Wednesday, September 03, 2008

now playing: a short film about julie fowlis

Julie Fowlis is a singer and musician from North Uist in the Outer Henbrides in Scotland. She sings, usually, in Scots Gaelic,which is spoken as a daily language by fewer than one per cent of the people in Scotland. No worries about that, though. Fowlis is gifted at conveying the heart of her songs across languages. She’s celebrating the US relase of her second album, called Cuilidh..

Some of the songs she sings are recent, and some go back centuries. They might speak of tragedies -- or they might speak of cabbage on the table or the cow outside. “These people were on the edge of the world,” Fowlis says of those who composed the songs. “The weather was extreme, and the conditions were hard. Through music and song, they were very expressive people. They were always singing and writing poetry. It could be something light hearted, like the food on the table or what washed up on the beach, or it could be something completely beautiful.”

That range of emotion and connection to story is what Fowlis brings her listeners, whether they speak Scots Gaelic or not. Cuilidh means treasure, and on the recording Fowlis includes both the lively and the sad, love songs and a song to potatoes and butter. Fowlis is also an accomplished player on the whistle and the highland pipes [and has a degree in classical music too] and there’s a set of jigs to include that, as well. Hug Air a’ Bhonaid Mhor, in English called Celebrate the Great Bonnet, makes a fine and lively opener, and ‘Ille Dunn,’S Toigh Leam Thu, My Brown haired Boy, is a fine ballad. It’s easy to hear why Fowlis has won a batch of awards in the UK, and how her music speaks across the boundaries of language and time. “I could sing English, but right now this is what I feel called to do,” she says. “This is what love and know.”

Look for a longer feature on Julie Fowlis in an issue of the print music magazine Dirty Linen, coming up this winter. If you happen to be a fan of Scottish music, the issue coming out this month will have an interview I did with Emily Smith, and upcoming, there's one with the men of Lau, and with harpist/singer/producer Mary Ann Kennedy, to look forward to there as well.

Julie Fowlis is celebrating the US release of Cuilidh with a brief tour in the United States, including appearances at the Lotus Festival in Bloomington, Indiana, and Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

You may also want to see

Julie Fowlis: tour schedule

Music Road: now playing: Julie Fowlis: Mar A Tha Mo Chridhe/As My Heart Is

Music Road: now playing: eist: songs in their native language

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


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