Thursday, 23 October 2008

How Does It Fille Does Paris

So much for the hoped-for resurrection; I've had a really stressful few months which meant it just wasn't possible to post anything. Now I'm living and working in Paris until April, and at the moment I only have net access at work, but I think I may be able to upload files- let's see. There's a lot of music I think I would like to post, so fingers crossed...

Saturday, 12 April 2008

As long as the waves strike a beach or shore

Capercaillie's much-delayed new album, Roses And Tears has finally been released; the original promo title, "Call It A Day" led to speculation that it would be their last, although there's been no official word either way.

The album's songs are mostly in Gaelic, with the exceptions of a Donald Shaw original and a beautiful version of John Martyn's "Don't You Go". My favourite has to be "Seinneam cliu nam fear ur (I sing the praises of the brave lads)"; I first heard a clip in August last year and have been desperate for a full HQ version ever since. Michael McGoldrick's piping on the song is just fantastic and very evocative, and Karen's vocals are just beautiful, even if (or perhaps even more so) if you have little or no Gaelic.

Elsewhere, "Him Bo (I Am In Distress)" is very groovy and singalongable; "a racan a bh'againne (The Drake We Used To Have)" is laidback but still danceable.

Roses and Tears is the first Capercaillie album which strongly reminds me of another; it's still very good, but has a similar laidback feeling to their last album "Choice Language", except RaT has less of a dark, melancholy feel. A progression, but a predictable one.

'Don't You Go' (mp3)
'Seinneam cliu nam fear ur' (mp3)
'Him Bo" (mp3)
'A Racan a bh'againne' (mp3)

Ton coca va être froid

After 3 years away, on Monday Camille released her new album Music Hole.
The follow-up to 2005's hugely successful Le Fil, it dispenses with the drone (or "thread") which ran through that album, but the use of body percussion and vocal loops remains. This album is also mostly in English, apart from some snippets in French. I've had the album for a few days and it's not really connected yet. At the moment some of it seems to be more style over emotional depth,perhaps due to the lyrics being in English. Hopefully it'll be a grower...saying that, "Gospel With No Lord" is undeniably a great catchy song; "Waves" is lovely, and the layered choirs of "The Monk" create something undeniably affecting from worldless vocals and piano.

'Gospel With No Lord' (mp3)
'The Monk' (mp3)
'Waves' (mp3)

official Camille Music Hole website (link)

GaelicFilles3: Kathleen MacInnes

I don't know much about Kathleen MacInnes, due to the lack of an official website. What I do know is she was born on South Uist, and she is an actress,singer and TV presenter on Gaelic TV. I discovered her through a mention in a Donald Shaw radio interview in August last year,where her song "Bha Mise Raoir Air An Airigh" (Last Night I Was On The Sheiling) was played. Her voice has a very distinctive,smoky quality which was a bit of a (nice) surprise. Eventually I tracked down her 2006 album, Og-Mhadainn Shamraidh (Summer Dawn), well woresth getting. '..Air An Airigh' still sounds as great as it sounded the first time I heard it, and the album has the best version of 'A Mhic Iain 'ic Sheumais' I've heard yet.

'Bha Mise Raoir Air An Airigh' (mp3)
'Dh'eirich Mi Moch Madainn Cheitein' ( mp3)
'Ceud Failt' Air Gach Gleann' (mp3)
'A Mhic Iain 'ic Sheumais' (mp3)

Kathleen MacInnes Myspace (link)

Friday, 11 April 2008

GaelicFilles 2 (finally): Julie Fowlis

The National Mod theme is a bit out of date but I should probably finish it since I Julie Fowlis.

Julie has released two solo albums: Mar a tha mo chridhe (As My Heart Is) in 2005, and 2007's Cuilidh, and is a vocalist with the band Dóchas. As well as being known for her voice, she also plays the pipes, whistles and the oboe, and has won several awards including Best Gaelic Singer at the Scots Trad Music Awards, and the Best Folk Singer at the 2008 Radio 2 Awards.

The albums are a mixture of Gaelic song and instrumentals, with the emphasis on songs. Personally I found Cuilidh a very immediate listen, more so than Julie's debut; however, Mar a tha mo chridhe is a definite grower. I especially love "Ged a Sheol Mi Air M'aineol (Although I sailed to foreign countries)"- you will end up singing along to it, and the bodhran in it is fantastic.

It's hard to pick a favourite track from Cuilidh. "Mo Gruagach Dhonn (My Brown-haired Girl)" has some lovely mandolin from Chris Thile; It's the track that first made me go "wow" about Julie. " 'Ille Dhuinn, 'S Toigh Leam Thu (Brown Haired Lad, I'm Fond Of You)" is a beautiful, understated love song. The album's puirt-a-beul set will get anybody dancing.

I was lucky enough to go to Julie's gig at Celtic Connections in Glasgow in February; if you get the chance to see her, jump at it.

'Ged a Sheol Mi Air M'aineol' (mp3)
'Mo Gruagach Dhonn' (mp3)
' 'Ille Dhuinn, 'S Toigh Leam Thu' (mp3)
'Puirt-a-beul set' (mp3)
extra: Dóchas, 'A Mhairi Bhoideach' (from An Darna Umhail) (mp3)

official Julie Fowlis website (link)
official Dóchas website (link)

Doin' a Lazarus, hopefully

OK, I didn't mean to let this slide for months on end. A combination of a stupid reconditioned PC and now a stupid reconditioned laptop with a shit LAN card conspired against it. Hopefully it'll be up and running again once I get antivirus sorted out and sort through the piles of random CDs. Fingers crossed...

Monday, 15 October 2007

NationalModSpot : GaelicFilles 1

Once again, I totally forgot that this year's Royal National Mod is on at the moment, in Fort William. The National Mod is like the Scots Gaelic equivalent of the Welsh Eisteddfod, with competitions in singing, poetry, piping, and clarsach playing, amongst others. I was hoping to have a new Capercaillie album to post about by this point, but it hasn't materialised yet,so instead, in honour of the Mod, I'll write a few posts about my favourite female Gaelic singers.

First up, Karen Matheson,both solo and as a member of Capercaillie. The band were the first Gaelic music I came across; you can read more info in my previous post here .

Karen has released three solo albums; 1996's The Dreaming Sea, Time To Fall (2002) and Downriver, in 2005. TDS is a mixture of English and Gaelic songs, while TTF and Downriver are almostly exclusively Englsh and Gaelic respectively. I much prefer Karen's Gaelic singing so I haven't bothered to buy TTF yet; the other two CDs are quite distinct in style. TDS has more of a "pop" production, whereas Downriver has a more organic "live" feel. My favourite-ever Karen song is on the latter record, "Crucan Na bPaiste" (Burial Place Of The Children). This is a song written by the Irish novelist Brendan Graham for a character in one of his novels. The burial place referred to in the title is a children's graveyard in County Mayo in Ireland, and the song is a mother's lament for her dead daughter. Karen's singing perfectly evokes an atmosphere of sorrow, which is enhanced by a gorgeously sad uilleann pipe solo.

"'Ic Iain 'ic Sheumais" from TDS is one of many versions of this song, a battle song from North Uist. "Rithill Aill" is a mouth-music song which took me a while to get into, but once I did I loved it, due to its fantastic rhythm.

The main benefit I have drawn from discovering Capercaillie and Karen is that they introduced me to Gaelic poetry, particularly the works of Domhnall Ruadh Choruna (1887-1967) and Sorley Maclean (1911-1996), admittedly with varying degrees of success; Domhnall Ruadh Choruna was mainly a poet of war, but he wrote one of the finest Gaelic love poems, indeed one of the finest Gaelic poems full stop, "An Eala Bhan" (The White Swan). "An Eala Bhan" is a war poem in the sense that it is set in the trenches of WW1 and describes conditions therein, but it is addressed to a girl back home in North Uist -the White Swan of the title.
Capercaillie have recorded the poem set to music twice; on their debut Cascade and on 1993's Secret People . The melody is as beautiful as the words.

For a long while "An Eala Bhan" was my favourite Gaelic poem, and it's still in the top 3, but I can't really "get in to" Choruna's other work. In contrast, I love Sorley Maclean's poetry in general. Karen Matheson has recorded "Calbharaigh" (Calvary), and Capercaillie have recorded Am Mur Gorm (The Blue Rampart), which is from the sequence "Dain Do Eimhir agus Dain Eile" (Poems to Eimhir and Other Poems), Maclean's most famous work. Donald Shaw set it to music and added an English verse on 1998's Beautiful Wasteland. The poem is incredibly evocative anyway, but Shaw's music (ignoring the English verse, the purpose of which I don't know) captures the rhythm of the words perfectly.

"Crucan Na bPaiste" (mp3)

" 'ic Iain 'i Sheumais" (mp3)

"Rithill Aill" (mp3)

"An Eala Bhan" (Cascade version) (mp3)

"An Eala Bhan" (Secret People version) (mp3)

"Am Mur Gorm" (mp3)

Extra: "The Tree" (mp3)

Official Karen Matheson website (link)
Official Sorley Maclean website (link)
Official National Mod website (link)

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