That Christine Primrose is one of Scotland’s premier Gaelic singers is a given. The title translates as Love & Loss – A Lone Voice and that tells you pretty much all you need to know. There are eleven newly recorded tracks and three bonus tracks one of which, from a 1987 album, serves to reunite the two poems of William Campbell dedicated to his late wife and set to music by Christine at his request.
There is a lot of love here; some unrequited, some forbidden, some lasting beyond death and some dedicated to land and home. Many, like Campbell’s ‘Gràdh Maireannach’ and ‘Gad Ionndrainn’ come from (relatively) modern poets while six are traditional and few will be known outside the Gaelic community. In fact, ‘An Gille Donn’ (The Brown-haired Lad) is the only one I recognise with any certainty. It’s a lament, of course, and a couple of tracks later comes an elegy – things are not getting any happier. Thinking of ‘An Gille Donn’ I was struck by how often the object of affection is referred to obliquely. So here we have (and forgive me if I stay with the English titles) ‘The Curly-haired Young Man’, ‘I Gave My Promise To The Islander’, ‘The Black-Haired Lad I’ll Not Forsake’ and ‘My Love Is The Fair-haired One’. Does it stem from living in small communities where everyone knows everyone else’s business? If so, I’m not sure that it would have worked.
My one criticism is that the subject matter makes the album rather homogenous. There are no up-tempo songs and no humour. Even the spoken word interjections are rather dour. The lyrics, in both Gaelic and English, are available to download from Christine’s website and I found that following the Gaelic, which I don’t speak incidentally, helped to put the beautiful tunes into context.
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Artist’s website: http://christineprimrose.com/
‘Mo Cheist Am Fear Bàn’ – official video: