Submitted by Kerry Dexter
Until about four hundred years ago, Gaelic speakers from the northern reaches of Scotland to the southern tip of Ireland would have understood each other clearly. At that time, the language began to diverge, becoming as they are today two separate but related tongues, Scots Gaelic and Irish. The connections and the divergences between songs in the two languages are what sparked Julie Fowlis, who is from North Uist in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, and Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, who grew up in Dun Chaoin at the tip of Ireland’s Dingle peninsula, to make the record, Dual. Both women grew up speaking two languages in daily life, which adds understanding and dimension to their work.
It’s a fine recording, through which you may hear history, humor, the sea, the land, and legend, even if you do not speak a word of either language. If you’re curious about the stories, there are liner notes in English to give a bit of background on that, but it’s a great first step just let the music unfold in your imagination as it will.
Tommy Sands is a musician with a message, a message which may be hinted at in the title of his most recent record. It is called Let the Circle Be Wide. Growing up in County Down along the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, Sands has seen his share of divisions and pain brought by The Troubles, and he’s also seen, and made it a central part of his music, that healing does happen, and connections may be forged across what seem the most difficult of barriers. One song which addresses that on this collection is Fields of Daisies, in which Sands takes the idea of the broken token or lover returning from a journey not being recognized and applies that theme, in a subtle and poetic way, to the reuniting of lovers after one has been changed by his experiences in The Troubles. There are lively, upbeat songs on the record as well as questioning, thoughtful ones, music worth both tapping your toes to and pondering.
If you follow Irish music, or indeed fiddle music at all, you will know the names of Liz Carroll and Mairéad Ni Mhaonaigh. It’s good fun to hear them step out in concert with fiddlers from Norway and Sweden, Shetland and America, on the album String Sisters: Live. It is, as you may suspect from the title, a recording made at a live concert, fitting as the project itself is a spin off of what was meant to be a one-off collaboration of six powerful fiddle players from related traditions at the Celtic Connections Festival one winter a few years back. The players liked it so well they decided to continue on, and this recording from a concert in Norway is one of the results. Emma Hardelin, Annbjorg Lien, Liz Knowles, and Catriona Macdonald round out the group. They offer fourteen sets of song and tune which range across the traditions of their home countries and include original music also.. It’s music that will have you listing and learning as well as, most likely, up on your feet dancing along.
If you enjoy Celtic Music, you should also read Kerry’s Three Irish & Celtic Albums You Should Experience!
Kerry Dexter writes about the arts at Music Road and is an independent writer, editor, and photographer in the US and Ireland. She’s music editor at WanderingEducators.com, long time contributing writer to world music magazine Dirty Linen, and former folk music editor at VH1. Her work has appeared in Strings, Ireland and the Americas, CMT, Barnes & Noble Music, CBC, Symphony, The Music Hound Guides, and The Encyclopedia of Counterculture, among other publications.