Destination: Hebrides Islands, Scotland
Article by Kerry Dexter
Julie Fowlis grew up knowing all the top songs on the pop charts. She also grew up hearing and learning songs from deep in the tradition of Scotland, songs sung in Scottish Gaelic. Though she earned a degree in classical music, it turned out to be the music of Gaelic tradition that called to her, and that is where she’s focused her life in music. Whether you understand Scottish Gaelic or not, you will hear the sound of the sea, the rhythm of work, and the tales of history when Fowlis sings.
She grew up in the Western Isles, where all these things are part of day-to-day life, as is the rhythm of speech which includes Scottish Gaelic as often as English. Uam means from me in Gaelic. It is a title Fowlis chose for an album which reflects both her connections to the isles and connections she has made as she’s traveled the world with her music, as well.
A Chiad Cheum /The First Step is a tune Fowlis and her husband, Eamon Doorley of the band Danu, composed for the wedding of a cousin. It allows the talents of their frequent musical collaborators fiddler Duncan Chisholm, guitarist Tony Byrne, and bass player Ewan Vernal to come especially clear. Fowlis and Doorley join in on whistle and bouzouki, respectively, as well.
When Fowlis played a festival in another Celtic area, Brittany in France, she was asked to do a Breton song. Translated from Breton into Scottish Gaelic, the one they chose fits well in this collection. The title comes over to English as I Was Born in the Midst of the Sea, an idea anyone from the Western Isles could easily appreciate.
Thig am bata/The boat will come is a sort of murder ballad from the Hebrides. [Note: Curious about the Hebrides? Visit an island of the Hebrides in this article by Kerry at Music Roads.] Fowlis pairs it with another tale of murder involving the waters which made its way from Ireland into American folk tradition. The song is known as Wind and Rain. Fowlis and top-notch Scottish singer Eddi Reader trade verses in Scottish Gaelic and English in a way which really illuminates the story of the song. There are sad songs and lively songs, ballads and working songs, songs which spring directly from the Western Isles and songs with touches of other traditions.
Whether you understand Scottish Gaelic or not (there are English translations in the liner notes), you hear the sea, the land, the lives and loves of people in the songs, the wind and the weather. You hear Scotland.
As it turned out, producers of the film Brave, an animated feature from Disney Pixar with a plot set in the Scottish Highlands in medieval times, heard this too. Unbeknownst to Fowlis, they bought recordings of Scottish music each time they came over to Scotland for research. Her music caught their attention. They arranged to use a song from her first album for a trailer for the film, and commissioned her to sing two songs — in English — for the soundtrack album.
This is a video which Julie has smartly put together to sort of introduce herself visually while she’s singing the song from the trailer, Tha Mo Ghaol Air Àird a’ Chuan/My Love Is On The High Seas. While the trailer only uses about a minute, this is the full song.
As a policy of A Traveler’s Library, we tell you about affiliate links. The links included here may make it possible for you to listen to excerpts of the music, and the ones to Amazon in this post are affiliate links. If you buy anything through the affiliate links in this post, you will be supporting the site Music Road and A Traveler’s Library . Thank you.The video comes from You Tube.