One Sweet Kiss – Éilís Kennedy

from The Living Tradition July/Aug 06:

Eilis Kennedy has one of the loveliest voices to recently emerge in Irish singing. Accompanied by a plethora of talented musicians, Kennedy’s second album is ten tracks of wonderfully sung and arranged songs.

Focusing heavily on a traditional repertoire, Kennedy sings in both English and Irish, choosing songs that highlight her pure voice.

Beginning with ‘Go From My Window’, the English songs go on to include the tragic ‘Fair Helen of Kirkconnel’ and the melancholy ‘Farewell to Tarwathie’. But lest you think this album is a depressing collection of ballads. Kennedy spices things up with some Bob Dylan in the form of ‘Boots of Spanish Leather’, and some fantastic Irish-language tracks including ‘Aillillin na Gamhna’ and the rollicking ‘An Paistin Fionn’. The latter has a great beat and Kennedy’s voice lightly trips along the jaunty tune. Ending with The Parting Song’, a gentle song of leaving, the album finishes on a beautiful note.

Time to Sail – Éilís Kennedy

from the BBC Radio 2 Folk Web Site:

Kerry-born Éilís (say Aylish) Kennedy comes of an Irish family where both music and the Gaelic language were part of everyday life, a happy fact reflected in this debut album. Time To Sail was recorded in her home town of Dingle and features, apart from her own pure, natural voice, a ton of top Irish artists including Máire Breathnach (fiddle, viola), William Coulter (guitar), Virginia McKee (clarinet), Bruce Abraham (slide guitar) and Séamus Begley (vocal).

Subtle and lush arrangements woven around traditional songs in two languages are the order of the day. Most of the ten tracks have been round the block many a time but Kennedy reworks them with a freshness that belies any qualms of pastiche. The Factory Girl, bouncing along on Gregg Sheehan’s funky percussion, dives into two slide guitar and kalimba-drenched barn dances; gorgeous layers of cello and clarinet drive away any echoes of Sandy Denny in Crazy Man Michael and Who Knows Where The Time Goes; Black is the Colour’s characterful phrasing and spooky slide guitar/woodwind soundscape prevents it neatly from stepping on Cara Dillon’s justly acclaimed version. Of the less familiar material, two Gaelic songs in particular tug the heartstrings – Amhrán na Leabhar (The Song Of Books), an 18th century poet’s lament for the loss of a boatload of beloved books to the sea and a song of loves’ tribulations, Tá Mé ‘mo Shuí.

Westward – Éilís Kennedy

From Neil McFadyen’s lovely writeup at FolkRadio UK:

Growing up on the western edge of County Kerry’s Dingle Peninsula; for singer/songwriter Éilís Kennedy the poetry, songs and music of Gaeldom were, and remain, a constant influence. Those influences extend even further for her new album, Westward, as Éilís is joined by friends from Atlantic and Pacific coastlines on an album that sees her expand her outlook and her own musical skills. In addition to her musical partnership with Pauline Scanlon, as Lumiere, Éilís has also released two very well received solo albums – Time to Sail in 2001 and One Sweet Kiss in 2005. Both albums offered an enchanting mix of traditional and contemporary Gaelic and English song, and made the most of the musical contacts Éilís and her husband John have nurtured as proprietors of John Benny’s pub in Dingle – renowned for the quality of its music sessions.

Éilís opens Westward by evoking the warm atmosphere of those sessions with the gentle familiarity of Bill Caddick‘s John o’ Dreams, a song perfectly suited to her soft, lilting voice. In both her previous albums, Éilís collaborated, very successfully, with Santa Cruz guitarist William Coulter. William’s Grammy-Award winning fingerstyle guitar provides Westward with a constant companion to Éilís’ vocal, and the equally familiar sound of cellist Barry Phillips, who also joined William on Éilís’ previous albums, adds a somnambulant richness.

Happy Here

This album with Ben Verdery, is available at Gourd Music.

William Coulter and Ben Verdery have found a unique and energizing partnership.Their space is made of acoustic strings. Strings have their own kind of chemistry, and steel and nylon played together have their own subtle dynamic and exchange. They talk back and forth, like old friends who don’t get together as often as they’d like to.

Something original is going on. Part of it is the mix of strings themselves – one guitar strung with steel, another strung with nylon. We seldom hear this. Ben Verdery says that he tried it once before, in a couple of tunes recorded years back with Leo Kottke. It makes a very pleasing mix of textures, like silk laid next to satin. One helps to define the other.

But the more important chemistry is what the performers release in one another as they play. Bill Coulter and Ben Verdery have found a unique and energizing partnership. What we get from Bill & Ben is a guitar performance at its most intimate. There is heart here and a meditative quality. Each musician goes inward to his still center, in order to come outward with a shared sound that is masterful yet vulnerable.

Celtic Crossing

Celtic Crossing is available from Gourd Records

Here I’m joined by Shelley and Barry Phillips, Irish fiddler extraordinaire Kevin Burke, and others. The tunes include beloved traditionals The Lark in the Morning, Si bheag, Si mhor, Banish Misfortune, Lagan Love, The Kesh Jig and Return to Fingal. You’ll also find unexpected treasures including the lullaby Einini*, Ay Linda Amiga from Celtic Spain, and the Victorian Marble Halls.


*Featured on the Narada Sampler Celtic Legacy.

I also published a book of arrangements for these tunes. It’s also available at Gourd Music.

Orison

This record, from 1988, can be found over at Gourd Music

Five San Francisco Bay instrumentalists take the name Orison from the old-fashioned word for prayer or invocaiton (see Hamlet, III, i). They are: Barry Phillips, Shelley Phillips, William Coulter, Steve Coulter and Anne Cleveland, whose repertoire includes music from both the folk and classical traditions (The Butterfly*, Arran Boat Song, The Maids of Mitchelston, The Water Kilpie, Morgan Megan and more), along with original compositions. Their combinations of harp, guitar, cello, oboe, English horn, flute and percussion produce textures of etheral and poignant beauty.

the liner notes:

The Arran Boat Song comes from the Arran Islands off the west coast of Ireland, a traditional tune in a contemporary setting.

Pierre on the Mountain Playing the Hurdy Gurdy is a medley. The first tune in it is a French one we learned from Pierre Bensusan. It is followed by an Irish slip jig called Kid on the Mountain, originally in 9/8, our setting is in 7/8. Followed by an obscure French hurdy gurdy tune, the title of which is unknown to us.

Morning Rain is a solo steel string guitar piece composed with the help of digital delay. Dedicated by composer William Coulter to the weather.

The Dance of the Spirits of Water is from Holst’s opera The Perfect Fool. The Golden Goose is a slip jig from the composer’s ballet of the same name.

William Coulter composed Pastorale in 1986, inspired by the beauty of the Santa Cruz mountains.

The Water Kilpie, a Manx tune from the Isle of Man, tells the story of a water fairy. The Maids of Mitchelston is a slow Irish reel which we adapted from an arrangement by the Irish group the Bothy Band.

The Butterfly is an Irish slip jig played here in three different time signatures, 9/8, and altered 9/8 (2 + 2 + 2 + 3), and 11/8 (2 + 2 + 3 + 2 + 2). These rhythms are borrowed from Bulgarian folk music.

Morgan Megan is by Turlough O’Carolan, the blind harper and composer who lived in Ireland from 1670-1738 and dedicated many of his tunes to his patrons.

William Coulter composed Bob’s Room while visiting a good friend whose interior decor was particularly inspiring.

Celtic Sessions

Find this over at Gourd Music.

Following the success of The Road Home William Coulter joins a wealth of talented musicians for Celtic Sessions. This stunning disc features Martin Hayes and Alasdair Fraser on fiddle, Seamus Egan on flute and 4-string banjo, Todd Denman on uilleann pipes as well as his long time musical friends Barry and Shelley Phillips, Lars Johannesson, Paul Machlis, Theo Page and Neal Hellman.

“The sounds on this album are pristine; it is beautifully recorded, capturing a range of nuances and gentle moods that are rarely heard on recordings of Celtic music. The arrangements are mostly contemporary, the content traditional and above all else it is musically expressive in a way that helps to redefine the place of the guitar in Celtic Music.” – Martin Hayes