ÁLYTH – Homelands (ANE Records CD103)

ÁLYTH HomelandsÁlyth McCormack was born and brought up on the Isle Of Lewis but now lives in Ireland and this rather beautiful album links those two Gaelic traditions. She has made numerous albums, heedless of genre, and is as well known as an actor as a musician appearing in everything from television soap opera to real opera.

The album opens with ‘The Lambs On The Greenhills’ and even if you’ve never heard this version before you will instantly recognise the family of songs to which it belongs. Actually, Ályth mixes songs familiar to English ears with those which may not have strayed south of the border or across the Irish Sea. Both ‘Carrickfergus’ and ‘Raglan Road’ are comfortably family and ‘Buachaill Ón Éirne’ is the original which loaned its tune to ‘Come By The Hills’.

Ályth’s voice can sound fragile but isn’t. Her support includes co-producer and arranger Brian Mcalpine, Aidan O’Rourke and percussionist Noel Eccles with Karol Lynch on bouzouki and Joe Csibli on double bass and even when they work up a head of steam she still soars effortlessly above them. Her puirt à beul – ‘The American Set’ – begins with a piece that was regularly sung in my earliest folk club days and I realised that I hadn’t heard it for more than forty years. Thanks for that, Ályth.

Dai Jeffries

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Artist’s website: http://alyth.net/

‘Carrickfergus’ live: