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ISHBEL MacASKILL - "Essentially Ishbel" - IMCD001

Ishbel (as the whole of Gaeldom knows and loves) could sing the plumbing section of the yellow pages and make it sound like a tragic tale of unrequited love. Fortunately on this CD (as on her previous three) she has much stronger material to work with. The marriage of Ishbel's divine voice with the twin anthems of the current Gaelic canon, 'An Ataireachd Ard' and 'Canan nan Gaidheal' produces the expected fireworks. Yet good as these tracks are they are overshadowed by stunning vocal performances on 'Piobaireachd Dhomhnail Dhuibh' and 'Griogal Cridhe' where Ishbel's phenomenal ability to hold then fade a note produces definitive versions of both these well known classics.

A set of waulking songs and a set of puirt a beul provide the perfect foil to the more reflective material (although this CD has a 'lighter' feel than usual). Predictably there has been some adverse comment on the inclusion of the country song 'Fair and Tender Ladies' (first recorded for the Transatlantic sessions). However Ishbel sings country (next CD ??) far better than ninety percent of those currently making a living from it.

A fine supporting cast do just that and stay well out of the way. Special mention must go to Alyth MacCormack, Amanda Millan and Corrina Hewat for their classy backing vocals (Corrina should take an extra bow for some gloriously delicate harp playing).

If you already know Ishbel's music then you'll need no coaxing to buy this CD. If you don't then please rectify that quickly. Ishbel is gaeldom's soul diva and what's more she stands direct comparison with the giants of that genre. A folk collection without Ishbel would be like a Soul collection without Aretha.

Essentially Ishbel - Just essential.

Chris Mackenzie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 38 of The Living Tradition magazine.