MARY ANN KENNEDY – An Dàn (Arc Music EUCD2737)

An Dàn Mary Ann Kennedy describes this album as Gaelic songs for a modern world. An Dàn means…well, dàn means song but it also means destiny, which may be Gaelic humour. Mary Ann is from Skye and is, of course a Campbell. She is well-known as a broadcaster and producer as well as singer and is an authority on Gaelic language and culture.

We are used to albums of Gaelic songs being firmly traditional but An Dàn is rather different. Mary Ann has written all the music and some of the lyrics, the rest coming from various poets and writers. Mary Ann’s family album, Fonn, recorded as The Campbells was all traditional but sounded remarkably modern. By contrast, An Dàn is modern but sounds, not traditional, but a little old-fashioned. The songs are underpinned by Mary Ann’s piano and features four string players and what is virtually a choir of backing singers which makes some of it a bit sweet for my taste.

The album is often very beautiful. Mary Ann’s voice is exquisite and Finlay Wells’ guitars add so much – just listen to that sublime lead on ‘Grioglachan’ – but it is the digressions that create the most interest. ‘Òran do dh’Iain Dòmhnallach’, for example, features old field recordings of Tswana singers. It all makes perfect sense in context but it also makes you pay attention. ‘Taigh An Uillt’ features some almost jazzy guitar with Nick Turner’s bass and an uncredited drummer and is, for me, the most beguiling track.

‘Dàn Ùr do Fhlòraidh NicNìll’ begins with a marvellous cacophony and Jarlath Henderson features here on Uilleann pipes but doesn’t get many opportunities to cut loose. For the Gaelic speaker this is undoubtedly a fascinating blend of old and new but for a Sassenach like me it won’t feature among my favourite Gaelic albums.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the MARY ANN KENNEDY – An Dàn link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

ORDER – [CD]

Artist’s website: http://www.maryannkennedy.co.uk/

‘Mother Glasgow’ isn’t on the album but you can see why we have chosen it:

COAST – Windmills In The Sky (Ruabhal Records SAM04)

WindmillsCoast is a folk-rock band, with the emphasis on the rock, formed by Paul Eastham and Chris Barnes back in 2009. Windmills In The Sky is their third album and I hope it will be the one that propels them to greatness. They spent their childhoods on Benbecula in the western islands and their music reflects that edge-of-the-world wildness. If I tell you that they employ twin drums/percussion with mighty electric guitar from Finlay Wells you’ll immediately know where they are coming from. These are big, anthemic songs centred around the keyboards and orchestral programming of Eastham.

The album opens with ‘Is Sinn Na Tuinn Air Bhàrr A’ Chuain’, a delicate acoustic piece – for about forty seconds until the band kicks in to give us a sort of overture to what is awaiting. Three songs are firmly rooted in Western Scotland. The first, ‘River’, is a song of pure nostalgia for a Hebridean childhood while ‘Thundersnow’ and the title track give contrasting views of west coast life. The former is essentially the opinion of a fisherman wishing that he was somewhere warmer and drier while ‘Windmills In The Sky’ tells of the welcoming sights of home after a long voyage. The windmills are, of course, the turbines that I suppose are the first things that fishermen can see as they return to harbour.

Coast are no one-trick ponies, however, and other songs take a wider view. ‘No More Heroes’ looks back on 2016 and reflects the line from David Bowie’s song – he is one of the heroes who are no more – but it’s also about regaining control when those leaders are gone. ‘1884’ is the true story of murder and cannibalism that set a precedent in common law and ‘That Old Atlantic Sky’ is the extraordinary – but also true – of a German fighter pilot and the crew of an American bomber in 1943. ‘Let It Rain’ and ‘This Whole World’ are philosophical songs reflecting on the modern world.

The band makes a really big sound but also finds room for traditional instruments: Charlie McKerron’s fiddle, Lorne MacDougall’s pipes and whistles and the accordion of Sileas Sinclair. These are not over-used but serve to anchor Coast’s roots firmly in the Western Isles.

Dai Jeffries

If you would like to order a copy of the one of the albums (in CD or Vinyl), download them or just listen to snippets of selected tracks (track previews are usually on the download page) then click on the COAST – Windmills In The Sky link to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website. Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

DOWNLOAD – [CD]

Artists’ website: www.coast.band

‘River’ – official video: