Reviews of FireWire (Print)
THE IRISH TIMES
“Máire Ní Chathasaigh and Chris Newman's FireWire takes one of the most effete instruments in traditional music by the scruff of the neck, bends it, stretches it and breathes a fire into its belly. Newman colours and shades where Ní Chathasaigh forges pathways less travelled. The opening trio of tunes is headlined by ‘Pheasant Feathers’ and bookended by ‘Bright Falls the Air’, one of Chris's originals, that doesn't so much marry as indelibly meld harp and guitar. The pair's hospitality roams free on ‘Big Sciota’, with Cathy Fink's banjo making a surprisingly subtle compadre to Ní Chathasaigh's harp. Ní Chathasaigh's sister Nollaig Casey guests with her trademark finesse on a Cuban-heeled ‘The Lost Summer’… FireWire is a complex world that straddles traditions with grace and just a tincture of danger.”
- Siobhan Long, THE IRISH TIMES, April 13, 2007
THE GUARDIAN * * *
“When it comes to virtuoso work on this ancient and delicate instrument, the Irish player Maire Ni Chathasaigh is in a class of her own. Many of the best tracks here are jigs or airs that date back to the 17th century, played with delicacy, verve and a lightness of touch that should strengthen her reputation among a mainstream audience, not just folk purists, for she is certainly not just a traditionalist. There are echoes of anything from jazz to bluegrass, with the harp matched against Chris Newman 's guitar, mandolin and bass, fiddle work from her sister Nollaig and virtuoso banjo from American star Cathy Fink.” - Robin Denselow, THE GUARDIAN, January 26, 2007
THE TIMES * * *
“If you think that an album of Celtic harp playing sounds worthily dull, you have clearly never heard the music of Chathasaigh.
Although her playing remains rooted in Irish traditional music, there is an eclecticism and spirit of adventure here that is quite thrilling. One minute she is skipping with carefree abandon through a spritely dance tune, the next she is sailing serenely through ethereal Celtic mists.
Augmented throughout by the virtuoso acoustic guitar, mandolin and bazouki of Chris Newman , their bewitching string fantasies are lent rhythmic backbone by unobtrusive but sturdy bass lines and understated percussion. The two songs that she sings in Gaelic reveal that she also possesses a wonderfully clear and expressive voice, which she might have used more.”
– Nigel Williamson, THE TIMES, 27 January, 2007
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH
“Chris Newman is probably used to suggestions that his best works have been accomplished since he collected a silver disc, but precious little else, for producing and co-writing Fred Wedlock's 1979 novelty hit, The Oldest Swinger in Town.
With Máire Ní Chathasaigh, a scholarly Irish musician, he has applied his dazzling virtuosity and wizard-like studio skills to a procession of exceptional albums based principally on their harp-guitar pairing.
Ní Chathasaigh naturally seizes centre-stage, weaving busy patterns on harp strings to such delightful effect that the occasional song, however exquisitely delivered, seems to intrude.
But Newman's contributions must not be underestimated. The speed and complexity of his guitar-playing is to be marvelled at, and an original composition, The Lost Summer, ruing long hours spent locked in recording studios when glorious sunshine beckoned the musicians outside, introduces welcome levity into worthy surroundings.”
- Colin Randall, THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, 3 February, 2007
SONGLINES * * * *
“Unplugged, but switched on”
Máire Ní Chathasaigh is a brilliant, innovative Irish harp player and Chris Newman is a guitarist of astonishing virtuosity and versatility. FireWire is a concoction with fizz: ‘John Potts’ Jig’ is particularly zingy; ‘Ginny’s Waltz’ upliftingly lilting yet tinged with melancholy. There are two achingly lovely airs: the 17th-century ‘Molly St George’ and ‘An Buachaillín Bán’.
This in itself would be enough, but what really distinguishes FireWire is the new flavours Máire Ní Chathasaigh and Chris Newman bring to the table. So in ‘Pheasant Feathers’ Newman’s rippling guitar sounds almost Zairean, while there’s something of the kora to the harp – this in a tune from Lancaster. ‘Pé in Éirinn Í’ is an 18th-century visionary song, but there’s a bluesy aspect to it nonetheless. The old-time tune ‘Big Sciota’ becomes a bluegrass gallop, with fine banjo from Cathy Fink.
They missed last summer’s lovely weather because they spent it inside, making this album. ‘Lost Summer’ is Newman’s wistful homage to the sunshine they saw through the window, and one can imagine a steel band playing it between the bar and the barbecue on a beach in the Caribbean. On the evidence of FireWire, Máire Ní Chathasaigh and Chris Newman have earned themselves a holiday there.”
– Julian May, SONGLINES, March/April 2007
ROCK ‘N REEL * * * *
“That Máire Ní Chathasaigh and Chris Newman are masters of their chosen instruments, the harp and guitar respectively, has never been in doubt. The real magic begins when they unite the two instruments with a seamless authority that is at times breathtaking. FireWire, their sixth full album together as a duo, is another enchanting collection of pristine originals, trad reworkings and choice covers that allows their musical prowess to sparkle throughout.
Ní Chathasaigh approaches the harp with the flair and gusto that gives everything she does an impressively contemporary feel and, when backed by the intuitive and sublime guitar work of partner Newman, the results are often spellbinding, examples being the expansive and flowing opener, ‘Pheasant Feathers’, and the plaintive, beautifully evocative ‘Bright Falls the Air’.
The versatility and inventiveness of the duo is evidenced in their exhilarating outing of old-time tune ‘Big Sciota’, with Cathy Fink on tow on banjo and Roy Whyke on percussion, while the Caribbean breezes running through ‘The Lost Summer’ on which mandolin, guitar, harp and Nollaig Casey’s wonderful fiddle playing produce a delightfully warm summer breeze.
Add to the equation the intense drama in the singing of Ní Chathasaigh, particularly on the traditional song ‘Bruach na Carraige Báine’, and you’ve got an album epic in scope and a collection that deserves to widen their appeal in the crowded folk marketplace.” – Seán McGhee, ROCK ‘N REEL, March 2007
“50 minutes of sparkling, seemingly effortless music which is of course the product of decades of hard work. The Irish and Scots traditions are predominant but far from the only stylistic influence showing. Newman’s use of mandolin and bouzouki evokes the Mediterranean and I don’t mean it as a put-down to say that Pheasant Feathers, with its drums and electric bass moving it forward, could easily soundtrack scenes of sunny beaches and waterskiers (should any TV producers be reading this…) and it turns out that a later track, the Spanish-inflected Lost Summer was intended to recall just that kind of scene. On the other hand, Newman’s Bright Falls the Air could easily be traditional.
Both Pé in Éirinn Í and Molly St George are by eighteenth century composers. The playing on the former (delicately sung in Gaelic by Máire) is often very ‘now’ (bent notes and all) but the latter is an elegant chamber piece featuring Nollaig Casey on fiddle. In marked contrast is Big Sciota, a nimble piece of Americana further enlivened by Cathy Fink’s banjo and Roy Whyke on drums. Read the small print and you’ll find that these guest musicians were recorded in different countries, while Chris and Máire were recorded somewhere else again, but it all hangs together just fine. Back to the tradition for An Buachaillín Bán and Bruach na Carraige Báine (another almost ethereal vocal but partly in English this time, with Newman getting bluesy in the background along with some tense riffing by Casey).
To sum up, sheer class throughout.” – Nick Beale, fROOTS, March 2007
DIRTY LINEN (USA)
"FireWire is the sixth release from harp and guitar duo Máire Ní Chathasaigh and Chris Newman, and sports the added benefit of such guests as Nollaig Casey (fiddle), Cathy FInk (banjo) and Roy Whyke (drums and percussion). There is a lovely, lyrical mix of gentle tunes such as Ginny's Waltz, Molly St George and The Lost Summer, which has an almost Mexican feel. Other surprises abound, as in the rousing opener Pheasant Feathers and the positively jubilant closer Reel for a Water Diviner. Newman is a real treasure of a string player, adding tasteful fills and gorgeously complex coloring·with guitars, mandolins and fretless bass. Ní Chathasaigh is a flawless harpist with a fine rich tone. This is a fine album by two top-notch players and has much to discover and treasure." - DIRTY LINEN, August/September 2007
“Sparkling is the best word I can find to sum up the playing of this duo in their sixth album together. Years of playing has perfected their art – whether Chris is playing guitar, mandolin or bouzouki, the brightness of his playing complements perfectly the clarity of Máire’s harp.
Both the opening and the final track, have a full sound with the addition of drums and with Chris also turning his hand to mandolin and bass. In contrast to the up tempo numbers, Máire plays a couple of slow airs. The stately and touching ‘Molly St George’, composed by the 17th century harper Thomas Connellan, is just lovely. She is joined here by her sister Nollaig on fiddle. Following on from this track is a foot-tapping great old-time tune called ‘Big Sciota’, which as well as giving Chris a chance to strut his stuff, also features Cathy Fink on banjo. The laid-back and wistfully mellow ‘Ginny’s Waltz’ is another favourite of mine.” – Delyth Jenkins, TAPLAS, March 2007
HOT PRESS (Ireland)
"A gorgeously coherent entity comprised of elegantly plucked and strummed strings." - HOT PRESS, 30 May, 2007
KELTIA MAGAZINE (France)
“Musique au Coeur”
“Depuis sa creation en 1987, ce duo d’exception a parcouru le monde. Considérée en Irlande comme l’une des harpistes celtiques les plus importantes de son époque, Máire Ní Chathasaigh s’est associée au guitariste et producteur Chris Newman. Ce sixième album allie virtuosité et fougue aventureuse tout en restant très attaché au repertoire irlandais et écossais. Entre chansons et instrumentaux, la tradition dialogue avec le swing, le baroque, le hot jazz ou le bluegrass. Eclectique et étonnant.” - Fulup Trizek
IRLAND JOURNAL (Germany)
“Die Lieder sind wunderbar gespielt, man verspürt Leichtigkeit und Inbrunst zugleich… Máire hat eine wunderbare Stimme… Wieder einmal ein schönes Album…” - IRLAND JOURNAL XVIII, 2.07
INSOUND Magazine (Italy)
“Continuando a seguire a piacere le suonatrici d’arpa non potevamo non imbatterci nel nuovo lavoro di Máire Ní Chathasaigh (“La più interessante e originale arpista irlandese moderna, così ne parlava Derek Bell dei Chieftains), che con Chris Newman anima un duo di primo piano nella musica acustica internazionale. Dopo anni de onorato servizio, si sono dati una rinfrescata e, cambiato il look, hanno portato la loro musica fuori dai confini cui li aveva relegati l’attenzione per la musica celtica. Ci sono sì arie e gighe di antica ascendenza, ma non mancano echi jazz e bluegrass, pennellate chitarristiche quasi westcoastiane, per non parlare del banjo dell’americana Cathy Fink che dialoga col violino di Nollaig Casey (la sorella di Máire), Un lavoro complesso che coniuga l’innegabile virtuosismo strumentale con la piacevole sorpresa di una rinnovata vena compositiva.”
- Gigi Marinoni, INSOUND magazine, February 2008
LE CANARD FOLK (Belgium)
"Mettez ensemble deux excellents musiciens: une harpiste irlandaise et un guitariste anglais, et l'étincelle jaillit - bien plus qu'une étincelle, car ceci est déjà leur sixième cd, paru en 2007. Máire a un jeu net, clair et précis, autant à l'aise dans les jigs rapides que dans les airs lents. Chris Newman, avec ses guitares acoustiques et électriques, ses manolines et sa basse, est inventif à souhait. Le répertoire est varié, juxtaposant traditionnels et compositions. Quelques autres musiciens s'insèrent très discrètement dans l'ensemble... Génial" - LE CANARD FOLK, March 2009
Reviews of FireWire (Online)
“Secure in the knowledge that I will never attain the lofty heights of musicianship achieved by artists such as Chathasaigh & Newman…down to the fact that I’m far too lazy…I’m quite happy to sit back and listen in awe as these two artists strut their stuff. On this, the duo’s sixth album together, they once again display the flair with which we in the ‘folk’ world have perhaps selfishly come to expect. There’s a kind of Mardi Gras enthusiasm about the opening track “Pheasant Feathers” that would leave Carmen Miranda in a state of ecstasy whilst the second track J Scott Skinner’s “The Triplet Hornpipe” with it’s harmony mandolins brings to mind the glory days of Fairport’s “Flatback Capers”. Joined by Cathy Fink’s frailed banjo and Roy Whyke’s drums on the old timey “Big Scotia” the tune is a whirlwind tour de force led by Chris’s astonishing guitar and mandolin lead work topped by Maire’s exquisite harp. Technically skilled yet always soulful, the duo brilliantly let their folk roots shine whilst letting other influences tag along for the ride. This is a recording that is a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end and I hope it won’t be another six years before the next one.”
– Pete Fyfe, FOLKING
“Stunning... The solo harp number, ‘An Buachallin Ban’, is heart-wrenching, and the way in which Ni Chathasaigh hangs on the notes lends them fantastic poignancy and emotional depth...Newman’s guitar on ‘Bright Falls the Air’ is sublime” - THE FLY, December 2006
FOLK WORLD (Germany)
“An tseang-bhean ghlé ba bhéasach gnaoi, a scanraigh mé, Pé 'n Éirinn í. - The bright slender woman of polite countenance startled me, whoe'er she be. This Gaelic song had been composed by Liam Dall Ó hlfearnáin in 18th century Ireland, a so-called aisling poem in which usually the poet encounters a beautiful woman, usually an allegory personification for Ireland. However, the bright slender woman of polite countenance which I would like to introduce is Máire Ní Chathasaigh). Actually I guess there is no need for introduction, she is probably the best known Irish harpist, at least over here in Germany. Hailing from a West Cork musical family and steeped in Irish music tradition, Máire developed her own technique to play dance music on the harp besides the odd Turlough O'Carolan tunes and airs. She recorded the first harp album ever which concentrated on traditional Irish dance music ("The New-Strung Harp", 1985). About twenty years ago, Máire teamed up with English guitar player Chris Newman whose musical background is in of traditional music, jazz, bluegrass and baroque. Their sixth album altogether, FireWire, featuring contributions by fiddler Nollaig Casey and banjo player Cathy Fink, is both delicate and subtle as well as powerful and fiery. It starts with a contemporary composition by Scottish harper Wendy Stewart, featuring a Scott Skinner hornpipe, some traditional Irish dance tunes and airs (none of it comes from Carolan), some compositions by Chris and an old time tune. Máire sings a couple of songs, the other Gaelic one is ‘Bruach na Carraige Báne’.” - FOLK WORLD (German online magazine) Issue 34, 11/07
“Harp & Guitar In Celtic Conversation”
“Máire Ní Chathasaigh (pronounced Moira nee Ha-ha-sig, in case you’re not up on your Irish) is one of the best known and most honored of Irish harp players. But if your idea of the harp is along the lines of ethereal and angelic, think again. Precise she is, stuffy and ethereal she’s not. She and guitarist/bouzouki/mandolin player Chris Newman have been having musical conversations over several albums now, and the results are always worth the listen.
Firewire is a lovely circle of tunes (and the occasional song) this time out, with Irish and Scots material along with original music as well. Of the traditional pieces, the set of “John Potts' Jig/O’Callaghan's Jig” is very fine, as is the air “Molly St. George,” with Ní Chathasaigh on harp and Nollaig Casey on fiddle. Newman’s tunes, ‘The Lost Summer’ and ‘Bright Falls the Air’ and Ní Chathasaigh’s piece ‘Reel for a Water Diviner’ are also especially worth the listening. The tracks are mostly just Ní Chathasaigh and Newman, but in addition to Casey, Roy Whyke adds percussion now and again and Cathy Fink sits in with banjo on a track."
– Kerry Dexter, FOLKWAX Issue #351, 12/20/2007
"50 minutes of sparkling, seemingly effortless music which is
of course the product of decades
of hard work"
"brilliant, innovative harping and guitar-playing of astonishing virtuosity
"exhilarating versatility and inventiveness... Harping with a flair and gusto that give everything Máire does an impressively contemporary feel...
sublime guitar work... An album
epic in scope: real magic"
"in a class of her own"
"if you think that an album of Celtic harp playing sounds worthily dull, you have
clearly never heard the music
of Ní Chathasaigh"
"an eclecticism and spirit
of adventure that is
Virtuoso playing... bewitching string fantasies and a wonderfully clear
and expressive voice"
"A gorgeously coherent entity
comprised of elegantly plucked
and strummed strings"
"takes one of the most effete instruments in traditional music and breathes a
fire into its belly...
a complex world that straddles traditions with grace and just a tincture of danger"
"a lovely, lyrical mix of gentle tunes...
and the positively jubilant... a fine
album by two top-notch players"
"allie virtuosité et
Eclectique et étonnant"
"Die Lieder sind wunderbar gespielt,
man verspürt Leichtigkeit und
Inbrunst zugleich… Máire hat
eine wunderbare Stimme…
Wieder einmal ein schönes Album"