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MACALLA Mná na hÉireann/Women of Ireland

Mná na hÉireann / Women of Ireland
Gael Linn CEFCD110

Originally issued on vinyl in 1984, Gael Linn has re-released Macalla in order to offer some of their back catalogue to a new audience. The album, being pre-CD era, is just over 35 minutes long. It's a lovely traditional recording, featuring the voices and musical influences of twenty-odd female Irish musicians, who united to record this album in celebration of International Women's Day. Here you'll find Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh of Altan, Máirín Fahy of Riverdance fame, flautist Catherine McEvoy, and many more besides.

Nicky Ryan produced the album - he seems to have since carved a lucrative niche for himself in the mass-appeal Irish Celtic market by producing a string of huge-selling albums for Enya. Anyway, this one's nicely produced and recorded, featuring a lively, lovely collection of Irish tunes. The reels and jigs are marvellous, with bright, upbeat fiddle-and-flute-rich sound, and packed with rhythm and energy - a few well-known tunes here too. Things relax when the pace slows a little, for example on title song 'Mna na hEireann', hauntingly sung by Josephine Begley. Quite a few of the songs are sung in vocal unison, and can tend to sound a little unvaried as a result, but very pleasing all the same.

The album can't really compete with the breadth of vocal styles and variety of content found on recent Scottish recordings in this vein - most notably 'Gaelic Women' and 'Scottish Women'. But overall, this is a very enjoyable listen, with a pleasing balance of instrumental and vocal tracks.

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 67 of The Living Tradition magazine.