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Julie Fowlis Cuilidh Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

'Cuilidh' is possibly the most aptly-titled album ever...after all, it means 'treasury'.

Chris Long 2007

With the recent upsurge in interest in folk, artists that would previously have found small audiences are being pushed into the mainstream, which, while being good for the genre, can throw up some oddities. Just when you think you've got a handle on what's happening, someone else comes along and blows it all apart.

Think about it; you're getting used to Karine Polwart's rolling wonders and Seth Lakeman comes along with his fiddle and sends you reeling in another direction. Still, few people could have predicted the rise of Julie Fowlis. After all, she sings entirely in Scottish Gaelic.

The fact her songs are not English is not a matter of fierce patriotism or defiant politics. As a resident of the Hebridean isle of North Uist, it is simply her mother tongue, yet its curious sounds and unusual structures make her songs take on the otherworldliness of some distant land.

In truth, trying to pin down the beauty of her music is like trying to grab the Highland mist. Her voice rings out with a joy and gentleness that is enhanced by the non-Gaelic speaker's need to rest simply on the sound.

As canny as any of her countrymen, Fowlis has also brought in the finest musicians to make Cuilidh even better. Danu's Eamon Doorley, Altan's Mark Kelly, Michael McGoldrick, Nickel Creek's Chris Thile and the incomparable John McCusker are amongst those called upon to put the final shine on an already gleaming gem.

That said, it could all have been for nothing had the poetry of the songs been denied to the wider audience. Thankfully, translations in Cuilidh's accompanying booklet reveal the beauty and humour the likes of ''Mo Ghruagach Dhonn (My Brown-haired Lass)'' or ''Turas san Lochmor (A Journey In The Lochmor)'', adding extra layers of treats.

Whether she can break into the mainstream like Lakeman or simply glances it in passing, remains to be seen, but the truth is that Cuilidh is possibly the most aptly-titled album ever. Listen to it and see if you don't agree; after all, it means 'treasury'.

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