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Private Label BL21 

Beinn Lee is an intriguing young Scottish band hailing from Uist in the Outer Hebrides. Their second album, Deo, follows positive feedback for their debut release, Osgarra. They know how to structure tune sets with plenty of precision and tightness - a feeling only gained from rehearsal and live work - and so can stand proudly with Skerryvore, HoRo, Tidelines, Manran and other major new Scottish bands. What they have in common with these acts is a sound rich in sonorous blending of pipes, fiddle and accordion behind a powerful rhythm section. Such is the effectiveness of Beinn Lee’s tune playing and ensemble work, it’s not hard to imagine crowded village and island halls and venues with enthusiastic audiences getting down and dirty to frantic sets of reels, jigs and dance beats. It’s to their credit that this same enthusiasm and attack is replicated in a studio setting and is transmitted through to the listener.

Songwise, it’s mostly self-composed with the voice of James Stewart handling the chores. The strident rhythmic singing and sloganeering lyrics speak of idealism and moral dilemmas in a manner not dissimilar to early Runrig in their Highland Connection period. This irony is not lost, as Highland Connection was Runrig’s second album and saw them flexing their muscles and breaking out of the confines of their rural and rustic roots to approach a wider world. This is also happening here, as Beinn Lee’s enthusiastic Gaelic and English songs also look at that wider field of musical influences. To this end they include a laconic cover of Don Williams’ Gypsy Woman, which sounds like an incongruous track until heard within the album's context. Their yearning cover of the Williams classic evokes images of slow sets and couples entwined in tandem gliding across a crowded dance floor.

Beinn Lee will no doubt achieve the aim of reaching a wider audience and transfer their live excitement to more urban audiences. The evidence is here on Deo. It’s a powerfully convincing piece of work which alludes to the fact that another potentially major Scottish band is knocking at the door.

John O’Regan


This review appeared in Issue 145 of The Living Tradition magazine