“…This brings to her performance an uncontrived naturalness and at times a raw heartfeltness that is nothing short of captivating.Peter Urpeth, Highland & Island Arts
The trio of Maggie singing and playing clarsach, Brian MacAlpine on keyboards and accordion and Anna Massie on guitar (with or without the wandering capo) generate a subtle yet emphatic pallet of accompaniment, at times sparse, at others gently swinging with lilting syncopations, and then with rapid-fire reeling…”
“…her singing was such that no translations were necessary…”
“…her voice was haunting and angelic; and her chilling unaccompanied vocal on a Scottish lament earned the show’s longest ovation from theBoston Globe, USA
“…one of the brightest singers of traditional Gaelic music in Scotland.”A.F.I.M. (Association of Independent Music )
“…a display of singing confidence, background authority and unshowy musicality that bodes well indeed.”Rob Adams, Glasgow Herald
“….The finest live performer in Gaelic music today”Folk Roots Magazine
“…it also takes a performer of unusual talent to unlock the soul andThe Living Tradition Magazine
to place there in this music and these poems and Maggie MacInnes
is certainly one such performer.”
Review of Port Bàn from The Living Tradition Magazine
|MAGGIE MACINNES – Port Bàn |
Marram Music MARCD06
|Port Bàn, the sixth solo album from Scottish singer and harpist Maggie, is dedicated to her late mother, the widely acclaimed singer Flora MacNeil, who passed away close on five years ago and whom Maggie has always regarded as her main musical inspiration. |
The new album is well titled: literally, “fair port” and “fair tune”, also the name of the bay beside her family’s house on Barra, a place of plentiful happy memories. Its recording was a real labour of love for Maggie, since a majority of the Gaelic songs on the disc come from her mother’s repertoire.
It’s a considerable tribute to Maggie’s skill as a singer and interpreter, and her own deep respect for the songs, that she has put her own stamp on songs which Flora was especially noted for singing (from as long as six decades ago), such as Gràdh Geal Mo Chridh (a version of the Eriskay Love Lilt) and the praise poem O Craobh Nan Ùbhal.
The family connection is further strengthened with the participation of Maggie’s two sons Calum and Ruaraidh, who are joined by Brian McAlpine, Anna Massie, Chris Waite and album producer Angus Lyon, accompanying Maggie’s poised singing (and occasional harp playing) with commendable sensitivity on (variously) guitar, fiddle, bodhrán, piano and accordion.
In addition to Maggie’s passionate reinterpretation of the Gaelic material, which also includes some typically animated mouth music and waulking songs, she treats us to two of her favourite Burns songs (The Bonny Lass Of Albany and The Highland Widow’s Lament).
A particularly fine collection.
David Kidman This review appeared in Issue 133 of The Living Tradition magazine 2020
EARLIER CD REVIEWS
The Living Tradition Magazine, February, 2004: The Peaceful Ground is a faultless celebration of that rich seam of glorious Gaelic song – some in extremely contemporary settings, which may surprise some listeners. Maggie MacInnes’ vocal beauty and purity so echoes that of her mother, Flora MacNeil MBE – who has shared her vast and precious knowledge of Gaeldom’s most beautiful songs with her daughter. This album is the embodiment of the living tradition; rousing Hebridean waulking songs sit alongside moving Gaelic laments and timeless love songs. It all makes for a memorable listening experience, and MacInnes’ voice resonates at one moment with an extraordinary emotional fragility, and at the next with passion and great strength.
MacInnes’ clarsach playing flashes with prism-like precision throughout this finely-arranged recording, and she’s accompanied by some first rate musicians, including Wendy Weatherby (cello), Graeme Hughes (guitars/percussion), Brian MacAlpine (keyboards), Finlay MacDonald (pipes/whistles), and Marie Fielding (fiddle). Flora MacNeil, and Maggie’s sister Cairistiona provide backing vocals on three songs. Their sensitively judged contributions are fundamental to the album’s sound.
You could divide the songs fairly equally between the rousing work songs and the sublime love songs/laments. Of the more upbeat songs, perhaps the most radical is ‘Dh ‘fhalbh mo run bho chionn seachdain’, where MacInnes dips into the family archive to include a treasured recording of her late great aunt Mary Gillies of Barra. Trip hop rhythms, pipes and crunching guitars accompany three generations of this exceptional family. This is a superb song, and there are more like it! MacInnes also unearths a very beautiful ‘lost’ Burns song, The Ewe Bughts – such hauntingly lyrical whistle accompaniment. The album’s lyrical opening song describes the sensual delights of the Isle of Mull on a spring morning.
There are shades of Moya Brennan in MacInnes’ own composition, the lovely Peaceful Ground. Cairistiona is a lament of unrivalled beauty. Fhir An Leadain Thlath is sung a cappella, and I cannot help but compare MacInnes’ version with her mother’s on Orain Floraidh – the vocal similarities are disconcerting. Here, MacInnes publicly thanks her mother for sharing her songs with her – she’s on record as saying that “they are so beautiful and a real joy to sing.” Our joy in listening to them is immeasurable!
SPIORAD BEATHA (The Spirit of Life)
Folk Roots Magazine, July 2001: “Spiorad Beatha opens with a few iridescent phrases from Maggie’s clarsach and from there on in shimmers with the kind of deep-felt emotion that has become familiar to those who have seen her live performances. It gives her chosen songs a gripping immediacy that speaks volumes about the contemporary relevance of this great tradition… Maggie’s chosen approach to traditional song and, doubtlessly, with the aid and inspiration of her mother, she displays an instinctive understanding of the music’s origin in the oral tradition of the Gaelic speaking islands… it is refreshing to encounter a musician who strives to communicate via the power inherent in her chosen songs and via arrangements that compliment rather than fight these beautiful melodies.”
A Fagail Mhuiaghlaigh( Leaving Mingulay)
Properganda Magazine, July 2009: Singer and clarsach player Maggie (from the Outer Hebridean island of Barra)won Best Gaelic Singer title at 2004’s BBC Scottish Traditional Music Awards; in 2007 Maggie was asked to provide music for a documentary film telling the story of the island of Mingulay (a few miles south of Barra), with which she has strong family connections. The music on this elegant and lovingly-produced CD includes much of that used in the documentary plus re-arrangements and extra material. It presents a programme of Gaelic songs known to have been sung on the island (including an ancient lament, songs to accompany daily tasks, a hymn and a tender, charming Fairy Song), along with three evocative tunes composed by Maggie herself. Maggie’s accompanied by several guest musicians (e.g.Michael McGoldrick, Brian McAlpine, Anna Massie, Finlay MacDonald, Marie Fielding, Frank McGuire and Christine Hanson), making this a quite magical disc.