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Machair Records MACH008

Undoubtedly the highest-profile singer to come out of the Hebrides, Julie has a deep and continuing commitment to her native island culture, and for a good while now this has been augmented by a keen interest in other traditional cultures.

This is very much in evidence on this latest CD – the Latin title translates roughly as “other” - and from the outset there is a broader feel than just Hebridean. Some of the accompaniments have a distinctly continental flavour, and the second track on the album demonstrates Julie’s ability to slide effortlessly into another tradition – in this case the beautiful traditional Galician song, Camariñas. There are two other forays into what, for her, is another foreign tongue, when she sings in English for the first time on a recording – a fine version of Annie Briggs’ Go Your Way, followed later on by Archie Fisher’s evocative Windward Away. In both cases, these songs amply confirm her interpretive talents beyond her (until now) Gaelic repertoire. Much of the remainder of the recording is made up of material from Uist and beyond in the Hebrides, and she has selected some truly outstanding songs, all performed to her usual high standard.

I only have one slight – and entirely personal – hesitation about the Gaelic songs. They all sound gorgeous, but I find that I keep wishing to hear them unaccompanied. This is certainly not to say that the accompaniments are poor in any way – anything but – but the beauty of the words and airs is such that any addition seems like a superfluous distraction. I think this is probably due just to the fact that almost everyone else that I’ve heard from that part of the world has sung unaccompanied, and I would in no way wish to denigrate the contributions of collaborators of the calibre of Donal Lunny, Michael McGoldrick, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh among others. This CD is well worth a listen.

John Waltham

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