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VARIOUS ARTISTS - Eilean Mo Ghaoil (The Beloved Isle) – The Music Of Arran

VARIOUS ARTISTS - Eilean Mo Ghaoil (The Beloved Isle) – The Music Of Arran
Brechin All Records  CDBAR008

Arran is an island of contrasts, from the gentle south to the mountainous and beautiful north, it is a microcosm of Scotland.  If you have never been to Lochranza, why not?  The island lies close to the cities, a favourite spot for “doon the watter” holidays, but was never, unlike other Scottish islands, noted for its traditional music.  It was unusual among Scots islands in having no distillery, although this was corrected a few years ago, and this CD seeks to correct another apparent deficit in the island’s culture.  With the guidance of Arran’s own Gillian Frame, and support from the Scottish Arts Council, the result is an outstanding collection of the island’s music. 

Such a venture always carries the risk of drifting in to the kind of chauvinistic schmaltz so familiar in tourist shops and airports, but not here, this is as close as you’ll get to the real thing these days.  Maybe a little over-arranged in part, but there are some real gems here.  In particular, I’d pick Kathleen Graham’s lovely singing on Mo Nighean Donn - so far removed from the Nut Brown Maiden we learned at school as to be unrecognisable, both this and her sympathetic Faidhir An T-Seasgainn are a pleasure to listen to. There’s a tune dedicated to an Arctic Ghost Ship, a great tune but an amazing story too, recounted in full in the well designed and comprehensive notes.  Add some fine fiddle playing from Gillian Frame on Corriegills, a bit of Irish influence on Kenmare To Brodick, and Ali Hutton’s fine piping, and you have a varied collection, in both English and Gaelic.  The last track is the rhythmic and lively Shiskine Barn Dance but if they dance it at this speed in Shiskine, visitors beware!

This is a long overdue venture bringing credit to those concerned, and which will enable Arran to claim a higher rating in Scots culture.  The single malt whisky is excellent, and this CD is nothing less.

Jim Bainbridge

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This album was reviewed in Issue 88 of The Living Tradition magazine.