REVIEW FROM www.livingtradition.co.uk
BRIAN Ó hEADHRA - An t-Allt
Brechin All Records CDBAR011
Brian’s best known as a member of the group Anam – of whom we’ve heard little lately (have they split?). A year or two back, he released a rather fine album, Sonas, in collaboration with fiddler Bruce MacGregor and accordionist Sandy Brechin, which despite the presence of those two excellent musicians only served to emphasise just how brilliantly expressive a singer Brian is. And yet his is a quiet expressiveness, almost sensual in the way it warmly caresses the ear, and this quality is certainly heard to best advantage – and even more persuasive effect – on Brian’s new offering, An T-Allt, an almost entirely vocal set.
Brian enjoys thoughtful, sensibly understated, unflashy backings chiefly involving his own guitar with Chris Agnew (basses), Sandy Brechin (accordion) and Fiona Mackenzie (backing vocals), and there are occasional contributions from Pat McGarvey (banjo), Louisa Rafferty and Richard Werner (pianos). The mix of material is both attractive and wide-ranging; there are no fewer than five of Brian’s own compositions (pick of these being the opener Fathainn, which conveys the restless plight of the evacuated St. Kildans, and the tender night-song Caidil Ri Mo Thaobh), and a pair of traditional songs which have been translated from Irish Gaelic into Scottish Gaelic by Brian himself. Two representative pieces by bards Uilleam Ros and Donnchadh MacDhomhnaill both suit Brian’s engaging vocal style, as does an impassioned Gaelic translation of Richard Thompson’s Dimming Of The Day (perhaps more unexpectedly, given its compass), while another standout track is Fiona Mackenzie’s Now You’re Gone, which also sports a St. Kildan connection and bases its melody on that of Poor Wayfaring Stranger.
The one instrumental track is the delightful piano piece Fionn’s Tune, written by Brian for “wee Fionn”. A quietly satisfying set all round from this assured, accomplished and characterful Gaelic singer.
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.This album was reviewed in Issue 88 of The Living Tradition magazine.
fRoots Magazine Review - April 2011
BRIAN O hEADHRA
Brechin All Records, CDBAR011
The ability to convey sensual, trembling, passionate emotion is not common among Scottish Gaelic singers, and the notable exceptions tend to be female. Rarer still are the male singers who are able to go beyond performing a song to actually expressing it. It needs a kind of abandonment. This album confirms Brian Ó hEadhra's status as the most vocally talented and versatile male singer in Scottish Gaelic. His warm, sweet voice brims with feeling, and, compellingly, he seems to inhabit the songs he sings, becoming part of them.
This is a powerful collection of love songs, some joyous, some grief-stricken, some composed by Brian, some traditional, and some contemporary songs by others. Graceful, glowing accompaniment is provided on guitar, accordion, acoustic bass, piano, glockenspiel, harmonica, shruti box and additional vocals. Tha Mi Nam Shuidh' is a traditional Irish song of unrequited love. Brian's Scottish Gaelic version is heart-melting. And his soulful Gaelic rendition of Richard Thompson's Dimming of the Day is simply a revelation. I think I prefer it to the original version.
If being the most engaging male vocalist in Gaeldom were not enough, this album also showcases Brian's prodigious talents as a songwriter. Fathainn (Rumours) is a striking original song about the evacuation from St Kilda: the verses describe the gossip of the mainlanders talking about the strange refugees in their midst, the chorus expresses the anguish of the bewildered evacuees. The masterstroke is the tune-change for the chorus - a haunting, klezmer-like refrain. Brian's gift for composing beautiful tunes is at the heart of Caidil Ri Mo Thaobh (Sleep By My Side), a tender love-song to his wife, in which the lady herself (Fiona Mackenzie) provides additional vocals. Equally moving is Trì Rionnagan Beaga (Three Little Stars), the melody exquisitely conveying the overwhelming emotion of travelling homeward towards wife and children.
Brian closes the album with a definitive performance of a classic song of unrequited love 'S Truagh nach Do Rugadh Dall Mi (Alas That I Was Not Born Blind) by the tragic 18th Century poet William Ross, for whose work Brian is the perfect voice.
News and thoughts from Brian Ó hEadhra.