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Brechin All Records CDBAR036

Three big names and an even bigger sound. That's what I said about the first of these trio albums back in 2008, and it's as true now as it was then. Charlie McKerron of Capercaillie fame has replaced the overworked Bruce MacGregor on fiddle, making an equally strong triangle with accordion chameleon Sandy Brechin and Gaelic songster Brian Ó hEadhra. Five songs and eight instrumental tracks on Le Chèile span old and new, fast and slow, Scots and Irish, and even a little of the New World to add to our European Celtic heritage.

The songs are front-loaded, with John Richard Douglas' Wild Mountainside and Ó hEadhra's own philosophical allegory The Liberty opening this recording, split only by a rattling set of pipe jigs. Brian's voice is suited to a slower delivery, rich and rounded, “smooth with a capital smoo”, and he turns the ancient lament Mo Nighean Donn Bhòidheach into a crooner's showpiece. Fare Thee Well Enniskillen lightens the mood a little - nobody dies - and McKerron's gorgeous Tune For George Welsh begins the build-up to this CD's finale. Two contemporary trad tunes, Lace Bobbin Man by Simon Bradley and Cavan Potholes by Dónal Lunny, bring us to the well-known Ho Ro My Nut Brown Maiden, sung in the original Gaelic.

The concluding track of Le Chèile is the culmination of instrumental artistry which includes a couple of powerful strathspeys, some dazzling fiddle on Iain MacPherson's Reel with hints of Bulgarian Red, a deliciously laid-back ride through Steve Cooney's Each Little Thing, three heavyweight pipe marches, and a trio of oldtime American reels. Charlie, Sandy and Brian wrap things up with the traditional jig, Blue Bonnets, and two of their own compositions: Brechin's Mr And Mrs Linklater Of Cedarwood and McKerron's more succinct Craggan Rock. There's no box set as such, but still plenty of variety from this top quality trio.

Alex Monaghan


This review appeared in Issue 143 of The Living Tradition magazine