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The Fox Hunter
The Lambs on the Green Hills
The Pentland Incident
Ora Turais
Billy Gray
Devil in the Kitchen
The Selkie
The Trooper and the Maid
The Poshability
Crò Chinn t-Sàile
Barluath
rec. RCS Recording Studio A
NIMBUS NI 6206 [46:24]

This is the debut disc of the folk group Barluath, alumni of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. A promising and well-received start has been made to their career at various concerts across the globe. They are equipped with the expected instrumental array: fiddle, bagpipe (of various kinds - Highland and Border), smallpipes, whistles, but also Bouzouki, and on some tracks clarinet, synth glockenspiel and Bódhran. There’s rhythm accompaniment too, of guitar and electric bass, though it’s varied throughout the ten tracks so things don’t fall into an expected groove.
 
The Fox Hunter is a Folk-cum-Rock-cum-Gaelic outing - the rocky drums perhaps lending it a more contemporary folk feel, though the fiddle chorus re-established the more conventional sound. The bittersweet ballad The Lambs on the Green Hills is based on a version sung by Emmylou Harris and the Chieftains; Barluath does it proud. Ainsley Hamill’s diction may not always be the clearest but she has a lovely voice. The Pentland Incident is actually a three-tune piece, and includes a delightful reel, a peppy piano solo and some fine border pipes. Of the set perhaps the most immediately touching - and one that has remained with me in my memory - is Ora Turais with its delicate piano introduction played tenderly by Alistair Iain Paterson and Hamill’s beautiful vocal.
 
There’s more than a hint of an American accent to Billy Gray which is perhaps unsurprising since it was written by Norman Blake. It takes cowboy life as its theme, but Devil in the Kitchen takes a sequence of strathspeys and reels in a more traditional outing. Paterson seems to known his Debussy as he infuses The Selkie with some impressionist colour prefacing a hypnotic and gently spun song that emerges: the selkie is a seal-like creature of myth. There’s a very slight hint of The Devil Went Down to Georgia in the strong breaks in The Trooper and the Maid. This is paired with Curtains for Hamill, penned by members of the band. I liked the dark, copper-toned violin solo played by Eilidh Firth who is, throughout, a tower of strength. The pipe-and-fiddle-led dynamism of The Poshability ratchets up the feel-good flavour still further before a piobaireachd unfolds its melancholy tale in the final track, The Fold of Kintail. There’s much keening here, in this last track, a downbeat but intense way to end an enjoyable first-ever release from this band.
 
Jonathan Woolf  



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