Liz Doherty & Fiddlesticks: Racket in the Rectory (Foot Stompin' Records)
There is something deeply peculiar about this radio-symphony big band of 16 traditional fiddlers all sawing away in unison with a few high-flying harmonies, kept between the ditches by a bouncing ceili piano. Liz Doherty is the resident genius here, and you can hear the Donegal accent, touched with honking Shetland, Scotsy and Cape Breton rhythms. The device does wear betimes, until the orchestration soars on the beautiful Finnish composition, Krapulakatrilli, the lilting cajun harmonies of Reel of Joy, even Marni Swanson of the Grey Coast. Sadly, the airs are more dirgey than Mahler-esque but, breathing O Riada's dust in the UCC music dept, Doherty has begun something weirdly original with the folk orchestra.
Seamus Tansey & Jim McKillop: To Hell with the Begrudgers (Sound Records)
Mature hounds as they are, there's a ferocious belt off this untidy old-style combination of Antrim fiddler and instrument-maker McKillop, resonantly sawing out the tunes, and Tansey the famed Gurteen flautist, improvising pennants of high trills, rolls and harmonies; turning arpeggios inside out on a rangily tuned Ruddle & Rose flute his mother gave him long ago. Jim Coakley vamps along on ceili keyboards, or puts synthy washes behind airs like Tansey's Silent O Moyle or McKillop's solemn wee poem-anthem in thon Antrim accent. The pair even eke jig-time from Carolan's Concerto - like most of the tunes, haring away off up the bog road kicking its heels. Lovely job.