Suilean Dubh
Lochshore (www.krl.co.uk)

I do not know whether it is quiet in Scotland, having come no closer to that fabled land than the odd can of Tennant's Strong Lager. I do know that there is little quiet, little peace, where I live; each nap, every reverie is subject to clamorous intrusion by emergency vehicle sirens, cruising hip-hop sub-woofers, even the pop and rattle of gunfire. Provided I play it loud enough, this second release from Tannas, the duo of Amy Geddes and Sandra Mackay, offers 46 minutes of aural asylum from urban America. And no matter how loudly "Suilean Dubh" is played, a deep peace flows from its traditional and traditionally styled pieces, updated for the new millennium by fine supporting musicians with electric guitars, synthesized keyboards, creative percussion, and loops. This paradoxical peace is not of the insipid New Age sort, living musical traditions melted into anonymity by synthesized solvent, but the result of carefully calibrated instrumental production, and especially of Mackay's pretty lead vocals, calming even on lively numbers, assuming an aching and fragile loveliness in harmony with those of Geddes.

"Andy's Saltire / Fear a Bhios Fada Gun Phosadh" begins with a gently rolling instrumental. Geddes' fiddle work here is impressive in its antithesis to the fury and wildness often found in Celtic fiddling; it is smooth, sinuous, classically restrained, an important contribution to the calm of this recording. "Illean i" is girded by a shuffling beat and dense contemporary instrumentation, both focusing attention on Mackay and Geddes' swirling vocal duet, a dramatic and emotional treatment of a traditional tune. "Catharsis / Haighaidh / Lexy Macaskill" is the liveliest track on "Suilean Dubh," beginning with another paradox, a Geddes fiddle fling too refined to be fully furious, exciting nonetheless, leading seamlessly into a percussive puirt-a-beul featuring Mackay and Geddes in tight vocal unison, resolving into another fiddle extravaganza. "Thoir Dhomh do Lamh / Ruidhleadh na Coilich Dhubha" is a standout even on this recording, instrumentation supported by accented drums lending a quiet yet festive air to Mackay's vocal, the full effect hypnotic and uplifting.

"Suilean Dubh" is unique in its tasteful melding of contemporary and traditional Celtic musical influences, neither sacrificed in the bargain. - Jim Foley

Buy it at cdroots.com

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