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MAGGIE MACINNES "Peaceful Ground" Marram Records MARCD02

Peaceful Ground is a faultless celebration of that rich seam of glorious Gaelic song - some in extremely contemporary settings, which may surprise some listeners. Maggie MacInnes' vocal beauty and purity so echoes that of her mother, Flora MacNeil MBE - who has shared her vast and precious knowledge of Gaeldom's most beautiful songs with her daughter. This album is the embodiment of the living tradition; rousing Hebridean waulking songs sit alongside moving Gaelic laments and timeless love songs. It all makes for a memorable listening experience, and MacInnes' voice resonates at one moment with an extraordinary emotional fragility, and at the next with passion and great strength.

MacInnes' clarsach playing flashes with prism-like precision throughout this finely-arranged recording, and she's accompanied by some first rate musicians, including Wendy Weatherby (cello), Graeme Hughes (guitars/percussion), Brian MacAlpine (keyboards), Finlay MacDonald (pipes/whistles), and Marie Fielding (fiddle). Flora MacNeil, and Maggie's sister Cairistiona provide backing vocals on three songs. Their sensitively judged contributions are fundamental to the album's sound.

You could divide the songs fairly equally between the rousing work songs and the sublime love songs/laments. Of the more upbeat songs, perhaps the most radical is 'Dh 'fhalbh mo run bho chionn seachdain', where MacInnes dips into the family archive to include a treasured recording of her late great aunt Mary Gillies of Barra. Trip hop rhythms, pipes and crunching guitars accompany three generations of this exceptional family. This is a superb song, and there are more like it! MacInnes also unearths a very beautiful 'lost' Burns song, The Ewe Bughts - such hauntingly lyrical whistle accompaniment. The album's lyrical opening song describes the sensual delights of the Isle of Mull on a spring morning.

There are shades of Moya Brennan in MacInnes' own composition, the lovely Peaceful Ground. Cairistiona is a lament of unrivalled beauty. Fhir An Leadain Thlath is sung a cappella, and I cannot help but compare MacInnes' version with her mother's on Orain Floraidh - the vocal similarities are disconcerting. Here, MacInnes publicly thanks her mother for sharing her songs with her - she's on record as saying that "they are so beautiful and a real joy to sing."

Our joy in listening to them is immeasurable!

Debbie Koritsas

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This album was reviewed in Issue 55 of The Living Tradition magazine.