Reviews

Rambles review of "Next Stop, Seelie Court" Next Stop, Seelie Court is a new CD of sprightly Irish music. Several of the tunes are reels, and all of them carry a timeless energy. They speed by quickly, with nine cheerful dance sets. "Out on the Ocean" is a traveling tune, featuring the whistle, while "Geese in the Bog" is a more rambling tune for guitar and banjo. Steve Holloway plays with a skilled group of other musicians, including guitarist Donal Clancy, accordionist/pennywhistler Mary Rafferty, accordionist Martin Reilly, fiddler Marie Reilly, guitarist James Reilly, banjo player Donie Ryan, fiddler Bonnie Rideout and bouzouki player Tony Davoren. Individual instruments, especially fiddles, appear quite prominently, leaping to a listener's attention. Played without vocals, instruments vary from the usual fiddle and guitar to the bouzouki and bodhrán. In "Reel O'Tulloch," Holloway plays seven different instruments. The title refers to the fairy kingdom, illustrated by the curious cover of fairies flying around inside a train. The music makes excellent traveling or dancing music, filled with rhythm and bright, upbeat tunes. It conveys a sense of old Ireland, with townsfolk dancing and fiddling to celebrate special events. This CD is a wonderful expression of traditional Irish songs, each one light and delightful.-- Rambles, written by Valerie Frankel
Green Man Review of "Next Stop, Seelie Court" Come in! Mind that you don't trip over the recently arrived CDs and books that have been just delivered by the Post. Yes, you do spy a set of CDs entitled 100 ans de musique traditionnelle. Neat, eh? Well, so is much of what else comes in. Now keep in mind that we get a vast range of things here at Green Man for review -- books, compact discs, DVDs such as the Midsomer Murders series, and even an occasional videotape such as If I Should Fall From Grace, the feature-length film on the Pogues that came in this week. (That didn't stay unclaimed long!) Some of it comes directly from the writers and musicians that we have connections to, some from the record companies, such as the new Richard Thompson CD that Gary Whitehouse is reviewing for us this week. Quite a bit of it arrives without advance warning. Some of this product is quite pleasant, some of it is quite awful. As we've said before, we don't review everything that comes in, but we review more product than one can grasp! And that holds true obviously for Celtic music -- the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly. Fortunately there's a lot of cool Celtic music being done these days, so let's discuss Next Stop, Seelie Court -- a title that might well earn it approval with Emma Bull who writes about the Seelie Court in her novel, The War for the Oaks! Steve Holloway envisions a train that has rather unusual stops: 'Stand clear of the closing doors! Seelie Court is an ancient Celtic faerie land, where folks are friendly and cool. But don't mix it up with 'Unseelie Court', whose inhabitants are far less benevolent ...best to skip that stop!' Now those of who who are strictly Irish Trad with no sense of humour should leave now. The rest of us will stay. Are they gone? Good. Next Stop, Seelie Court is an album that gets me wholehearted approval as it consists of tunes and nothing but tunes. Bliss! Just how blissful is a matter of how much you like the musicians involved, and I like this group of musicians a lot. You've got Bonnie Rideout, a Scottish fiddler who must be fey because she's so good; Darryl Conlon playing mandolin, octave mandolin and guitars; Maz Swift, 'nother fiddler who's quite good; and bassist Chico Huff from Solas. Other players include Martin Reilly on accordion, along with his sister Marie Reilly (a fiddle player with Cherish the Ladies), and Tony Davoren on bouzouki. Donal Lunny would be proud of this group -- it's just the sort of thing he first started doing with Moving Hearts! The percussionist, and the musician who put together the group for Next Stop, Seelie Court, is Steve Holloway. Born in a small town in Nebraska where I doubt there was much for music going on, percussionist Steve Holloway migrated to New York City by way of Denver in the early 1990's. Steve has a strong jazz and pop background, so he only began playing Irish music when Seamus Egan asked him to record on the soundtrack of the movie The Brother's McMullen in 1995, and later on Seamus' solo CD, When Juniper Sleeps. He has been on a number of other albums including both jazz and straight percussion. (Side-note -- I swear by all that's holy that I saw the latest Solas CD, Edge of Silence, winning Best Traditional Irish Music CD in some poll. Did the wankers actually listen to bleedin' album? It has, as its leadoff piece, Jesse Colin Youngblood's 'Darkness, Darkness', for pity's sake! Well done, yes -- but trad, no!) Now that is normally something to wonder about -- a percussionist as the lead musician in as Celtic band? There's nought to worry 'bout in this case. Steve Holloway is no silly bodhran player banging on, as Dire Straits would put it, his drums like a damn chimpanzee. He has a delicate touch well-suited to Celtic music. Steve admits that this is his first album as 'front man' but he really does show he knows what he's doing. This is a particulary interesting given that he notes on his Web site: 'When I first asked artist Ariella Huff about doing the CD cover, I had a subway scene in mind. She had been reading Brian Froud and Alan Lee's brilliant book about faeries, and suggested both the CD title and colorful cover drawing. Bravo, Ari.' Most first projects are a lot rough, less polished, than Next Stop, Seelie Court is. Why this CD works is best explained by what Steve says on his website: 'One evening I went to a pub across the street from where I was playing one night in Woodside, Queens, and heard guitarist James Reilly and banjo player Donie Ryan tearing it up. I'd played with them both, but never at the same time. They were so tight, they sounded like one player. They said they'd like to come down and record a couple of tracks, and came up with two really cool sets.' Cool! Far too many Celtic CDs sound boring because they reflected the idea of just one person. Steve allowed all the folks here to shape the album. No idea who did what as that level of detail 'tisn't on his site or in the sparse liner notes -- something I never like to see! There are, despite what one reviewer said, not 'nine cheerful dance sets'; there are but seven lively sets of dance tunes and two stand-alone tunes, 'Reel O'Tulloch' and the final cut, 'Dry and Dusty'. (It helps to have the CD on hand when doing a review.) I personally found all cuts to be well-worth hearing, but will single out these sets for special note: 'Geese in the Bog'/'Mist Covered Mountain'/'Queen of the Fair' and 'Miss Monaghan's'/'Humours of Westport'/'Bunker Hill'. There is, not surprisingly given Holloway's background, just a hint of jazziness to Next Stop, Seelie Court. If you like the sound of Na Cbber Feidh/Rare Air, or find yourself dancing to the Coolfin or Moving Hearts, you'll find this to your liking too.
Washington Post Review of Bonnie Rideout Scottish Trio Bonnie Rideout is one of the few Celtic Fiddlers to carry a full-time percussionist in her band, and it’s Steve Holloway’s work on bodhran, shakers, djembe and snare drum that give Rideout’s new album, “Scottish Inheritance”, such a sturdy bottom.  Rideout plays with the sort of relaxed agility and crisp articulation that wins Scottish fiddle contests, and she is a three-time winner of the United States National Fiddle Championship.  But a recording demands different things than a contest, and the Northern Virginia fiddler benefits greatly from the rhythmic framework provided by her latest bandmates, Holloway and guitarist Bryan Aspey. The two men establish their presence on the opening track, “Wilkie’s Footrace”, and seldom let up as the album gallops through marches, strathspeys, reels, jigs and hornpipes.  Rideout is more than up to the test, for she attacks these pieces with aggressive bowing and free phrasing that make this her best album. 
CD Baby Review of "Next Stop, Seelie Court" Steve Holloway, bodhran player and percussionist of Solas, Riverdance and the Bonnie Rideout Scottish Trio, delivers a fiery, infectious album of traditional Irish and Scottish jigs and reels for trad connoisseurs and amateurs alike. Featuring some of NYC's finest musicians, the tunes are fleshed out with fiddle, accordion, bouzouki, guitar, whistle, banjo and more, fusing the traditional with the contemporary in an exhilarating spirit reminiscent of groups such as Lunasa, Solas, and Dervish. Highly recommended for our Guinness-loving friends.
Like That, Jimmy Bruno, guitar, with Joey DeFrancesco, organ and trumpet. Bruno is another one of those talented musicians who has worked as a sideman for a host of established artists, such as Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra, and Tony Bennett, finally releasing his first record for Concord in 1992. On this swinging session, Bruno and DeFrancesco recapture the classic sound of a guitar-organ combo. Bruno's playing has been discernibly influenced by fellow Philadelphian, Pat Martino (as evidenced by Bruno's own blazing tribute, Pat's House), as well as by Joe Pass and Wes Montgomery (Bruno's own take on Wes' tune, Unit 7, mixes speedy, flatpicked bop runs with glissing octaves). From the first beat of the opening cut, E.V., this album swings - and continues to swing. Bruno is a smooth, polished mainstream soloist, whether ripping on boppy lines, toying with intervals and arpeggios, or delivering silky octaves. Check out his awesome playing on The Iguana's Uncle, Pat's House, and Like That, and his lush treatment of a ballad (on Nightdreamer)! He also composed half the nifty tunes on this first-rate recording. DeFrancesco lives up to his sparkling reputation as the hottest young organist on the block, and bassist Craig Thomas and drummer Steve Holloway provide strong grooves throughout. DeFrancesco displays his considerable trumpet skills on No Greater Love and Stars Fell on Alabama. Jimmy Bruno - a tremendous jazz guitar-player! Concord Jazz, 1996, Playing time: 60:55,*****.