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GRÁINNE HOLLAND Teanga Na nGael (The Language Of The Gael)

GRÁINNE HOLLAND Teanga Na nGael (The Language Of The Gael)
Private Label GHM2011001

Gráinne Holland is from the Gaeltacht Quarter of West Belfast, and was raised in both Gaelic and English; her love of traditional Gaelic song, which was fostered by her attending the first Irish-medium primary school in Belfast (Bunscoil Phobail Feirste), shines through clearly on this her debut CD. She chooses songs from a wide range of sources (Co. Donegal, Barra, the Isle of Man, the singing of Liam Clancy), all of which are duly credited in the liner notes on the digipack. The tender lyrical beauty of Gráinne’s voice is well suited to this choice of songs, whether they take the form of lively ballads or slow airs, but there’s also an understated passion in her fresh ownership of these songs, and the title track – a translation of a Scottish Gaelic song by Murchadh MacPhárlain of Lewis – is a good example of this.

Gráinne’s authentic yet contemporary-sounding takes on the songs come with haunting, high-quality backdrops masterminded by the album’s producer, fiddle/viola/bouzouki player Dónal O’Connor and featuring the key talents of John McSherry (uilleann pipes, low whistles), with a smattering of other musicians here and there including Tony Byrne (guitar), Neil Martin (cello), Lewis Smith (sax, clarinet) and Rohan Young (bodhrán). The latter-named is the sole accompanist for Gráinne on her breathlessly virtuoso rendition of Dónal Na Gréine (a song she particularly relishes singing, as we can hear!) that ends the CD. A soft-edged acoustic folk treatment is the order of the day for the majority of the songs, although the saxophone imparts a frisky, playfully jazzy dimension to the tracks on which it appears (especially A Mhuire’s A Rí and Slóite Na bhFiann). The disc’s penultimate track provides a pleasing instrumental interlude, on which flautist Gary Duffy plays his own delicate composition Harry Holland’s Tune, which was written in tribute to Gráinne’s father, a great music lover and inspiration.

The only letdown about this attractive-sounding disc is its presentation, for although lyrics to some of the songs are available as pdf files from Gráinne’s website, they have no translations appended, which is a pity when the songs themselves will not be at all familiar to non-Gaelic specialists.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 91 of The Living Tradition magazine.