Arkins's collection is top-shelf

Best of luck to all the competitors at Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann’s Mid-Atlantic Fleadh!  For those who mightn’t know, this weekend is the big event for all the musicians in the region.  Loads of young people have been preparing for the Regional Fleadh – success there means permission to go to Ireland for a chance at a coveted All-Ireland award.  The competitions, céilithe, and Hall of Fame banquet (honoring Dawn Doherty, Siobhán Kelly, Niall Mulligan, and Kathleen Collins [RIP]) will all take place at this weekend at the Parsippany Hilton.  For all news fleadh-related, including the weekend schedule, visit

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In the media player this week is “Here & There,” the sophomore effort from the remarkably talented multi-instrumentalist, singer, and dancer Eimear Arkins.  Arkins released “What’s Next?,” her solo debut, in 2018 – will this new one live up to the standard she set with her first release?  Read on and find out!

Originally from Ruan, Co. Clare, but now living in St. Louis, Arkins has an impressive number of achievements to her credit.  She’s a champion musician with 11 solo All-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil titles and extensive experience competing in all Ireland, European, and World Dancing Championships.  For several years, she performed internationally with the show Brú Ború and made several concert tours with Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann’s in Ireland, Britain, the United States, and Canada.  (She also became part of the Comhaltas National Folk Orchestra in 2014.)  In addition, she has toured or performed with groups including Cherish the Ladies, The Paul Brock Band, Trinity Irish Dance Ensemble, and Téada. 

On this new album, Arkins is assisted by a fabulous group of musicians, including Alan Murray (guitar, bouzouki), Alyssa Avery (fiddle), Kevin Buckley (guitar), Eileen Gannon (harp), Ranya Iqbal (cello), Dan Lowery (guitar), David McKindley-Ward (vocals, guitar, bouzouki), and Jaclyn O’Riley (dance).  Each one of these folks is a fine musician in their own right and all do high caliber work here. 

Seven of the album’s 12 tracks are instrumental, with many of the tunes showcasing the respect Arkins has for her Clare forebears. The music of (and around) musicians like Bobby Casey, John Kelly, and Junior Crehan is given particular attention.  Arkins also included a couple of her own compositions, “Hanging On Halliday,” a reel, and “She’s At It Again,” a jig, in the selection and both are well done.  

 These instrumental tracks are uniformly strong. “Tuttle’s/Hanging On Halliday” is a standout for me, as Arkins starts out slow and bold, growing in intensity until she finds a groove to work within.  Following the Bobby Casey tune with her own works very well here.  “Lord Shanakyle’s/Elizabeth Kelly’s Delight” is also a standout to me.  The slow air that starts is elegant and expressive and the care and lift she puts into the slip jig, the Clare tune that follows, makes it a memorable companion piece.  The set that follows that, the pair of hornpipes “Caisleán An Óir / Her Lovely Hair Was Flowing Down Her Back,” has a similar flair.  There is a lot to enjoy here from a “tunes” perspective.

  Three of the album’s five songs are in the English language and two in Irish.  I particularly love “The Hare’s Lament.”  It’s a brilliant song that Arkins handles with great skill.  The others each have their own exquisite “touches” that add to the listening experience.  For example, McKindley-Ward’s backing vocals on “Dobbin’s Flowery Vale” is a wonderful enhancement of Arkins’s lead.  (His guitar and bouzouki playing on “Hare’s Lament” is well done, too.)  And while Arkins could certainly carry “Téir Abhaile Riú” – a matchmaking song – on her own, O’Reily’s sean-nós steps that accompany are an attractive and tasteful addition that elevates her arrangement.  Then there’s Gannon’s harp playing on “Táimse Im Chodladh,” which adds a rich depth that complements the tone of Arkins’s singing voice perfectly – it’s great.

  “Here & There” is an impressive collection.  Beautifully rendered, it features top-shelf musicianship and superb variety that will keep listeners engaged.  Fans of traditional music will not only appreciate Arkins for her keen musicianship but also for the balance she’s brought to this project.  “Here & There” is a very complete feeling album – great stuff and highly recommended!  To learn more visit her website here.