Here are some reviews of Leonard Barry's new album: 'New Road'.

5 STAR Album review - Sunday Business Post - Sunday 12th January 2014

Leonard Barry, “The New Road”

North Kerry-born Barry got the uilleann piping bug as a teenager listening to The Bothy Band and Planxty, so naturally his early influences were Paddy Keenan and Liam O’Flynn, along with Finbar Furey. But he also went farther back in the piping tradition, to Seamus Ennis, Leo Rowsome, Willie Clancy, and Johnny Doran. Settling in Cork as a young adult exposed him to the music of Sliabh Luachra (Johnny O’Leary, Julia Clifford, Denis Murphy), and a sojourn in Galway furthered his development. All of which enabled Barry to become a top-flight piper (good enough to work not only with a plethora of great traditional musicians but also singer-songwriters Luka Bloom and John Spillane) and a collector of some impressive tunes not necessarily found in the piping repertoire.

After nearly a decade’s sabbatical from music, he’s back at it and “The New Road,” his second recording, should impel us all to urge Barry not to put down the pipes ever again. Christy Moore, for one, has praised Barry for the “hop” on his regulators and the “seductive” nature of his drones, but you don’t need to know piping terminology to realize that this fellow plays with masterful control and skill. Listen to the very first track, as he skirls his way majestically through a trio of Sliabh Luachra jigs from the O’Leary repertoire, including a less familiar version of “Tom Billy’s Jig,” or a medley of reels that begins with “Gerry Commane’s” – one of those august D-major tunes that make you glad the Irish music tradition exists. His featuring of relative rarities like “The Cauliflower” or the marvelously titled hop jig “Shaving the Baby with a Spoon” should send more than a few musicians scurrying to tune archives (or maybe at least). Aiding Barry’s cause on some of the tracks is a quite distinguished lineup of musicians including Cathy Jordan (bodhran), Seamie O’Dowd (guitar), Rick Epping (harmonica, concertina), John Carty (banjo), Andy Morrow (fiddle) and Cyril O’Donoghue (bouzouki): Epping’s harmonica-playing makes for a particularly robust combination with the pipes, notably on a trio of slides; Carty moves effectively between rhythm and melody on the march “Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine,” which segues into a pair of reels; O’Donoghue adds lovely textures to the reels that follow Barry’s solo on an intriguing North Kerry fling “Kitty Got a Clinking”; and Epping, O’Dowd and Jordan ladle on the exuberance in Thomas O’Connellan’s festive “Planxty Davis.” Closing out the album is another dose of Sliabh Luachra magic, the slow air “O’Rahilly’s Grave,” which provides further evidence of Barry’s virtuosity – and will undoubtedly leave you wanting more. Add him to the list of People You’d Really Like to See Here in Boston.

By Sean Smith
Special to the Boston Irish Reporter

Trad Review
A belt of something beautiful: New Road at Whelan's

Pic by Celine Maurer: Rick Epping, Andy Morrow, Christy Moore, Leonard Barry, Conor Byrne, Seamie O’Dowd.

"What I mean by the call is the ability of a … music … to open a window in your heart … [to] allow you … to draw in the essence of the music that person is playing so that it can change the chemistry of your mind… so that it can lift you away from all the torment of the normal day’s life."

I doubt Tony MacMahon would have had a place like Whelan’s in mind when he described this ideal. And I would usually think of groups like The Gloaming or solo performance when I think about those words, but to my surprise they came to me last night after New Road’s first outing (as New Road) in Whelan’s.

I’m not the number one fan of venues with bars at the back that keep serving through performances and where some people end up talking as much or more than listening. To make matters worse for this gig, I ended up standing beside a group of twenty-somethings in high spirits and in the mood for socialising, and at first their chatting, mobile phone use and dodgy collective efforts to get into the mood of the music (stomping, clapping along, yelping and even dancing) made me consider moving. But there weren’t many alternative places to stand (good news for the musicians), and anyhow the music that both Christy Moore (in support) and New Road produced shot out from the stage with such conviction that it cut right through the crowd (distr)actions and hit me like a belt of something beautiful.

There’s nothing innovative about New Road, as such. This is straight-up trad music ensemble playing, mixed with a few lovely songs from Rick (one based on Oscar Ford Jnr’s version of ‘Down in the Old Home Town’ that Rick learned from Kenny Hall, and a folk-ified version of the Stones’ ‘No Expectactions’) and Seamie (Thom Moore’s ‘Turn the Corner’, to the air of ‘Seán Ó Duibhir an Ghleanna’, and Dick Gaughan’s song of Burns’ ‘Westlin Winds’). But it’s not anything like listening to a Comhaltas Grúpa Cheoil, for instance, a top-notch one, even. There isn’t any “arrangement”, as such, bar some instruments coming in later, or on the second tune of a set sort of thing. No, it’s straight-up sets of tunes all the way, with the odd solo or leading instrument in some sets, a gradual unleashing of a tune’s power (‘Planxty Davis’), and a slow air from Leonard (dedicated to the memory of Finbarr Dwyer, Seán Potts and to the health of Paddy Cronin).

So what lifts this above the ordinary? I think, two things … amounting to a third. First, tune preparation. There wasn’t one set that was dull in any way; the tunes and sets selected were shapely (!) and the playing was tight and varied with fabulous ornamentation on display from each musician. (Listening for those moments when, say, the flute lifted off into a variation on a phrase or part of a tune was part of the thrill: the trad equivalent of the jazz solo, in a sense, and indeed there were times when I felt like clapping particular moments of playing – not only when Rick played the Jew’s harp alongside a tune driven by Leonard). Second, communication: there was a power in the playing that comes from a deliberate desire to celebrate the tunes, a deep love in the musicians for the music that makes them want to communicate with listeners, cracking the music open like a water melon for others to enjoy. The energy levels on display in those very physical efforts were magnificent, hardly a slack moment, and held together very consciously and diligently by Leonard in the centre. Third, closely connected to that will to let the music speak: they all maintained a heightened sense of enjoying themselves that poured off the stage both in the playing, the communication among themselves and in the banter with the audience between tunes.

They’ll be playing again at The Doolin Folk Festival in June, and hopefully lots more.

May you rise with the New Road.

(It almost goes without saying that Christy Moore was brilliant, but he seemed extra specially at peace last night, playing a beautifully relaxed and calming short set that definitely delivered for the audience and for the headline act. It was really nice to see from the angle I was at his bowed head in the wings of the stage listening intently to New Road’s music and then joining them on bodhrán for the last few sets.)



The success of Leonard Barry’s 2013 album, New Road (five stars in the Sunday Business Post, most recently) – on which all of these celebrated musicians feature to such great effect – has led to an unexpected outcome: a brand new band, named after the album.

Musically melding so well in the studio and on the album launch tour, the obvious next step for these musicians was to continue on the road. With plenty of common ground already underfoot (Dervish, The Unwanted, Luka Bloom, Christy Moore), barriers there are none, and a whole new musical journey was easily embarked on. As Rick Epping puts it: “With the faint strains of music yet to be discovered, this new road is one I’m delighted to be travelling.”

Conor Byrne, known to many as a promoter, television presenter and festival curator, is of course the same flute master Conor Byrne who, since his first solo album in 1998 has been in constant demand as a collaborator (Maire Breatnach, Meabh O’Hare, Luka Bloom) and highly praised for the excellence of his compositions.

Leonard Barry, from Kerry, is among our finest uilleann pipers. He has played and taught in the USA, Europe, Asia, and Australia, and collaborated with the likes of Luka Bloom and John Spillane.

Andy Morrow is from a Co Leitrim family steeped in traditional music – his brother Tom plays fiddle with Dervish. Andy’s 2005 album with Tony O’Connell and Arty McGlynn was quickly acclaimed by many as a classic in the tradition (an “absolute snorter of a debut album” – Geoff Wallis).

Multi-instrumentalist Seamie O’Dowd is one of the most sought-after musicians in Ireland today. Equally proficient on guitar, fiddle or singing, Seamie was a member of Dervish for a few years and plays with Martin O’Connor and Cathal Hayden. He has played with Christy Moore, Liam O’Flynn and a host of others.

Rick Epping is a legend of reed music on both sides of the Atlantic. Bred in folk scene of California, in Ireland Rick was a founder member of Pumpkinhead, recorded a CD with Frankie Gavin and Tim Edey, and played with Arcady. He also plays with Seamie in the The Unwanted.

New Road’s music will include the tunes and sounds of Sliabh Luachra music found on Leonard’s album, but will now also take in songs and tunes from Sligo and America, as well original compositions from the pen of Byrne.

The Living Tradition
Private Label LB002

Leonard Barry has recently released his second album, New Road.  It appears to have been quite a while in the making considering 11 years have passed since his debut album.  We often hear age old clichés such as “good things come to those who wait” and about patience being a virtue.  Leonard Barry’s second album certainly lives up to any words of wisdom to this effect.  He brings us on a musical journey that is very close to the grassroots tradition accompanied throughout by a host of guests such as Cathy Jordan, Cyril O Donoghue, Rick Epping and Seamie O’Dowd to name but a few.  At all times throughout the recording, these guests truly compliment the gentle touches and melodic sounds from Leonard’s pipes.

Since recording his debut album, Leonard has moved to Dublin but has certainly not forgotten his native North Kerry roots as can be heard throughout this album. The opening set of the album comprises one of my most favoured jigs, the four part version of Apples In Winter, a tune which originally came from Padraig O Keeffe and associated with the late Johnny O’Leary.  This opening set almost creeps up unexpectedly at a mighty yet solid tempo.

No piping album would be complete without a slow air and this is no exception, with no less than two contained.  Both airs portray Leonard’s command of the uilleann pipes and display the beautiful tone that Leonard can achieve.  John Carty also features on the album and in particular we are offered a throwback to the days of Tony MacMahon & Barney McKenna withBonaparte Crossing The Rhine with Carty’s powerful banjo intro!  Another track of note is The Foxhunter’s Jig / Bessom In Bloom, where Leonard is joined by Conor Byrne.  This particular track for me is an excellent display of Leonard’s musical ability, comprising some lovely rolls and ornamentation with excellent accompanying tones coming from the drones.  

From beginning to end, each track encompasses everything that is Traditional Music.  This album is a must for every traditionalist’s music collection and I certainly hope that Leonard Barry does not keep us waiting as long for the next instalment.

Emmet O’Halloran

'New Road' from Leonard Barry '… to wholly beguile the listener'
(January 11, 2014)

"An English poet and playwright of considerable repute once wrote: ‘When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions’. The antithesis of those words flew into my head when I first listened to ‘New Road’ by noted North Kerry piper Leonard Barry - when superior music comes, it comes not single tracks, but entire albums. This is an album that does just that. It drinks deep from the enduring well of Irish traditional music, sipping the delights of North Kerry, the mountainous Sliabh Luachra region of Munster along the Cork-Kerry border and West Limerick, whence comes much of Leonard’s influence.

There is a positive wealth of solo pieces, duets and ensembles, across an abundance of reels, jigs slides and slow airs that weave and entwine their charms to wholly beguile the listener. There’s the energy of jigs and reels: ‘Apples in Winter/ Peataí O’Leary’s/ Tom Billy’s’ and ‘The LimerickLasses/ Johnny McGhooans/ The Laurel Tree’; enchanting slow airs like: ‘Iníon An Fhaoit' Ón Ngleann’ and O’Rahilly’s Grave’, and set dances with Mount Fabus Hunt’ and ‘Planxty Davis’. Beyond those there’s so much more. In addition to the cornucopia of music the album cover also provides the avid listener with an introduction and background to every track.

What more can you say? Familiar with Barry and his talent on the pipes? The seduction continues with ‘New Road’. Not encountered this master before? Prepare to be amazed. Simple as that. Find Leonard Barry and 'New Road' here:

On ‘New Road’ Leonard plays a set of Victor Maullaly pipes with guests Conor Byrne (flute) Tony Byrne (guitar) John Carty (banjo) Rick Epping (harmonica and concertina) Cathy Jordan (bodhran) Andy Morrow (fiddle) Tony O’Connell (concertina) Cyril O’Donoghue (bouzouki) and Seamie O’Dowd (guitar) joining him in the album.

Tim Carroll

"I'm always listening out for Pipers. Since first encountering Leonard Barry it has always been a pleasure to hear him play. His chanter is so sweet, his regulators fairly hop and his drones are most seductive. I look forward to hearing him at it again soon."
- Christy Moore

Album Review - Leonard Barry / New Road 

"New Road is Leonard Barry's second recording and it is a follow up to his debut, released some 11 years ago called "Mind the Pipes". Rick Epping joins Leonard on the recording as does Conor Byrne, Tony Byrne, John Carty on banjo, Cathy Jordan, Andy Morrow, Tony O' Connell, Cyril O' Donoghue and Seamie O' Dowd. This collection of accompanying talent sit very much behind Leonard's pipes to give a very nicely balanced recording that brings it very much into the mainstream. This makes the album a much more rounded affair and as a result it should have a broader appeal. Commercially this is a big plus because solo piping albums can have a restricted audience. Yes the sound of solo pipes in the hands of a master can be a wonder to behold. However add in some great guests as Leonard has done here and the album takes on a different hue. Together they have crafted an outstanding album that celebrates one of our best pipers in both solo, duet and group settings.

It's the variety that makes it work. A set of reels called Bonapart Crossing the Rhine/The Dogs Amongst the Bushes/Gabe O' Sullivan's features Leonard and some stripped bare banjo work by the irrepressible John Carty. They keep it simple and well paced even as they tackle the last two numbers in the above set which are reels. On other tracks, such as the hornpipes Junior Crehan's Poll Ha'Penny/Moran's Fancy, he goes solo with another well paced set that gives a clear taste of his style with great use of regulators and drones sitting nicely under the main melody. For the often underappreciated set dance he includes two. The first called Mount Fabus Hunt introduces Tony O' Connell on concertina and Tony Byrne on guitar. The second Planxty Davis features Rick Epping on harmonica and concertina and Seamie O' Dowd on guitar. With such a fine team of accompanists the risk of Leonards pipes getting lost in an array of competing sounds never happens. It’s a piping album on which he uses these resources sparingly but to great effect. The album remains focused on pipes while at the same time achieving much more commercial appeal with arrangements that provide a fuller texture and sound when required. There is plenty for everyone in here and it brings the supreme talents of Leonard Barry back into the public eye once more on one of the years best piping albums."

Tony Lawless

"Leonard Barry's new album is New Road and it is new, indeed. He is a wonderful pipe player-totally trad and totally new at the same time. An important album and a great musician are on the scene now. Top drawer all the way."
- Bill Margeson

New Road

Own Label LB002
14 Tracks, 53 Minutes 

"Hardcore piping from a man who’s been off the scene for a while. Leonard Barry released an album Mind the Pipes over a decade ago. Since then he’s moved from his native Kerry to Dublin and spent his time rambling round sessions collecting tunes and collaborators. He’s joined here by John Carty on banjo, Andy Morrow on fiddle, Tony O’Connell on concertina, Conor Byrne on flute, and several other well–known names. Leonard’s choice of material is straight from the heart of the tradition, with a bias towards Munster tunes: slides and jigs, tunes associated with Johnny O’Leary, Padraig O’Keeffe, Julia Clifford and many more Sliabh Luachra players. Some are well–known, like Tom Billy’s, The Peeler and the Goat, or The Bog Carrot. Others are new to me, at least the names: Dan Jeremiah’s, A Tailor I Am, and the evocatively titled Shaving the Baby with a Spoon.

There’s a lovely rounded sound from Barry’s new set of Mullaly pipes, best appreciated on the two slow airs. Iníon an Fhaoit’ Ón Ngleann is a powerful plaintive melody, showing very tasty ornamentation as well as haunting held notes and plenty of right–hand tremolo. New Road finishes with the great lament O’Rahilly’s Grave, played quite simply but with wonderful expression. The drones are quite prominent on this recording, with a rich bass note, but Barry’s chanter is well able to handle that. He puts the regulators to work now and then too, on the airs of course, but also on the dance tunes: The Pride of Cloonsha, The Maid in the Meadow, A Tailor I Am, The Laurel Tree and other melodies benefit from smooth or rhythmic regulator harmonies. Elsewhere, accompaniment is provided by the likes of Rick Epping, Seamie O’Dowd and Cathy Jordan from the north west, Cyril O’ Donoghue from the south west, and Tony Byrne from the east. There’s plenty more to enjoy here, from Carty tearing into Bonaparte Crossing the Rhine to Epping’s harmonica duetting with the pipes on Planxty Davis.

This CD gives every indication of a long and successful road ahead for Leonard Barry."

Alex Monaghan

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