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Reviews for 'The Roseland Barndance'...

The Roseland Barndance wins Best Vocal/Instrumental Album of the Year in LiveIreland.com Music Awards

For the second time in the band's history, North Cregg have won Best Vocal/Instrumental Album of the year at the LiveIreland.com music awards. Thanks LiveIreland! We're thrilled!

Here's what they had to say on announcing the award...

"We have always adored North Cregg. This Cork-based quintet topped all again this year with The Roseland Barndance.

The trad lover well knows The Cregg---and the addition of brilliant new singer, Claire-Anne Lynch just makes the whole deal all the better. Cork groups are known for their slides, but North Cregg does it all.

Much of the music also has a real sense of humor, as well as stunning musicianship and arrangements. This band is all in its prime now, and we are all the beneficiaries of it. There are few, if any, bands that can be more relied on to produce wonderful magic on every selection.

The North Cregg is at their top form with this album. Long may they reign!! In many ways, this is the most eagerly anticipated Livie Award each year, here on LiveIreland.

There could be no better recipient. Up Cregg! Up Cork!!! "

Click here for full details

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Irish Echo, New York (Feb 2007)

The Unstoppered Trad-Swing Sound of Cork's North Cregg

By Earle Hitchner,
Columnist, IRISH ECHO Contributing Music Writer, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL Lecturer, Marist College and State University of New York’s Rockland Community College.

[Published on February 7, 2007, in the IRISH ECHO newspaper, New York City. Copyright (c) Earle Hitchner.
All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of author.]

Solas and Lunasa recently marked their tenth anniversaries as Irish traditional bands. True to the tradition of Irish traditional groups, each has undergone personnel changes in that decade but managed to maintain continuity and, more importantly, consistency of quality. North Cregg also recently celebrated their tenth anniversary as an Irish traditional band.

Formed in Cork out of a thriving pub session scene there, the group is named for a small townland close to Fermoy. They made their first significant stir in September 1996 at the Cork Folk Festival and have not looked back since. Tours (principally in Europe) and three albums followed: "And They Danced All Night" in 1999, "mi da:za" in 2001, and "Summer at My Feet" in 2003.

Throughout that recording period, Christy Leahy on button accordion, his brother Martin on drums and guitar, Armagh-born Caoimhin Vallely (brother of Niall and Cillian) on fiddle, Armagh-born Paul Meehan on banjo and guitar, and Ciaran Coughlan on piano have been mainstays. Coughlan in particular expertly alternates and integrates a solid, tradition-based backing with jazz-influenced swing to help give North Cregg their distinctive sound.

In many ways North Cregg is the Irish band that Galway-based Reeltime (remember them?) aspired to be. Founding vocalist-guitarist John Neville left North Cregg in 2001, and his spot was soon taken by Cork singer Fiona Kelleher, who sang five songs on "Summer at My Feet." In 2004 Paul Meehan and Caoimhin Vallely, who's also a superb pianist, departed after eight years with the band. Meehan subsequently appeared on Lunasa's "Se" recording and became a full-time member of that group. Vallely issued a solo CD, "Strayaway," and a trio recording, "Buille," with his brother Niall and Paul Meehan.

Churn didn't burn North Cregg, however. Charleville, Cork, fiddler and banjoist Liam Flanagan soon came on board, and near the onset of 2006 vocalist Claire-Anne Lynch, who also plays fiddle, joined the band. North Cregg's trad-swing trademark remained intact.

The quintet's brand-new CD, "The Roseland Barndance," is their second for Greentrax in East Lothian, Scotland, and their fourth release overall. Ever-present and often effervescent is the swing in North Cregg’s trad music on the new album, which gains further traction with the dusky, nuanced, jazz-tinged singing of Claire-Anne Lynch. Her voice is not soft-focused but unflamboyantly expressive, preferring to navigate the quieter tributaries of interpretation in the traditional songs "The Dark-Eyed Sailor," "Barbara Allen," and "An Raibh Tu Ag An nCarraig," and in Anne Briggs's "Go Your Way." In each song Lynch's singing relies on intimacy, as if we are overhearing with complete clarity her heart-unburdening whispers in the confessional box and can't turn away from the sound and substance seeping out. She makes us eavesdroppers, and we're happy to oblige.

The rhythm of Martin Leahy on drums and especially Ciaran Coughlan on piano upholds the swing in the dance tunes. But nowhere is Coughlan's touch more impressive than in his melody playing of "Bridgie's Barndance/Earl Mitten's Breakdown." In that latter tune, Coughlan shifts into an almost honky-tonk or barrelhouse piano setting, abetted by Martin Leahy on percussion as well as guests Chris McCarthy on double bass, Seamus Burns on spoons, and American old-timey musician Dirk Powell on clawhammer banjo.

In most of the instrumentals, though, Christy Leahy's box and Liam Flanagan's fiddle appealingly lay down the melodic lines. The irresistible, dance-oriented style of Sliabh Luachra music ripples through "Gan Ainm/Sonny Riordan's/Bill the Weaver's," "The Borlin Polka/The Humours of Ballydesmond/O'Keeffe's," and "I'd Rather Be Married Than Left/The Gleanntan Frolics/Barrack Hill/The Clare Jig." Fiddle, piano, banjo, and guitar nimbly weave through the jigs "The Girl from the Big House/The Humours of Ballingarry/Molly Brannigan's," while the reels "Crehan's/Bonny Anne/Dermot Byrne's" serve as a potent last blast of energy and blended expertise on the album.

The most instrumentally impressive track on "The Roseland Barndance," however, is the title cut. The tune was composed by Boston button accordionist Joe Derrane without a title and was included in the second accordion tutor book authored by his music teacher, Jerry O'Brien (1899-1968), originally from Kinsale, Cork. Only when Derrane was making "Return to Inis Mor," the second solo album after his 1994 comeback, did he finally give his tune a name, inspired by Roseland Recording Studios in Moate, County Westmeath, where "Return to Inis Mor" was recorded. North Cregg learned "The Roseland Barndance" from Galway box wizard Mairtin O'Connor, an unabashed admirer of Derrane's playing who composed a tune for him, "Shop Street." Even Derrane has privately admitted that "The Roseland Barndance," despite its inviting melodicism, is very technically demanding, which may have convinced him to play just three of the original four parts on "Return to Inis Mor."

To their credit, North Cregg bravely took on the tune's challenge, and button accordionist Christy Leahy, nearly channeling Mairtin O'Connor, shines in rendering the barndance's deliciously tricky intricacies. The track also offers further indisputable proof of how far-reaching Derrane's influence has become among box players today.

"It Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing" is the great title of an equally great Duke Ellington melody from 1932, and its message still applies today, even to Irish traditional musicians. North Cregg knows how to swing. Consciously or subconsciously, embedded or emphatic, swing is the sine qua non of Irish traditional dance music.

North Cregg has it, making "The Roseland Barndance" perhaps their tastiest and most fulfilling album so far.

Review by John O'Regan, fRoots

Cork based outfit North Cregg attack the fourth album syndrome with The Roseland Barndance. Featuring an evocative front cover picture, the album aims to crystalise the change blowing through their winds over the last few years. Since their last collection, 2003's Summer At My Feet, the line-up has slimmed down and re-defined itself musically, the departures of Paul Meehan, Caoimhin Vallely and Fiona Kelleher having left gaps other bands would find fatal. Not so for North Cregg as this has offered a chance of rediscovery. Martin Leahy now plays guitar as well as drums, and new fiddler Liam Flanaganalso plays tenor banjo, so the musical quotient is recovered.

Now the sound is leaner and gutsier than before with Christy Leahy's accordion and Liam Flanagan on fiddle leading the fray backed by Martin Leahy and Ciaran Coughlan's atmospheric piano playing.

This stripped down sound is best found in "Sliabh Luachra Polkas" and "Crehan's Reels" where guts and brio lead the way. The title track and "Earl Mitten's" offer opportunities of adventure into vaudeville and almost dixieland jazz terrains. New singer Claire-Anne Lynch breathes sultry smoked vocal lines on "The Dark Eyed Sailor" and a stunning take on Anne Briggs' "Go Your Way". Limmed down they may be, but North Cregg's characteristic drive remains unchanged. The Roseland Barndance offers compelling proof of their position among the cream of the Irish Music crop.

 

Review by Alex Monaghan, Irish Music Magazine

Everybody's favourite Irish polka band is back for a fourth album, pumping and jumping to those Sliabh Luachra classics. The box and piano of Christy Leahy and Ciaran Coughlan are are the heart of things, but Caoimhin Vallely and Paul Meehan have been swapped for fiddle and banjo maestro Liam Flanagan, and Fiona Kelleher's voice has been replaced by Claire-Anne Lynch who also fiddles. Drummer Martin Leahy has picked up the guitar to complete the line-up. Overall the sound is much the same, punchy box and pyrotechnic piano, with a bit more fiddle and banjo than before.

Polkas, barndances and slides are the order of the day. The title track is a sparkling Joe Derrane composition which the boys power through as brilliantly as The Humours of Ballydesmond and The Clare Jig. Bridgie's Barndance is another cracker composed by Dave Munnelly of Mayo, and followed by the Quebec showpiece Earl Mitten's Breakdown. The opening three polkas are all well known, but Christy makes them his own with a quirky take on Bill The Weaver's. There's a fine set of jigs which feature the fiddle and the banjo, big old modal tunes ending on Molly Branigan's in full band splendour. The album finishes with reels, of course, with a North Cregg twist to Crehan's and Dermot Byrne's.

Not forgetting the songs, of which there are four here: Claire-Anne wraps her sultry tones around The Dark Eyed Sailor, Barbara Allen, An Raibh tú ag an gCarraig?, and the Anne Briggs ballad Go Your Way. This Cork woman has the huskiness of Dolores Keane or Maura O'Connell, and a taste for jazz, so expect a more modern flavour to North Cregg vocals in the future.

Just buy it, 'coz you know it'll be good!

 

Review by Joe Ross, USA (Feb 2007)

With a solid set of dance tunes and songs, North Cregg's fourth album is also a milestone that celebrates their tenth anniversary in the Celtic music business. As most bands with such longevity have experienced personnel changes, a few members have come and gone over the years since their first seed was planted in a pub session. The Irish band now consists of Christy Leahy (button box), Liam Flanagan (fiddle, banjo), Ciaran Coughlan (piano), Martin Leahy (guitar, drums) and Claire-Anne Lynch (vocals, fiddle).

On this album the title cut written by Joe Derrane recalls some of the Irish dancehall music played by emigrants to the U.S. in the early 1900s. It's a fine showcase for talented accordionist Leahy, while the subsequent track with a medley of jigs particularly demonstrate the fine bow work and pluch of Flanagan. "Barbara Allen" and "The Dark Eyed Sailor" are perfect ballad choices for Lynch's gentle and alluring vocalizing. A lively piano-centric set with a French Canadian flavour is "Earl Mitten's". Guests Dirk Powell and Seamus Burns add clawhammer banjo and spoons respectively. Besides jigs and reels, some spirited sets of polkas are pure delight to liven up the party.

The Gaelic track "An Raibh ag an gCarraig?" is dreamy and seductive as it tells the story of a banished young man's desire to see his true love. "Go Your Way" is another hypnotic ballad, this one written by English folk singer, Anne Briggs. Claire-Anne's delicate voice is silky, expressive and enticing.

Recorded in Cork, "The Roseland Barndance" is an admirable addition to the band's musical catalogue. During the past decade, North Cregg has carved out their niche and built a reputation for distinctive music with both emotional depth and downhome fervour. Most importantly, their enthralling music exudes polish, stability and maturity. Touring the world, North Cregg brings their soulful stamp on Celtic Music to the largest stages.

 

Review by Vic Smith, The Folk Diary (UK)

Having allowed time for the new line-up to bed in, North Cregg now offer us the fourth album of their ten year existence. Their tune repertoire still reflects their deep love of their native County Cork, particularly of the great masters of the Sliabh Luachra style and rhythms, so there are plenty of fast polkas to the fore.

The really distinctive element of their new team is the singing of Claire-Anne Lynch and the assurance of her treatment of "Barbara Allen" and "The Dark Eyed Sailor" is a great plus for the band but it is when she switches languages that she is at her most commanding on the haunting "An Raibh Tu ag an gCarraig?".

Tight lead playing from fiddle and button accordion plus some fine adventurous piano playing from Ciaran Coughlan whether he is taking an accompanying or a leading role all contribute to make this the most satidfying offering from North Cregg to date.

 

Review by The Scottish Fiddlers' Calendar (March 2007)

The latest recording from Irish group North Cregg is a lesson on playing the music as it is. Theirs is a close ensemble sound, led mainly by fiddle and button box, which brings out the quality of the tunes in a laid back way - they're so good that they don't have to strive for effect. The CD also includes lovely songs from Claire-Anne Lynch and some bright piano playing. This is good traditional music, and very easy on the ear.


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