This second self-penned album from Gaelic singer MacMillan is a collection of ten original Gaelic songs, aimed at broadening and adding originality to the current resurgence in new Gaelic composition. No punches are pulled in subject matter in this quest. His songs range over personal issues (mental struggles and the loneliness of lockdown) to international politics and the celebration of Gaelic legacy. Some of the songs are hard-hitting, projecting Gillebrìde’s stated aim of introducing uncomfortable themes of the modern kind. The balance of subject matter is good and the supporting line-up of piano, guitar, bass, violin, whistle and soprano saxophone keeps a sense of space and reflection. Margaret Stewart and Karen Matheson join for a track each.
‘Chì mi thu’ (I See You Before Me) is a lament for a victim of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing. Margaret Stewart’s heartfelt delivery is sympathetically accompanied by Mhairi Hall’s tender piano accompaniment. ‘Thàinig i ann’ is a warm, tuneful homage to folklorist, writer and musician Margaret Fay Shaw. Best for me on the album is ‘Ghlan mi sibh’ a song about the ancient custom of washing a body shortly after death – a custom that still continues in Macmillan’s own community of South Uist. A truly lovely, compassionate lament against fiddle, electric piano and sympathetic bass.
This diverse album stays close to the spirit of Gaelic music. Gillebrìde MacMillan and his musicians remain in traditional mood throughout, the soprano saxophone of Fraser Fifield adding a pipes-like dimension to the whole. A wide-ranging, soulful and often uplifting collection of new Gaelic music.