various artists,
(Macmeanmna, 2002)

Macnas serves up selections from some of the recordings produced by the Skye-based Macmeanna label. Some are instrumental tracks, but much of the collection is in Gaelic, featuring some of the best Gaelic singers in Scotland today. It hangs together nicely, with common threads running through it, and yet with enough definition and contrast to give variety.

Unlike most compilation recordings, this one features two tracks from many of the artists, so that one feels one has an accurate sense of the various performers featured. The liner notes give some information on the musicians and singers, as well as on the recordings from which the tracks are taken. I would only wish that there had been room to include more information on the tunes themselves, but I suppose we can't expect to get everything.

There are so many lovely tracks here that it is impossible to pick even seveal favorites. Familiar voices like Ishbel MacAskill, Arthur Cormack and Maeve McKinnon are heard at their best here, and there are additional voices on the recording that will be familiar to any who are enthusiasts for Gaelic singing. The music (fiddles, clarsach, pipes, mouth organs and more) and recording throughout is tight and professional, but never becomes slick.

Cliar is one of Scotland's most popular bands. One of the numbers they do is an arrangement of a Duncan Ban MacIntyre's Gaelic poem "Cumha Choire Cheathaich," and the other is an arrangement of two psalms recorded live at Glasgow Cathedral with the two female voices, a male lead and 200 choristers.

Blair Douglas' "Nelson Mandela's Welcome to the City of Glasgow" is a paean of joy and praise, with what sounds like a traditional pipe band on speed mingling with massed African voices and rhythmic vocals. Bruce MacGregor's great fiddle tune "The Highlander's Revenge," with Gaelic lyrics by Mary Ann Kennedy, is powerful, lilting and inspiring. (MacGregor is the fiddler with Cliar, and a founder of Blazin' Fiddles.)

Donnie Murdo MacLeod sings traditional Gaelic airs "Tha mise fo mhulad san am" and "Ri fuaim an taibh" in a clear strong voice, and Kenna Campbell does a medley called "Puirt a Beul" that contains elements of the nonsense syllables of puirt a beul but mixes them with recognizable phrases of Gaelic.

This is a great collection that indicates a worthwhile body of work by the company and makes me want to pick up more by these artists.

- Rambles
written by Joyce Rankin
published 9 November 2002