Sineag MacIntyre is from Kilphedar in South Uist; a town steeped in Gaelic singing tradition. With this raw material alone, it is not surprising that she inevitably forged her own musical path. Her career began in 2004 with the album Laithen Sgoile on the Lionacleit School’s in – house label, before going on to establish herself on the Scottish folk scene…and picking up her fair share of musical and academic awards on the way. Lòn Bàn is her most recent offering, and her debut on the illustrious Greentrax label. Even as a ‘layperson’ to the Gaelic tongue, this album feels well curated and thoroughly balanced, in an environment in which unaccompanied traditions intermingle with fully backed, and comparatively contemporary writings.
‘O, Thoir a-nall am Botal’ ; a flute-laden drinking song, composed in the wake of a particularly bleak winter which killed hundreds of cattle, kicks off the album, followed by two love songs; one from a male perspective and one from a women’s vantage point. ‘Laoidh ‘Statue’ Ruaidheabhal’ is a hymn praising the protection which the statue of Our Lady of the Isles (located on Rueval Hill) brings to the South Uist community. At times it is haunting and a bit unsettling, an impact made by the drone of the pipes which carry much of the song.
‘Allt an t-Siucair’ comes from the pen of poet Alexander MacDonald, and in many ways, it is another song of praise, this time, however, one which praises the natural beauty of ‘Sugar Brook’; a small stream which ran between MacDonald’s own home and that of a neighbour. This pretty melody is next followed by ‘Cuireamaid Dandaidh/ Puirt-a-Beul’; an initially unaccompanied piece, described as “a song a mother might sing”, before the bodhran ushers in a set of reels, accompanied by fiddle and guitar.
The latter part of the album again manages to go between the polarities of life, encompassing both beauty and sorrow from one song to the next; ‘’S ann Diluain Ro’ La Fheill Micheil’ for example, is an unaccompanied waulking song, told from the female perspective, in which the protagonist laments the drowning of her husband, father and three brothers. This is followed by ‘Sean’s a’ Bhriogais Leathair’; a comedic song, with an upbeat melody, where our male protagonist recalls the romantic conquests of his youth…all thanks to his (presumably irresistible) leather breeches.
With the bonus string of cameos from the Scottish scene, (including Kathleen MacInnes and Luke Daniels) this well-presented recording must be commended as nothing less than a noteworthy milestone , at an important point of an already impressive career.
Christopher James Sheridan
Sineag MacIntyre and Kathleen MacInnes: