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.