VARIOUS ARTISTS - Hebridean Celtic Festival - Imeachd / Odyssey (10 th Anniversary Compilation)

This is not a selection of live music but rather a tenth anniversary compilation of the best bands featured during the festival’s history. It is certainly a very fine Celtic album capturing the eclectic nature of a festival which has become such an important date in the music calendar. The success of the compilation lies in it being up to date rather than too retrospective. From traditional Gaelic song (Dòchas) through contemporary Celtic folk (Capercaillie) and folk rock (Runrig) to dance fusion (Afro Celt Sound System) this is a mix that has something to please everyone.

The opener ‘Brucie and The Troopers’, from Slàinte Mhath, provides an exciting start to the album with its dynamic piping combining the traditional and contemporary, which is very typical of the album overall. Afro Celt Sound System’s ‘Colossus’ and its expansive instrumentation is an accessible introduction to the band’s music. Baka Beyond’s ‘Queen of Ngorongoro’ is an inspired choice, with its lovely juxtaposition of African percussion and Celtic fiddle, as is a number from Denmark ’s Instinkt, which stretches the musical definitions and why not?

At the heart of the album though, appropriately for this festival, is Gaelic song. Karen Matheson’s singing on Capercaillie’s ‘Mo Chailin Dileas Donn’ is among the finest you can hear anywhere, Mary Smith’s contribution has an uncluttered beauty and Cliar’s concluding song an almost unbearable poignancy. The highlight though is Julie Fowlis’s singing on Dòchas’s ‘Eilean Uibhist Mo Rùin’ which showcases her gorgeous voice through a stunningly memorable song.

Andy Jurgis

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This album was reviewed in Issue 65 of The Living Tradition magazine.