various artists,
Gaelic Women
(Greentrax, 1999)

Some say that Italian or French are the most musical languages. Listen to sweet female voices singing in Gaelic and you will dispute the contention.

You do not need to understand the language to fall under the spell of the emotions on this unbelievably beautiful CD. For convenience I will use only the English titles of the tracks.

Cathy Anne McPhee opens the album with a haunting song that translates as "Draw Close and Let Us Sing a Song," which is very appropriate. "Farewell to this Place" was written more than a century ago but will still raise hairs on the back of your neck as it is sung with harp accompaniment. Karen Matheson of Capercaille takes us back to the 18th century on a tale of love.

The best use of Gaelic music must be "port a beal" or "mouth music," which relies almost exclusively on the vocals acting like a musical instrument. The track of this title is a definitive version of the genre that you will travel far and long to better.

Not all the tracks are traditional. "This Feeling Inside" is a marvellous piece sung with a choir. It will lift even the lowest spirit as the backing of the Glasgow Gaelic Choir joins the solo voice to fill the space. "The Roses" is an almost operatic piece. It is a very personal tune written by Donald MacKillop for his wife.

On "Calum's Boat," you can imagine the boat sailing through the isles, so magical is the voice and the tune. The final track is a great song about the language and is a very appropriate one to close a CD that should do a lot to encourage an interest in the Gaelic tongue.

This is not just for Gaelic speakers. This CD is for music lovers, and anyone who passes over it because of the language will be the loser.

The accompanying booklet is a fine example of what such a publication should be. It has words in Gaelic and English with notes on the songs and the performers. Put aside your prejudice and give this a listen.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 17 May 2003

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