First of all, we are starting at number 19 because Van Morrison's two records of 2017 tied for 21.
An other interesting thing is that the entire nine records in the section have all Irish connections. Only Stephen Fearing and Noel Gallagher are not born on the island. Fearing though went to school in Cork. Gallagher claims Irish roots BUT Who Built The Moon was recorded in Belfast with Belfast boy David Holmes producing!
19. DUKE SPECIAL - HALLOW
Two collaborations in 2017 and both in my Top 20. Here’s the one where he wrote songs to the poems of Belfast’s finest poet Michael Longley. Longley even appears on The Ice Cream Man.
My review said: If you want a wee bit more thought and literary brilliance with your music, then the Duke Special/Michael Longley collaboration is just for you!
18. THE ORPHAN BRIGADE - HEART OF THE CAVE
Glenarm’s Ben Glover and his merry band of top notch Nashville Orphans go underground, literally, in Italy to make a sweet record of spirituality and mortality.
17. BEKI HEMINGWAY - WHINS AND WEATHER
Beki moves from Denver to Gorey, battles cancer and makes her most exquisite record yet!
My review said: Whins and Weather is a book of Psalms. There is doubt and hurt and faith and celebration. If Maria McKee had made the follow up to You Gotta Sin To Get Saved that we all wanted it might have sounded a whole lot like this!
16. NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS - WHO BUILT THE MOON?
I am no fan of Oasis but Noel’s High Flying Birds have caught my ear. When he came to Belfast and allowed David Holmes to rejig his sound, I finally pressed like!
15. STEPHEN FEARING - EVERY SOUL’S A SAILOR
I have been a Fearing since he was the unknown support act at Janice and my very first date in 1989. I think this has to be the Canadian with Irish connections’ most complete record.
My review said: There will few collections of songs released this year as consistently strong, across the record, as Every Soul’s A Sailor. There is a spiritual pearl to Fearing’s songs, hidden secrets, indeed, between the lines. His songs have a soul nurturing quality that is lacking among his peers.
14 IMELDA MAY - LIFE LOVE FLESH BLOOD
I stunning reinvention.
My review said: Us Irish fight above our weight when it comes to singers like Imelda May and records like Life Love Flesh Blood. Imelda might have Mary Coughlan in her head as she takes this new direction. It’s certainly got Coughlan’s Irish realism, strength of womanhood and power of vocal emotion. It is exciting to see where it might go from here.
13. ANTHONY TONER - INK
Northern Ireland writer Toner crafts classic songwriter songs.
My review said: Ink is lovely in love and mood and lyric. Put it on at the end of a long day, even a long difficult day, and use it to reflect and allow its soulfulness to wash over you.
12. MALOJIAN - LET YOUR WEIRDNESS CARRY YOU HOME
Top 5 last year with a record made in Chicago, here they are again, this time recorded in that rock capital - Rathlin Island.
My review said: Malojian are a local treasure. That they are ours and not from somewhere in Illinois or Minnesota. Goodness I am thrilled. They are currently ploughing a fertile, prolific imaginative furrow… or in “Armaghgedon” you might say the orchard has never been so ripe with the fruit of musical invention!
11. ULAID & DUKE SPECIAL - A NOTE LET GO
Duke’s second in the Top 20 and another collaboration. This time he creates something similar to The Gloaming, with Irish trad band Ulaid. They take on Belfast, Ireland and the world with songs of dying dogs, shipyards and blackbirds over the River Lagan. Ambitious and splendid!