JULIE FOWLIS Cuilidh (Spit & Polish)

The first Scottish Gaelic singer to win a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award, on her second album Julie Fowlis sings traditional songs from her native North Uist in Scotland’s Western Isles. Blessed with a voice as pure as bubbling spring water, Fowlis renders these Gaelic lyrics as approachable as anyone could, but for me the unvaultable language barrier limits enjoyment (and yet, strangely, Liz Fraser’s impenetrable baby talk gurgling has never stood in the way of my appreciation of the Cocteau Twins’ music).

The music is intricate and full of filigree detail, especially the jangling, frenetic bluegrass pace brought to “Hg air a Bhonaid Mhir”. The mournful, minor key piano introduction to “‘Ille Dhuinn, ‘S Toigh Leam Thu” immediately sets it apart and “Turan san Lochmor” delights in a butterfly-fluttery melody.

Some fairly heavy friends contribute, including members of Nickel Creek, Altan and Capercaillie, and the production is pindrop sharp. “Cuilidh” isn’t the kind of album I’d normally listen to, but it sounds like a mightily accomplished fashioning of folk forms.

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