This is a hard one to review. I usually listen for nice arrangements, how the instrumental backing fits to the song’s temper and the style of the singer. I am also very interested in good lyrics, clever lines and unusual rhymes. And here comes a CD where every single song is sung a capella, hence the part of the title that says”a Lone Voice” sung in a language where I do not understand a single, and I really mean not a single, word.
If anyone could get me interested in such a record it must be Christine Primrose. A native Scottish Gaelic speaker in her late sixties, she first attracted public attention in 1974, winning a gold medal for her singing. Her debut record was released in 1982, and in 2009 she was appointed ”Gaelic Singer of the Year” at the Scottish Folk Music Awards. She has got a university degree in Gaelic Music, she has been teaching it for many years, and she has toured the world. What more could you ask?
”Grádh is gonadh” is a collection of eleven songs (and three bonus tracks of earlier recordings). About half of them are traditional. One is a poem set to music by Primrose, who was asked to do so by the poet in question. There is a nice booklet with extensive notes about each song, and on the web you can find the lyrics and translations.
So what about the music?
First of all, Christine Primrose is a superb singer. Doing a capella stuff is difficult, very difficult indeed, but she performs in such a way you seldom wish for some instrumental backing. The singing is very emotive, and as most of the songs are fairly slow tempo, it takes a few listenings before you start distinguishing the songs from each other. To help, some of them have spoken introductions by older people, a nice touch. But be warned, listening demands your full attention. This is nothing to put in your car stereo.
I find it very soothing, a record to put on when you sit down after a hectic day and need to unstress. A few songs and your heartbeat will be back to normal.
Summary: If you like Gaelic singing, or unaccompanied folk singing, this is one for you. And if you just want one record in your collection of songs in one of the oldest languages in Europe, this one is a good choice. But do not buy it if you want some nice background music whilst driving or ironing, or something for your next party.
(Temple Records, 2017)