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Thread: Gaelic Folk

  1. #1
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    Default Gaelic Folk

    Had a first attempt at putting together a playlist on mixcloud (it's a bit rough in places and one track has a skip that I missed when recording - sorry!) and thought I'd share it here.

    https://www.mixcloud.com/stephen-sma...-gaidheltachd/

    Over the last few nights I've been reading a few old threads on here about 'ethnic' finds (and how troublesome that label itself is), Welsh folk from Boi O' Bethel's Xmas mix and Fuz's 'Redeeming Feature' pieces which were all inspirational. Also had a few conversations a while back regarding the seeming lack of decent Scottish folk music in comparison to what exists across other parts of the UK, maybe just too conservative an area at the time of the folk explosion during the 60s and 70s. While I have many other folk records lying around I've tried to limit myself, with one exception, to music from the Gaelic population/diaspora within Scotland.

    Most of the tracks come from LPs where the majority of music is of the sort that fills up charity shop bins and is a tough draw, but every so often one or two tracks catch my ear and offer a little more. Big up to Fuz for hipping me to a couple of these tracks - The Sound of Mull from his 'Redeeming Feature' and Na Sgoilearan which I picked up from him a while back. These tracks made me more willing to give some of these LPs a shot and here's the result.

    Do any other VG+ers have other hidden gems they've found in a similar vein? A few of these songs come from LPs and 45s on the Lismor, Thistle and Gaelfonnstable of labels which released hundreds of records but very few do anything for me, maybe I've missed one or two along the ways.

    Hope some of you can find something to enjoy here.

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    Just listening to this now Stephen... Loving it so far - great work.

    I'm a long way from home unfortunately so can't really contribute to this thread as much as I really want to. Work keeps me busy until mid October but give me a nudge / gentle reminder / slap then and I'll throw some stuff into the thread. My Gaelic is weak, and even worse from memory...

    I've done a short mix of this sort of stuff which I play to the tourists if they seem willing... So far no complaints and even some compliments I'll try and get it up here when I return home.

    One group I can remember is "The Lochies" everything I've picked up by them hasn't let me down yet...

    It would be interesting to discuss why the folk explosion of the late 60's doesn't really seem to have penetrated the Gaelic homelands... But I don't really know anyone to have it with!

    I've certainly found stuff I enjoy but it's definitely a whole different vibe.

    Glad yer enjoying the Redeeming feature / Scholars stuff, it's always great to get feedback. I sent my spares in this field to TomB a while back hopefully he'll drop by the thread with anything he may have picked up off the back off them...

    I'm always interested in hearing more in this vein so any more contributions are always welcome... Keep up the good work Stephen. Apologies for not replying to your recent PM, it's high season at the moment... Just about to go and force feed haggis to a coach load of Aussies and Americans!
    In ((( VISUAL ))) Stereo

    Eclectic Mud



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    I can't do this on my new fangled technology gadgie but someone do me a favour and post up the YouTube clip of Archie Fisher's version of "Reynardine"...

    It's not Gaelic but it is Scots 60's folk with sitar... Why wasn't there more of this sort of thing going on in Scotland?
    In ((( VISUAL ))) Stereo

    Eclectic Mud



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    A pleasure sir


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    Fuz, don't worry I'll give you that nudge - figured you'd have some nuggets squirrelled away and would look forward to hearing them. Actually passed on a Lochies LP at the weekend, need to go back and get it now - I had swithered and it looked up my street (missed out on one of theirs before) but was already picking up quite a bit so left it behind. As for the PM - if you don't have it I definitely recommend it - once you're back I can send you a couple of tracks if you want, give you a taster.

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    Here are the records used. In order:

    Gaelic instructional record - pressed through Gaelfonn a company based in Glasgow for STV

    Anna Niclomhair - Gur Migach Milis Thu from the Bonn Oir comp which showcased all of the winners from the 1965 Mod. This is a lullaby sung to infants traditional to the Western Isles

    The Sound of Mull - A' Bhirlinn Bharrach from their first LP on Lismor, already mentioned by Fuz here. This is a work song that sounds almost Polynesian in places, very distinct from most other folk of the period

    Na Siaraich - Mo Chridhe Trom 'S Mi Seoladh is a song about the sea and sailors which are recurring themes in a lot of these tracks. This group had spent time in Glasgow and tis track was also recorded by the Lochies who Fuz mentioned up thread

    Mary Sandeman - Abu Chruibal' is another work song with lively backing. Mary won the Mod in 1965 and was also on the Bonn Oir LP. This is one of her singles on Thistle. She became better known in the 80s as Aneka for the song 'Japanese Boy'

    Na Sgoilearan - Tom-An-T'Searreach is a really pleasant guitar/harmony track. Na Sgoilearan were a group of school girls in Glasgow who all hailed from the Western Isles.

    The Sound of Mull - Chairstion is a nice track from their second LP also on Lismor. More traditional instrumentation but an intriguing melody underneath the fairly standard vocals. The cover of this LP always seemed too twee to me with the view of Tobermory which put me off picking it up for a while but it is a pleasant listen although this is the stand out to me

    Lomond Folk - Silence is the one non-Gaelic track here. I just love the vibrating sound of the guitar, brings to mind shimmering water. LP was on Action Records which I have a few LPs on, is anyone else holding any? Particularly a group called the Leftovers?

    Russell-Ferguson - The Sea is an instrumental harp piece which is evocative of the ebb and flow of the sea along the west coast. There appear to be at least three more singles of a similar vein but I've yet to come across any of them

    Willie John MacAulay - Culaibh Eirinn is an astounding track to me. I love the spare instrumentation and the lamenting tone of his voice, it really conveys a sense of loss or longing. Perhaps of a similar construction to the first Sound of Mull track in the percussive approach to the backing. This track is a real oddity given the bouncy and country nature of the rest of the LP and another LP I have by the same singer, nothing else is remotely similar or as powerful

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    Fuz, in response to the not yet existent discussion on why the 1960s folk explosion didn't have the same impact in Scotland as it did elsewhere across the UK and the Celtic fringe (whether Wales, Ireland or even Brittany) I have a couple of possible suggestions which people can feel free to pick apart.

    1. In the Gaelic speaking regions perhaps the religious conservatism that was prevalent, and still is to some extent in comparison to the mainland, had a role to play in preserving the existing culture. The language barrier and relative isolation (particularly from TV and radio broadcasts) would also have limited the exposure to other musical movements that were happening and perhaps informing the reshaping of folk music in other areas. It is perhaps also of note that a number of the Gaelic language recordings that play most with convention tend to have been played by musicians who had spent time, or who were actually based, in Glasgow or other large cities in Lowland Scotland and who would have assimilated other approaches to folk which made those musicians play a little more with the traditional melodies. The power of the oral tradition and passing down of words and melodies would also have been a powerful cultural identifier and would have made preserving these more of a priority

    2. Even in the more urban (or urbane) cities there was relatively little in the way of assimilation of contemporary influences in folk music, particularly in Glasgow from my listening so far. This was mirrored again years later during the initial punk boom when the city took a dim view of 'modern' music. Perhaps again the nature of the city, the strong cultural identifiers, presented a block to large swathes of people undertaking such a revolutionary approach. Glasgow's reputation as a tough, working class city would perhaps have played a part, a large portion of folk coming from the tradition of protest music against exploitative overseers (whether lairds, politicians or employers). I do enjoy a number of artists and songs that came out of this tradition but they are certainly not channelling the same spirit of musical exploration that was on show elsewhere

    3. Tied in to both of the above, could it also be a consideration of the general view that the majority of society at that time would have had of the type of person who would likely have been involved in such musical exploration. The word 'hippie' is bandied about now as an almost comical term but there was a palpable mistrust of that generation and approach to life by the older generation coming through from their wartime experiences. Could the small number of people being involved in such music be a pointer that given society's lack of acceptance of or understanding of experimentation and the lifestyle perceived to be associated with it made people less willing to be seen as different or participating in activities that could be seen to be provocative or subversive?

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    Nice work dukowski. I have the Na Sgoilearan but the rest is new to me. Like you, I pick up bits on labels like Lismor when I see it as there is often a decent track. I've not kept much of this though in the general record downsize I've gone through. Apart from the Na Sgoilearan, I think the only other Gaelic thing I still have is an EP by Alasdair Gillies. Not strictly folk but he does a wonderful, twisted folky version of Yesterday: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=e670PLXMDmk

    For other private Scottish folk, there are a couple of things on the Loneliness of the Long Distance Folk Singer mix I did ages ago that might interest you: http://www.verygoodplus.co.uk/showth...ce-Folk-Singer. There seems to be a fair amount of other private stuff around that is oddball and influenced by folk - a mad discofied version of Massacre of Glencoe springs to mind, the xylophone-led Dark Lochnagar I put on the private mix last year.

    On the wider question, are you sure there is less good Scottish folk than elsewhere? There seems to be more actually recorded than others part of the UK. Lots is traditional but still huges amounts of it out tuhere. You could also mount an argument that acid folk - via the Incredible String Band and Bert Jansch - was pioneered by Scottish musicians.

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    Thanks for your comment Jimmy Oldman, your Loneliness of the Long Distance Folk Singer mix was one of the main influences in me looking at private press folk releases mainly due to the tracks you out in by Findask and Dean Eastwood (and you kickstarted an obsession with Dean Eastwood - I've managed to track down four of his singles and know of one other, they all seem to have at least one really good outsider style track and a couple of schmaltz-y minutes of awfulness in equal measure). I'd agree that there is some oddball private stuff kicking about - that Deni Reid single is the business and I have another folk/club single where after a straight version of Dark Lochnagar the singer breaks into a very upbeat version of 'I Will Survive' complete with synth flourishes which was unexpected - might need to put together a mix of that kind of stuff as well at some point if there might be a small audience for it.

    I don't suppose you have an mp3 of that Dark Lochnagar track and scans - I'd love to find out more about it (seem to remember trying to search out details about it when I read about your mix in the reviews page)? I have that version of Yesterday on my computer, it's nice, just need to find myself a copy. The rest of Alasdair Gillies oeuvre has always scared me a little bit though - too much tartan and country dancing posing going on of my liking.

    As to the Scottish folk in general question, I don't think it's that there's less 'good' folk than elsewhere, maybe I mis-represented myself earlier, just that there's less which is taking in other, more non-traditional, influences. I would certainly agree that there is a lot of recorded material but as you also said, the vast majority is fairly traditional in approach, particularly on smaller labels. Those acid folk pioneers are even more distinctive given the relative paucity of innovation in the folk scenes they emerged from, and perhaps telling that they found more initial acceptance further afield. It must be said though that my own knowledge of folk is still rather rudimentary, given that I've spent much of the last few years immersed in post punk and electronic/synth pop styles so I could be off the mark.

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    Even in the more urban (or urbane) cities there was relatively little in the way of assimilation of contemporary influences in folk music, particularly in Glasgow from my listening so far.
    There was a big difference between what was being recorded and released in Scotland and what was being played live. Once you scroll past Freddy Mack on this page from Hidden Glasgow you'll find some well kent names and what they were doing in the sixties and some references to books which give a bigger picture.

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    That's a fair point Felonious about the difference between recorded output and live performance. Telling perhaps then that a few of my favourite folk recordings are live LPs. Would you say then that the Scottish scene at the time was as fertile as other parts of the UK but for whatever reasons, the recorded material did not reflect this to the same degree? What would the reasons be then that artists in Scotland felt less able to fully experiment on recordings than others?

    As an aside - have you managed to get that Reasons 7" playing yet? Still curious to find out more about it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by treeboy View Post
    A pleasure sir

    And there's this too.
    Played this a million times since first hearing it on a John Stapleton mix.

    To infinity - and beyond!

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    Personally I think most young sixties Scottish performers were like every other young British performer in wanting to go to London to record and maybe play. I'm guessing here but possibly more Scots beat groups recorded in London than in Scottish studios. I don't know how much the more up to date studios charged for use and Beltona and other Scottish labels were not interested in contemporary Scottish musicians in the jazz boom days of the fifties and the pop and non traditional folk artists were ignored as well.

    BTW The Reasons are in a box , pile of records somewhere and if I find it I'll dub it.

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    The Dark Lochnagar is on the Music from the churchyard at St Enedoc's on my Mixcloud page which the link in the bottom of this post will take you to. Glad you've found more Dean Eastwood, would love to hear it if you get the chance. Are they all private releases or did a label pick him up?

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    A great collection of tracks. Lovingly compiled. Top marks
    Rock on Penderyn

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    Jim, here is a Dean Eastwood playlist -

    https://www.mixcloud.com/stephen-sma...stwood-primer/

    It has tracks from each of the four singles I own (including the one you took a song off of), I've picked what I think are the best tracks. As I said earlier, there are some right duffers on each single as well, apart from maybe the first. Jamo from the board has another single 'The Lochee Family' that I don't have although Breeks from Groucho's has said he'll put by the next copy that comes in so fingers crossed. As far as I know Dean Eastwood never got signed, all of the releases are on EEL Records, his own imprint (EEL stood for Eastwood Entertainment Limited I believe). He ran a folk club in Dundee and performed as Dean Eastwood, Dean and Dawn and the New Eastwoods. Tantalisingly, the most recent single I own is from 1987 (some fourteen years after his first) and is numbered EEL 014 which suggests quite a few unaccounted for records although at least one of them had two different issues I think. Hope you enjoy!

    Boi Bach o Bethel - many thanks for your kind words, I in turn really appreciate the enthusiasm and knowledge you share over Welsh language music on the board, really informative and inspirational

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    Some corkers on the Dean Eastwood. Thanks for putting it up. Really enjoying the Russell-Ferguson on the Gaelic mix too...

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    Glad you like the Dean Eastwood - he strikes me as someone who was perhaps not universally well regarded at the time (although obviously his role in the wider folk community and number of releases suggest that there was an audience) but who might now, with some distance, be ripe for a reappraisal. There is certainly an air of outsider-ness in some of the music he released, although as I said earlier, that is not true for all of his output.

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    Had a few more bits and pieces in the door over the summer so thought I'd put together a second little playlist. Artists this time include the Lochies, Gael Folk, Iona Community, Na H-Oganaich, Mannfolk and Doreen Smith

    https://www.mixcloud.com/stephen-sma...folk-volume-2/

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    Lovely stuff. Great work
    Rock on Penderyn

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    Not had too much else in the door recently but picked up a promising LP by Christine Primrose today called Aite Mo Ghaoil on Temple Records which has a couple of lovely tracks, one in particular backed by a clarsach and this effort with sparse guitar



    Also came across this later Na H'Oganaich LP with this rather jazzy/funky backing - not heard much else in this vein


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    Here is the third instalment of my meandering through the world of Gaelic folk music. It's been intriguing, exhilarating and draining in equal measure - I've yet to come across an LP where I can appreciate each and every track, although one of those on this playlist came close (Christine Primrose). I still struggle when listening to unaccompanied vocals which are often a feature of Gaelic recordings - while the voices are often incredibly impressive and you can feel the emotion coming through it still feels a little cold for me.

    https://www.mixcloud.com/stephen-sma...ic-folk-vol-3/

    The selection on this playlist is certainly more varied and contemporary than previous attempts. Partly due to more recent recordings (late 70s/early 80s for some), due to a broadening of sounds (a touch of pop and rock coming in) and the use of some African instrumentation on one record. These all give a slightly different feel to the recordings here I feel. The records featured are:



    Donnie MacLeod - Farewell My Love (Lismor): this LP continues the run of Lismor LPs that have one or two good tracks and a lot of filler. The first track (which is the last on the playlist) is a modern interpretation of the poetry of MacFarlane, a well respected Lewis man. The sound is bordering on pop but draws me in. More traditional is a later track 'Cadal Cuain' which is a sparse lament and more in line with MacLeod's earlier work with Na h-Oganaich. I however still struggle not to see him as Dot-a-Man, which for any of our Scottish contingent may be a blast from the past, a gaelic TV 'star' of a children's show

    Runrig - Play Gaelic (Neptune): before they became a Gaelic-Rock colossus striding across Scotland and singing of Loch Lomond, Runrig were described as a more 'pastoral folk' group of students in Glasgow. This was their first LP and shows the seeds of rock being interspersed with their folk roots. There as a second track I wanted to include here but my copy unfortunately has a nasty parallel scratch in the grooves on that one track so I'll need to try and find another copy

    Russell-Fergusson - An Treisamh 7" (Clarsach): a clarsach (Gaelic harp) single with African instrumentation making this sound rather different from similar work. An earlier single I have by Russell-Fergusson was much more traditional, this definitely spreads its wings far more and is a really interesting mix of sounds

    MacDonald Sisters - Hebridean Beat Songs 7" (Gaelfonn): known as the 'Gaelic Ronettes' for their harmonies, this is their first single as far as I can make out. The track 'Caluim Sgaire' also appears on this playlist performed by Christine Primrose but both versions are different enough to warrant inclusion. This single has made me try and go and find other examples of their work - there is/was an LP in my local Debra charity shop but they are in the midst of moving and I have no idea if it is still there - really hope they don't ditch stock during the move. The son of one of the sisters was in BMX Bandits and Teenage Fanclub

    v/a - Seinn Or '66 (An Comunn): a compilation of the gold medal winners at that years Mod (national Gaelic singing contest). Band featured here are Na Muillearan who won the group medal (although now sound very trad compared to the rest of the playlist)

    Christine Primrose - Aite Mo Ghaoil (Temple): a delightful surprise. I'd passed on this a few times thinking, given the label, that it would be too 'twee'. I was wrong. The songs with instrumentation are sparse and atmospheric (I've seen it described as 'Wicker Man soundtrack-esque' which is pretty on the nose), the ethereal vocals taking the music to a whole other realm. Her voice is still very impressive on the a capella tracks but I just can't warm to them the same way

    Na h-Oganaich - Scot-Free (Beltona Sword): mostly meh, with two lovely tracks. The best, by a long way, is Coisich A Ruin which is jazzy/funky in the intro and just a lovely song really. Interesting to begin to hear Gaelic artists broadening the palette of sounds they draw from

    And that's it - all comments, discussion and views warmly appreciated! I'm really enjoying the process of investigating a sound new to me and sharing here, be great if others can throw up some other tracks and artists that I've missed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dukowski83 View Post
    Russell-Fergusson - An Treisamh 7" (Clarsach): a clarsach (Gaelic harp) single with African instrumentation making this sound rather different from similar work. An earlier single I have by Russell-Fergusson was much more traditional, this definitely spreads its wings far more and is a really interesting mix of sounds
    One of her 45s whipped this board into a frenzy a couple of years back. Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit but it certainly invited a bit of comment. Someone found one and then someone else (sie fly?) said they had a copy. I'm sure a few people expressed a strong desire to get hold of one. One is pretty far out, apparently (the one on here I guess). Look forward to listening to this. I often find myself tuning into BBC Alba ( I'm in Suffolk so it's quite exotic) and they have quite a bit of Gaelic music on. I've come to like it quite a bit. I have that Christine Primrose LP and a couple of Lismor jobbies I got from Mr Divine 'Na Siaraich' and 'The Sound of Mull'.
    "You don't want to kill the cash donkey"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shere Khan View Post
    One of her 45s whipped this board into a frenzy a couple of years back. Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit but it certainly invited a bit of comment. Someone found one and then someone else (sie fly?) said they had a copy. I'm sure a few people expressed a strong desire to get hold of one. One is pretty far out, apparently (the one on here I guess). Look forward to listening to this. I often find myself tuning into BBC Alba ( I'm in Suffolk so it's quite exotic) and they have quite a bit of Gaelic music on. I've come to like it quite a bit. I have that Christine Primrose LP and a couple of Lismor jobbies I got from Mr Divine 'Na Siaraich' and 'The Sound of Mull'.
    Need to try and do a search and see what was said - the one on here is certainly out there for time and place. I believe she released four singles on the Clarsach label so two more for me to still track down. As for Lismor jobbies! Most Lismor LPs in my experience fall in to one of two camps - utter tripe or utter tripe with one or two redeeming features. The Na Siaraich is to be fair ok, but nothing really stands out about it. The Sound of Mull released two LPs and each of them has a killer track, A' Bhirlinn Barrach on one and however you spell Kirsteen in Gaelic on the other, but the rest is all a bit too twee for me. My most recent pick up on Lismor was the Donnie MacLeod which has two rather nice tracks split by the most appalling noise I've come across for quite some time, so capably demonstrating the low hit rate on that label (in my opinion anyway). Hope you enjoy the mix when you get a chance to listen to it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dukowski83 View Post
    Need to try and do a search and see what was said - the one on here is certainly out there for time and place. I believe she released four singles on the Clarsach label so two more for me to still track down. As for Lismor jobbies! Most Lismor LPs in my experience fall in to one of two camps - utter tripe or utter tripe with one or two redeeming features. The Na Siaraich is to be fair ok, but nothing really stands out about it. The Sound of Mull released two LPs and each of them has a killer track, A' Bhirlinn Barrach on one and however you spell Kirsteen in Gaelic on the other, but the rest is all a bit too twee for me. My most recent pick up on Lismor was the Donnie MacLeod which has two rather nice tracks split by the most appalling noise I've come across for quite some time, so capably demonstrating the low hit rate on that label (in my opinion anyway). Hope you enjoy the mix when you get a chance to listen to it.
    Found it. It wasn't as far back as I thought (may finds 2015) starts on this page, found by Sonovox and then continues on the next page wjere Sie Fly says he found one in a skip. http://www.verygoodplus.co.uk/showth...sell-Fergusson. Somebody told me Martyn Bennett sampled her on his 'Grit' CD. I've got The Sound Of Mull LP with A' Bhirlinn Barrach on it. That Jabble track is amazing, it sounds like primitive sampling.
    "You don't want to kill the cash donkey"

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    Quite funny looking back - I had no idea that there had been such a discussion. The two singles mentioned are the two I own. The An Treisamh one is definitely more out there (and Jabble is my favourite track on it although all three are good). I like the first one as well, but it is certainly more relaxed. I do wonder if they were all released quite close together as I gather that she was getting on in years by that point. I think they all come from around 1966/1967 based on the first pressing if the first single.

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    On my travels in the Highlands in what is just stunning weather at the moment, I managed to pick up the CR02 Russell Fergusson EP... No way of listening at the moment and it hasn't got a cover but it looks good...

    Track listing is...

    Drifting Wrack (with voice)
    Sea rain
    Spring river (with voice)

    Another record in this vein I found but haven't been able to listen to is Flair on Shona, it's on Popsicle and looks promising as well... Will report back when I can...
    In ((( VISUAL ))) Stereo

    Eclectic Mud



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    Jealous on the Russell Fergusson. Which Flair LP did you pick up - plain white cover or boats? I have the plain white which is a bit on the country side of things for me, would like to hear the other one though. Think they had a third album on cassette as well. I'm waiting for an LP by The Innes Gaels (listed with flute, bass, violin and guitar as backing so might have a couple of keepers I'm hoping) on Thistle

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    Managed to miss this thread prior to this. Will give the mix a listen now.

    Have you come across this LP before? - https://www.discogs.com/sell/release/2974936?ev=rb

    It's a field recording on Ocora of traditional Gaelic singing - work songs and psalms. It's absolutely amazing. At moments sounds like something from another planet. Sorry for brevity - I've just woken up and I don't think my brain is working properly yet.
    "As technology has advanced, vinyl records are outdated as they are music from the 19th Century so only hipsters and elderly people buy vinyl records".

    Mixes for your delectation: http://www.mixcloud.com/danmatic/

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    Haven't come across that one - will need to give it a listen at some point. I've generally found that I need some form of instrumentation with my Gaelic songs. The few vocal only releases I've come across haven't quite hit the spot although the more communal/harmony tracks do a bit more for me.

    I've put up three mixes so far as I delve more into this area and have a provisional fourth almost ready, just waiting to find the right time to pick up another LP I really want to include a track from and to listen to a bunch of early 60s trad singles to see if anything there is worthy of inclusion. I've really been enjoying immersing myself in an area of music where I have no real touchstones or points of reference. Hope you find some sounds to enjoy on the mixes

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