Top 10 Irish Traditional Album Covers of 2013

Album cover design has made a bit of a resurgence of late.  Covers are getting smarter, more sophisticated, brighter, cooler.  Anyone who remembers buying the old LP's will also remember the covers that had impact, that made a statement.
Historically album covers gave the artist the opportunity to express themselves and their music.  Covers became iconic and photographers and designers became recognised on the back of their design. Album covers in the process became synonymous with the artists and propelled their careers forward.
Their relevance in the age of digital downloads seems less certain.  What is noticeable however is the additional eye to detail.  Trad albums and their liner notes are relevant and important, especially if you are reviewing them.  Unlike rock or pop there is additional background that purchasers like to read about.  The names of tunes, where they were sourced, composers etc.

So to celebrate, here is the top 10 Irish traditional album covers as received by Tradconnect in 2013.  Rating is based primarily on the front cover with secondary consideration given to the internal sleeve.

10. Nua - BOLD

This is a 3-fold CD sleeve by Canadian group Nua.  The music is bold and so too is the cover.  The swirling red sky makes the cover stand out over a small silhouette of the musicians .  The cover is a painting by Eva McCauley with the same reds dominant on the inside of the sleeve as well.

Art : Eva McCauley
Artwork Design : GRD Printing Services

9. Burning Bridget Cleary - Pressed For Time

Burning Bridget Cleary are a Celtic band from the Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia area and play high-energy traditional Irish and folk music.  Their new album Pressed For Time features a very impressive cover with a "time" theme.  The vibrant colours in their outfits are offset against more muted colours in the rest of the shot. 

Photography and Design : Ray Baldino  ( )

8. New Road - Leonard Barry

This is a 3-fold CD sleeve with the notes on the tracks spread across the inside.  The inner sleeve only contains two photos of Leonard with the pipes.  The front cover however is a very striking streetscape,  shot somewhere just north of the Liffey at a guess.  Pretty effective.

Photography : Front Cover J. MacGabhainn.  Other photography Kip Carroll
Art & Design : J. MacGabhainn

6. Kevin O' Donnell - Deep Is The Well

Kevin O' Donnell's comeback album presents a fresh perspective on the American experience over a 170 year period as told by a multi-generational family of Irish descent.  This is a pretty impressive 3-fold sleeve with a 20 page booklet also included. There is a lot of additional photography included with a page given over to each song.  Some nice portrait shots of Kevin also included.

Photography : Al Buschauer

Design : Noah Smulkis at Ceolwind Productions

6.  Edel Fox & Neill Byrne - The Sunny Banks

Edel Fox and Neill Byrne found perfection in the music and in the design.  Picture frame perfect in an old pub setting with a nice splash of red to offset the browns and gold. In addition there is a 12 page booklet included with extensive notes on all the tunes.

Photography : Enda Sheridan

Artwork & design : Edel Butler

5. Téada - In Spite of the Storm

Téada flute player Damien Stenson was involved with this album, providing some of the inside sleeve photos.  However the impressive cover photo was taken by David Creedon.  He has a slick website for those interested, as has Damien Stenson.  A great front cover with its use of dark browns on the remains of a ravaged room with piano framing the shot.  The dark brown theme continues inside with an eight page booklet of notes.

Photography : David Creedon and David Stenson

Design : Bluett

4.  Niamh Ní Charra - Cuz - A Tribute to Terry "Cuz" Teahan

The overall package on Cuz is simply outstanding. It's a 4-fold sleeve with a 24 page booklet.  There is a detailed bio on Cuz and each track gets a page of notes.  The embroidery theme continues throughout the inside sleeve as well as in the booklet.  The cover photo of the embroidery is likewise impressive.   The most detailed album package that has come through our door, ever.

Photography : Simone Fromm, Lieve Boussauw and Valerie O' Sullivan

Design & Layout : Brian Hanlon

3. Sylvain Barou/Dónal Lunny/Pádraig Rynne - Triad

Sylvain Barou is a member of this trio and takes responsibility for the cover design. The cover photo is by Volodya Senkiv.  A great use of nature in a very vivid shot of the countryside.  This is a 3-fold sleeve with more muted black and white and sepia colours inside.  There are a few notes on each set of tunes with the Triad or trio theme continueing throughout.

Photography : Volodya Senkiv, Eric Legret, Archie MacFarlane, Con Kelleher, Lieve Boussauw and Myriam Jugat

Cover Design : Sylvain Barou

2. Fullset - Notes After Dark

This is a 3-fold album sleeve with a cover photograph that is really impressive. The photography on the album is by Conor Ledwith and inside in the sleeve there is another great shot in front of a country cottage.  A great use of colour and imagination throughout making this album one of the standout images of the year.

Photography : Conor Ledwith

Design : Brian Hanlon

1. David Doocey - Changing Time

The Photo and Design for David's album was done by Kevin Corbett from Newport, Co. Mayo.  While the 2-fold album sleeve is more limited in content than many of the other albums, the cover photo wins through.  It's use of vibrant almost painted colours make it stand out from the bunch.  Light, clothes, has it all and is a worthy winner.  David Doocey's "Changing Time" takes the trad Oscar for Design and Photography in 2013.

Art & Design : Kevin Corbett

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Comment by Niamh Ní Charra on January 27, 2014 at 13:19

Many thanks for my top ten slot! Delighted. I just thought I'd mention the musical significance of the embroidery for those who don't have the album, since it is a huge part of the design. Cuz Teahan ended up unemployed in America during the long hard years following the depression, and he survived by selling pieces of his own embroidery. Several decades later his embroidery was exhibited in the folklore section of the Smithsonian Museum in Washington. Based on his style, I commissioned a piece to feature his nickname "Cuz" which was embroidered by the lovely Máiread Delaney, who's daytime job is as Head archivist to our national theater, The Abbey! We made sure it was very 3D so the detail would show in the photographs Brian Hanlon then used for the design.

Just FYI :-)


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