Julie Fowlis: Cuilidh Shoeshine Records SPIT032
Much has been written about the impact of the opening note of Dylan's 'Like a Rolling Stone'. In fact there are many well known songs that immediately tell you that you're about to hear a masterpiece by the first couple of notes and that you can instantly name on hearing them. This testifies to the importance of the arranger's art in recording and the production of records.
The opening bar of the first song 'Hug air a Bhonaid Mhoir' on Julie Fowlis's 'Cuilidh' makes just this kind of impact -'Here's a good one,' it unashamedly announces. I have to admit that although I couldn't understand a word of what was being sung, I knew this what great music, but without that first bar or two I probably wouldn't have sat up and listened to this song, let alone the whole album. This placing of the first track can be all important in making a record a crossover hit rather than ghettoise it within it's own genre, where it would doubtless flourish despite such general release and promotion.
In fact at first I thought I might be listening to an exciting new variety of bluegrass and not a fairly conventional CD of contemporary Gaelic Folk Music. The arrangement and positioning of this track was instrumental (!) in making me want to hear what else Julie had to offer.
Her voice is pure and beautiful, the accompaniment is clear and uncluttered and the whole does not seem to rely on bathing the atmosphere in pseudo-magical Celtic mystery that popular and successful crossovers from this musical form have often needed to do. This has to be a plus. I would not necessarily want to be swamped with records of this nature but this one is fine - very fine indeed!
Well worth at least borrowing from your local Library - if it hits your spot, you'll probably want to buy it