Catherine-Ann MacPhee,
Suil Air Ais (Looking Back)
(Greentrax, 2004)

The title of this album is in Gaelic. So are the songs.

When I was at school, Gaelige (the Irish language) was compulsory and, because of this, we often rebelled against it and refused to find any joy in the learning. Happily with age one gets freedom, and that freedom allows us to reassess that language and find its hidden beauty.

We are accustomed to thinking of French as a romantic language, but Gaelic (either Irish or Scottish) is every bit as seductive and sonorous if we give it a chance.

Catherine-Ann MacPhee, from Barra, Scotland, opens with a haunting track titled "Ho Mo Luran." The notes indicate that she first learned this song at the age of 6 or 7. A track by the exquisitely named Murdo MacFarlane follows, called "Mal na Marra" (which roughly translates as "the evil of the sea" as far as I can recall my Gaelic classes).

The album contains a wide variety of songs from the soothing lullaby "Griogal Cridhe" to the hymn "O Iosa Bi'n Comhnaidh."

If you never learned Gaelic or feel that you have an aversion to the language, put prejudice aside and try this CD. MacPhee's voice combined with the beauty of the tongue and the excellent musicians will more than reward you for the effort. The lovely insert gives lyrics in Gaelic and English --- who knows, it might help you learn the language.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 24 October 2004