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For many years Ishbel MacAskill has been held in high regard by mainly gaelic audiences, and was one of the more established performers many of to-day's younger generation of gaelic singers looked toward, for material and style of interpretation. Ishbel MacAskill is from The Isle of Lewis, where strong links to the older gaelic songs can still be found, and on "Sioda", her third album, the unaccompanied slow paced style is favoured on most tracks. Where music is used it is provided by a number of musicians including, Wendy Stewart (clarsach and concertina), Ian MacInnes (whistle and pipes), Billy Ross (guitar and dulcimer) and Blair Douglas (keyboards and accordion).

Traditional and more recently written songs are included. Being a lowland Scot and not having the gaelic myself, I am not sure how literal the English versions of the song titles are. A feeling of despairing sadness can be conjured up from the likes of "My Spirit is low", "I Cannot Sleep", "I Paid Dearly for the Fishing" and "I am Sad and Tired". And there is a sadness, many of the songs are built round the sense of loss or separation from loved ones, homes or happier times. But this sadness is conveyed in the singing to a source of inspiration. Ishbel MacAskill has a voice that is clear, calming and reassured with a maturity that comes with experience. Her technique is put to good use on all the songs, and among my favorites are, "I See the Hillock", "Fair Love of my Heart", "I am Sad and Tired", "The Braes of Locheil" and John Archie Morrison's "Aiginish".

Currently there is a keen interest in Celtic music and a growing number of "selltick" recordings with wishy washy electronically generated sound, breathy cooing vocals and production based on Brigadoon-a-Glockamorra fantasy. Real gaelic music, songs and performers still exist. "Sioda" is full of real songs and music, and Ishbel MacAskill is as real and as fine a singer as you could wish to hear.

Peter Fairbairn

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This album was reviewed in Issue 10 of The Living Tradition magazine.