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BRIAN ”HEADRA & FIONA MACKENZIE - Tuath: Songs Of The Northlands†

BRIAN ”HEADRA & FIONA MACKENZIE - Tuath: Songs Of The Northlands†
Naxos World NXW76116-2†

After 2018’s very well-received Tìr, the expectation of this duo is high quality singing (mainly in Gaelic) complemented by sophisticated contemporary production. Why change a winning formula? Well, the instrumentation is subtly different this time round, with perhaps slightly more emphasis on the electronic music. But the thing that delights me most about Brian and Fiona’s work is their creative approach to repertoire, and on this recording they have set sail on a Nordic route for some of the numbers.

There is one waltz-time song inspired by Norwegian tradition and an old Danish hymn learned from the duo, Fromseier Hockings – with a lovely piano-led arrangement on this track. Looking in a considerably less northern direction, there is also a Galician song of medieval origin.

The other tracks are three originals by Brian, including Na Fir-chlis (The Northern Lights), a kind of theme song for the project, plus three Fiona/Brian co-compositions. Three traditional Gaelic songs – there are no numbers in English this time – make up the album along with, to finish, a song by Donnachadh Maclain of Islay dating back to the First World War.

If you are interested in Gaelic material with a contemporary twist – and indeed with an eye towards farther shores – this album should be high on your list.

Paul Mansfield


This review appeared in Issue 135 of The Living Tradition magazine