are The Livies for 2008! Among the most coveted music Awards
in the tradition, these are the only Awards with an
immediate world-wide, massive audience. It is anyone's guess
how many thousands will see these and listen to the cuts
selected from the winners' albums. Lots of new names this
year---and an extremely strong showing by the Scots and
Canadians! Congratulations to all. These are truly the best
of the best. No doubt about it. Enjoy! And, don't forget to
support these artists through the site store here--or your
local music dealer. The envelopes, please!! :
1. Composition of the Year---Jean Yelland The Cast
Mairi Campbell wrote Jean Yelland in honor of a
wonderful lady in British Columbia, Canada. It was included
in this year's superior album, Greengold that she and
partner Dave Francis released on the Greentrax label out of
Scotland. Mairi is a gifted singer, musician (see rest of
Awards) and who knew she could compose an instant classic
like this gorgeous, heartfelt air? Jean Yelland, like all
great music, will long outlive us. Its deceptive simplicity
and obvious beauty assures its place in the music and its
history. Dave Francis's guitar is, as usual, superb. A
perfect accompaniment. Understated. Elegant. Much like this
tune itself. What to say about Campbell's fiddle playing?
Just perfect. Any trained 10-year old can rip a reel or jig.
It takes a mature and gifted woman to play an air like this.
Or man--let's not be biased here. The point is that airs are
for the real, true honest-to God musicians among us. Nowhere
to hide. It is all out there. Campbell well knows the music
enough not to get an idea for a beautiful air and then mess
it up by overdoing it. We think the Scots are the best at
airs, and this tune proves why. The Cast takes its time, and
simplifies the tune structurally, so we can hear the heart.
Not just the notes. Good heavens, this is great. Probably
the easiset winner to pick this year. Stunning. Well done!!!
Jean Yelland will now live forever! And, so will Jean
2. Instrumental Album of the Year---Firewire
The winner is Firewire by Chris Newman and Maire Ni
Cathasaigh. Newman on guitar and Ni Chathasaigh on harp have
carved a unique path to the top. The duo has been together
for years. Their technical virtuosity on their instruments
is topped only by their exquisite artistic taste and
approach. She is indisputably the greatest harp player in
the tradition. Ever. His guitar work is so superb, both in
solo and accompaniment, the listener is usually stopped dead
in his or her tracks. Firewire is their best album, ever.
When it comes to these two, that is saying something,
indeed. Like all this year's winners, these two are a gift
to all of us. They are the best in the world at this.
Period. End of statement. End of story.
3. Male Vocalist of the Year---Tim Dennehy
Old Boots and Flying Sandals was Tim Dennehy's sixth
album, we believe. It is his best. It is also clearly the
best of the year against some stiff competition. Dennehy has
a beauty, wisdom and gravitas about his voice seldom, if
ever, equalled. The best singers open their hearts as well
as their throats. This is really, really hard for a lot of
artists to do. Most of us have a natural reticence about
letting anyone see us all the way down. Not the greats like
Dennehy. You have to have the voice to begin with. Then, you
have to have a love and an understanding of the music. Then,
you need the soul. It is all here. Dennehy joins a select
group of Irish male singers who ARE the tradition, yet are
absolutely of the day. Very, very special. Tim Dennehy
delivered something so wonderful in this album that we are
still listening to it regularly, months after its release.
It is magic.
4. Female Vocalist of the Year---Eddi Reader
There are many who now say Eddi Reader is the best
singer in the music. We love those arguments, as they are
always friendly and go perfectly with pub pints. It
certainly can be argued. And, if anyone knows anything about
the music, Eddi Reader has to be one of the first names
mentioned on any music lover's list. She is now an
international treasure. Her album, Peacetime was released on
Compass in 2007. It was our personal favorite album of the
year. We still play it almost daily. This Scot can sing! Her
voice is a wonder. It can be wild, gentle, soft, or rockin',
as she originally started in rock and roll. Starting with
last year's The Songs of Robert Burns and now with
Peacetime, she has set a new gold standard of what the best
can offer. We saw her perform live in 2007, and she did not
lose a note. She is as perfect in concert as she is on a
recording. Perfect. Eccentric, brilliant, warm and a voice
from God. Eddi Reader is now at the top. There is precious
little turf at the top of that mountain. The select few are
up there with her. Let's put it this way. There is none
better. A unanimous choice for this Award. Good on 'ya,
5. Concert of the Year—Munnelly---IAHC
Well, ANY concert by The David Munnelly Band would qualify
as The Concert of the Year. This year, they get it for their
Friday night concert at IrishFest in Milwaukee and an
unbelievable show at The Irish American Heritage Center in
Chicago. Take a listen to the cut accompanying this Award.
That is Munnelly, Live. Best show in the business, no
question. This group is also now the best vocal /
instrumental ensemble in the tradition. If they are within
100 miles of you and you don't make the effort to see them,
you are very, very foolish. NO ONE is doing what they do
live. Or on record. Munnelly is headquartered out of
Belmullet, Mayo. All the wild passion of that North Atlantic
coast is on display in each tune. And, now they have added
Shauna Mullin as their vocalist. (See Newcomer of the Year).
Munnelly is the best, and the great thing about LiveIreland
is we can prove it. Just click the link on the Award here.
The tune is entitled, Connemara. Just listen. Then tell us.
Who is the best? Yup. Munnelly. The whole, total deal.
6. Newcomer of the Year---Shauna Mullin
You probably have not heard Donegal's Shauna Mullin,
yet. You will. She is the voice of the future of Irish
traditional music. She is now the singer with the
extraordinarily popular, David Munnelly Band. We saw her in
concert in 2007, and have never been so stunned in a
performance setting. Extraordinary. A Gift. She is an alto.
Think a young and vibrant Dolores Keane, but an even warmer,
more open, intuitive voice. As usual with LiveIreland, you
hear it here first. We received this live performance of Ned
on the Hill for you. We know of no first album being looked
forward to by so many people. How many singers do you see
get a standing ovation in a live performance after their
first song? There are only a few really, truly great trad
singers---think Cathie Ryan, Eddi Reader, Eilis Kennedy,
Muirerann Nic Amhlaoibh and Mairi Campbell. Now add Shauna
Mullin. Before her journey is over, she may be the best of
all time. Correct. She is that great. She is that special.
Get on board early---it will be a glorious trip.
7. Male Musician of the Year— Chris Droney
Chris Droney is from Clare. There are those who say he
IS Clare! Chris has been creating magic on his concertina
for about six or seven decades now. This year's album, Down
From Bell Harbour goes to show what a lifetime by a master
musician can provide. This album is as warm and wonderful as
the man himself. As with all the greats, it is not just the
notes. It is so much more than mere technique. Never mind
the nine All-Ireland titles this legend won. That's right.
Nine. It is the master's hand and heart. No instrument in
Irish music displays these talents more readily or
dangerously than the concertina. It is not a complex
instrument, like the uillean pipes. Its simplicity is its
challenge. The concertina has that beautiful sound that is
so accessible. Lots of people play the instrument. Just a
very, very few own the instrument. When you hear masters
like Chris Droney at their art, you can smile and know that
it can't be done better. This is the best. A life in the
music can't be put on any album. But, Down From Bell Harbour
comes real close. Bell Harbour itself should be very proud
of he who lives among them. A master at his work. Thank you,
Mr. Droney. Very, very much.
8. Vocal/Instrumental Album of the Year---North Cregg—Roseland
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!!!
9. Female Musician of the Year---Mairi Campbell
Two Livies this year! Mairi Campbell scores big with
not only The Composition of the Year, Jean Yelland, but also
with her absolutely perfect fiddle playing on the Greentrax
album, Greengold demanding all the recognition we can give!
Her musicianship is of the absolutely highest caliber. Most
importantly, she has not succumbed to the current,
abominable fad of playing everything at 325 miles per hour.
She has worked out the perfect approach, in that her playing
shares the same eloquence as her singing--they are both
exquisite. You can always tell an amateur magician, in that
they always do their illusions fast fast fast. It is as they
are afraid to take their time, for fear you will discover
too much and see through them. So it is with musicians.
Mairi Campbell is a fiddler who does not fear the perfect
phrase, the beautifully turned note, or taking her time. She
lets you hear the music---the music is more important to her
than your opinion that she must be good because she can play
at the speed of light. Her fiddle and voice have joined
together so beautifully on this album, Greengold will surely
last a long, long time. An accomplished professional with
perfect taste, she is a wonder---as is her partner, Dave
Francis on guitar with his perfect accompaniment. An easy
choice for Female Musician of the Year. No argument.
10. Compendium Album of the Year---Barra McNeils
Well, start with the fact that this may be the most
totally entertaining act in the business. Excellent
msucianship---they have really, really creative arrangements
and harmonies, even a little dancing---great fun. This is
what you can get from a terrific, wonderful family act that
has been together over 20 years. The Barra McNeil's 20 th
Anniversary album showcases the best of a great ensemble.
They have 20 years at the top of their game---how many
others? The Chieftains---uh, we begin to run out of names.
We have seen them perform several times and have never been
anything less than thrilled. Every show gets their all---but
here, we concentrate on the music. So creative, yet true to
the traditionat the same time. This is a must-have album.
Don't argue. Where else can you get 20 years of excellence
in one attractively-packaged double album? Hmm? Here's to
another 20 from the Barras. Wow!
11. Vocal Cut of the Year---Billy O'Shea---Michael Black
We almost didn't give this Award to Billy O'Shea from
Michael Black's terrific solo debut album on Compass
Records, appropriately entitled, Michael Black. Honestly,
the cut had worn us out. My public radio partner had
insisted on playing it, like three weeks in a row, and about
six weeks out of seven. We had listened to it again and
again. We had raved about it in our written columns, and had
played it privately for a number of people. We were pooped.
Enough! Then it dawned on us. Why were we playing it so
much? Easy. It is the Vocal Cut of the Year, that's why. We
are listening to it as we write this, and loving it all over
again. A true Dublin song.The Black sisters may not be
relevant in the tradition any more, but the Black Brothers
are, and none more than Michael. A great album. A fabulous
song. A really terrific singer.
12. Instrumental Cut of the Year
Beoga's, Mischief was one of our favorite albums of
the tear, and was a major contender for Vocal/Instrumental
Album of the Year. One of the tunes that made us fans
forever is a particular bit of brill called, Jazzy Wilbur.
Brilliantly arranged and played, it shows this
multi-talented group at its best. Real energy---plus a
refreshing and much needed thing in trad music, a sense of
humor. The first time we heard, Jazzy Wilbur, we laughed out
loud. Very, very special. We are fans of Beoga—big time.
Jazzy Wilbur is just one reason---and there are several
mopre, including a great singer, Niamh Dunne (also fab on
fiddle) thias group is going to be around and really
successful a long, long time. Wondrous pieces of music like
Jazzy Wilbur are a big part of the reason why. There could
have been about six other tunes of theirs that would have
won this Award—all perfect—and, all different. We had to
pick one. We listened to Jazzy Wilbur the most. Reason
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