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D└IMH - The Rough Bounds

D└IMH - The Rough Bounds
Goat Island Music GIMCD005

Dàimh (named after the Gaelic word for “kinship”) has been together for over 20 years, and the band remains at the forefront of Highland music, having previously won the STMA’s Folk Band Of The Year accolade. On The Rough Bounds, the band’s seventh album release, Dàimh retains its powerhouse front-line – bagpiper Angus MacKenzie and fiddler Gabe McVarish – along with the solid foundation provided by guitarist Ross Martin. They’ve now expanded to a six-piece with the addition of fiddler Alasdair White, Murdo Cameron on mandola and accordion, and rising young star of Gaelic song Ellen MacDonald.

Ellen features on the album’s half-dozen songs, two being puirt à beul. Her phrasing is nimble, her timbre charmingly light yet not without assurance and substance. However, its very consistency can make it difficult for the listener since no texts or translations are provided – just a range of emoji symbols on the liner notes, which inevitably only tell part of the story. The band members provide full-toned and sensitively restrained settings for Ellen, with a modicum of support from guest musicians Martin O’Neill and Duncan Lyall.

Of the disc’s five instrumental tracks, the four tune-sets possess all the fire one associates with Dàimh from previous albums, and although it’s inevitably the mighty pipes that kick things off on signature sets like 12th Of June and the strathspey-and-reel combo Mary’s Fancy, Dàimh ring the changes with whistle leading twin-fiddles on the Donald MacLeod Reels set before the pipes kick in. Not all the tunes are sourced from tradition – band members also bring their share.

It all adds up to a reliably listenable disc – albeit with a faint, inescapable suspicion of a split-identity between the vocal and instrumental tracks.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 124 of The Living Tradition magazine.