The fabulous Brian Ó hEadhra and Fiona Mackenzie last appeared on my radar with the stunning TUATH: Songs of the Northlands, the follow-up to TÌR: Highland Life & Lore. Both albums were were bold and powerful, laced with imaginative use of electronica and the digital world in general, energizing the old traditions mightily. Brian and Fiona were most kind in answering a few questions I had about Tuath and if Brian reads this, I still thank him for taking the time back then (it seems an awful long time, with the entire Covid fog between then and now). That Q & A is here.
Judging by the new album credits, Brian’s partner in crime is now different, but no: “Fionnag NicChoinnich” is just the Scottish Gaelic form of “Fiona Mackenzie” 🙂 There may be a reason for that change: the album’s style and approach are a polar opposite to the pair of albums mentioned above.
Càirdeas (meaning both kinship and friendship) is a fully acoustic, incredibly warm outing, and no wonder, as the artists write: “This album was recorded during the Covid lockdown in the winter of 2020/21. During this difficult time we wanted to reach out to family and friends through recording songs with them which we grew up with or that means something special to us.” This intention and spirit comes through strongly. That the music here is also performed expertly is a bonus, really. It is easy to understand how one’s musical or other cultural base can give one strength and comfort in a time like the one we have lived through. The point of this album is not to break any new ground, I think; rather, it gives you a safe blanket and a human touch, regardless of what your own cultural background is.
And that’s actually one of the reasons, I think, why I and so many others were born and live outside the Celtic folk home ground have become so attached to this world of music. There is an openness in the way it communicates on the emotional level, and an accessibility to its various forms and languages. You don’t need to take an anthropology course to get it, although learning about the histories and cultures and languages of the Celtic regions certainly makes things even better, believe me. But it’s not mandatory, and Càirdeas certainly will speak to you, no matter what your language is.
When you get your copy of Càirdeas from their Bandcamp site, you will support Brian and Fionnag directly and keep great music alive!