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MEANTIME - The Blue Men Of The Minch Birnam CD WWCB002

This is an excellent album, genuinely distinguished by its six original Gaelic songs (some extraordinarily beautiful) and a great range of instrumental tunes. 'The Blue Men Of The Minch' follows Meantime's earlier release 'The Natives Are Friendly'. These four talented musicians still have careers outside music - David MacLennan (guitars/vocal) makes sculptures out of scrap metal on the Isle of Lewis; his striking interpretation of one of the 'Blue Men' adorns the sleeve! The remaining band members work in Gaelic education in the Highlands: box player Malcolm Munro teaches primary school Gaelic in Lochaber; David Boag works for Feisean nan Gaidheal in Inverness when he's not playing fiddle, moothie, or singing; and multi-instrumentalist Norman MacArthur teaches Gaelic at Dingwall Academy. He plays pipes, bass, guitar, jaws harp and provides vocals on this album.

The new Gaelic songs are excellent. With almost 'anthemic' choruses, reminiscent of Runrig's 'gentler' days, songs such as Le Cheile (featuring the wonderful voices of the Back Gaelic Choir) and An Iatha As Teotha As T-samhradh make a powerful impact on the listener; really stunning. Most captivating of all is the Seo Seinn award-winning Grimsay Boat Day, one of the most beautiful songs in ANY language I have listened to in recent years. McLennan's emotive vocal delivery genuinely communicates, making translation unnecessary. Thugainn Dhachaigh, with its excellent use of electric guitar/flute and male/female voices, is another fine song.

Several of the instrumentals, many of them originals composed by the band members, have a joyful, playful feel about them - the closest comparison I can draw is McKerron/Shaw's instrumental soundtrack to BBC Alba's excellent drama serial Gruth Is Uachdar. Mull Reels, with jaunty jaws harp, accordion, and rhythm guitar, or Rough House and Off To The Mod, with banjo, fiddle and jaws harp bring this musical association sharply to mind. Both Highland and small pipes feature prominently too - could those Scottish small pipes of title track Sruth Nam Fear Gorma have helped rescue boats sailing between the Shiants and Lewis from certain peril with their 'rhyme, riddle and wit?' Tunes like Gay Gordons and Jumping Bean Set all add to the lively ambience, too.

A very rewarding and enjoyable CD, with several aces up its sleeve: the wonderful new Gaelic songs, and the superb range of original instrumentals.

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 59 of The Living Tradition magazine.