The Irish Times Ticket Awards 2013: some dashed-off thoughts

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The shortlisted CDs in the “Trad” album category for the Irish Times Ticket Awards this year are:

  • Toner Quinn & Malachy Bourke’s Live at the Steeple Sessions
  • Liz Carroll’s On the Offbeat
  • Chris Wood’s None the Wiser
  • Mick O’Brien, Emer Mayock and Aoife Ní Bhriain’s Tunes from the Goodman Manuscripts
  • The West Ocean String Quartet’s An Indigo Sky

I’m not fond of these awards things and don’t take them seriously as a reflection of quality, but they do have some marketing power (snippets like “shortlisted for …”, “winner of …” are very useful in the Marketing Age), and I have some issues with a few of the albums included here that I think make this one particularly weak this year.

Liz Carroll’s new album, which I am confident will be brilliant, is barely off the presses (my copy still hasn’t arrived), and considering this is a poll, I’m wondering how the hell can readers be expected to have formed an opinion on an album that so few will have even got around to purchasing? I know the Times has already reviewed it and Siobhán Long was impressed, but surely, as with other such awards, an album should have had some time “out there” for consideration before it is included. Hands up who has bought it! Hands up who has listened to it more than once! … This album should be in a 2014 shortlist, if anywhere.

While Liz is seen as very much part of the Irish trad scene, the inclusion of Chris Wood here begs the question of limits. From the tracks I’ve heard on Lyric FM, his album seems to be another exceptionally fine piece of work (mostly songs, I think, unlike all the other CDs shortlisted), but including an English folk singer-traditional musician in this category opens up two huge markets of music that cannot possibly be ranked or judged in any meaningful way against “trad” (usually referring to Irish traditional music), it seems to me. There is another category for “roots”: would that not have been a better place for Chris’s CD?

I absolutely love Toner & Malachy’s Live at the Steeple Sessions CD and I do think it deserves to be there, but it is quite short in terms of tracks (6) and time (just over 30 minutes), so although “album” is a loose term, I would think most people would anticipate a little more content in an “album”, and considering there are so many equally good “full-length” albums (Peter Carberry & Padraig McGovern’s, to name one glaring absence, described by no less than Edel Fox as “One of the best CDs I’ve ever heard! A total gem”), I think it’s slightly cheeky to have it there.

Finally, although I think including West Ocean String Quartet’s “fusion” work while excluding so many other straight trad albums of very high quality will raise a few eyebrows, I personally don’t have any issues with it being there (as representative one of many “fringe” works that could have been included); and I can say from many listens that the O’Brien-Mayock collaboration would make a very worthy winner … of a rather questionable honour.

Any thoughts yourself?

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