Glasgow Letter with Robert Robertson week 23

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Osgarra: Beinn Lee’s debut album

Last week, Osgarra was launched in Glasgow, the debut album of Uist band, Beinn Lee.

I have long been a fan of their music and, in my opinion, Osgarra is a brilliant record. The selection of tunes has been chosen extremely wisely. Well-known classics have been mixed with lesser known or even new tunes to create a blend that is both fresh and original but familiar and relatable.

Tunes such as The Ben Kenneth Reel and Exit from Mull (from the pen of band members Micheal Steele and Pàdruig Morrison respectively) are not there for the sake of including self-penned tunes. They are there on merit because they add a lot to the recordings.

Not only are the tunes well chosen, they are extremely well played. The pipes of Micheal and the accordion of Pàdruig – as well as the fiddle of Mairi Thérèse Gilfedder – are so tightly together, it is difficult to believe. And the backing of Anna Black on piano, James Stewart on guitar and AJ MacInnes on drums is put together thoughtfully, with just the right amount of ear-catching arrangement to drive but not overshadow the melody.

The songs have also been considered very carefully. Moladh Eubhal is a fine choice – a Dòmhnall Ruadh Chorùna song that is not hugely well known but with a haunting tune that I think will become an integral part of the band’s live set.

The best known Gaelic songs are kept for the waltz sets where the band are joined by guest vocalists Linda MacLeod and Dòmhnall Ruaridh Campbell.

Lead singer and guitarist James Stewart has written a couple of English songs which augment the album nicely by bringing something totally original to the table.

The first track of Osgarra begins with a verbal introduction from the Uist accordion playing legend, Iain MacLachlainn, taken from the album An Island Heritage as he announces a set of reels ‘in the old melodeon style’. When he finishes speaking, one expects to hear the sound of his box begin the tune but, instead, the huge sound of Beinn Lee comes in strongly.

This moment at the very beginning sums up the whole record. It is an album very respectful of the Gaelic tradition in which it was forged, yet fresh, young, and exciting in its treatment of the music.

To my mind, it is an absolute cracker – available for digital download from most platforms; and also in physical form from the website and some shops. Away and buy it!

What’s on

Friday June 8: The Glasgow Skye Association end of session social at 7pm in the Redhurst Hotel, Giffnock.

Wednesday June 13: Mull and Iona Association AGM Unit 3 of An Leannag, 22 Mansfield Street, at 7pm.

Friday June 29: Helensburgh and District Highland Association dance at 8pm in the Commodore Hotel.

Pub scene

Islay Inn

Friday June 8: Mookie.

Saturday June 9: The Raggaels.

Park Bar

Friday June 8: Nicky McMichan and Martin Pottinger.

Saturday June 9: Martainn Skene and Martin Pottinger.

Sunday June 10: Trail West.