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Gael Linn CEFCD208

Gael Linn Records have had the habit of at least once in a given decade capturing an emerging female vocal talent and giving it a major artistic showcase. One only has to point to the first Maighread and Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill recordings in the early 70s to later issues from Nóirín Ní Riain, Aoife Ní Fhearraigh, Deirbhile Nií Bhrolchain and Aine Uí Cheallaigh to see how much the Gael Linn label has its finger on the pulse of Gaelic song. They have scored again with Belfast born Grainne Holland joining the GL ranks. Her second album, Gaelre, again has the major showcase element to it, but it succeeds due to its overall understatement and tastefulness. While there is a full backing band in tow it never overwhelms Grainne’s vocals which retain their initial sweetness and freshness but have developed in range and emotional brio since her debut album, Teanga Na nGael, in 2011.

Born and raised in Belfast with experience of growing up in a multi-lingual family, her love of Gaelic music began at a young age. Her voice is rich and supple, easily able for an epic ballad such as An Drucht Geal Ceo, a Gaelic translation of The May Morning Dew, and an almost ambient treatment of Airde Cuain and the classic An Droighnean Donn, where she acquits herself with grace and clarity. The inclusion of Shil Me Fein recalls the recording by Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill from which this version is sourced, and the opening Sios An Sliabh, where the contemporary backing makes for Celtic pop without the studio candyfloss, is more effective for its melding of genres. This is very much a Northern album in material and execution, yet it crosses all sides of the Gaelic song canon. Backing is supplied by John McSherry, Donal O’Connor et al and the arrangements envelope the songs rather than detract from them. This is a sweet album – worth the wait and yields some pleasurable rewards.

John O'Regan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 114 of The Living Tradition magazine.