The Irish Music Magazine – 2015

Failte Uí Cheallaigh
Own Label LK004 11 Tracks, 36 Minutes
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


The Irish Music Magazine – June 2011


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 wel 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

– Alex Monaghan – 27/5/2011

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 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 ( 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 where their Leitrim gig has some excerpts archived in their vault. To order it you can get it from and also from Custy’s Music Shop or the Claddagh Music Shop in Ireland.

-Paul Keating