Well, well, well! That time of year, already? How time doth fly! Time for the biggest music awards in traditional music, The Livies.
These are the Awards presented each year to the recipients of the LiveIreland.com recognition that they are the very best in each category. You know, LiveIreland really is unprecedented in acoustic, traditional music history. The site outdraws, by far, every other Irish music site in the world by a huge margin---perhaps even the combined listenership
of them all! There are other prestigious music awards, such as Ireland's TG 4 Awards, or Irish Music Magazine's Reader picks. But none---none----has the worldwide reach and audience of these recognitions. If you want to hear these selections or purchase one, check the site store first. If not there, e-mail David and Bernard at the site, and they'll get one for you! You must------must we say!!!--have these artists in your collections! They are the pinnacle of this year's excellence. And, it was a very, very good year for the music! We've covered why in detail several times, so let's cut to the chase. The envelopes please!!!!
INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR--BROCK MCGUIRE
There is simply no better band in Irish, traditional music. You should be familiar with Moving Cloud, the all-time seminal, instrumental band in trad history. Formed by button box player, Paul Brock and fiddler, Manus McGuire, the Cloud has morphed into The Brock-McGuire quintet of those two masters joined by Enda Scahill on banjo, Denis Carey on piano and Ferghal Scahill on every musical instrument played in the universe. This album is in the site store. Being independently produced, it can be tricky to find. But, do find it! Claddagh has it, as does Gael Linn. Instrumental traditional music cannot be played better. Each of the musicians is a master of the form. Out of Galway and Clare, this is, quite simply, perfect. The true, honest-to-God deal. Period. Case closed. You will love it.
VOCAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR- EDDI READER SINGS THE SONGS OF ROBERT BURNS
There is a long story about this stunningly beautiful album. Let us just say, Eddi ended up in a studio with several string players from the Glasgow Symphony, joined by some of the very best in traditional music and came with this. Full force. Deeply traditional and totally new at the same time. We have tried and tried to describe this album. It cannot be judged only in the trad field. It is wider. It is true, and it is lovely. Scotland, Robert Burns and Celtic music have rarely been so well served. Reader's voice is magic and perfect for the songs. This is big, big league stuff. We know you can find it on the Compass label, at least in the States. The arrangements are lush and Reader's voice is truly beautiful.
NEWCOMERS OF THE YEAR---- THE WEST OCEAN STRING QUARTET
This mix of classical and traditional music has been tried before. Never like this. Never this well. Unwrapping Dreams is the name of the album on the Wren Records label. The musicianship, taste and intelligence of this group jumps off the cd. This is music for people who truly love music, and are not afraid to pay attention. To listen to this quietly moving album as "background music" is the same as to say "we might consider putting Michael Owen in the lineup". It misses the whole point. This is an album to be relished. The creativity in the original tunes, blended with trad favs is so encompassing as to leave you breathless----but it requires your participation. You will join Seamus Mc Guire, Neill Martin, Niamh Crowley and Kenneth Rice in a real exploration. Like so many winners this year, this is like nothing else you have heard in the tradition. Uniquely stunning. Fair play to the Quartet. A real masterpiece.
MALE VOCALIST OF THE YEAR----SEAN TYRRELL
Sean actually gave us two albums this year-- Man For Galway and Rising Tide . Both were " Best Of " compilations. One for Europe, one for America. Both show Sean to continue to be at the top of his form, as both also offered new treats, as well! There cannot be an Award in traditional music this wonderful singer from the Burren has not won, repeatedly. There is no truer voice in the tradition. Sean always, always offers the best in new tunes he has written, poems he has turned into music, or old standards of the form. Also, always, Sean opens his soul for all of us to hear. The music from his heart can never be recommended highly enough. He is a gift. To be sure.
VOCAL / INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR---DANU
Yet another brill album from this group that keeps changing and getting better. A super-group with no more Awards left to win. The Road Less Traveled was this year's flash of brilliance. The group brought in a great new singer (see below) and just kept cookin'. They seem to be on the road constantly, and are a true fav at all the Festivals and concerts they get to internationally every year. They continue to innovate, and stay true to trad, at the same time. This is a group that now ranks among the most popular of all time. Deservedly.
FEMALE MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR----SARAH ALLEN
Flook continues to be the hottest thing in trad. No small part of that incredible success is contained in the petite frame and massive talent of this powerhouse on the flute. Last year, flautist Brian
Finnegan of Flook won the Livie for Male Musician of the Year. This year, with the re-release of Flatfish and Flook Live, Sarah gets the full marks and recognition she so richly deserves. She is a primary and elemental force who has created and molded this all. Flook is the best "fusion" band in acoustic music. We're not afraid of the word, "genius". The group is a composite work of genius, and Sarah's talent and vision are the centerpieces of something unprecedented in acoustic music. We love the group, the sound, the approach, and we love her. A brilliant musican who also happens to be a real person. Class. Total class. !
MALE MUSICIAN OF THE YEAR- JOHN JOE KELLY
Well, let's stay in the Flook groove. John Joe Kelly is the best bodhran player in the world. Believe us, the driving wheel of Flook has no peer, and virtually all other bodhran players will tell you so. Go to a Flook concert, and count the percussionists from other groups there, just to hear the master. We can't say John Joe does anything revolutionarily different from other players. He just does it so much better. It is very, very rare within the tradition that you can point to a certain musician and state definitively, he or she "is the best ". As many great percussionists as there are in trad, one stands alone. There are no words. Let the Award suffice.
VOCAL COMPENDIUM ALBUM OF THE YEAR---SCOTTISH WOMEN
Scottish Women is, perhaps, our favorite album of the year. Out on Greentrax (arguably one of the top three traditionally-based labels in the world) , this album delights no matter how often you listen to it. A group of Scotland's best female vocalists toured last year together, and this album is a result of the performances. It is so wonderful. There is such soul, humor and beauty offered, the mind reels. We will not call individual women's names here. We won't pick a favorite. We will tell you that this album is special, and you will love it. The women are so diversely talented that the joining of those talents has produced a gem that sparkles as bright as new, no matter how many times you listen. Congratulations to these women and Greentrax for again showing us what it is all about----or what it all should be about.
INSTRUMENTAL COMPENDIUM ALBUM OF THE YEAR- WOODEN FLUTE OBSESSION
We raved and raved about these two double cd's of the best of traditional flute playing. Rightly so. Producer Kevin Krell and the International Traditional Music Society have apparently approached every great flute player in the tradition and received a selection from each that are included in these TWO double cd's--with one more coming!! We cannot imagine the amount of work this has taken. Be you a traditional flute student or fan, this is the encyclopedia. This is truly, culturally important, as these artists---and styles---are now preserved along with some very rarely heard tunes. A massive, important and generous effort.
FEMALE SINGER OF THE YEAR-MUIREANN NIC AMHLAOIBH
It is not easy to spell or pronounce her name------it is very easy to love her singing. Lead singer for Danu, this woman created a real stir when she was added to the group for The Road Less Traveled album. An immediate star. Wow! The voice and the group are perfect together. This talent is set for a very, very long run----indeed!! A beautiful voice. Just simply, wonderful.
CONCERT OF THE YEAR--FLOOK
We have told you for years to do what you have to do---walk, crawl, fly, beg, borrow, rob a bank, but get to ONE Irish Fest in Milwaukee before you die! You may get to see and hear a moment like the 2004 Flook Saturday night concert. Weather, group, sound, audience----the whole perfect, gobsmacking perfection of all the elements together in exquisite combination. We suspect Flook may alo call it their concert of the year, as well. 5,000 people, flautist Brian Finnegan's birthday, perfect weather and music from heaven. We looked to heaven and thought " take us now. " It can't get better.
SOLO NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR-DAVID MUNNELLY
We had been tipped to this Belmullet, Mayo box player by The Brock-McGuire Band. As usual, they were right. This quintet (a quartet the night we saw them in Westport, Mayo) is so brilliant and entertaining, they are set for a long run. This is traditional and new traditional music that can not be done better. Fun to watch. Magic to hear. The group's driving style grabs the audience from the first moment and never lets go. Get their new album, By Heck! If you are not smiling and dancing in your seat within 32 bars you are either dead or no trad fan. Music from the heart of the tradiiton, uncompromised and totally fresh and exciting---all at the same time. More!!
COMPOSER OF THE YEAR-SEAMUS McGUIRE
Seamus McGuire is a gifted fiddle player, but his work with The West Ocean String Quartet vaults him onto another plane of existence, musically speaking, with his indescribably beautiful , Glenveigh Castle from the Quartet's, Unwrapping Dreams album . This composition is so rounded, and so special, all we could do is give this Award. Small recognition, indeed for something so special. Good, on 'ya, Seamus-----very good!! !
THUNDER ON THE HORIZON AWARD - THE BRIDIES
These former musical stars of Riverdance and Lord of the Dance are no thunder on the horizon in Ireland, where the have already exploded in a few short months with a Galeforce 10. We have never seen ANY group get this big this quick. Stars already in Ireland, there is a rumor of some MAJOR appearances this coming summer at some of U.S and World Festivals. Do not miss them. With real, true traditional chops, they also provide one of the great shows in the business. Think La Bottine, Barachois, Natalie McMaster----exciting SHOWS. This group "gets it", and comes to the table with an unprecedented mix of established traditional credentials and a super show. They are going to be very, very big. One of them said in an interview in Ireland, " What Michael Flatley, Riverdance and Lord of the Dance did for Irish dancing, we want to do for Irish music." Over ambitious? Nope. Too bold for "girls" in Irish music? No! pe. Bold,brash, talented confident women with a totally wonderful and fun family show? Yup. Enter The Bridies, and get ready!!!
CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL---ALL THE BEST!!!!!!!!!!!!