Folk would show a greater tendency toward traditional styles of music, while Irish Music would show the more modern side of Irish music. Glancing at the artists represented, I felt my suspicions were confirmed, noting that such artists as Reeltime, Cherish the Ladies, De Dannon, and Kevin Burke’s Open House were featured performers on Irish Folk, while Clannad, Eileen Ivers, and Altan, all artists who have recently branched into more modern interpretations of traditional music, were featured on Irish Music. My surprise came in finding that the overall style presented by both recordings is basically traditional.

Irish Music came first, and is a well-rounded overview of the ranges and styles of Irish music. It especially explores the fiddle and vocal aspects of the Irish music scene. The CD opens with an exciting version of “Solid Ground” by the earthy and talented Dolores Keane. This may be the most modern-sounding track on the entire recording. The Clannad track dates from 1975, during their more traditional phase. It is the wonderful Gaelic song “Coinleach Ghlas an Fhomhair,” beautifully rendered. Eileen Ivers fiddles with fire on her track, “On Horseback,” while Deanta throws in a bit of Louisiana flavor on “The Lakes of Pontchartrain.” Sliabh Notes brings a bit of Irish polka to light with their set of driving tunes, “Terry ‘Cuz’ Teahans Polka/Murphy’s Polka/O’Sullivan’s Polka.” Dervish shows the best of guitar and vocals in Irish music on their simple but moving “Molly and Johnny.” Cran has a memorable version of “Dulman” combined with “Charlie O’Neill’s Highland.” Martin Hayes delivers his fiddling finesse on “O’Connell’s March/Galway Bay Hornpipe/The Banshee’s Wail/Over the Mangle Pit.” Other artists on the seventeen track, sixty-five minute recording include Kevin Crawford, Patrick Street, Ciaran Tourish and Dermot McLaughlin, Brendan Larrissey, Maighread ni Dhomhnaill, and Martin Murray.

Unfortunately, this recording has apparently been through enough pressings that Rough Guide has chosen to opt for lightweight liner notes. There is mention on the back of information to be found on pages 9 and 10 of the booklet, but the liner notes included are only a single-fold, with cover art, list of tracks, and an interior that is exclusively for the advertising of other Rough Guide CDs. This is a great loss, as the Rough Guide booklets include short bios of each artist, which is invaluable to someone looking to explore new and interesting genres of the music. I hope Rough Guide will reconsider this decision on future pressings, as the whole recording is rendered substantially less valuable in this format, despite the excellent music.

Irish Folk also contains outstanding music, and emphasizes many of the same aspects of Irish music. Especially featured on this recording are the tin whistle, uilliann pipes, and the adopted Greek bouzouki. Brian Hughes opens this recording with that ultimate Irish whistle sound, on “The Ships are Sailing/Ambrose Moloney’s/The New Mown Meadows.” Cherish the Ladies features its often overlooked but unquestionably awesome lead singer, Aoife Clancy, on “Green Grow the Rushes Oh.” Oige has a heart-felt rendition of “The Maid of Culmore,” delivered by a very promising Maranna McCloskey. Padraigin ni Uallachain delivers some spectacular Sean nos (a cappella, Irish style) singing on “A Bhean Udai Thall.” Declan Masterson shows what uilleann pipes can really do on “Ril Jimmy O’Reilly/Cailini Deasa Mhaigh Eo/Sin Chugam Anua An Tacia.” Craobh Rua provide some energetic instrumental reels on “The Red Crow/The Dawn/The Bianzano.” Colm Murphy’s phenomenal bodhran playing is beautifully paired with Conal O Grada’s Irish flute on “Lord Gordon’s/Kiss the Maid Behind the Barrell.” Deanta is showcased at their best on their moving track, “Lone Shanakyle,” about the burial ground of hundreds of famine victims. Also represented are Reeltime, Aoife ni Fhearraigh, Paddy Glackin, De Danann, Declan Masterson, Sean Ryan, Sean Tyrrell, Seosaimhin ni Bheaglaoich, Jackie Daly, Aine ui Cheallaigh, Moving Cloud, and The Tulla Ceili Band.

Musically, this is another well-chosen collection of Irish musicians and Irish tunes. This one has the advantage of having a complete booklet of liner notes, with descriptions of each of the groups or artists represented. For this reason, if you are looking for a good introduction to Irish music, this is the CD to choose. That said, the two recordings together represent 36 different artists and provide a wonderful overview to the styles and choices of music available to someone interested in Irish music. They should really be considered together, as a set.

(World Music Network, 1996)
(World Music Network, 1999)

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