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CALUM ROSS - Mu Dheireadh Thall (At Long Last)

CALUM ROSS - Mu Dheireadh Thall (At Long Last)
Macmeanmna SKYECD46

Born in Glasgow of Skye parents, Calum is a many-times Mòd winner (one of the relatively few people to have won four particularly prestigious medals in the field) for whom singing has always been an integral part of his life. He’s been a member of the Govan Gaelic Choir since the 1950s and, since retiring from teaching in 1998, he has sung occasionally in the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. He’s long cherished an intention to make an album, and here – at long last – it is.

The disc comprises nine songs recorded by Calum for the BBC’s Radio nan Gàidheal and six newly recorded at the Royal Conservatoire specifically for the collection; all selections are unified by Calum’s admirably consistent delivery. His singing style is polished, even and mellifluous: distinctly accomplished, so that one might describe it as pleasingly cultured without sounding unduly ‘trained’. A few of the songs have the air of a classical Lied, performed with a solo piano accompaniment, while others have a more fully scored backing that’s more akin to chamber-folk in character – but at all times Calum’s flowing, expressive delivery is set ideally into relief by the setting (and Calum himself is partly or wholly responsible for the expert musical arrangements). Ross Wilson plays piano, Iain Smith accordion and Duncan Findlay guitar, and there’s an uncredited choir on one of the most charismatic selections, an account of Murdo MacFarlane’s ’S Cian Nan Cian Bho Dh’fhàg Mi Leòdhas. The disc also includes half-a-dozen well-realised unaccompanied songs.

Altogether this is an attractive set of performances that shows Calum’s versatility on a wealth of contrasted material. It is, however, let down by poor presentation, for the decidedly skimpy booklet contains no information on the songs (other than bare composer credits) and no texts or translations, only a brief biographical sketch of Calum.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 112 of The Living Tradition magazine.