Wednesday, December 07, 2011

holiday gift ideas: Irish music

Music always makes a fine gift at the holidays, and Irish music all the more so. Whether you prefer to give and receive music that way or to create a mix of tracks on your own, here are suggestions for recent releases along with a several longtime  christmas wreath copyright kerry dexterfavorites, and a book, as well.

Long Time Courting is a band of Boston women musicians, each of whom has a strong career in other musical endeavors. The four friends really liked the way they sound when they play and sing together, though, and they wanted to share that. Their debut album Alternate Routes made the best music of 2011 list here at Music Road.

It’s been a while -- six years -- since Mary Black has released a studio album. The Dublin based singer offers Stories from the Steeples, a new collection which shows that she is still following the path of unique and adventurous song selection, with a taste for contemporary songwriters and a bit of tradition as well. Duets with the likes of Finbar Furey and Janis Ian feature on this album along with Black’s always distinctive voice. Between this and her last studio release, one of the things Black did was put together a compilation album 25 years 25 songs , which would also make a fine gift for yourself or anyone on your list who enjoys good singing.


Jennifer Cutting has a musical imagination which deepens Celtic music by illuminating it through voice and instrument with her group the Ocean Orchestra. Together they have made the album Song of Solstice: Celtic Music for Midwinter. Original and traditional song and tune including a lively piece honoring the Green Man of Celtic legend and a graceful take on the seasonal song In the Bleak Midwinter are among the choices. Solstice, too, was a pick for best of year 2011 at Music Road.

Songs from the tradition in English and Irish, classy contemporary songs, and original music that engages aspects of Irish myth and nature with daily life today, not to cathie ryan farthest wavemention a fine voice, thoughtful interpretation, and great backing from the likes of John Doyle and John McCusker: The Farthest Wave from Cathie Ryan would make a fine gift for an Irish music lover on your list, or someone you’d like to introduce to Irish music.

How about a Christmas album or two?. Cherish the Ladies have two holiday albums out, and they’d both be good selections for giving and for your own listening. A Star in the East finds lead singer Michelle Lee Burke having a fine time with All on a Christmas Morning and Home on Time for Christmas, while the always stellar musicianship of this group shines on the Greensleeves Jig and The Frost Is All Over. On Christmas Night also from CTL offers a lovely version of that quintessential Irish song of winter, The Castle of Dromore, with Heidi Talbot as the singer, along with well chosen selections of seasonal song and tune, including an understated version of the often overstated O Holy Night, with Talbot again on voice.




If tunes are what you are looking for, Shannon Heaton’s album of original and traditional music on the flute The Blue Dress is just what you’re looking for. The folk as RTE Lyric fm have put together Masters of the Irish Harp which makes a good choice too. It’s a gathering of tune and talent that’s both instructive and enjoyable, with a wide ranging group of players who are truly masters at what they do.

If reading about Irish music is to your gift recipients’ tastes, then you’ll want to consider Bright Star of the West: Joe Heaney, Irish Song Man. Joe Heaney was a legendary sean nos singer from Connemara , in the west of Ireland. He was also a complicated and complex man living at a time of transition for Irish and Irish American music. Though the prose is more than a bit dry and academic, authors Sean Williams and Lillis O’Laoire, professors as well as musicians, take the facts of Heaney ‘s life into discussion of sean nos, Irish traditional music, the role of men in Irish traditional culture, the nature of Irish American life, and other subjects.

you may also wish to see
Music Road: Best Music, 2011
Music Road: holiday gift list: music of Canada
Wreath, music and legend

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posted by Kerry Dexter at

6 Comments:

Anonymous Vera Marie Badertscher said...

Oh there you go again with temptations to stock up on more CDs. And what is sean nos? Just "traditional Irish Music" or something more secific. Define for we who do not speak Gaelic, please.

8:54 PM  
Blogger kerry dexter said...

well, I aiways want to get listening to music you've not heard, Vera.

the words sean nos mean in Irish old style. defining that sort of singing (there is sean nos in dance as well) in a sentence or two, not so much -- it's particular style whose influences may be found in the work of many contemporary Celtic musicians. traditionally it's unaccompanied voice and only the way the singer phrases things conveys the emotion and narrative of the story, to give a very brief and not entirely accurate idea of what it's like. I've been mulling over doing a post or two about sean nos and how those influences play out today...

7:05 AM  
Anonymous Kevin Chamow said...

Thanks for the suggestions. From America, this is a great gift for the mother.

Kevin Chamow

3:51 AM  
Anonymous NoPotCooking said...

Thanks for these. You always have such good recommendations!

9:36 AM  
Blogger MyKidsEatSquid said...

Cherish the Ladies sounds like a perfect Christmas CD. I stumbled on a holiday music CD in my storage box and the tunes/lyrics were just so bland I've been looking for something unique.

10:12 AM  
Anonymous Living Large said...

Wonderful recommendations. I have a friend who loves all types of music, these are good suggestions.

11:52 AM  

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