Pól Ó Muirí
I have no musical ability. In fact, the sum total of my engagement with traditional music was a tin whistle class in Andytown Leisure Centre almost 30 years ago. I am afraid to admit it but I was one of the cover-one-hole, two-holes, one-hole, three-holes brigade. Needless to say, I will not be jamming with Altan any time soon.
Still, we will not let my ignorance stand in the way of musicians who really know their stuff. Here, then, is a mention in musical dispatches for those who know their amhráin from their elbows.
Áine Ní Cheallaigh has won Corn Uí Riada, the most prestigious award for sean-nós singing, twice. Her latest album is Binneas Thar Meon (Gael Linn) and is comprised of songs collected by Liam de Noraidh in East Munster during the 1940s, including Dónall Óg and Táim Sínte Ar do Thuama. Those two tracks also appear in Síle Ní Fhlaithearta’s, Duitse a Bheirim Grá (Cló Iar-Chonnachta). Ní Fhlaithearta is another sean-nós singer – that opera of the Gael – from Conamara and there are 17 tracks in total on her album. Meanwhile, Reelin’ in Tradition (Cló Iar-Chonnachta) sees Mick, Louise and Michelle Mulcahy present a selection of reels, jigs, polkas and hornpipes with some of the most musical names ever composed: Munster Buttermilk; Down the Broom; Kitty Lie Over; Toss the Feathers.
And let us not forget our Gaelic-speaking friends across the water in Scotland. Singer and musician Julie Fowlis goes from strength to strength and has a new album out, Uam (Shoeshine), another fine collection of songs from Gaelic Scotland. I would be tempted to call Fowlis the new Karen Matheson but the old Karen Matheson is not actually that old and is still going the best as far as I can see. I don’t speak Scots Gaelic but did not need to in order to enjoy Fowlis’s singing. Her two previous albums – Mar a tha mo chridhe and cuilidh – are still my favourites but Uam is well worth a listen.
I might yet dig that tin whistle out from under the bed!