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Music Review: Daybreak - Fáinne an Lae
by William Ramoutar
She is from a small town in West Kerry, but she is a singer and musician of such power and virtuosity that she can hold her own on any stage. And for the past five years she has been fronting one of the most exciting bands to come out of Ireland for many a year.
The band in question is, of course, Danú. A powerhouse of wonderfully individual players, together their music is at once traditional and also impressively modernistic. They have all the presence of a rock band in their sound.
The lady without question is, of course, Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh.
I remember the day well when I got the new Danú cd in the mail five years ago and wondered where on earth they got this wee slip of a girl. She looked, well, frankly, too fragile to be part of this lot. I mean, after all, they had a perfectly good singer in the person of Ciarán Ó Gealbháin, who incidentally had taken the place of earlier vocalist, Cártach Mac Craith. Well, boys and girls, was I flabbergasted. You see, I’ve been doing my radio programmes for over fifteen years and like to think I know a bit about a good song, who is good in the business, singer, songwriter, musician etc. But I have to tell you I was blindsided on this one. Her voice shows such maturity and expressiveness, you think she has been around forever and her tin whistle playing - well, that takes the biscuit and probably the cup as well.
Her solo cd now on Compass Records, “Fáinne an Lae”, which literally means the ring of day and is translated in this case as “Daybreak,” is beyond all explanation. She has taken each track here on this piece of plastic and woven it into a superb synthesis of voice and music that even the traditionalists at home could not fault.
The first tune, Western Highway (which incidentally is not a traditional tune, but was written by Gerry O’Beirne, a person I consider to be one of the most dedicated musicians I have ever had the pleasure of hearing) starts us off on our journey into what Muireann has in mind for us. Free and Easy is a song I heard when I traveled the roads of Ireland as a child. My family had an amusements show that went county to county with circuses for over thirty years. In my short time with “the show” (as we called it), I heard many songs, and from as diverse a group of people as you would ever hope to meet. I met many, as they are called now, “travellers” (in those days, “tinkers,” because they fixed tin cups, milk churns, you name it). Some sang as they worked and some we met many times over. I was too shy to ask their names, but I never forgot the songs. This song I have never heard sung as richly delivered.
Seoithín Seothó is a lullaby that is steeped in the folklore of the Irish countryside. We were terrified into going to bed, would you believe, by the threat of the Banshee. Bean Sí is a fairy woman, but in this case it is a song about a young mother, singing to her baby. In that she will not allow the child to be stolen by fairies or angels to carry him off to Heaven. My Gawd, were we raised under threat or what! I’ll write a piece one day about all the daily infirmities that were offered to us and usually by our beloved parents! "Come over here, till I break your legs", comes to mind as one of them! But that is for another day like I said.
Hardiman the Fiddler starts off a set with, appropriately, a fairy jig to finish it and here is where you see, for the first instance her prowess on the whistle. I do revel in the astonishment on listeners’ faces, when they hear a true artist on this simple piece of tin. She weaves in and out of the three tunes effortlessly. At least it sounds like that. And I have been lucky enough to have discovered the “One Night Stand” dvd from Danú which shows her at work on stage with her compatriots in full flight.
She is a true wonder, her voice is crystalline clear and her whistle playing, the notes just tumble out and soar to dizzying heights. I don’t want to mention every tune on the solo cd because I want you to discover her for yourself. Danú the band takes its name from the Goddess of the Tuatha Dé Danann, a divine people in the legends of Ireland, who was also known as the mother of them and the Goddess of prosperity.
They say prosperity is a gift. Well as we all know, prosperity can come and go. So the prosperity of the music from this lady, is indeed a gift. Long may she prosper and we will too, from her talent.
This solo CD is available on Amazon. Please click Daybreak, Amazon.
You can also hear Muireann on this CD from Danu as well as several others: Road less Travelled, Amazon.
BIO William Ramoutar
IRISH WAYS RADIO PROGRAMME
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Review written by William Ramoutar Presenter of Irish Ways Radio Programme, St Augustine Florida
Thu, Dec 7, 2017
Holly and Ivy hanging up and
something wet in every cup*
Not so long ago, Irish Christmas decorations were much simpler than they are now. The children gathered holly and ivy for adorning, windows, doorways, mantles and pictures, and the father would carve out a turnip in which would be placed a large red candle. This would go in the window to light the way for the Holy Family on Christmas Eve. Only in relatively recent times did an Irish family have a Nativity scene and a decorated tree in the house. As for Mistletoe, it's quite rare in ireland and is generally associated with ancient Celtic and Druidic fertility celebrations; this is most likely where the custom of kissing under the mistletoe comes from.
*Old Irish Christmas toast
Image: Pashley Manor Gardens.
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According to the 30 or more reviews we've read, if you own just one Irish Christmas recording, this should be it. Featuring Anthony Kearns, Ronan Tynan and John McDermott, we are treated to both solo and trio performances of a dozen or more best loved holiday airs, sung in their trade-mark Irish tenor style. As one reviewer cleverly observed, if these three sang the phone book, she'd buy it!
Click here for Home for Xmas