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Tha math a bhith beo (it's good to be alive).
on 3 August 2011
Manran have a great bright, up-to-date, lively sound and lead singer Norrie MacIver has a great voice - he's particularly good in the version of An Eala Bhan here (Track 10). This song is written as the last words of a soldier to his girl Maggie from the frontline. A few years ago I heard that in fact the writer Domhnall Ruadh returned alive from France and married... someone else entirely... as Norrie say in Latha Math (track 8) - 'tha e math a bhith beo' - it's good to be alive - even when it surprises you.
Latha math is a fabulous song - wonderfully sung and played - it surprised me when I heard it on BBC Alba's Hogmanay broadcast this year. And I knew this was a band I wanted to hear more from. This first album from them is a nice mix of songs and instrumental sets.
The instrumental tracks are all great fun and one from Gary Innes (Chasing Daylight, track 11) is really excellent.
The two songs An Eala Bhan and Latha Math alone are really worth the price of the album. So it is a real bonus that you get the first recorded version of the wonderful Glaodh an Iar (track 3) written by Callum Runrig and his son Donald.
Maraiche nan Aigh (track 6) is an odd fish - a gaelic version of the Waterboys' Song of the Mermaid translated by the Bard Aonghas Dubh (Angus MacNicol). I think the chorus in this does sound a bit odd - but it is supposed to be the call of the Mermaid so maybe it is accurate for all I know.
Norrie and the lads have also included a great lively version of Oran na Cloiche (track 4). This is the amazing song by the Paisley Bard Domhnall MacIntyre (Bard Phaislig) about the repatriation of the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey to Scotland in 1950. This song also has a sound imitation it - in this case the rhythm of a hand quern or milling stone. The Bard uses this sound connection to link the original loss of the Stone of Destiny from Scotland to a folk memory of people losing their hand querns. (Which meant that flour milling became a monopoly of the landlord.)
Norrie and the band move this song along just a bit fast for the full effect of this sound trick by the Bard. But Norrie's great delivery of the words and the spirit of the playing are infectious. There are some hilarious lines but this is still a fighting song - hoping for injustices to get ground down by time - and that really comes through in their version.
Manran also have great spirit in their delivery of some Puirt a beul (track 12). Puirt a beul (mouth tunes) are Gaelic rap - usually unaccompanied voice to replace instruments for dancing. Puirt a beul is more common from women singers so it is good to hear a man's take on it.
If there was a pre-order button for the the next Manran album I think I've already heard enough to press that straight away.