Despite the inevitable deluge of slicked-up, overblown productions aimed at consumers of all things "Celtic," excellent self-produced CDs by great Irish musicians continue to appear, as these two stunning discs demonstrate. Ellis Kennedy is a traditional singer from County Kerry whose remote location ensures she has yet to gain the recognition her talent deserves. On One Sweet Kiss she's done everything right, from assembling an exemplary program to finding creative accompanists. Her obvious respect for the tradition doesn't rule out having fun with the material, as when a song about herding sheep is backed by swing-jazz guitar chording. But the main attraction is the gorgeous singing Kennedy disarms and conquers her listeners before they have a chance to react. She breaks hearts with just the first few lines of "Helen of Kirkconnell" before the trouble has even started.
Meanwhile, Noel Hill has been one of the most highly regarded of Irish instrumentalists since his brilliant debut recording in 1979. With much of his energy in the years since devoted to teaching the younger generation of players, Hill seems to have neglected his recording career; his first Irish Concertina record appeared nearly twenty years ago. This fine follow-up features sessions recorded over the years, backed by such notables as guitarist Arty McGlynn and bouzouki master Alec Finn. Hill proves that his diminutive squeezebox is capable both of stunning virtuosic flights and deeply emotional expression.