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CLIAR - "MacMeanmna Records" - SKYECD 14

Cliar is a Gaelic word pertaining to matters poetical so it seems fitting to wax lyrical about this album.

In its relatively short lifetime the Skye-based MacMeanmna label - under the guidance of Gaelic singer and Fčisean nan Gŕidheal Development Officer Art Cormack - has assembled a fine catalogue of mostly Gaelic music but this may well be their best release to date. Subtitled "traditional and contemporary Gaelic song and Highland music" it features Cliar, who are a sextet of singers and musicians. In reality, however, they're akin to a concert party with each member more than capable of virtuoso solo performances. The featured singers are Mary Ann Kennedy, Maggie Macdonald and Art himself, with instrumental input from Ingrid Henderson on piano and clarsach, fiddler Bruce MacGregor and guitarist Chaz Stewart.

Produced by Cliar and Nick Turner at the increasingly popular Watercolour Studios in Ardgour, a lot of work and inspiration has gone into the arrangement of these songs and instrumentals and it's definitely unfair to single out any favourites for there isn't a weak track on the album.

If you thought Gaelic music was dull, boring and tuneless here's an instant cure for your melody malady. The sleeve notes give special thanks to the much maligned Scottish Arts Council for making Cliar a reality; let's hope they can run to a nationwide tour as soon as possible. Excellent stuff!

Alan McIntosh Brown

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This album was reviewed in Issue 38 of The Living Tradition magazine.