Thursday, June 23, 2011

Julie Fowlis: Live at Perthsire Amber

It is a challenge to have just the right sense of presence in a live recording: presence of the artists, presence of their connections with the audience, and sharing those things in a way that goes beyond the immediacy of the moment and yet shares that too.

On Live at Perthshire Amber, Julie Fowlis and her talented band members and sound folk do all this really well. Perthshire Amber is a festival which takes place in Highland Perthshire and was founded by songwriter Dougie MacLean. Each autumn, musicians from Scotland, Ireland, and beyond gather to share their music over a week’s time with listeners who come from across the world as well.

julie fowlis perthshire amber coverOn an autumn night in the Pitlochry Festival Theatre in Pitlochry, Julie Fowlis brought songs and tunes from the western isles to the stage. Fowlis is from North Uist in the Outer Hebrides. She grew up with songs from the tradition sung in Scottish Gaelic, and with Scottish Gaelic right alongside English as a living daily language. It was the older songs and stories that stayed with Fowlis, and she’s taken them across the world to high acclaim, despite the fact that many people do not understand the language in which she sings.

That’s a gift which comes through clearly on this live recording. The songs and tunes come from across Fowlis’ recorded work -- along with a few extras -- and they are no museum pieces, but rather music that engages whether or not you’re quite sure of the story behind the words.

There are tunes, as well. Fowlis plays the whistle, and the tunes give her a chance to enjoy that and for her band members to step out into the fore a bit as well. Eamon Doorley on bouzouki and backing vocals, fiddler Duncan Chisholm, who also adds vocals, Martin O’Neill on bodhran, and Tony Byrne on guitar and vocals are Fowlis’ usual musical cohorts on the road and in the studio. Each is an outstanding artist on his own and all togethe they join inr weaving a lovely tapestry of sound on the songs and tunes. Subject matter ranges from love lost to love found, new shoes to bonnets to blackbirds to a child’s welcome to the world, from lively melodies to quiet ones For the closing song, MacLean steps in for a guest slot to join in on a song he wrote, Pabay Mor. It’s a thoughtful and well thought out set, one that was well suited to the listeners on the night and is equally well worth repeated listens in recorded form.

aside: it is a realy well designed package, as well, with photography by Michelle Fowlis and sleeve design by Mike Garden

you may also wish to see

Music Road: Julie Fowlis:Uam
Music Road: Dual: Julie Fowlis & Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh
Music Road: cathie ryan: the farthest wave

Cathie Ryan: Through Wind and Rain

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posted by Kerry Dexter at


Anonymous Alexandra said...

Sounds like an artist my mother would have loved. And, you are so right about live albums. They are not easy to produce. Looking forward to hearing this one.

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Living Large said...

I don't like a lot of live recordings, but this one sounds like a good one! Thanks for sharing.

5:13 PM  
Anonymous Brette Sember said...

I tend not to be a fan of live recordings either, but when I find one I like, I tend to *really* like it. My favorite is Peter Paul and Mary's Christmas concert (can't think of the title) where they do the song Light One Candle. This sounds like a lovely live recording too, which I will have to check out.

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

It's interesting that others aren't big on live recordings. I kind of like them. It feels and sounds a bit less produced to me.

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Jane Boursaw said...

Sounds lovely. Live recordings are great if done well.

11:12 PM  
Blogger MyKidsEatSquid said...

I like live recordings when they're done well and this sounds like it was. Have you ever attended this event? My guess is if you haven't you've attended one like it--sounds amazing

11:18 PM  
Blogger kerry dexter said...

I've been fortunate enough to see Julie and her band play a number of times times over the years, mainly at Celtic Connections. and you're right, such events are amazing.

5:28 PM  

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