Dithis | Album Review
***** FIVE STAR CHOICE! *****
In this challenging lockdown year of 2020, amazing things keep happening; a welter of Five-Star Choice albums keep dropping through my letterbox. We all have a conviction that the folk scene carries on delivering inspiring, go-ahead and super-punchy material – and this one is a very special and unique debut album. After a decade working on very different musical paths, sibling duo Joy and Andrew Dunlop have come together at the Isle of Mull’s creative and cultural beacon and art sanctuary, An Tobar, to lay down 11 shimmeringly beautiful tracks – and it’s all recorded by An Tobar’s music director and acting CEO Gordon Maclean, erstwhile double-bass player with the late lamented Edinburgh band Jock Tamson’s Bairns.
Joy and Andrew come from the village of Connel on the Scottish West Highlands of Argyll and Bute, situated on the southern shore of Loch Etive. Joy was crowned Traditional Singer of the Year and Traditional Dance Champion at the 2015 Mὸd Pan Celtic Festival; she’s the weather presenter on BBC Scotland and BBC Alba, in addition to frequent appearances on Radio Scotland and Radio nan Gaidheal. She also conducts the Alba Choir, Scotland’s first ever Eurovision entry. Andrew is a versatile international musician, currently working as a pianist for Northern Ballet; he has won numerous awards and championships and is artistic director of the Lorn Live Chamber Music Festival in Oban. In addition, he teaches for Yorkshire Young Musicians and is an examiner for ABRSM, the examinations board and registered charity of the Royal Schools of Music, delivering countless thousands of music exams and assessments all over the world.
Dithis / Duo combines a magical blend of traditional Scottish culture, both ancient and modern, and dazzling keyboard mastery; the sheer simplicity of Joy’s plaintive soprano voice and Andrew’s brilliant piano arrangements make listening a real pleasure. ‘A Mhairead Og’ (Young Margaret) is a Gaelic version of the ‘Polly Vaughan’-type tragic ballad that is sung throughout the British Isles and America too; in this account, the girl goes to the pool to bathe, just as the mother sends her son out to hunt for duck. As he passes the pool, he sees a flash of white and fires – but he discovers to his horror that he has killed his one true love. The age-old moral of the story is: he should have gone to Specsavers.
Joy and Andrew remember hearing the gay, strutting ‘A Fhleasaich an Fruilt Chraobhaich Chais’ (Boy With The Golden Hair) by Mary Pollock, an Islay native who taught Connel children their Mὸd songs on a Monday afternoon after school. The duo have made a mighty song of that, and Mrs Pollock would have been proud and overjoyed. In contrast, ‘Solas M’aigh’ is one of the most entrancing and majestic Gaelic songs composed in recent history; it was written by Blair Douglas for Father Colin Macinnes, who left his home in South Uist to work in Equador. The starkness is breathtaking; Joy’s angelic vocals are overdubbed to create a heavenly choir, and Andrew’s piano is delicate and sparing – such lovely, lovely stuff.
They audaciously and expertly ring the changes, from the tripping and tongue-twisting ‘Puirt a Beul’ (Mouth Music) through ‘I Wonder What’s Keeping My True Love Tonight’ to Frank Higgins’ heart-rending ‘The Testimony Of Patience Kershaw’, an actual statement which the 17-year-old Yorkshire girl gave to the Children’s Employment Commission in 1842. Patience had been employed in the Halifax mines for six years, the only girl working with naked men and boys – and the brutal experience bruised her body and her modesty.
Joy and Andrew make a grand job of Scottish writer David Francey’s wonderful song ‘Saints And Sinners’, and they revisit Edinburgh-based harp and fiddle duo Twelfth Day’s delicate composition ‘The Light Gatherer’ – Joy, Catriona and Esther collaborated on the album Fiere, an exploration on the lives, loves and experiences of Scottish women, and this song was recorded. There’s a brace of the great Gaelic love songs: the impressive ‘A Mhic Iain ‘lc Sheumais’ (Son of John, Son of James) and the tragic ‘Cadal Cha Dèan Mi’ (Sleep Evades Me), Joy’s description of a woman who has lost her love when he was drowned at sea. The last track is a perfect finisher: ‘Ae Fond Kiss’, the love-struck hopelessness which Robert Burns composed to Agnes McLehose. Their passionate relationship drifted apart, and Burns left Edinburgh and married. However, on the request of her estranged husband, Agnes sailed to The West Indies – and this song is the result. Joy and Andrew make a perfect combination; her passionate rendition melts into his empathetic accompaniment, creating a solid-gold musical pleasure. I, for one, will be heading north to hear them.
Dithis | Album Review
Sibling duo explore the space between folk and classical
Sibling duo Joy and Andrew Dunlop grew up in Connel, Argyll, in the western Highlands, where Joy immersed herself in Gaelic song, studying at Skye’s Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, while her brother studied classical music at conservatoires in Manchester and New York. On their debut, the worlds of Gaelic and classical music combine, with Joy’s often exquisite clarity of voice set against Andrew’s piano, harmonium and touches of glockenspiel. Singing in English, Gaelic and Scots, the repertoire ranges from traditional ballads – the limpid and stately opener ‘A Mhairead Og’ (Young Margaret) and one they both learned at school in Connel, ‘A Fhleasgaich an Fhuilt Chraobhaich Chais’ (Boy with the Golden Hair) – through to ‘The Light Gatherer’, a paean to motherhood by Poet Carol Ann Duffy and Twelfth Day’s Esther Swift, and the soaring ‘Solas M’àigh’ by Skye composer Blair Douglas. The more lyrical, impressionistic musical settings work best; some, such as ‘I Wonder What’s Keeping My True Love Tonight’, tend towards show tune dynamics, which do not bring out the best from these songs in terms of tone and feeling, but they are indeed exquisitely done.
The Huffington Post
Faileasan | Album Review
Next up is Joy Dunlop’s third CD, Faileasan (Reflections). Dunlop is from Argyll, Scotland, which means “coast of the Gaels,” and naturally enough sings in Scottish Gaelic. She made this CD a showcase of her home region, selecting songs, musicians, producers, and even a design team from the area. Luckily, there’s plenty of homegrown talent, and the result shimmers with impeccable musicianship and clean modern production. Dunlop chooses a wide selection of songs, from eighteenth-century laments to modern love poetry. The best known genres of folksong from the region are represented, from waulking songs (work chants used by women in fulling cloth) to Puirt-a-beul (sung dance tunes). Dunlop’s research at Edinburgh’s famed School of Scottish Studies led her to several gems largely unknown on the folk revival scene. Even these old Gaelic folksongs often have known authors, and Dunlop provides a booklet of notes giving the provenance and lyrics of each song in both English and Gaelic. (You might need a magnifying glass to read it, though!) If you’re not a folk nerd, you can just enjoy Dunlop’s sweet voice supported by guitars, accordions, fiddles, whistles, bagpipes and the occasional piano, bass and drums. The arrangements go from uncluttered modern Celtic to piano ballad with tin whistle breaks. This is the rare disc that will fly with both the Gaelic scholar and the modern music fan — give it a try!
Faileasan | Album Review
Faileasan (Reflections) is the result of personal and scholarly research into Argyll’s music and Gaelic cultural traditions – one that has often been overshadowed by the Highlands and Islands. The album then is Dunlop’s own reflections on that heritage and a beautifully produced and structured piece of work it is too. In a sense, Faileasan is a song of love to Dunlop’s home, delivered in her native Gaelic all the tracks originate in Argyll, whilst the original tracks utilise local poetry with new compositions by songwriters from the area. Traditional tracks such as the humorous ‘Ma phòsas mi idir cha ghabh mi tè mhòr’, the fine set of traditional mouth music ‘Puirt à beul Earraghàidhealach’ and the sweet lullaby of Crònan Charsaig’ provide the body of Faileasan. But perhaps the most interesting tracks are those that combine local poetry with contemporary composition, such as the tender and evocative ‘An Roghainn’, which sets the poetry of Sorley Maclean to a tune by Donald Shaw. Similarly, the closing track ‘Taigh an Uillt’ finds Iain Crichton Smith’s love for Taynuilt complimented by Mary Anne Kennedy’s composition. The quality of both song and musicianship of Argyll is strongly evident, most noticeable through Faileasan’s beautiful evocative and haunting melodies. All of this is centred by the crystalline sheen of Dunlop’s own sweetly inimitable voice.
Track to try: An Roghainn
Folker Magazine – “Die Besondere” = “The Special One”
Faileasan | Album Review
JOY DUNLOP – Faileasan – Reflections
(Sradag Music SRM004, www.joydunlop.com)
11 tracks, 50:17, with English/Gaelic texts and information
One is bound to get the impression that Folker has formed a Joy Dunlop fan club since her cooperation with Twelfth Day was already ‘very special’ in issue no 05/2012. We definitely have to deny that if meant in the ‘fanatical’ sense. But it is correct when the stress is laid on ‘fantastic’. Joy Dunlop’s debut Dùsgadh (Awakening) already had everything a good album needs, the succeeding record is just – that’s right – fantastic. Faileasan – Reflections is the complete package, beginning with the wrapping – the atmospheric woodland photographs, the Gaelic texts and information and their translations make one wish the day of downloads only into a very far future. Immediately at the start one is drawn gently but irresistibly into the world of the artist Joy Dunlop, with the border pipes dominating the sound of the song ‘If I Marry At All, I Won’t Marry A Big Girl’ – humorously, since the lady isn’t exactly tiny herself. She is encompassed with first class musicians and singers, in the first place. From Capercaillie and Celtic Connections head Donald Shaw to Aidan O’Rourke (fiddle) and Lorne MacDougal (pipes, whistle) and to the Gaelic Singer of the Year 2012, Riona Whyte. Such quality pays off, literally audibly. Yet all this would be nothing without the singing of Joy Dunlop – the Gaelic Singer of the Year 2010 and 2011! Nearly interminable seems the list of adjectives used by critics trying to do justice to her voice: hypnotizing, dulcet, bewitching, balmy, smooth, exhilarating. Or as used by the Folker: clear, expressive, variable and controlled. All this is accurate and yet only words. One has to experience the mostly melancholic emotions this singing calls forth for oneself. One perfect example for this is the pure a cappella indulgence of ‘Lament For Colin Of Glenure’, an ode to her home country Argyll. Faileasan – Reflections comes pretty close to what is commonly called perfection.
FOLKER REVIEW * DIE BESONDERE – SCHOTTLAND *
Man könnte durchaus den Eindruck gewinnen, beimFolker gäbe es einen Joy-Dunlop-Fanclub, war doch bereits ihre Kooperation mit Twelfth Day in Heft 5/2012 eine „Besondere“. Dem muss widersprochen werden, wenn es in die „fanatische“ Richtung geht. Es hat aber etwas Korrektes, wenn die Betonung auf „fantastisch“ liegt. Joy Dunlops Debüt Dùsgadh – Awakening, besagte „Besondere“ aus Folker 5/2012, hatte bereits alles, was ein gutes Album braucht, der Nachfolger ist einfach nur – genau – fantastisch.Faileasan – Reflections ist das komplette Paket, angefangen mit der Verpackung – die atmosphärischen Waldfotos, die gälischen Texte und Infos und deren Übersetzungen lassen einen den Tag der reinen Downloads in eine ferne Zukunft wünschen. Gleich zu Beginn wird man sanft, aber nachdrücklich in die künstlerische Welt der Joy Dunlop gezogen, wenn die Border Pipes den Klang des Liedes „If I Marry At All, I Won’t Marry A Big Girl“ dominieren, humorvoll, denn die Dame ist nicht gerade klein. Überhaupt hat sie sich mit erstklassigen Musikern und Begleitsängern umgeben. Das beginnt etwa mit Capercaillie- und Celtic-Connections-Chef Donald Shaw und geht über Aidan O’Rourke (Fiddle) und Lorne MacDougal (Pipes, Whistle) bis hin zur „Gälischen Sängerin des Jahres“ 2012, Riona Whyte. Solche Qualität zahlt sich hörbar aus. All das jedoch wäre nichts ohne Joy Dunlops Gesang – der „Gälischen Sängerin des Jahres“ 2010 und 2011! Schier endlos ist die Liste der Adjektive, mit der Kritiker versucht haben, ihrer Stimme gerecht zu werden: hypnotisierend, lieblich, bezaubernd, heilend, geschmeidig, erhebend. Oder im Folker: klar, ausdrucksstark, variabel und kontrolliert. Alles richtig und dennoch nur Worte. Was dieser Gesang an meist melancholischen Emotionen hervorruft, das muss man hören und erleben. Ein Paradebeispiel dafür ist der pure A-capella-Genuss von „Lament For Colin Of Glenure“, einer Ode an ihre Heimat Argyll. Faileasan – Reflections ist ziemlich nah dran an dem, was man gemeinhin Perfektion nennt.
London Evening Standard – “World” Album of the Week
Faileasan | Album Review
Faileason / Reflections (Sradag Music)
There’s been a real resurgence in Scottish Gaelic music in the past few years — headlined by Julie Fowlis — and Joy Dunlop is one of the newer names. She’s picked songs from her native Argyll, sings them in a pure, ringing voice and also recorded them there. The arrangements — with guitar, piano, drums, pipes — are light and transparent. One of the most haunting tracks, An Roghainn, sets a poem by Sorley Maclean to a gorgeous tune by Donald Shaw. Another, about a man not wanting to marry a tall girl, which opens the album, must be tongue in cheek as Joy Dunlop strikingly towers over anyone alongside her on stage.
Faileasan | Album Review
Joy Dunlop – Faileasan (reflections)
Sradag Music SRM004
1. Ma phòsas mi idir, cha ghabh mi tè mhòr (If I marry at all, I won’t wed a big girl); 2. An Roghainn (The Choice); 3. Hi il ò ‘s na hug I hò ro; 4. ‘S daor a cheannaich mi ‘phòg (Dearly I paid for the kiss); 5. Buain na rainich taobh Loch Èite (Cutting bracken beside Loch Etive); 6. Puirt à beul Earraghàidhealach (Argyll mouth music); 7. Eilean Luinn (Isle of Luing); 8. Cumha Chailein Ghlinn Iubhair (Lament for Colin of Glenure); 9. ‘S fhad’ an sealladh (Distant is my view); 10. Crònan Chàrsaig (Carsaig’s lullaby); 11. Taigh an Uillt (Taynuilt).
Total running time – 50:17
Bright Young Folk
Faileasan | Album Review
2013 Studio album
the bright young folk review
Scotland seems to be producing Gaelic singers by the hatful at the moment. They have probably always been there of course, but the fact that their music is being heard further afield can only be a good thing.
Joy Dunlop’s second album is the latest in this growing tide. The title ‘Faileasan’ translates as Reflections and indeed the songs are a reflection on the part of Scotland where Joy lives.
For the non-Gaelic speakers among us, it is good to have translations of the songs, although it is possible to appreciate their beauty even without this aid. However, the title of the opening track If I Marry at all, I Won’t Wed a Big Girl makes you wish they hadn’t translated it. Fortunately the English equivalents of the other track titles are rather more poetic. All but two of the songs are traditional, with the other two being settings of poems.
Joy works with Gaelic choirs and some of her singers appear on backing vocals. The guest musicians provide a huge range of instruments – the delicate guitar playing on some tracks is almost harp-like. Pipes, accordion, fiddle and piano are also heard in various combinations.
The aforementioned opening track – Ma phòsas mi idir, cha ghabh mi tè mhòr – is very dramatic, with several changes of mood. The instrumentation is particularly rich in this song, with the inclusion of the border pipes making the spine tingle.
The second song, An Roghainn, is one of the poems and has a simple piano and string accompaniment, as Joy’s vocals tell a tale of unrequited love. Several other songs use the piano, where it embroiders the singing rather than merely accompanying it.
The mouth music set, Puirt à beul Earraghàidhealach, is very striking, with Joy’s voice dancing over the words. The sound of the words is as important as their meaning so real words and nonsense syllables are combined. It is a surprise to hear some English words too. Joy’s singing is mirrored by the smallpipes in the first section. Her voice really dances over the words in these songs.
One track, Cumha Chailein Ghlinn Iubhair, is completely unaccompanied – a very effective way of telling the story, which in this case is a lament. The translation is perhaps necessary here to understand the words, but one can still appreciate their beauty without it.
The waulking song (a process in tweed making) S fhada an sealladh unusually uses a sample of a traditional singer Nan MacKinnon. Rather than this being a duet, it is a link with an earlier time.
This lovely album demonstrates Joy Dunlop’s versatility as a singer – she can do justice to a cheeky song, a long unaccompanied ballad or a bit of dancey mouth music.
Released 14 January 2013 by Sradag Music
1. Ma phòsas mi idir, cha ghabh mi tè mhòr (If I marry at all, I won’t wed a big girl)
2. An Roghainn (The Choice)
3. Hì il o ’s na hug i hò ro
4. S daor a cheannaich mi phòg (Dearly I paid for the kiss)
5. Buain na rainich taobh Loch Èite (Cutting bracken beside Loch Etive)
6. Puirt à beul Earraghàidhealach (Argyll mouth music)
7. Eilean Luinn (Isle of Luing)
8. Cumha Chailein Ghlinn Iubhair (Lament for Colin Campbell)
9. S fhada an sealladh (Distant is my view)
10. Crònan Charsaig (Carsaig’s lullaby)
11. Taigh an Uillt (Taynuilt)
Faileasan | Album Review
If I had to describe Joy Dunlop’s vocals in a word, that word would have to be radiant! Originally from Argyll and now leaving in Glasgow, Dunlop is a fluent Gaelic speaker who not only sings, but also acts and dances. She has been making quite a name for herself these past few years, being involved with several projects, including a collaborative EP with duo, Twelfth Day. I am very pleased to report that her latest album, Reflections, is first class.
The repertoire choices made on this album are extremely appropriate and work to Dunlop’s advantage. There are some songs that potentially could be of some interest to the listener and I urge you to read the sleeve notes, as it is worth a flick through at least. The second track, “An Roghainn”, is a perfect example of this. The lyrics of this song come from the poet, Sorley MacLean; however the music of this comes from the talents of Donald Shaw, who plays on the track. The tonal quality of her voice is as clear as crystal, showcasing to the listener how beautiful the actual melody of this song is. Her attention to detail concerning phrasing is highly admirable and to some extent informs the lyrics, which adds tremendous feeling.
Another example of class repertoire choice is the set of Argyll mouth music, (track 6). On this, Joy Dunlop demonstrates a strong core of a traditional style. Even at faster paced music, Dunlop shows that she can maintain her fantastic tone and great diction. As an arranger of music, that track makes it abundantly clear that this mighty singer is a well rounded musician. She obvious has put a lot of thought and time into the way the music is ordered and that is something that shows throughout the album. Track 6 also features the talents of Rona Wilkie on fiddle, (BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2012) and Lorne McDougall, (Three times BBC Radio Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year Finalist), both incredible instrumentalists in their own right.
This album is a total and utter triumph! It is certainly my favourite album of Gaelic song to have emerged in recent years, bringing out some extraordinarily vibrant colours within some sublime repertoire. I look forward to listening to more from this stunning virtuoso in years to come. A HIGHLY RECOMMENDABLE album!
Fiere | Album Review
JOY DUNLOP & TWELFTH DAY – Fiere
Sradag Music SRM002
Take a Gaelic singer with a pure, clear voice and two Orcadian musicians, the words of female Scottish poets and you have the sort of project that Arts councils and the likes seem to love. These works are fraught with danger for all parties concerned, but, in my experience, often a result which exceeds the sum of the parts is produced. So I will say right from the start that Fiere by Joy Dunlop and Twelfth Day works and works well.
Joy Dunlop is a singer of some renown, being most at home on the Gaelic tracks – indeed she has been nominated and won awards in that field. Twelfth Day are a fiddle harp duo who provide much more than backing for Joy’s voice, in fact it is their playing which provides the mood for the songs.
As I have said the poetry of a variety of female Scottish writers is used to explore the loves, lives and experiences of women, particularly in Scotland but equally relevant to the wider world. Often poems set to music still remain poems but these make good songs. I am not going to try to interpret these poems, but there are some stunning tracks here –Fireworks Over Bressay Sound, written by Christine De Luca and the specially commissioned Maid by Sheila McLeod for instance.
A mention must be made of the wonderful clear recording on Fiere and the excellent photography on the packaging. At a time when competition for sales is high, it is good to see someone take such care over a product. An enjoyable listen, an interesting collaboration, a project that works, and something I would like to see live.
Folk Radio UK
Fiere | Album Review
Joy Dunlop & Twelfth Day – Fiere
by MIKE WILSON on 21 JULY, 2012
in FOLK | ROOTS | AMERICANA ALBUM REVIEWS
Twelfth Day are an innovative Scottish folk duo, comprising Catriona Price on fiddle and vocals, and Esther Swift on harp and vocals. They combine here with Gaelic singer and step-dancer, Joy Dunlop, in a distinctive project that celebrates the artistic endeavours of fellow female Scots. Fiere is a collection of songs based upon the poetry of a diverse selection of Scottish female writers, and it is a recording that wears its feminine charms with pride and sensitivity.
Naturally, the Gaelic language features prominently, from the disciplined meter of the traditional waulking song, “Faca Sibh Raghnaill No Ailein?”, to the more haunting, and atmospheric “Colmhead Iad.”
The title track is a reflective piece in the Scots dialect, written with the perspective that accompanies old age, looking back fondly on more carefree times, and the vivid images that landscape and nature impress on the memory. Full of moving intimacy, it is hard not to be immeasurably affected by “Darling,” Jackie Kay’s tender eulogy for the death of a loved one, and the precious final moments spent together. Fiere brings together many similar, intensely personal emotions and reveries from across the spectrum of Scottish life, and its treasures of word and music are plentiful.
Influenced by the linguistic and musical traditions of Scotland, but not bound by any of the strictures, Fiere is really allowed to spread its musical wings, wrapping up all its influences in a classy, avant-garde sound, that is very much its own. The versatility of the harp ensures a raft of texture and cadence, with the fiddle bringing extra depth and muscle when called upon. Joy Dunlop provides lead vocals, and it’s the lustre of her supple, soaring voice that shines throughout. The harmony vocals from Catriona and Esther add a celestial mood to the beautifully sparse arrangements, only adding to the sheer elegance of the overall sound.
Review by: Mike Wilson
Fiere | Album Review
Joy Dunlop & Twelfth Day
Label: Orange Feather
When I saw Joy Dunlop’s name on the CD as it came out of the envelope, I had a real sense of anticipation, Joy’s previous album, “Dùsgadh” was the Fatea Traditional Album Of The Year for 2010, then I saw that she’d teamed up with fiddle and harp duo Twelfth Day and that sense of anticipation rose another notch or two.
On paper it looks like a match made by the Goddess, Joy Dunlop, one of the finest Gaelic singers currently on the circuit, though she does sing some of the songs on this album in English and more on that later, combined with the fiddle and vocals of Catriona Price and harp and vocals of Esther Swift, collectively known as Twelfth Day.
The songs and tunes for “Fiere”, the name means friend or companion in translation, all come from a shared interest in traditional Scots music and draw on poetry and other prose from Scottish women over the last few hundred years, writing in Gaelic, Scots and English. Whilst the words come from many sources the tunes and arrangements are firmly based within the trio.
As you listen to the songs, you can feel the respect the musicians have for the words that have been brought to the project, every inflection, every inclination, giving emphasis to a phrase or passage, the instrumentation between verses and choruses designed to set a mood and build a sense of drama.
It could easily be argued that this is a feminist album, but I prefer the phrase a feminine celebration of the power of women. It’s an album that exudes confidence, these are three performers at the top of their game and consequently “Fiere” is an album that positively bristles with quality.
There is such clarity in the performance you can pretty much hear every note, every strum and pluck of the heart, every movement of the bow, every syllable that is sung. it’s also an album with beautiful dynamics, not just technically good, it’s got real spirit to it, it soars with joy and then rips your heart to shreds, it’s that sort of album.
It had a lot of expectations to live up to as it went into the cd player and hit every one of them head on. Joy Dunlop & Twelfth Day have an album that does them and the Scots tradition proud. They’ve already toured “Fiere” I hope they do so again. I also hope both acts fine time in their busy schedules to find their way into the studio again. Absolutely top notch.
Dùsgadh | Album Review
Sradag Records SRM001, £11.99 ****
Dancer, actor, broadcaster, Gaelic activist, teacher, journalist and choral conductor – this talented, ambitious young woman from Connel, near Oban, has found time to record and release a first “solo” album of Gaelic songs.
Nearly all from the tradition, and instrumentally arranged with admirable skill, taste and restraint, they showcase her high, clear, expressive vocals over thoughtful piano/guitar/bass with guest strings and percussion in a richly rewarding album.
Download this: Taighean Geala
Bright Young Folk
Dùsgadh | Album Review
2010 Studio album
the bright young folk review
Dùsgadh (“Awakening”) is the debut album from Joy Dunlop. As befits the Gaelic development officer in Bute, Argyll and the Islands for The Gaelic Association, the lyrics for are performed entirely in that language.
The sparse instrumental accompaniments on the album are well judged as they allow Dunlop’s pure and powerful vocals to really shine through. The music is highly evocative, spiriting the listener away to the wild coastline and mountains of the islands that inspired it.
As a non-Gaelic speaking listener, I found it difficult to relate to the tales in these songs using the translated lyrics in the cover notes. A great strength of the album, however is that this doesn’t really matter – the vocals as music are clear, emotionally charged and allow the imagination free rein. From the strong opening of ’Nach truagh leat mi ’s tu ’n’ Eirinn’ to the beautiful ’Thig am bata’, this is an excellent piece of work throughout, and a fascinating introduction to traditional Gaelic music.