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MĀNRAN - An Dā Lā 

MĀNRAN - An Dā Lā 
Private Label MAN04

On their third or fourth album, and very well established on the Scottish folk scene, Mànran follow in the footsteps of Runrig or Wolfstone as the voice of highland popular culture, mainly instrumental, with a good helping of Gaelic song as well as English vocals. Mixing ceilidh and rock styles, box-player Gary Innes and highland piper/fiddler Ewen Henderson join Ryan Murphy's Irish pipes and the drum'n'bass vibe of Mark Scobbie and Ross Saunders. Craig Irving is a recent addition on guitar and vocals, and features on the Ben Harper song I Shall Not Walk Alone as well as contributing a couple of new tunes.

Much of An Dà Là is hard-hitting pipe and accordion tunes, spanning Scottish and Irish influences, almost all by band members. The CD opens with the traditional march Captain Grant, morphing into Irving's moody reel Hard To Get, followed by a twisting tune from Henderson. Trod is the first of five tracks built around Gaelic song and puirt, very much in the Hebridean rock school of arrangements: solid drumming, growling vocals, pipes and keyboards weaving complex countermelodies. Inspector is a triptych of modern reels from Innes, Henderson and Murphy in the style of Capercaillie or Lúnasa. Pandora's Box by David Francey is a powerful song about the dangers of social media and internet opinions, quite topical really, alternative folk perhaps.

A juicy jig tribute to Echo Falls, a new piece of puirt-à-beul, an old song about enforced emigration from Islay in the 1860s, some more puirt and that Harper song bring us to the title track. An Dà Là is another topical comment on the disruptive change of the twenty-first century. Written and sung by Ewen Henderson, it attacks the lack of accountability in modern society, the predominance of greed over goodness, and the cult of celebrity which means that money and fame are more powerful than sense and reason. Mànran finish with two tracks of tunes, the first a funky slow swagger, the second a storming set of jigs and reels with the fiddle shining alongside pipes and piano box. Not a single dull moment in almost an hour of music, this is an outstanding album and could well end up on my 2017 Top Ten list. 

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 118 of The Living Tradition magazine.