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Marram Music MARCD06 

Port Bàn, the sixth solo album from Scottish singer and harpist Maggie, is dedicated to her late mother, the widely acclaimed singer Flora MacNeil, who passed away close on five years ago and whom Maggie has always regarded as her main musical inspiration. The new album is well titled: literally, “fair port” and “fair tune”, also the name of the bay beside her family’s house on Barra, a place of plentiful happy memories. Its recording was a real labour of love for Maggie, since a majority of the Gaelic songs on the disc come from her mother’s repertoire. It’s a considerable tribute to Maggie’s skill as a singer and interpreter, and her own deep respect for the songs, that she has put her own stamp on songs which Flora was especially noted for singing (from as long as six decades ago), such as Gràdh Geal Mo Chridh (a version of the Eriskay Love Lilt) and the praise poem O Craobh Nan Ùbhal.

The family connection is further strengthened with the participation of Maggie’s two sons Calum and Ruaraidh, who are joined by Brian McAlpine, Anna Massie, Chris Waite and album producer Angus Lyon, accompanying Maggie’s poised singing (and occasional harp playing) with commendable sensitivity on (variously) guitar, fiddle, bodhrán, piano and accordion. In addition to Maggie’s passionate reinterpretation of the Gaelic material, which also includes some typically animated mouth music and waulking songs, she treats us to two of her favourite Burns songs (The Bonny Lass Of Albany and The Highland Widow’s Lament). A particularly fine collection.

David Kidman


This review appeared in Issue 133 of The Living Tradition magazine