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Anam Communications CACD007 

Càirdeas is the Gaelic word for friendship or kinship, and the advent of COVID has affected both near and far-flung familial groupings. Such is the impact that family circles have discovered ways of re-joining familiar links, one of which is through singing, and this album is a product of such activity. Càirdeas explores the kinship between the O hEadhra and MacKenzie families located in Ireland, Scotland and Canada through song. Brian and Fionnag have explored songs from their native and adopted home in Scotland in previous albums, and now they add the Irish and Canadian parts of the familial repertoire. This imbues Càirdeas with a laid back and homely familiarity, and while this is the bedrock on which the album is built, this is also a showcase for Brian and Fionnag’s own uniquely respectful and tasteful approach.

Beginning in the band, Anam, Brian and Fionnag’s is a marital and singing partnership that grows and extends with each recording. Here, some welcome old songs get shining new contemporary acoustic treatments, like Pat Murphy’s Meadow, a Newfoundland song which was an Irish hit in the mid-80s for PJ Murrihy. It escapes maudlin sentimentality with a fresh melodic treatment, as does My Singing Bird, renowned from The McPeake Family, which is given a reading that emphasises the song’s forlorn beauty. Copper Kettle and Soraidh Leis a’Bhraecan Ùr highlight Fionnag’s fine vocal approach, and Brian sings the old version of Níl Sé Ina Lá with his customary warmth. The Pink, The Lily, And The Blooming Rose, learned from Brian’s parents Aidan and Joyce O’Hara, is a composite of lyrics from Newfoundland and Kilfinane, Co. Limerick, while the Gaelic waulking songs Hò Rò Gun Togainn Air Hùgan Fhathast and Càit’ Na Dh’fhàg Thu ‘N Fhichead Gini display the familial and outside kinships developed through singing together.

The warmth and spontaneity of the performances here only add to the strength of the joint repertoire from Irish, Scottish and Canadian roots, and the original songs in Gaelic, making Càirdeas a wonderfully rich and beguiling mix of tradition and innovation.

John O’Regan


This review appeared in Issue 140 of The Living Tradition magazine