Julie Fowlis

Cuilidh

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It's good that Gaelic singing has a new poster girl in Julie Fowlis. The Scots-born vocalist from the tiny island of North Uist grew up with the language and traditional song, but she's expanded from that to thankfully include contemporary Gaelic songs from composers who are keeping the beauty of the language alive. That she's a captivating vocalist is immediately apparent from the opening cut, a piece of puirt-a-buel, or mouth music, that was used by women to accompany communal work (she expands on this in the lovely "Puirt-A-Buel Set" later in the disc). She's at her best on the slower material that demonstrates the sheer beauty of her voice, like "Mo Ghuargach Dhonn." She's a mean whistle player, too, and has the chance to show her chops on "Set of Jigs." Lovely as the traditional material is, it's the modern songs that are the delight, carefully selected and lovingly presented -- easy to do with the fabulous cast of musicians playing on the album. It's a sign that Gaelic song is flourishing again after being largely ignored for far too long. With young artists like Fowlis in the vanguard, it's a very welcome return.

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