I’m sure many listeners will recall Niamh Ni Charra’s last album On Da Thaobh / From Both Sides
which made it into Mojo’s Top Ten Folk Albums of 2007. Her latest release, Sugach Samh / Happy Out, takes a great leap forward in confidence, maturity and in exposing the full breadth of her musical talent.
Sugach Samh / Happy Out places Niamh in new territory that was left unexplored on her last album. The increased confidence in her playing is evident throughout the album but what surprised and pleased me most about this album was her singing. I fully expected a second instumental album but the third track dispelled this and brought a smile to my face as she treats the listener to a beautiful rendition of Paddy’s lamentation. The song is set during the tragic and turbulent years of the Irish Famine and the subsequent exodus to America. She pushes every ounce of emotion into the song which combined with her mournful accompaniment on Concertina make this a deeply moving song. Her voice carries the same depth of emotion as her fiddle playing on Lonesome Eyes, a beautiful air written by Jerry Holland for his son Jerry Jnr; on his leaving home and whom lost his long fought battle with cancer last year.
[audio:http://www.box.net/shared/static/kngtbn94c9.mp3|titles=Paddy’s lamentation|artists=Niamh Ni Charra]
There are also songs and tunes at the other end of spectrum. Cailleach An Airgid is a powerhouse of a song from the Galway tradition where Niamh’s father grew up which tells the tale of a young man courting an older woman who has a lot of money! The chorus of this gaelic song is the chant his friends tease him with as he passes by. The song is powered along by a wonderful driving guitar (Donogh Hennessy) and bodhran (Robbie Harris) which jumps to life with Niamh’s fiddle playing. Her singing is wonderful on this track and it’s definitely a Folk radio UK favourite!
Cailleach An Airgid:
There is range of textures and sounds within this album which bear the influences of the music of her up-bringing to other traditons and influences learned during her extensive travels including those from both Galician and Cape Breton traditions.
Her family also take part in adding the magic to this album. On Se Fath Mo Bhuarta Niamh’s father, Eoin O Carra plays Zither which adds a timeless feel to the song. in 1977 Niamh’s uncle Padraig released an album on the prominent Gael Linn label, on which he played airs on zither. The zither is an unusual instrument to hear in irish music and this is just one track on this album which has her family heritage proudly stamped on it.
Sugach Samh / Happy out is a refreshing sounding album that is steeped in tradition. The album will appeal to a broad spectrum of folk music lovers as Niamh’s interpretation of tradtional music is both progressive and rich in variety. It certainly sets a high standard for Irish tradtional music and she also demonstrates the importance of passing on such rich tradition to new generations. This beautiful album is a living testament to that.
It gets a ten out of ten from us!
Niamh hails from Killarney, where she started playing music at the age of 4. An All-Ireland Champion on both fiddle and concertina, Niamh had supported The Chieftains and Noel Hill, in addition to performing at festivals throughout France and England, before reaching her teens. She toured Europe, Asia and North America for 8 years as a soloist with Riverdance, performing in over 2500 shows, before returning to Ireland where she is now based.
She has taught both fiddle and concertina at Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann’s national headquarters, An Culturlann, in Monkstown, and regularly gives workshops on both instruments. She released her debut album “On Da Thaobh / From Both Sides” in 2007 to much critical acclaim – it was the only Irish album to make MOJO’s Top Ten Folk Albums for 2007. She was also presented with the “Best Trad Music Act 2008” award by The Irish World, the largest newspaper for the Irish community in Britain. Along with performing regularly as a solo artist, Niamh also tours extensively as a member of the Carlos Nunez band.