RUTH KEGGIN & RACHEL HAIR – Lossan (March Hair Records)

Ruth Keggin & Rachel Hair’s Lossan, with Manx Gaelic voice and Celtic harp, is music that justifies Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge changed perception (after the visit of Jacob Marley and those three Christmas ghosts!), as was said, “That of all the blithe sounds he had ever heard, these were the blithest in his ears”.

And that’s (sort of) the gist of this very acoustic folk record, what with all the Gaelic names, sends my Midwest American computer spell-check into a tailspin!

That said, Ruth & Rachel certainly glance at the early Clannad sound with Maire Ni Bhraonain’s angelic voice framed in simple acoustic breath.

This is delicate music with wool-woven grace that colours the windows of any remote stone chapel that still remembers a long-ago pagan prayer. The great band Ossian (with harpist William Jackson!) comes to mind. And the second song, ‘Arraneyn Cadlee’, steps with simple crystal-clear River Tweed summer afternoon current. Indeed, this music serves a troubled world with quenched folk music relief. Then, ‘Mish As Y Keayn’ continues the sublime purity and ups the pulse with the addition of a sympathetic violin. This music embraces the delicate tension of history, as it tumbles into the complex tapestry of the instrumental ‘Tri Nation Harp Jigs’.

‘Arrane Saveenagh’ is a brief acapella lament which drizzles melodic raindrops over old October graveyard thoughts. The tune soundtracks the dictionary definition for “pathos”.

But the deep wool-woven passion continues: ‘Keayrt Hug Mee Graih’, with more violin comfort, oozes a warm certainty, which said again is a nice thing to do in our very modern world. Ditto for the gossamer webbed (and blessed with eternal beauty!) ‘Graih Foalsey’. Time just hangs with soft solace in this music. And ‘Ny Kirree Fo Niaghtey’ roams, with pensive melodic steps, the Ballaharra Standing Stones on the Isle of Man, which just happens to the birthplace of singer Ruth Keggin.

And the music of this album, Lossan (aka light, glimmer, sheen, or flame”), still caresses the grass of Culloden with both dulcet voice and Rachel Hair’s decisive Scottish harp strings.

Oh – if ever confronted with, as a possible Jeopardy contestant, the final clue of “It’s a Goidelic language of the insular Celtic branch of the Celtic language family, itself a branch of the Indo–European language family”; the answer (after thanking Wikipedia!) is, of course, “What is the Manx Gaelic language”.

That all said, the authentic woven beauty continues. ‘Eubonia Soilshagh’ rekindles the purity of Karen Matheson and Capercaillie’s early and very wonderful Sidewaulk sound. ‘Yn Scollag Aeg’ quells the grooves with a Rachel Hair harp introspective instrumental. Sometimes, soft thoughts grace musical shores.

‘Vuddee Veg’ is magical. It could melodically be yet another soundtrack – this time to the moment when storybook Rapunzel, finally, lets down her golden hair. It’s a lovely tune.

And the brief final song, ‘Arrane Oil Vie’, wanders into eternity, just like every final unending punctuated – dash – in any Emily Dickinson poem. Indeed, this music exhales, in its own very Celtic folk soul (and with my meagre Midwest America computer spell-check still in a tailspin tizzy!), the lyrical and very universal truth of Emily D’s unfinished declarations that, “I cannot dance upon my toes” and (with perhaps, even deeper penned ink) “The Brain is just the weight of God–“.

Let’s just suggest ditto ditto, and then walk in the warm waters of this wonderfully human record.

Bill Golembeski

Artists’ websites: www.ruthkeggin.com / www.rachelhair.com

‘Vuddee Veg’ – official video:


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