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Uam, Uam, thank you ma’am

uamOn the cusp of Scotland’s historic vote, it seems only fitting to post a review of one of my favourite ‘daughter of Scotland’ singers, Julie Fowlis, who sings traditional songs – in Gaelic. Her voice is as ever, properly sweet (not cloyingly so) true and clear. I have several albums by Fowlis, first encountered some years ago in a festival in Galway.

I had no idea what she was singing about in terms of precise detail or story but the emotional places she sings from are outwith the need to understand the words. Music can really be language enough

Julie Fowlis, as she always does,  continues to inhabit a musical space of passion, generosity and joyfulness. On this album she also shares songs with other chanteuses of an older generation, Mary Smith and Eddy Reader.  This follows Fowlis’ belief that a song is a gift (Uam means from me) which is passed to the listener, and if that listener is also musical they may pass it on to another listener in performance. So there is the sense of this music being handed down through the generations.

I’m not Scottish, but the sense of ancientness and ‘in the blood’ness in this music is palpable. Maybe its just Fowlis’ own inhabiting of the music with such integrity.

As well as the wonderful strange vocals (but here is a link to the page of her website which lets you read the lyrics in translation into English there are the complex musical rhythms and textures of the instruments to delight the listener

As ever, she’s produced a haunting album, even the songs of sorrowful yearning speak of joy at feeling itself, and the joy of music. Fowlis may indeed be something of a star on the Celtic music scene, but to listen to her albums, and indeed to see her live, is to experience a performer who serves the music, and the audience for that music, not her own ego. All the musicians shine!

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