BRIAN Ó HEADHRA
An t-Allt (The Stream), 12 tracks
Anam Communications/Brechin All Records, CDBAR011
In Scotland, they didn’t have a Great Famine: instead they had several small ones, plus the Highland Clearances. The effect on their native language was much the same. And it is the same language as ours, much closer than Germanic languages of any Dutch, German and English. Try getting a Devonian, a Tynesider and a Scouse to communicate, and see whether they all speak English. The Irish-Scots divide is far smaller, and listen to it being sung by a good voice, and for an Irish person it suddenly makes a lot of sense.
It proves that there are emotions that defy translation, such as the grief of exile, even from as bleak a home as the island of St. Kilda, where they lived on sea-birds.
This is a well-produced album, complete with song-words and there are well crafted melodies, both new and traditional. There’s even a bit of old-timey style banjo, evoking the Appalachians and the other New World places where the deportees eventually found refuge.
Spoken Scots-Gaeliic isn’t easily heard in Ireland, but this is powerful argument for remedying this situation. It’s also very companionable music, the sort I’d seek if I wanted to shorten a road. But beyond this, there’s an educational value for students of Irish, even in Gaeltacht summer schools. And it proves that it’s possible to advocate and defend the language and at the same time produce an enjoyable and artistic collection.
Well done, Brian, there’s a blackbird lost in you.
News and thoughts from Brian Ó hEadhra.