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Ashaig Records ASHCD001 

This is a fascinating recording, combining a singing style firmly (and very well) rooted in the Gaelic tradition with a string quartet accompaniment. If that sounds unusual, bear with me a while, because the combination works remarkably well. This is due to the versatility and sensitivity of that accompaniment, which weaves around the songs, which are mainly traditional and are largely sung in a style handed down the generations, albeit with adaptations to blend with the music. Meanwhile, the accompaniment moves around from chamber style to trad folk to contemporary, and beyond.

The interesting thing for me is that the song and the musical input seem to each stand on their own ground, without fusing. This is not a criticism; both singer and quartet are immensely talented and doing a very good job. What we seem to have here is a situation where you’re effectively listening to two entities, each feeding their own side of the story into your head simultaneously. Neither seems to obstruct your enjoyment of the other, and the result is a seamless mood transition from tension to light-heartedness as the songs tell their stories.

Deirdre’s singing is always assured and has a rare clarity; she makes you hear songs in a different way. I particularly enjoyed Mairead Nan Cuiread – a fresh take on the waulking song – and the building of mood in Moch an-Diugh a Rinn Mi Èirigh is most effective, due as much to the four musicians as to the singer. And the concluding, modern sounding Uamh An Òir – gorgeous.

Just one gripe, which I’ve expressed before in these pages: why can’t people include song information and background with the CD? I realise there’s a cost to a separate insert, but there’s a loss of value to the listener, especially with a recording like this, where someone like me, with very little (in my case) or no Gaelic would get so much more out of the experience.

Rant over. I really enjoyed this CD, and will be playing it for my own pleasure into the foreseeable future.

John Waltham


This review appeared in Issue 137 of The Living Tradition magazine