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James Graham - Suibhal

James Graham - Siubhal
Footstompin' Records CDFSR1728

James Graham's captivating voice and his superb timing command your attention throughout this magnificent recording of Gaelic song. Siubhal is the culmination of a year which has significantly raised his profile; Footstompin' Records has funded this recording as part of his prize; this shows a proper commitment by the industry to support the young artists who are the future of Scottish music.

He has chosen some of his favourite traditional songs, some from the area around Assynt, his home parish. Mullaichean Rudha Stoir celebrates the mountain summits around the point of Stoer, for example. Graham's puirt singing is exceptional - seeming tongue twisters are delivered with stunning panache. Elsewhere he includes Piobaireachd, waulking songs, love songs, and the splendidly rousing Alasdair Mhic Cholla Ghasda. There's a superb cover of Donald Shaw's Delirium (with words by Aonghas MacNeacail); beautiful songs abound.

Graham's ability to sing Gaelic song with absolute phonetic clarity is remarkable - any non-Gaelic speaking listener can easily follow his words with the help of the accompanying lyrics and translations. His timing and delivery are of the highest order - impeccable in fact.

It's a very traditional recording, elegantly produced by Mary Ann Kennedy. Tasteful instrumental and vocal arrangements ensure the most pleasurable listen - lending their talents are James Ross, Donal Brown, Kris Drever, Christine Hanson, Phamie Gow, Andrew MacPherson, Chaz Stewart, and Darren MacLean.

Musicians like James Graham are taking a real risk (in terms of their potential to achieve wider audiences) by releasing albums of all-Gaelic song, but I believe they should be commended and supported for such a committed, robust, and forward-looking attitude to their language and culture. There are many young Gaelic-speaking musicians out there adopting the same, extremely positive attitude.

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 61 of The Living Tradition magazine.