Lèirmheas / Review: Stòras le Cruinn
Lèirmheas ciùil le Marcas Mac an Tuairneir / Marcas Turner reviews the latest music.
Cothrom Magazine. Feb 2015
I listened to Stòras, the new recording from Cruinn, with a certain excitement, during a weekend spent travelling by air between Inverness and Belfast, looking out across the landscapes of the two countries as the imagery of the songs came alive in my mind. This is the second recording from the pan-Gaelic ensemble, and from the outset I was looking for something that would compare to the lovely, melodious number Gun Dòchas on the previous album; it’s the Gaelic-language number I have most enjoyed over the last few years. Indeed, there’s a lot to please the listener in this collection, and the first thing that occurred to me was the excellent mix of traditional and newly-written material, that shows without doubt, that these four song-crafters are more than capable of extolling and extending the virtues of the Gaelic song tradition at the same time.
Where the production of the first album was noticeably sparse, clean and almost cool at times, the singers, this time, benefit greatly from a more expansive backing. The music itself is at once diverse and profound, which suits the strengths of the four unique voices individually, especially the drones employed behind the singing of James and Fiona, which have an almost other-worldly quality, in this context.
Indeed, in terms of vocal harmony in Gaelic, there is no beating Cruinn; and somehow audiences can only get a mere taste of this vocal power on any recording, but it’s clear in ‘Griogal Cridhe’ on this album. Be sure to catch the group on-stage, as I did at their album launch, co-inciding with last year’s National Mod. In this environment, you get a real sense of how the different musical backgrounds come together, as the ensemble does as individual soloists, to such great effect.
There is a soft, classical beauty to Rachel’s voice, trained at RSAMD, as it was, and a startling emotionality to the lively seann-nòs in the voices of James and Fiona. In the songs Thig Mi Gad Iarraidh and Mànus Mo Rùin you could believe the singing comes from the mouth of history itself. Crowning this, it was the voice of Brian that had the most effect on me this time; ever recognised as a fine Irish tenor. Age has been a blessing to Brian and his voice has developed somewhat from his first recordings with Anam, in the interim. Like an Islay dram, blooming in the bottle, there is a touch of peat in this voice these days, that flows powerfully on its own at at the bottom of the harmony with Rachel in Mairidh ar Gaol.
On the other hand, if I were to combine a a suggestion with my praise of this new album, it would be to close the breach between the excellent music and the lyrics of some of the songs; a void that was somewhat evident in Mairidh ar Gaol and Òran an t-Slaighteir, which, at times, seemed more prosaic than bardic and didn’t compliment the evident musical proficiency completely, despite the dexterity of the performance.
This, for me, would be the only weakness, however, and with this second collection it is more than obvious that a great legacy is being prepared, to be surrendered at the feet of forthcoming artists in years to come. If they continue in this vein, it is certain that these new songs of theirs, such as An Smeòrach, will flow from the mouths of up-and-coming young singers within a year or two; singers who, like myself, will be struck by the talent and will to add to the storehouse of tradition.
’S ann le tlachd a dh’èist mi ri Stòras, an clàr ùr aig Cruinn, fad an deireadh-sheachdain seo, a’ sgèith eadar Inbhir Nis is Beul Feirste, a’ coimhead thairis dealbh-tìre an dà dhùthaich agus ìomhaighean nan òran a’ tighinn beò san inntinn.
’S e seo an dàrna chlàr aig a’ chòmhlan panGàidhealach, is bhon chiad dol a-mach bha mi a’ sireadh deagh choimeas a dhèanamh leis an òran bhinn, àlainn Gun Dòchas air an albam eile aca, agus sin an t-òran Gàidhlig as motha a chòrd rium o chionn bhliadhnaichean. Gu dearbh, tha gu leòr a chòrdadh ris an luchd- èisteachd anns a’ chruinneachadh seo, agus ’s e a’ chiad rud a bhuail orm, an deagh mheasgachadh de dh’òrain traidiseanta agus ùr-sgrìobhte a sheallas, gun teagamh, gu bheil an ceathrar òranaiche an seo comasach air an traidisean Gàidhealach a mholadh is a leasachadh aig an aon àm.
Mar a bha riochdachadh a’ chiad chlàir gann is cha mhòr fionnar uaireannan, gheibh na seinneadairean buannachd còmhlan nas motha a’ cur taic riutha an turas-sa. Tha an ceòl fhèin làn diofair is doimhneachd, rud a thig aig neartan nan ceithir guthan aca ann an diofar dhòighean, gu dearbh na dosan a chuireadh air cùl guthan Sheumais is Fiona, aig a bheil càileachd cha mhòr os-nàdarra, sa cho-theacs seo.
Gu dearbh, a thaobh co-sheirm sa Ghàidhlig, chan fhaighear am beatadh air Cruinn; ann an dòigh, chan fhaighear ach blasad den chumhachd sin air clàr sam bith, ach tha e follaiseach san òran ‘Griogal Cridhe’ sa chruinneachadh seo. Bithibh cinnteach cuirm a’ chomhlain fhaicinn air an àrd-ùrlar, mar a rinn mise nuair a chuireadh an clàr air bhog aig Mòd Nàiseanta 2014. Anns an tsuidheachadh seo, gheibhear fianais buannachd nan diofar dhualchasan aig gach neach a’ tighinn còmhla.
Tha bòidhchead mhilis, chlasaigeach sa ghuth aig Raonaid, foghlamaichte aig an RSAMD, mar a bha, is clisgeadh làn fhaireachdainn san tseann-nòs spreigeach sna guthan aig Seumas is Fiona. Sna h-òrain Thig Mi Gad Iarraidh is Mànus Mo Rùin, tha an coltas seinn dìreach bho uaigh na h-eachdraidh fhèin. A thuilleadh air sin, ’s e guth Bhrian a bhuail orm as motha, ’s e a-riamh aithnichte mar shàr-thenor fìnealta Èireannach. Tha an aois na buannachd do Bhrian is a ghuth air atharrachadh beagan bho na ciad chlàran aig Anam, sna bliadhnaichean a dh’fhalbh. Mar uisge-beatha Ìleach, a’ leasachadh sa bhotal, tha blasad mòine is ceò sa ghuth seo sna làithean-sa, a shruthas gu spracail leis fhèin, is aig bonn a’ cho-sheirm le Raonaid ann am Mairidh ar Gaol.
Air an làimh eile, nam bithinn ri comhairle a bharrachd a chur rim mholadh air a’ chlàr ùr seo, ’s e a’ bheàrn eadar an sàr-cheòl is bàrdachd nan òran ùra a dhùnadh; beàrn a tha gu math follaiseach ann am Mairidh ar Gaol is Òran an t-Slaighteir, a tha, uaireannan, nas coltaiche ri rosg maol is nach tig aig a’ cheòl ealanta air a’ chlàr, a dh’aindeoin tionngalachd an taisbeanaidh.
’S e sin an aon laigse a-mhàin, ge-tà, is leis an dàrna chruinneachadh seo tha e fìor shoilleir gu bheil deagh dhìleab ciùil gu bhith ron chòmhlan fad nam bliadhnaichean ri thighinn. Ma leanas iad orra san dòigh seo, ’s ann le cinnt gun cluinnear na h-òrain ùra aca, mar An Smeòrach bho bhilean sheinneadairean òga ùra an ceann bliadhna no dhà; seinneadairean a bhios mar mi fhìn, glacte leis an tàlant shònraichte seo a tha air cur ri stòras an traidisein.
Cruinn Nominated for BBC Radio 2 Folk Award 2015.
Acclaimed Highland based Gaelic singing quartet Cruinn have received a nomination of Best Traditional Track in the prestigious BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2015. The track, Manus Mo Rùin, is from the band's latest album Stòras which was released on their own label at the Royal National Mòd in Inverness in October 2014.
Cruinn consists of four accomplished Gaelic singers who have all built up their own careers as solo singers and as members of other well known music acts. The band are James Graham from Lochinver, Fiona Mackenzie from Lewis, Brian Ó hEadhra from Dublin, and Rachel Walker from Kinlochewe. All are resident in the Scottish Highlands and are involved in numerous cultural, artistic and educational projects.
The words of the song Manus Mo Rùin were sourced from the extensive collection of folklore collected by Alexander Carmichael, Carmina Gadelica, primarily from the Gaelic speaking regions of Scotland between 1860 and 1909. The music was composed by Cruinn band members and couple Fiona Mackenzie and Brian Ó hEadhra.
The track, lead by Fiona, is haunting and atmospheric as the singers pray to Magnus the great Orkney saint who was slain in 1115 AD. Fiona states: “It is a powerful text and we hope that the music and singing we have built up around it makes the prayer even more potent. We are honoured that this track has been recognised by the folk music industry.”
Cruinn will attend the Folk Awards on the 22nd April which will be held in the Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. The event will go out live on BBC Radio 2 and will also be available on the BBC iPlayer and Red Button Channel.
The album Stòras (cruinncd002) is available from all good record shops, from various online and digital retailers and also from the band's website www.cruinn.net. This album is supported by Creative Scotland under the Quality Production Programme.
“Strong clear melodies and beautifully full and mellow harmonies characterise Cruinn. They surpass expectations and provide a superb example of Gaelic song in the modern age.”
Living Tradition Magazine - Review of album Stòras