Finlay MacNeill,
Fonn is Furan
(A Tune and Welcome)

(1982; Temple Records, 2000)

The collection of traditional Scots tunes on Fonn is Furan might be on any number of CDs available today. The accompaniment is standard: bagpipes, fiddle and accordion. Yet Finlay MacNeill's quietly powerful voice make this collection notable.

A native Scots-Gaelic speaker, MacNeill measures out his lyrics in a droning monotone which resembles a lullaby. His a capella numbers are soothing and nearly hypnotic in their deliberate rhythm. The first track, "An Ribhinn Donn (The Brown Haired Maid)" and the more lilting "An Talla 'm bu ghnath le Macleoid (MacLeod's Wonted Hall)" feature his unhurried style. "Tri Fichead Bliadhna 's a Tri (Sixty Years and Three)" is also exceptional, but more up-tempo.

The pipes were MacNeill's first instrument, and he thankfully manages to avoid the overused pipe tunes. Instead, he concentrates on more quiet airs. The sparse "Piobaireachd Dhomhnaill Dhuibh (Black Donald's March)" showcases both the pipe's voice and MacNeill's playing. Its slow lament makes a nice contrast to the more garish pipe tunes favored by many.

A track that deserves special mention is "Gur tu mo Chruinneag Bhoideach (You Are My Lovely Maiden)" -- a modern song written in traditional waulking style and accompanied by untraditional instruments: electric piano and bass guitar. MacNeill "leads," with two women and a man acting as the chorus. The swinging voices are offset marvelously twanging bass and punctuated piano. It is the album's finest.

The collection of modern traditional and traditional with modern arrangements by MacNeill makes this a CD that was well worth a reissue, and worth a purchase.

[ by Heather Gregg ]



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