Robert in Lockdown – 20.5.2021

Alasdair Whyte performing as part of the original theatre production of MAIM before lockdown cancelled the tour and the duo instead produced an album.

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Greetings from tier three! I hope all readers throughout the country are having a lovely time hugging each other and going for a drink indoors.

Please don’t worry about us down here in Glasgow. We’re still perfectly happy meeting our pals in our jackets, scarves, and blankets!

As well as the occasional mass gathering in George Square, of course… I’d like to make a shout out this week to any readers up in fellow tier three area, Moray.

Sitting in a beer garden in tropical Glasgow can be chilly enough but I dread to think how cold it is in the north east!

Let’s hope the whole country can progress to a level of normality very soon – once it is safe to do so, of course.

I am often searching for positives for each stage of depressing lockdowns we’ve been through in the last year and, this week, after having to abandon a couple of plans to experience Glasgow’s indoor hospitality for the first time in many months, I found it in a great new album that popped through my door – kindly sent by Birnam CD.

It is the new WHYTE album – the duo project of Ross Whyte and Alasdair Whyte.

I have reviewed their two previous albums in this column before but this one is quite different. Perhaps one reason for this is that it is part of a wider project the guys have been involved in with Theatre Gu Leòr since 2019.

MAIM (the album title) was originally a theatre show which was due to go on tour just as the Covid-19 pandemic forced the postponement of all the dates bar the Glasgow show which they just squeezed in in time.

Rather than sit around and wait for the pandemic to blow over, though, the lads spent the time turning the show into an album and developing some other tracks to enhance it.

The result is both unique and captivating.

From the very first track (in which Alasdair sings Soraidh Leibh is Oidhche Mhath Leibh – a song traditionally sung at the end of ceilidhs rather than the beginning) it almost feels like the listener is being transported into some alternative reality – where you introduce yourself by saying goodnight; and Gaelic songs and poetry are set to an instrumental backing which takes them well outwith their traditional setting but still preserves their hugely emotive qualities.

To produce something so in-keeping with the tradition of the songs but yet so fresh and innovative is really quite a feat and it is something Alasdair and Ross have mastered expertly.

A special mention for the spoken word track “maim-slè”, composed by Alasdair and mentioning the names of a lot of the old Gaelic speakers from his native island of Mull.

This tugs at the heart strings but is countered by an ironic line in English: ‘Gaelic was never really spoken in Mull, though’ which is clearly disproved by the Gaelic lyrics. It is an album that requires your time and thought – but I would recommend it highly.