Susan McKeown and Lorin Sklamberg
Saints & Tzadiks
In this self-titled album, Saints & Tzadiks, Susan McKeown and Lorin Sklamberg come together on a musical endeavor which takes traditional Irish language songs and Yiddish folk songs and bridges the gap between the two rather similar genres. The pair have worked together before, memorably with the Klezmatics, which earned Grammy awards. Vocalist Susan McKeown brings a sweetness to the tracks, shining particularly on “Oakam” which explores a more traditional Irish genre. The bulk of the Jewish material was drawn from the recently published Yiddish Folk Songs from the Ruth Rubin Archive. Sklamberg’s presence on the album is strong, performing a haunting solo a capella “Father and Son” as well as lending vocals to the other tracks and playing the accordion and piano on most every song. The combination merges surprisingly well, seamlessly blending the linguistics into a much unified folk blend. Rather than creating an album where the genre moved from Yiddish folk to Celtic as the tracks go on, McKeown and Sklamberg worked to bring elements of both into each song, making it a consistent but unique work and thoroughly entertaining.
Songs from the Heart of Ireland
Breaking from her residency playing at Ashford Castle Hotel each night, Annette Griffin has recorded some of the hotel frequenters’ favorites, thus came Songs from the Heart of Ireland. Griffin’s voice is soothing and brings a pleasant modern flavor to the collection of traditional songs with a few pop songs thrown in for good measure. Her rendition of J. Gold’s “From a Distance” is a delightful surprise toward the end of the record following a medley of trad songs such as “Galway Bay” and “Come by the Hills.” Griffin is native to County Galway and studied voice at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin. Now with a CD to sell her fans at Ashford, Griffin’s voice can travel beyond the castle walls and bring the songs from the heart of Ireland onward.
Irish Pirate Ballads and other Songs of the Sea
Joined by some of Irish music’s most recognizable names, Dan Milner sings maritime songs which tell the tales of Irishmen on the ocean, while other songs chronicle the diaspora. Mick Moloney writes the introduction to the album, praising Milner’s vocals. Moloney also has an important presence on the album, joined by Joanie Madden, John Doyle, Susan McKeown and others as guest artists. Irish Pirate Ballads was released by the nonprofit Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. The songs are upbeat and Milner’s light vocals bring such personality to the tracks that the authenticity of each ballad remains uncompromised though recorded in most cases centuries after they were written.
Julie Fowlis’s third album Uam meaning “from me” is a truly moving collection of Scotch Gaelic songs. Fowlis’s vocals are flawless throughout, delivered with a haunting effortlessness. “A Chatrion Org” (Young Catriona) is a sorrowful lament of love lost. Joined by Duncan Chrisholm on fiddle, the ballad stands out on the album for its emotional impact. Fowlis also explores more upbeat songs such as “Brogan Ur Agam A-Nochd” which brings an airy, toe-tapping change to the album. The tempo changes are mixed well through the tracks, keeping the listener moving through without getting bogged down in too many slow ballads in a row. The contrast allows a greater appreciation for the degrees of emotion in the music. As a whole the album is very special, a familiar Celtic tone to which Fowlis lends her vocals perfectly.