Diane is steeped in the Donegal singing tradition, born and raised in the Gaeltacht where she still lives and works. Over the years she has honed her craft and has achieved national recognition by winning the Oireachtas female traditional singing competition in 2015. Encouraged and mentored by her great friend (and acclaimed singer and academic) Dr. Lillis Ó’Laoire, this CD is a delight from start to finish.
Drawing on her impressive store of songs, she invigorates them with her expressive and emotive vocals, each track invested with care and attention in terms of arrangement and performance. There is a stellar list of musicians here, including Michael McGoldrick, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh, cellist Neil Martin, pianist Donald Shaw, Martin Crossin on pipes and whistles and Charlie McKerron on fiddle. An A-list rhythm section of Liam Bradley and James Blennerhassett is also in attendance.
This impressive array of talent is superbly directed by producer and arranger Manus Lunny, who also contributes guitar, bouzouki and background vocals. There’s a real sense of contemporary sensibility here, without taking away from the traditional authenticity. It’s a delicate balance, but there’s an effervescence and sense of dynamics that creates a sparkle to complement the vocals throughout.
Personal highlights include the haunting Cnoc na Naomh, and beautifully sparse readings of Lough Erne’s Shore and Báinín Mhín a Leá, the latter featuring some beautiful fiddle playing from Charlie McKerron. All three are slow songs, but there are plenty of up-tempo tracks to balance out the CD. The closing piece, Toraigh Álainn, is a heartfelt tribute to the area from where much of the inspiration for the music came, and the twelve tracks here are all invested with genuine love for Donegal traditional song which has spread internationally over the years, due to the efforts of wonderful singers such as Diane.
There’s something about Donegal, of that there is no doubt, especially the west. Something happens an hour or so after you cross the border. You feel a gear change. It’s like the body knows automatically how to acclimatise. Things move a little slower here and it shows. It’s substance over style, in everything from the taste of the food to the smell of the turf. Its a pace of life that nurtured a wonderful artistic tradition over centuries, allowing the development of strong, steadfast roots.
From that lineage of artists comes the wonderful Diane Ní Chanainn with at long last, her debut album, titled Idir Muir Agus Sliabh, Between Mountain & Sea.The opening track Malaidh Chró Luí is just sublime. Diane’s voice is pitch-perfect, there’s no doubt singing is in her blood. But although it has a certain purity, there is a peatiness to it that puts me immediately in mind of a lady who also hails from a county on the West Coast, Delores Keane. And believe me, there aren’t many I would compare lightly to that lady.
This album is loaded with heavyweights in traditional music but, from the off, Diane leads them like a lady on a mission. It’s taken a while for her to reach this point and she’s going to make it count. It would be very easy for an artist to be swept away by the talent on this album, and get lost beneath it. It’s certainly not the case here. In fact, the album is a wonderful tip of the hat to Diane’s homeplace. With the recognisable melody of Gortahork’s Cnoc Na Naomh, she sings as comfortably and familiar as if she were in her own living room. Not even being joined by Altan’s Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh can phase her. But then again, the tune on which she features, Na Seamróga Feoite, was taught to her many years ago by Diane’s grandfather!Diane’s daughter Kelly returns and they breathe new life into a song that has truly lasted through the ages, Níl sé ‘na Lá. The band are in full force here, and to name them this time really shows the astounding players that have rallied around Diane to help her on her first musical offering. Donald Shaw, Michael McGoldrick, Neil Martin, Charlie McKerron, Martin Crosssin, Laim Bradley, James Blennerhasset and of course producer and multi-instrumentalist, Manus Lunny. Alone, any one of these people would be most welcome on any record. Together, they’re really spoiling us. Before I finish, I have to say that if you stream this album or download digitally, you will certainly enjoy it, but you will miss out big time without the CD. The inlay book of Idir Muir Agus Sliabh carries with it so much insight from Diane, the stories behind the songs, and portrays the pride the Gaeltacht area of Donegal has its traditions and how important it is they are embraced and passed on.
Diane has fairly put her foot down and made her mark with this debut album. We may have been waiting on it for a while but surely that’s the Donegal way, take your time and do it right. It’s so refreshing to hear so many songs and melodies that we have almost forgotten how much we love, but to hear Diane sing them backed by Manus Lunny and his incredible squad, they breath new life into old traditions, guaranteeing their survival for at least another generation.
As tobar na Gaeltachta, dlúthdhiosca úr ó bhean de cheoltóirí sainiúla Thír Chonaill. Rogha bhreá amhrán anseo agus poirt as croí an dúchais. Beidh iomrá ar an cheirnín seo ar feadh i bhfad.
Lillis Ó Laoire
‘Diane Cannon is one of the finest singers of her generation in both the Gaelic and English Ballad traditions.
She is steeped in her native Donegal Gaeltacht heritage and is bringing the old songs to a new generation with this new album.
Diane is blessed with a strong melodic voice which breathes new life into the old songs handed down to her through family and friends.’
Mairead Ní Mhaonaigh
Is portráid é an taifead seo de amhránaí i mbarra a réime. Tá an léiriú corrathach, tuiscineach agus tá gach amhrán roghnaithe go cúramach le nótaí cuimsitheacha le dul leo, ach sé guth Diane buachphointe an albaim, níl a sárú air. Bain súp as.
This album is a portrait of a singer at the top of her game. The production is exciting yet sensitive and each song is carefully chosen with comprehensive and helpful notes attached. Diane’s voice, however, is the true highlight of the recording Her singing is exceptional. Enjoy!
Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh
It’s not often that a new voice arises out of an ancient tradition, managing to fuse the richness of the past with the promise of the future. Forged out of the centuries-old traditions of her native Donegal, Diane Cannon is a singer who brings the songs and the music played by the hearth fire of a long gone Ceilí house, to the sophisticated tastes of a 21st century audience. From Meenlaragh, which nestles between spectacular Errigal and the Islands of Tory and Inisboffin in the heart of the Donegal Gaeltacht, Diane inherited her musical talents from both sides of her family; all four grandparents were accomplished musicians and singers. As a youngster Diane frequently won competitions and she competes successfully to this day, most recently winning first place in the prestigious Comortas Cuimhneacháin Shéain Óig Uí Thuama at Oireachtas na Gaeilge. Her long anticipated debut album Idir Mhuir agus Sliabh follows hard on the heels of her single ‘Séan Ó Duibhir a’ Ghleanna’ which was released last year to great critical acclaim.
Some of the leading lights in Celtic music perform on the album; Donald Shaw, Michael McGoldrick, Neil Martin, Charlie McKerron amongst many others. There are a few beautiful duets with friend, mentor and renowned sean-nós singer Lillis Ó Laoire. Diane says “For a number of years, I have been working on and researching, with Lillis, forgotten songs of my native area, great songs, although they have never been recorded,” she says “I’m delighted to breathe new life into these old songs, rejuvenate them with modern arrangements while still remaining true to the core tradition.”
Diane is extremely proud that Mairead Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan features on the album, playing a tune she learned from Diane’s grandfather and good friend of the Mooney family; Manus Cannon. The record includes songs that are specific and personal to Diane’s homeplace – ‘An Droighnean Donn’ and ‘Toraigh Álainn’ from Tory Island and ‘Cnoc na Naomh’ & ‘Bainín Mhín a Leagh’ have been revived and given new life by the emotion, love and understanding of Diane’s richly expressive voice. There are a few songs in English which have been favourites of the family for years which she interprets equally as well as the sean nós songs; ‘Broom of the Cowdenowes’ and ‘Lough Erne’s Shore’, these are songs which she learned from the singing of Oriel singers Garrett Doran and Eithne Ní Uallacháín.
Maintaining the tradition of family unison singing, Diane is joined on on Níl sé na Lá and Mhaithrín Dhilís by her daughter Kelly Ní Chanainn, who she proudly raised, mentoring and steeping her in traditional Irish music and the Irish language. The album also succeeds in taking some of the old songs in the tradition and breathing a fresh new life into them with great understanding and empathy by producer Manus Lunny.
Diane adds “I wanted to record an album that reflects all that is important and special to me. Songs and tunes from home, staying true to my local traditional style while adding some magic with new arrangements; breathing new life into the songs.”
As the cover makes clear Idir Muir Agus Sliabh is a collection of Irish traditional songs – there is a Scottish interloper but we’ll let that pass. Three songs are in English, the rest in Irish and Diane Ní Chanainn has eschewed the Celtic ambient style for something more earthy and real. Reknowned as a Sean-nós singer, she is here supported by a cast of musicians that money alone couldn’t buy. At the core is Manus Lunny, who also produced the album, Liam Bradley and James Blennerhasset. Then we have contributions from Donald Shaw, Neil Martin, Charlie McKerron and pipes, whistles and flute from Martin Crossin and Michael McGoldrick.
There’s everything from a lively drinking song, ‘Nil sé ‘na Lá’ to the lovely romantic ‘An Draighneán Donn’ and the regretful ‘Geaftaí Bhaíle Buí’ but even here the band combine to give what could be a wistful song an unexpected drive. Two of the songs in English are ‘Lough Erne’s Shore’ and ‘The Mountains Of Pomeroy’, both of which I heard for the first time last year. The latter is a variation on the Reynardine story, rather more complex than the common versions and also a marching band tune. The third is the immigrant ‘Broom O’ The Cowdenknowes’ which I’m always happy to listen to.
Idir Muir Agus Sliabh is a splendid, multi-faceted collection of songs which Diane, Manus and the supporting musicians have crafted into an album which is at once traditional and also geared to contemporary tastes. Don’t worry about the language problem; there isn’t one. The meaning and emotion of the words are delivered by the performance and the arrangements are superb, particularly Martin and Michael’s decorations.