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MĀNRAN - Ųrar 

MĀNRAN - Ųrar 
Private Label MAN05 

Ùrar is the latest album from Scottish Celtic band, Mànran, whose name comes from a Gaelic term meaning “flourishing” or “fresh”. This album sees some changes ringing through their musical ranks, providing for developments such as the introduction of a female lead voice to what was a predominantly male vocal quotient.

Adding Gaelic singer Kim Carnie proves to be one of the welcome surprises that assail one’s ears when locking horns with Ùrar. Her wispy breathy Gaelic tones allow for some breath-taking vocal performances. Good examples are the opening Ailean, a dark pulsing atmospheric track, and Briogais, where Carnie’s winsome vocals are placed centre-stage in a powerfully compelling performance which balances itself against a stirring musical backdrop with subtle male chorus vocals and the band sounding vaguely like Delirium-period Capercaillie betimes. Equally at home with English lyrics, the reflective Crow Flies and San Cristóbal (inspired by a trip to Mexico in 2018) prove her every bit as adept and vocally powerful in this idiom. However, her towering performance is in the closing Griogal Crìdhe, where she pulls every emotional ounce from the resigned lyrics.

Another equally exciting addition (although much longer in the ranks) is that of uilleann piper and flautist Ryan Murphy whose impassioned playing and upfront personality lit up his work with German outfit Cara and others. His uilleann pipes power compulsive tune sets like Crossroads and The Loop into overdrive, while Lahinch, composed for the place of multiple youthful family holidays (and where I spent many myself) is an eloquent remembrance. Ewan Henderson’s bagpipes take the lead on Black Tower, a march which leads into some frantic mouth music from Carnie, underscored by Gary Innes’ accordion and a compulsive rhythm section which makes a boiling cauldron of near explosive corrosion.

There is a renewed energy and commitment cruising through Mànran’s collective veins and plenty of that is evident on Ùrar. The rhythm section is tight and buoyant, solidly underlining each track with a punchy drum sound, and exhibiting a barely restrained enthusiasm which adds suitably dramatic effects. Musically, Mànran are fighting fit, and they have neatly solidified their vocal attack with Kim Carnie joining the fray. This is the sound of a band re-born.

John O’Regan


This review appeared in Issue 141 of The Living Tradition magazine