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CHRISTINE PRIMROSE - GrÓdh Is Gonadh - Guth Ag Aithris

CHRISTINE PRIMROSE - GrÓdh Is Gonadh - Guth Ag Aithris
Temple Records COMD2109

The Isle of Lewis has long been producing singers of exceptional calibre to interpret their unique and distinctive tradition, and Christine is no exception. She’s honed her vocal and interpretive skills over many years and several visits to recording studios, and this latest offering is remarkable for the consistently high quality of her singing and the variety of the material.

The Lewis tradition is unusual in that songs continue to be written in the traditional style, and there are two songs here that their author has asked Christine to put music to. I would defy any listener to tell these apart from the older material – a tribute to both the poet and to the composer of the music.

The subject matter is pretty much what it says on the box – songs of courtship, love and loss, and the accompanying booklet is a vital resource for the non-Gaelic speaker, containing synopses of the story in each song as well as references to Christine’s website for translations and sources for the spoken introductions. All this helps improve the depth of the listening experience, but I can’t say I’m a fan of the increasing practice of sending the listener off to a website, rather than including the additional detail in the CD booklet, where it properly belongs. End of rant.

Intriguingly, there was one track (Thug Mi Mo Làmh Don Eileanach) which I found vaguely reminiscent of Chris Jones’s singing in the Welsh language tradition, and in a couple of other places I was reminded of Maighread Ní Dhomhnaill’s singing style in the closely-related Irish of Donegal. I’m a great admirer of both these singers, so this is praise!

All the songs are sung in Scots Gaelic – a language in which I can barely say “hello” – but I can promise you that, if you have any love for traditional singing, you will find plenty to enjoy on this recording, regardless of your linguistic ability. There are three “bonus tracks” from earlier recordings, making 14 in all, and all are sung unaccompanied. On some recordings this can be a challenge for the listener, but not here. This is something to return to on a regular basis.

John Waltham

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This album was reviewed in Issue 121 of The Living Tradition magazine.