AN T-EILEAN - "Skye the Island" - Mcmeanmna Skye CD01
This record has the subtitle of: A celebration of music from the Isle of Skye - and a very pleasant celebration it is too. We are in the company of Arthur Cormack and Blair Douglas so we know this is going to be a quality production, we also have Shona MacDonald and Cailean MacLean to add to the pleasure. I have to tell you that all of the poems and songs are performed in the Gaelic but this is no difficulty for seasoned travellers.
I have been an admirer of Arthur Cormack's fine singing for quite a few years now and this record is no disappointment but reinforces my impression of his excellence. The songs are a mixture of traditional and poems set to music. Fortunately the inner sleeve of the CD prints the Gaelic and English translations for Philistines like me who do not speak the Gaelic.
We have a new singer to me in Shona MacDonald with a voice as clear and pure as the mountain streams, a positive delight. She is only featured on two of the tracks which is a disappointment I would have liked to hear more of Shona, it might have been interesting to hear her in duet with Arthur.
Cailean MacLean reads snatches of poetry on two of the tracks and, I suspect, provided the words to some of the songs. Unfortunately the sleeve notes fail to give any background to the performers and songs.
The instrumental accompaniment is very good for the most part but in some places becomes bland and even inappropriate, particularly in the final track where Shona MacDonald is singing a plaintive Farewell to Skye and the keyboard comes in like some second rate night-club organist, I'm sure this is not the intended effect but alas it is the result and it makes me wince every time I hear it. However, there are many areas of good taste and skilled musicianship on the record. The pipe tune on track four is effective even though played on electric keyboard, but it is the use of acoustic instruments i.e. accordion that Blair Douglas shines. Perhaps I'm being a little bit old fashioned but I have never really taken to the electric keyboards in traditional music, although there are some instances where the instrument can be effective.
I think this record is aimed at the tourist market and as such is sufficiently mixed with authentic singing and easy accompaniment to sell well and not be a disappointment to its purchaser. Despite my criticisms of some of the instrumentation this is an enjoyable record. Nick Caffrey
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