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MAC-TALLA "... Mairidh Gaol Is Ceol" Temple Records COMD2054

From the jaunty first track to the brooding final track this latest release from Temple records is pure heaven to hear. Mac-Talla is a quintet of the finest singers and musicians that Gaelic Scotland can offer. The vocal standards take ones breath away, the instrumentation is of a standard that groups should emulate. I have long been a fan of Christine Primrose, ever since I heard her first album "Aite Mo Ghaoil" (Temple Records 1982), a fine sensitive singer whose vocal colouring brings out the emotion of those haunting Hebridean songs. Arthur Cormack's voice has mellowed, has become more rounded with better control than the voice of those first recordings in 1984 when he at eighteen years he made his first album "Nuair bhe mi Og" (Temple Records). It's difficult to realise that he is still only in his mid twenty's. Eilidh Mackenzie is a new voice to me, I missed her first recordings "Eideachd an Sgeulachd" (Temple Records 1992). She has a strong sweet voice that remains in ones thoughts long after the record is over.

And so to the group Mac-Talla which combines these three vocalists with the instrumental talents of Alison Kinnaird and Blair Douglas. If I say that this is one of the most enjoyable recordings I've heard for a long time you might think I'm exaggerating; I will say that Mac-Talla have dominated my C.D. player since I received a review copy for broadcast on BBC Radio Lancashire's Lancashire Drift programme. The song arrangements, the combination of voices as solo, duo and trio, the contrasting tracks, the perfect accompaniment of instruments make this a record that stimulates the aural senses. The songs are in Scots Gaelic of the Hebrides but do not let this deter you (the opera buffs are not put off by the Italian or German). The phonetic sounds of the Hebridean language is musical and pleasing to the ear bringing strong emotion and images to the mind. If you require an English translation a letter with a sae to Temple Records will get you a song sheet with both Gaelic and English words. The songs range from an optimistic emigration song; a hunting song; puirt-a-beul (mouth music); to the haunting lullabys and laments - just listen to track three: "Griogal Cridhe" (Beloved Gregory) and you'll be hooked, the wonderful harmonies are as fine vocal music as you'll ever hear.

The accompaniment is by Alison Kinnaird (cello and steel strung harp) and Blair Douglas (keyboards and accordian); it is supportive of the voices weaving atmosphere and superb musicianship, never interfering with the vocals but as natural as the Atlantic winds.

If you buy one C.D. this year make it this one, it will be an experience that will become part of your life.

Nick Caffrey

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This album was reviewed in Issue 4 of The Living Tradition magazine.