Kathleen MacInnes & Laoise Kelly 

Live @ Matt Molloy’s, Westport – Review

This duo are renowned and respected in their respective celtic countries for their talent and as cultural ambassadors. Hebridean singer Kathleen MacInnes from the Isle of South Uist, Scotland, and Irish traditional harper Laoise Kelly from Westport, Co.Mayo have captivated audiences all over the world.

“The talent is obvious, but a certain kind of magic sparks between the two on stage.  Whether it comes from the friendship between them – they have been sharing the stage together for some years now – or the easy warm charm that seems to throw a glittering gossamer veil over me drawing me into the their warm glow, taking me onto the stage with them. They have made the music so seemingly effortless and soon enthral the audience, spellbound.”

The audience did not want the evening to end, or Kathleen and Laoise to leave the stage.  “It’s not just her voice,” a woman beside me said of Kathleen, as she struggled to find words to fully explain and then plumped for the simple “It’s her!”  I nodded, knowing exactly what she was trying to convey. Charisma, I thought later on, that’s the word she was looking for.

Irish Music Magazine – 2015

Failte Uí Cheallaigh – Harpo Records  LK004 

A third solo CD from this pioneer of melodic music on the Irish harp is welcome indeed, and another interpretation of the title Kelly’s Welcome. Here Laoise has gathered music named for or associated with the Kelly clan. This album is a little short, but packed with great music, much of it carefully chosen with stories explained in the CD notes. Slides, polkas, jigs and reels, waltzes and airs include many of the tunes you might first think of: Father Kelly’s Reel by the musical missionary from County Galway, John Kelly’s Polka after the great Clare fiddler and folklorist, and the slip jig Elizabeth Kelly’s Delight named for John’s mother. The less well–known Captain Kelly’s and Miss Kelly come from the Goodman collection of West Kerry music in the mid 19th century, and there are some even more obscure tunes from Mayo collections.
Laoise plays truly solo throughout most of this recording, plucking both melody and accompaniment with ease. Her deceptively light touch on some notes gives a rhythmic punch to her music, which keeps toes tapping and adds contrast on the slower pieces. Carolan’s air Mabel Kelly is a case in point, firm yet gentle, a lovely piece. Patrick Kelly’s Waltz is another highlight, charming and beautifully played. Failte Uí Cheallaigh ends with Laoise’s own tune Cailín Lus an Chrom Chinn, a dramatic lament with ringing harmonies and dissonances in the style of Carolan’s Farewell to Music. On a lighter note, it’s nice to hear Josephine Keegan’s reel Kelly’s Cellars commemorating a veritable dive and great music pub in Belfast, and another of PJ Kelly’s tunes in the shape of Father Kelly’s Jig or to give it its proper name Lough Derg Jig. The artwork is attractive too, both outside and inside the cover. If you know any Kellys, this CD is a perfect gift – and you might like one for yourself.
Alex Monaghan


Irish Music Magazine – Alex Monaghan

The Wishing Well – Michelle O’Brien & Laoise Kelly

Harpist Laoise Kelly is one of the most respected traditional musicians of her generation. Here she has teamed up with young fiddle star Michelle O’Brien for a live album recorded in County Leitrim. I had the privilege and pleasure of seeing this duo perform recently, and their deep musical understanding was obvious as the harp sparred and sported with the fiddle. Stripped down to two instruments, their music is still far from simple. Both ladies combine rhythm and melody in their styles, allowing them to chop and change roles during their performance. The result is something special, as you can hear on this recording.

The opening jigs are already enough to captivate the ear, delicate bowing over the powerful long strings of the harp. Laoise moves in on the melody for The Castletown Connors and Paddy Hudai’s, ending the first set in mighty form. Reels follow, and the first of several tunes which were out of fashion when I was younger: The Silver Spear. This grand old reel is played with gusto here, as are Miss Monaghan, Devaney’s Goat and The Wind that Shakes the Barley later on: it’s good to see all of these back in the pale. Another pleasing aspect of this CD is the high proportion of slower tracks – four in all, and every one a beauty. The Fairy Queen and Lord Mayo have been recorded a few times, including great arrangements by Planxty and Lúnasa: here they impress as fiddle showpieces. The harp classics Is Galar Cráidhte an Grádh and Though I Go to my Bed are perhaps less well know in Ireland, but equally beautiful on this recording.

The dance music is just as fine. The likes of The Drunken Landlady, The Stack of Barley, Dowd’s and Tommy Whelan’s are all tight and perfectly paced. Micheál Ó Suilleabháin has a piece called Must Be More Crispy: well, they don’t come any crispier than An Seanduine Dóite, also known as The Campbell’s are Coming, its staccato plucking from Laoise matched by Michelle’s rapid-fire bowing. The title track is a jig by Michelle’s teacher, the great Tommy Peoples, paired with a lovely version of The Battering Ram which has long been a favourite of mine. Laoise and Michelle close with a Scott Skinner strathspey in fine Donegal style, and a couple of classic Irish reels, ending a highly enjoyable live recording which might well be one of this year’s best Irish releases. For samples and more information, try www.laoisekelly.ie

IrishCentral.com – Paul Keating

The Wishing Well – Michelle O’Brien & Laoise Kelly

Last year at the Baltimore Fiddle Fair there was a captivating Saturday afternoon concert in the sundrenched Dun Na Sead Castle overlooking the harbor. Considering the historic site went back to the 13th century and one of the instruments was the national symbol of Ireland, the harp, it was notable for that alone.

But even more memorable was the superb dual playing of harpist Laoise Kelly and fiddler Michelle O’Brien on the day which touched me as much if not more than other of the other concerts on the weekend as it was all the more haunting in the main hall of the restored castle.

In my mind, I was sorry that I hadn’t asked for permission to record it that day because the pairing was so magical and well matched, but Kelly and O’Brien mentioned later that a recording was in the offing.

So it was with great delight that while Kelly was over recently for the show Peter and Wendy that she thought to mail me a copy of the new CD that she and O’Brien produced early this year.

Called The Wishing Well, it is actually a recording of a live performance at the Dock in Carrick on Shannon in Leitrim last October, so it conveys that extra bit of adrenalin and spark that makes their appearances together so exceptional.

That concert was aired online on Livetrad.com and I remember viewing it at the time, still hopeful that a recording would ensue from the talented tandem. And so it has on their own label (www.laoisekelly.ie) containing 11 gorgeous tracks with one of the finest harp and fiddle musical conversations you are likely to hear anywhere.

Kelly, who hails from Westport, Co. Mayo, is already recognized as one of Ireland’s foremost harpers with two solo harp recordings, the latest, Ceis, released last summer just after her well-received appearance at the Catskills Irish Arts Week.

O’Brien is another one of the talented music students to come out Frank Custy’s Toonagh primary school in Clare whose fiddle-playing later came under the further tutelage and sway of the iconic Donegal fiddler Tommy Peoples and his daughter Siobhan who lived nearby in Kilfenora.

O’Brien moved to Dublin and played in epic band called Providence and also did a tour with the Bumblebees where she met with Kelly, one of its founding members, and they maintained a close relationship.

There is a style and attack to their playing as individuals that matches up very well in their playing together, resulting in a beautiful and graceful recording that will appeal to both the serious traditional music fan and the casual listener. You’ll feel like a king or a queen in your own castle when you listen to the CD and relish the sensitive and soulful pair and a great selection of tunes.

You can sample their playing online at www.Livetrad.com where their Leitrim gig has some excerpts archived in their vault. To order it you can get it from OssianUsa.com and also from Custy’s Music Shop or the Claddagh Music Shop in Ireland.

The Living Tradition Review – Feb 2011

Ceis – Laoise Kelly

At the forefront of Irish harp music for a couple of decades now, from early days with The Bumblebees to her career as a soloist and tutor, Laoise Kelly is one of the most respected traditional musicians of her generation. I had the privilege and pleasure of seeing her perform recently with the hugely talented young fiddler Michelle O’Brien, and Laoise’s deep musical understanding was obvious as the harp sparred and sported with the fiddle. On this second solo CD, she demonstrates prodigious technique and feeling for the tunes: Joe Cassidy’s and Beautiful Gortree are clear examples, Tommy Peoples reels which make stunning solos. And when I say solo, I mean solo: there’s nothing but harp on this album, if you ignore the birdsong on An Lun Dubh. As well as challenging dance tunes, there are also several tracks which come from the core harp repertoire: The Honourable Thomas Burke, Achill Air and others.

Ceis (pronounced Kesh) is the Irish name for the spellbinding effect of the harp in legend, and sometimes in real life: one reason why the harp is considered a magical instrument, beloved of the faery folk, symbolic of Irish spirit and mysticism. There are touches of this misty-eyed view here, on the ancient pieces Is Galar Cráidhte an Grádh or Separation of Soul and Body, but most of this recording is much more down to earth. Toureendarby Polka opens a set of rollicking dance tunes from down the country, and The Battering Ram ends a trio of swaggering jigs to set any toes tapping. The virtuoso treatment of The Spey in Spate betrays Laoise’s fondness for Scottish and Cape Breton music, also evident in her adaptation of adopted Cape Breton fiddler Jerry Holland’s jaunty jig Malcolm’s New Fiddle and John Morris Rankin’s classic Hull’s Reel. Both Jerry and John Morris are no longer with us, but it’s great to hear their compositions transposed to the harp. Ceis certainly weaves a spell, and will enchant any harp enthusiast: www.laoisekelly.ie has samples and further details.

Alex Monaghan

Irish Music Magazine – review  Dec 2010

The word Ceis is embedded in historical context yet all the while retains its ambiguity of meaning leading us to make our own observations on how the word relates to the fiery yet fluid harping of Laoise Kelly in her latest release. Laoise provides the historical fodder both in her sleeve notes and her mystical, melodious finger style and attributes her own take on the word as the magic or draíocht of the harp. I truly concur.

Having previously brought the harp to the fore-front of modern traditional music with her debut solo CD Just Harp, Kelly once again provides a fresh approach to the image of the National Symbol as an instrument with a vivacious translation of older and equally more modern tunes. Take the Toureendarby Polka set where her lively fingers dance into Nell Mahoney’s Polka with agile emphasis. The string movement pays an enigmatic homage to the legendary composer Turlough O’Carolan in The Honourable Thomas Burke and, later on, the definitive notes gain momentum in the All Alive set which displays a vitality and verve that is infectious.

It’s not all animated. In fact that’s the brilliance of the track layout as it highlights Kelly’s ability to draw you in amongst the strings. Achill Air encases the raw melancholy of the moment then suddenly the Tommy Peoples’ Beautiful Gortree has you tapping your feet with vigour. Siobháinín Seó, an ethereal lullaby from the Goodman Collection, is elegant in its rendering and a fitting finale.

Ceis has a strong connection with the raw wildness of the windswept Achill Island and Kelly draws these metaphors out thoughout the album. Laoise Kelly’s expertise and obvious grá for the instrument has re-ignited the flame within the harp tradition, and Ceis is a credible testament to this.

IRISH TIMES Review 3/9/10

Harpist Laoise Kelly lets her instrument do some serious talking on this long overdue second solo album. Taking as her title, Ceis, meaning the harmonised tones or tune of the instrument, Kelly brings a clear-headed, uncompromising approach to her calling card, jettisoning any notions of the harp as an effete instrument. Of course, there’s fragility to be found lurking in the deep corners of the unlikeliest tune titles such as With Her Dog and Her Gun, but listen to how Kelly appropriates the Tommy Peoples’ reel (Joe Cassidy’s) and the Natalie MacMaster reel (Frank Gilruth), and you’ll hear a musician unwilling to be fettered to conventional notions of how to meld a tune to its instrument. An elusive lightness of spirit pervades Ceis too, hinting that Kelly is still utterly and completely in thrall to the music.

Siobhan Long.

Irish Times Review

Laoise Kelly: Just Harp (Independent Release)

There is something extraordinarily winsome about this album from one-third of the Bumblebees. Kelly virtually reinvents the instrument with her rhythmic and melodic intricacy, her syncopation and undulating chords and harmonies – whether on measured airs like Bill Whelan’s The Coast of Galicia, O’Carolan’s Farewell, or her oddly chiming hornpipe, Putting It Off; or the infectious lift she brings to the rousing dance melodies, driving the harp far into the dizzy vernacular. No matter how gossamer the sound, she’ll have you swaying in your bath-chair with her profound musicality. The most personable piece of solo music I’ve heard in quite a while.

Mic Moroney

Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange


The harp is a much maligned instrument, probably because of its association in years gone by with sopranos and its current widespread use in new age music. But it has been around almost since the beginning of time and is common to many cultures and traditions. There must be a reason for that. Laoise Kelly knows the reason.

If you enjoy sweeping, ethereal glissando effects and a dainty plinky-plonky sound, this album is really not for you. There is such body and depth in Laoise Kelly’s playing that at times you feel there must be more than one musician playing on this solo album, as her strong melody lines are accompanied by intricate chordal accompaniment and powerful bass runs. Kelly has mastered her instrument completely.

Another exceptional element on this recording is her sense of arrangement. She digs down into the very roots of the tunes, adapts them for her instrument and presents them in a traditional setting. By drawing on the emotion and character of the melodies, Laoise’s harp takes its place alongside fiddle, accordion and flute in the echelons of traditional Irish melody instruments, sounding perfectly in place.

President Garfield’s Set, which opens the album, sets the mood: a dancing collection of three tunes played as reels, in which you could almost imagine Laoise as some kind of octopus – so many things appear to be happening at once. The album then leads into a waltz medley of two tunes, one classical, the second by Daithi Sproule, which literally flow around the room. Other material comes from the repertoire of pipers, fiddlers, from Canada and Ireland, and from the pen of Bill Whelan, as well as one of her own tunes along with, almost inevitably, a couple associated with Turloch O’Carolan.

The one weak point on the album comes with the Whelan composition, The Coast of Galicia. Just at the moment you are thoroughly under her dancing spell, she slows the pace and alters the mood with this, the only contemporary styled piece of music included. Although she displays great feeling and in spite of it being a strong, intriguing tune, I would rather revel in the swinging involvement of the preceding Brendan Ring’s, a set of tuneful jigs with dynamic chord progressions, or the cascading sounds of The Lion which follows.

The prospect of a 41-minute album of one instrument might not seem appealing to everyone, but Laoise’s playing is involving and inviting, the choice of material generally spot on and the production warm and clear.

Laoise Kelly has made her mark playing on a number of recordings over the last few years, as well as with her band, the Bumblebees. She is probably the most important harper currently playing and this album only enhances her reputation. By taking a ‘whole harp’ approach to her music, she has produced a highly enjoyable album.

by Jamie O’Brien

Just Harp Launch Review

Laoise Kelly bounced onto the stage of the Roisin Dubh following a warm introduction by Sharon Shannon.  It was to be another night displaying the current female domination in traditional music we’ve become used to particularly in Galway. The audience (predominantly musicians) were recovering from and still talking about the gig the previous Thursday night with Steve Cooney, Dermot Byrne and Dezi Donnelly. The recent debut of Sharon Shannon’s new band was foremost in my mind as I watched the evening’s entertainment unfold, especially when the Bumblebees took to the stage.  The sight of four fiddles across the stage yet again, and everyone on the stage a woman ‘a far cry from the quiet concertina tune beside the fireplace’ which was the woman’s place in times gone by!

It’s all changed now, and Laoise Kelly proves a formidable challenge to the music world.  She is a slight figure, always jolly, a bit mad too betimes, and as a quarter of the liveliest female group to hit the traditional scene, (The Bumblebees) I realised were only to hear a fraction of her prowess.  Alone for the first set of the night, she turned the often sedate harp into an instrument alive with the mirth and gaiety of dance music.  It serves as synth, bass and virtuoso solo instrument in her sure and confident hands.  She ably changes tunings, syncopates, harmonises and above all plays a stunning melody line, all in the same breath, or sweep of arm.  Paddy Cafferkey who fashioned her harp must be smiling at the depth of expression Laoise extracts from its timber and wire.

Her tunes come from international sources as well as the familiar jigs and reels, but she has trouble remembering the titles “go buy the CD if you want to know the names” she says!  Just Harp is Laoise’s first solo outing.  It’s a completely solo effort from the totally unaccompanied music to the CD issue and label all her own work!

She’s not all wrapped up in O’Carolan music either like many harpers are, far from it in fact, it’s tunes all the way and fine lively ones at that.

The main showcase over, Laoise was joined on stage by Mirella Murray on piano accordion, piper Jarlath McTiernan, and singer Mark Clement.  Clements’ The Beacon was beautiful both in itself and in his delivery.  It proved a handsome contrast to the predominantly instrumental nature of the evening. It was then the turn of Mary Shannon and Steve Cooney who crooned Cheek to Cheek gently across at Laoise while they were preparing to do their thing.  What voices!  The Bumblebees all talk and laughter sat in together comfortably for a few joyful sets.  Liz Doherty seemed about to dissolve into fits of laughter practically all the way through, and when Sharon Shannon joined then, she and Laoise  took

up fiddles alongside Liz and Mary leaving Colette O’Leary carrying the remaining instrumental can!  It’s no wonder the Scots are so fond of fiddle orchestras.

Joe Naughton danced delightfully and spontaneously along with another gentleman in the audience.  Fun was the order of the day, or should I say night, the encores and applause made us all late to our beds.

Laoise has no plans to tour alone, she’s busy with the bees and was heading off on a harp tour with harpers from England, Scotland and Wales the following week, all women again, imagine the craic!  She credits her parents with cultivating her interest in music and says she “always fancied the harp”.  Under the shadow of Croagh Patrick there must have been some music in the Kelly household when she was growing up.  Share a bit of that Mayo spirit on Just Harp, distributed

through Gael Linn.

Ita Kelly

Taplas – Wales

Laoise Kelly Just Harp LK001

Laoise Kelly, from Co.Mayo, employs no guest musicians at all. As the album title tells us, it is Just Harp…or, more accurately, it’s just the most exquisite harp imaginable. Although still in her twenties, Laoise’s highly developed and individual style displays a remarkable maturity.

What characterises her approach, in particular, is her incredibly inventive left hand, which she uses to create wonderfully rhythmic and totally un-harp-like walking bass lines. She’s no slouch with the right hand, either, as she coaxes and caresses strong, but oh so gentle, melodies out of those strings.

From the opening set of slightly unorthodox hornpipes – Brendan Mulvihill’s Compliments to Sean Maguire, The Saratoga and President Garfield’s – you know you’re on to a winner. Much of the material is Irish in origin, though Laoise nods, occasionally, in the direction of Cape Breton with tunes like The lion and Charles Sutherland, which came from a collection published by Jerry Holland. Picking highlights is impossible; Laoise’s lights never dim and the wide variety – from Bill Whelan’s evocative Coast of Galicia, through her own Putting It Off to the more familiar Carolan’s Farewell – makes for a collection that holds the attention throughout.

Don’t Just Harp. Just get it! New talent like this is a rare commidity.

Keith Hudson

The Living Tradition, Scotland

Apart from being a brilliant musician, Laoise Kelly has perfect eyesight; or so I surmised as I tracked my reading glasses to earth in the pocket of my fishing jerkin – normally only needed for tying on very small flies in dim light – in order to read the notes on the CD sleeve; faint, tiny cursive script over a patterned background is not the best way to convey information. But that complaint aside, this is a grand album and the notes are worth the trouble.

Laoise is 25, with an impressive CV; briefly, she has played just about everywhere with anyone who counts; Sharon Shannon, Kate Bush, Mícheál Ó Suilleabháin – with Donal Lunny to write the sleeve notes of her first album. Most recently she has been playing with the all-female Bumblebees, who have been causing quite a stir in the Irish scene.

This solo showcases a breadth of styles and moods, which is nevertheless wholly, Irish traditional, although the sources vary from American Irish to Bill Whelan’s “Seville Suite” to Laoise’s own compositions. The subtlety and emotional maturity of the playing mark out the experience packed into those 25 years; the exuberance is pure teenager! Turn the stereo up loud and listen to the tapping foot behind the syncopated hornpipes; keep it up loud for the slow airs and appreciate “the sharp point of attack of each note, the soft rounded tone that follows” – Donal Lunny is better fitted to describe the technique excellence; personally, I just look forward to seeing Laoise play live. Unlike then, this CD will join the small but select collection of purely instrumental collections that I never get tired of playing.

Corinne Male




The Rough Guide to Irish Music



“Triplets made in Heaven”, Derek Bell of The Chieftains once remarked on hearing Laoise Kelly, not, of course, suggesting that Laoise had a couple of sisterly look-alikes, but simply describing the quality of her playing. Born in Westport, Co. Mayo, in 1973, Laoise studied music at Maynooth and University College Cork and has since become one of Ireland’s foremost traditional harpers. Known in part through her membership of the Bumblebees, Laoise’s solo career has encompassed a large number of recordings, including releases by Dónal Lunny, Sharon Shannon and the Ní Dhomhnaill sisters. She has also become widely known to television audiences through appearances in A River of Sound and Eurovision, played in Bill Whelan’s Seville Suite with RTÉ Concert Orchestra and toured the US and Australia in performances of Charlie Lennon’s Famine Suite. Building on the pioneering efforts of Máire Ní Chathasaigh, Laoise has redefined the harp’s potential, moving it a step nearer its reinstatement as a traditional instrument. Through sheer talent and technical brillance she has transformed it into a conduit for her remarkable interpretations of her dance music. Her 1999 solo album, Just Harp, simply oozes flair and gaiety with sparkling melodic lines, resonant chords and a subtle use of the bass strings to create harmonic richness while maintaining an almost unstoppable rhythm. All of this is encapsulated in her extraordinary playing of the jigs “The Yellow Wattle/Trip to London/Trip to Brittany” where she plays a walking, syncopated bass line that some jazzers would die for.

Just Harp – Stylish and stunning music from a truly original musician.

Geoff Wallis and Sue Wilson



The harp has for long been a powerful icon of Irishness. When the United Irishmen set out in the eighteenth century to ‘break the connection with England‚ the symbol of their political philosophy was the harp and they proudly proclaimed that it is new strung and shall be heard.

Before the recent advent of the curious and dyslexic figure seven, Guinness and the harp were inextricably linked and we all know too well the harp on the brown envelope, which can be the voice of doom from the revenue.

Curiouser and curiouser then, as Alice would say, that the harp has not played as full a part as it might in the resurgence of Irish music that has grown like a mighty wave since the sixties. Did its connection with the old Irish aristocracy mean that it did not translate easily to these democratic modern times?  Whatever the reason or reasons this CD from Laoise Kelly may be a small but significant step towards changing all that.

Eleven tracks show an exuberant and innovative talent which catches the spirit of the modern Irish music movement in a way that few harpers have done to date.

There is a flexibility of rhythm and phrasing in her playing that is light and bright and gives her the scope to explore the music in a way that is fresh and twinkling and shows the harp off in a completely new light. Tracks that stand out particularly are President Garfields which includes four tunes all of which started life as hornpipes but come out quite differently here, three jigs written by Uilleann Piper, Brendan Ring under the title Brendan Rings and a most magnificent rendering of Carolan’s Farewell To Music.

This is a wonderful sample of the formidable talent of Laoise Kelly who has much to offer now and to the development of Irish music in the future.

Cáirde na Cruite newsletter

“Any News from the west for the current newsletter?” says Aibhlín. Yes, celebratory news from Galway with the launch of Laoise Kelly’s solo album “Just Harp” at the Róisín Dubh on Monday last 22nd February.

Laoise Kelly, not just another harper, hails from Westport and at the age of 25 has an impressive recording and performing career behind her. She is a founder member of the all-female group The Bumblebees and All-Ireland champion.

The atmosphere in the Róisín Dubh was heightened by an air of confident expection and anticipation of a great night’s music. Nobody was disappointed. Laoise launched into the opening track on her CD. A sparkling set of reels bounced along with fluency and zip followed by waltzes, jigs and an air – “The Coast of Galicia” by Bill Whelan.

Laoise’s music is contemporary, vibrant and eclectic, a melting pot of influences, all reflecting her impressive and varied musical life to date. Every note was finely tuned and judged. She plucked notes with a confident air of mastery, releasing them ringing and resounding in a complex pattern of rhythms. Not having heard Laoise play for some time, I was struck by her intelligent and mature approach. Her playing was characterised by the clear point of attack of each note, the clarity of rhythmic precision and control of the bass notes by damping them as she plays the next notes. The rippling effect of her rapid triplets enhanced the precision and ease of the overall musical performance.

The evening flowed on with duos and trios, Laoise calling on old friends from Scoil Éigse and Fleadh Cheoil days. A rendering of her own composition “Putting it Off” and a couple of reels with Mary Shannon on mandolin  and Steve Cooney on guitar leaped out of the evening with the light airy and magical feel of strings together. The night was rounded off with the rich sound of The Bumblebees in full flight and there was no going home ‘til morn!

Laoise’s CD “Just Harp” is distributed by Gael Linn and available in all the music shops.

Kathleen Loughnane

Arts West Magazine

Kathleen Watkins, Deirdre O’Callaghan and all the dear Spinning Eileens may still be charming the blue-rinse Yanks and mead-swilling Eurotourists in stone castles, but Laoise Kelly is telling the true story around Galway and on her CD Just Harp.

Just Harp is exactly what is says it is, with no plethora of established musicians throwing their weight for support and ending up with that cliched 90’s trad sound. To boot Laoise is a fellow townie of mine from Westport, and it gives me a great sense of pride that she has achieved so much in such a short time.

Laoise has taken the harp, with a little help from one Máire Ní Chathasaigh, out of the castles and back to its rightful place in Irish trad music, where driving hornpipes like President Garfield’s sit alongside the beautiful Carolan’s Farewell. She reinvents the harp with impeccable ornamentation, walking bass lines, steady rhythms and wonderful harmonies. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in the set of reels The Trip, where reels are played at full speed with consummate ease. Princess Beatrice, learned from Siobhan Peoples, is a beautiful, stately piece that transcends the tradition, followed by the well-known Dowd’s favourite.

Just Harp is an album which should not be consumed all in one go. Instead the listener should dip in occasionally and sample the sheer brilliance in small doses. In this way one’s life will be prolonged and humanity will edge closer to solving the great mysteries of life.

Tony Reidy