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Brechin All Records CDBAR011

Brian’s best known as a member of the group Anam – of whom we’ve heard little lately (have they split?). A year or two back, he released a rather fine album, Sonas, in collaboration with fiddler Bruce MacGregor and accordionist Sandy Brechin, which despite the presence of those two excellent musicians only served to emphasise just how brilliantly expressive a singer Brian is. And yet his is a quiet expressiveness, almost sensual in the way it warmly caresses the ear, and this quality is certainly heard to best advantage – and even more persuasive effect – on Brian’s new offering, An T-Allt, an almost entirely vocal set.

Brian enjoys thoughtful, sensibly understated, unflashy backings chiefly involving his own guitar with Chris Agnew (basses), Sandy Brechin (accordion) and Fiona Mackenzie (backing vocals), and there are occasional contributions from Pat McGarvey (banjo), Louisa Rafferty and Richard Werner (pianos). The mix of material is both attractive and wide-ranging; there are no fewer than five of Brian’s own compositions (pick of these being the opener Fathainn, which conveys the restless plight of the evacuated St. Kildans, and the tender night-song Caidil Ri Mo Thaobh), and a pair of traditional songs which have been translated from Irish Gaelic into Scottish Gaelic by Brian himself. Two representative pieces by bards Uilleam Ros and Donnchadh MacDhomhnaill both suit Brian’s engaging vocal style, as does an impassioned Gaelic translation of Richard Thompson’s Dimming Of The Day (perhaps more unexpectedly, given its compass), while another standout track is Fiona Mackenzie’s Now You’re Gone, which also sports a St. Kildan connection and bases its melody on that of Poor Wayfaring Stranger.

The one instrumental track is the delightful piano piece Fionn’s Tune, written by Brian for “wee Fionn”. A quietly satisfying set all round from this assured, accomplished and characterful Gaelic singer.

David Kidman

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