Donnie Munro,
Heart of America:
Across the Great Divide

(Greentrax, 2006)

Donnie Munro will be a familiar name to the folk aficionados among you. He was the voice of Runrig for many years, up to 1997. Since then he has immersed himself in developing his native Gaelic language and culture and based himself on the Isle of Skye.

To the joy of his thousands of fans he has also been working on new material, and this album, Heart of America, is the result.

As the title may indicate, this is largely a CD built around emigration, and the tone is set with the title track, which opens the album. It is a wonderful song, written on a trip to America a few years ago. The song "Strangers to the Pine" revisits emigration and ties those two islands of Skye and Prince Edward. The slight rock feel adds greatly to the delivery.

The driving folk-rock beat pervades one of my favourites on here, "Winds of Our Time." It reminds me of those great songs of the 1970s when folk and rock were melding to draw a younger generation into the traditional canon. The chorus must be a showstopper in live performances.

Another excellent song here is sung with gusto and would make a great radio track. It is "Where the Roses." There are lovely instrumental sections but the unaccompanied singing will raise the hairs.

For those who think that only an Irishman can sing Patrick Kavanagh's words of "Raglan Road," give a listen to Donnie Munro. The slight alteration to the arrangement works brilliantly. Get on your feet with your air guitar for "Harvest Wind" and rock the rafters of the croft.

This is an album of emigration, but it not a slow lament. It is vibrant, rocking and self-affirming. In some ways it is the new face of voluntary emigration.

by Nicky Rossiter
2 June 2007

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