Words by Nathaniel Handy
The four and a half years since Julie Fowlis’ last studio album, Uam, have been transformative for her. Now a mother of two, she has also become Gaelic music’s most celebrated global ambassador. She was the singing voice of the 2012 Disney fantasy animation Brave, she sang for a TV audience of 500 million at the 2012 Ryder Cup in Chicago, and she’s co-presented the Radio 2 Folk Awards for the last three years. With such a mainstream public profile, it is a pleasure to discover that her new album is an unadulterated collection of traditional Gaelic language folk songs. Trusting in the riches of her native music scene, there is not an English-language hit or star collaboration in sight. Backed by her band of fiddler Duncan Chisholm, guitarist Tony Byrne, and her multi-instrumentalist partner Éamon Doorley, there are also contributions from Doorley’s brother, flautist Tom, Capercaillie’s Karen Matheson, Donald Shaw and Ewen Vernal, piper Mike McGoldrick, and all-girl fiddle group, RANT.
Highlights include the exquisite fiddle intro to the slow ballad ‘Òran Fir Heisgeir’, which came out of Fowlis’ residency with the Tobar an Dualchais digital archiving project, and the puirt à beul (mouth music) set ‘Ribinnean Riomhach’. With top musicians and an attitude towards tradition that brims with confidence, this is a great album.
Track to Try: ‘Do Chalum (To Calum)’