By SEAN SMITH
Special to the BIR
In addition to Summer BCMFest [see story below], here are some other Irish/Celtic-related music events taking place in Boston this month:
• The Burren Backroom series will present the legendary Sliabh Luachra duo of Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daly on July 20. The two are among the finest living exponents of the distinctive style and repertoire found in traditional music from Cork and Kerry, and in addition to their partnership have long and distinguished careers as soloists and in other collaborations.
Cranitch (fiddle) has won All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil titles, performed on radio and TV as well as at concerts and festivals in Ireland and elsewhere, and is a highly respected teacher and scholar of traditional music. Daly (button accordion and concertina) has been a member of acclaimed groups like Patrick Street, Buttons and Bows, Arcady and De Danann, and recorded with fiddlers Séamus Creagh and Kevin Burke.
Opening for Cranitch and Daly – and making its Boston debut – will be the Raw Bar Collective, the trio of Benny McCarthy (button accordion), Conal O Grada (flute) and Dave Sheridan (fiddle). The band’s album “millhouse measures,” recorded live in a Waterford pub, aptly reflects the members’ uncluttered, back-to-basics approach.
On July 27, the Backroom will go somewhat off-format with a concert by the Caleb Klauder Band. Klauder is a member of the Foghorn Stringband, which performed at the 2014 “A Christmas Celtic Sojourn” and offered a sample of the ties binding Appalachian and Celtic music. This time, Klauder will be accompanied by his country band, including his Foghorn colleague vocalist Reeb Willms, for an evening of American tradition-based sounds.
Both shows begin at 7:30 p.m.
For more information on the Backroom series, including links to buy tickets, go to burren.com/Backroom-Series.html.
• New York state-based Irish rockers Emish will perform at the Irish Cultural Centre of New England in Canton on July 15 at 7:30 p.m. Now into its second decade, the quintet of Bobby Curreri (guitar, vocals), Christy Halligan Brown (fiddle, backing vocals), Jennifer Curreri (flute, vocals, trumpet, whistles), Andrew Hulle (drums, percussion) and Mitch Sumner (bass) combine unmistakable Irish flavorings with an Americana/folk-rock core, playing traditional songs and tunes, their own material, and covers of popular favorites like “Ride On” or “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
For ticket information and other details, go to irishculture.org.
• Boston-area husband/wife Irish-American music duo Matt and Shannon Heaton will play a free concert on July 26 at noon, as part of Club Passim’s series in Kendall Center, near the Kendall Square MBTA station. The Heatons – Shannon on flute, whistle, accordion; Matt on guitar and bouzouki – are celebrated for their dedication to the Irish music instrumental and song tradition, with which they creatively and tastefully incorporate their own compositions and modern influences.
For more on Passim events and other information, see passim.org.
• The Heatons also will be among the performers at the New Bedford Folk Festival on July 9-10. Others with an Irish/Celtic connection include guitarist-vocalist John Doyle, Jefferson Hamer (of The Murphy Beds), Runa, The Harper and the Minstrel and John Roberts. Get full festival information at newbedfordfolkfestival.com.
Summer BCMFest on tap at Club Passim
Celtic music with a local flavor will once again be part of Boston’s Independence Day Weekend, as Club Passim in Harvard Square presents the second annual Summer BCMFest on July 3.
This year’s event will include a free outdoor concert with Afro-Celtic funk band Soulsha and traditional Irish music duo Armand Aromin and Dan Accardi. The festivities continue in the evening with a ticketed show in Club Passim featuring innovative fiddler Mariel Vandersteel and guitarist Owen Marshall, plus the Coyne Family Band.
Summer BCMFest is a warm-weather version of the annual BCMFest (Boston’s Celtic Music Fest), a weekend festival held each January to celebrate the Greater Boston area’s richness of music, song, and dance from the Irish, Scottish, Cape Breton, and other Celtic traditions. Summer BCMFest is supported by a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
This year’s edition of Summer BCMFest kicks off at 2:30 p.m. with a free outdoor concert on Palmer Street (directly adjacent to Club Passim). Providing the entertainment will be Aromin (fiddle, whistle) and Accardi (accordion, concertina, fiddle), two Rhode Island natives who have been mainstays of Boston’s traditional Irish music scene for several years. Also on the bill is Soulsha, which brings together Scottish and West African music with a vibrant, infectious big-band energy that includes fiddle, bagpipes, electric bass, keyboards, percussion, and horns.
At 7 p.m., Summer BCMFest moves inside Club Passim for an evening that showcases the diversity of Celtic sounds in Boston.
Mariel Vandersteel has connected with folk music in a variety of ways, whether exploring traditional music archives in Ireland, studying the hardanger fiddle in Norway, playing fiddle tunes from the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, or finding inspiration through touring places like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, India, and Bangladesh. She creatively bridges new and old worlds, melding the styles and sounds of the various fiddle communities in which she’s traveled.
At Summer BCMFest, Vandersteel will be accompanied by Owen Marshall (guitar, bouzouki), who has frequently appeared at BCMFest in various collaborations. Marshall also is a member of the acclaimed Maine-based traditional Irish music trio The Press Gang.
The Coyne Family Band embodies the enduring appeal of traditional Irish music across generations. Husband and wife John (bouzouki) and Lisa (flute, whistle) are among the most active and appreciated musicians in the local Irish scene; their children Josie (fiddle) and Rory (accordion) are already accomplished players. Together, the Coynes present the “pure drop” brand of Irish music with verve and a healthy respect and love for the tradition.
Tickets for Summer BCMFest are $18 for the general public, $10 for Passim members and students. For reservations and other information, go to passim.org/bcmfest.
- Sean Smith
By SEAN SMITH
Anne Wylie, “Songs from the Seas” • An Irish native living in Germany, Wylie has the theatrical, storyteller/chanteuse approach to her singing, but fortunately not to a degree that overwhelms the listener or oversells the song. As its title implies, this album focuses mainly on traditional and contemporary material, including her own, with a maritime context: songs of people whose livelihood is tied (for better or worse) to water, of creatures – some of them supernatural – who inhabit it, or of events and adventures that take place in its midst. It’s a composite portrait of the sea (or its aquatic kin) as nurturer, provider, destroyer, enabler, or observer.
Some selections are obvious and familiar, but welcome nonetheless: from tradition, the austere but romantic “Fisher Boy” and bittersweet “Blackwaterside”; the jaunty “Nead na Lachan/The Duck’s Nest,” whose melody is known as “The Foxhunter’s Jig”; and “The Bonny Swans,” Loreena McKennitt’s take on the old ballad commonly known as “The Cruel Sister.” The late, great Canadian songwriter Stan Rogers also is represented here – not by pub favorites like “The Mary Ellen Carter” or “The Flowers of Bermuda,” as one might expect, but the elegiac “The Jeannie C.”
Among the other tracks are two Wylie originals, somewhat more pop-inflected: “The Waters of the Wild” (inspired by dolphin scholar Ute Margreff) and “September Bird,” evocative scenes-of-surf-and-shore dedicated to the memory of harpist Antoinette McKenna.
Wylie and her backing musicians – Uwe Metzler (bouzouki, electric and acoustic guitar, dobro), Henrik Mumm (electric and string bass, cello), Hendrik Morgebrodt (pipes, whistle, flute), Maike Mohr (piano) and percussionists Markus Faller and Heige Andreas Norbakken – create a soft rock/jazz milieu for the songs, with some quite pleasing instrumental passages and interludes: a contemplative duet by Mohr and Mumm on Mickey MacConnell’s “The Tinkerman’s Daughter,” for example, and an Africanesque percussion/vocal-driven break on “Nead Na Lachan.” Metzler and Mumm in particular give heft to many of the tracks.
If you’re not too literal-minded about the title (what does “Tinkerman’s Daughter” have to do with the sea, exactly?), “Songs of the Seas” can be as bracing, and beautiful, as an early spring morning out on Gloucester Harbor. [annewylie.com]
Various performers, “Our Dear Dark Mountain with the Sky Over It” • There’s still plenty of life left to Ireland’s regional music traditions – Sliabh Luachra, Clare, Sligo, Donegal, to name a few – but inevitably, some have persisted less than others, through a combination of time, demographics, a trend toward the “homogenization” of Irish music through the advent of mass media, and other social, economic, or political factors. So it’s heartening to see this project come to the fore: an exploration of tunes, songs and styles associated with the Sliabh Beagh region of Monaghan and Fermanagh by some of the area’s current crop of traditional musicians.
Their ranks include the project’s co-coordinators Seán McElwain (bouzouki), of the band Téada, and Dónal McCague (fiddle), a former TG4 Young Musician of the Year, Eamonn Curran (uilleann pipes), a former member of the group Reel Union, and Brian McGrath (piano, banjo), who has become a fixture in the national Irish music scene, having played and recorded with musicians such as Frankie Gavin, Noel Hill, John Carty, Matt Molloy and Dolores Keane. Much of the material presented here comes from manuscripts by collectors James Whiteside and Bernard Bogue and archival recordings.
One question inevitably associated with historically driven projects is, can you enjoy the CD if you listen to it without knowing the context? The answer is, emphatically, yes: McElwain, McGague, McGrath and the other musicians, some of them of recent generations (Darren Breslin, accordion; Michael Rooney, concertina; Laura Beagon, fiddle; Michael McCague, guitar and bouzouki; and Conor McGague, banjo), bring an engaging freshness and vigor to the Sliabh Beagh tunes, many of which are likely new or unfamiliar to session players. Among the highlight tracks are a pair of flings (“A Traugh Clog Dance/John Joe McElroy’s”), a set of reels (“Miss Mullen/The Green Cockade/Margot Jackson”) and a hornpipe-jigs medley (“Mick Rooney’s/The Monaghan Scutcher/”When You Come Home, You’ll Get It, You’ll Get It” – the latter, of course, easily qualifies for the Best Tune Name category).
The Sliabh Beagh song tradition is represented here, too, with Monica Beagon-Treanor (“My Charming, Edward Boyle”) and Caitríona Sherlock, all of 15 years old at the time of the recording (“The Maid of Sweet Kilmore”).
Still, while one can enjoy “Our Dear Dark Mountain” on its own terms, taking time to look through the sleeve notes or browsing the project website [ourdeardarkmountain.com] is enlightening and instructive. However many other dynamics might have affected the region, its people and its customs and traditions, research shows the considerable impact of the 1921 Treaty Boundary Commission and the Public Dance Halls Act. As so often seen before, political decisions – whatever the supposed merits or aims – can have far-reaching, unintended consequences.