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MAGGIE MacINNES "Eilean Mara" Dunkeld Records DUNCD022

Surely there can be no other music that mines the full range and depth of human emotion than that from the great music and song tradition of The Western Isles. It is a tradition that heartily combines a memorable melody with the eloquence of bardic poetry to produce a highly imagist whole which is then turbo-powered by the sweet sea-tongue for the Gaels.

The songs chosen for this CD by Maggie MacInnes embrace joy, celebration and love: these are counterbalanced by songs tinged with loss and sadness. Indeed one would have to search far and wide to match a lyric as dark, as desolate as that of "Oran na Bantraich" (The Widow's Song) which relates a sorrow-filled life after the drowning of a son and husband. Though a confident singer, Maggie MacInnes' light, young voice is perhaps not quite yet up to delivering these profound songs with the maturity that is implicit in the lyric. However, it is a brave woman indeed who undertakes such a task since the shadow of other, more famous, Barra singers can lie heavily across any young singer's landscape. I honestly admire her exquisite clarsach and voice renditions of these island songs; perhaps I'm less sure of the slightly one-dimensional, almost unsure, backing when other instruments make what sounds like their first-night entrance.

Despite these slight misgivings, I view this album as an enthralling introduction to a young singer's work: she has marked out her path, and I'll certainly follow.

John Rice

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This album was reviewed in Issue 31 of The Living Tradition magazine.