Mairi MacInnes,
(Greentrax, 2001)

Mairi MacInnes sticks strictly to the traditions of Gaelic singing in some tracks, then blasts into something completely different in others. Sometimes she provides full orchestration for her songs, while at others she seeks a more modern arrangement. What's consistent throughout her latest CD, Orosay, is the sterling quality of her voice.

Orosay is a pleasure to listen to because MacInnes sings so beautifully, so expressively, whether singing an ancient Gaelic song or a contemporary song of her own composition. The album is a lush landscape of Scottish tradition, subtle enough to work well as background music and yet engrossing enough to hold your attention for more concentrated listening.

Joining Mairi on this album is an impressive list of musicians: Catherine-Ann MacPhee and Penny MacInnes (backing vocals), James MacKintosh (drums and percussion), Ewan Vernal (upright and electric bass), Tony McManus (6-string acoustic and baritone guitars), Iain MacInnes (Scottish small pipes), Billy Jackson (harps and whistles), Mairi Campbell (fiddle and viola), Calum Malcolm (piano and keyboards) and Mats Melin (Scottish stepdance).

Mairi and Calum Malcolm, who produced the album, are also responsible for most of the arrangements on this album, and they certainly did a grand job of providing a unified feel and flow while still giving listeners plenty of variety in styles. Some tracks are sparsely arranged, with minimal instrumentation, while others are lush and full, or feature unusual rhythms. One song even begins with a darling recording of Mairi singing the song at age 7, a moment captured on tape by her proud mum, before seguing into a new rendition. Still, the album manages to sound cohesive, not disjointed, despite the diversity. Frankly, I would have been much less entranced if Mairi had picked one style and stuck with it for long.

The liner notes contain the lyrics, occasionally providing English translations to Gaelic songs, as well as brief explanations about each song's origins or where Mairi learned it. English translations not included can be obtained directly from Greentrax.

Anyone who enjoys Gaelic singing should add this to their collection. A voice this good should not be missed.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 21 October 2001

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