Gaelré is an album of exquisitely-sounding Irish traditional song and Griánne Holland has the kind of pure, expressive, beautiful voice that sounds as if it were born to sing songs like these. Which arguably it has. Belfast-born Holland has been immersed in a love of both the Irish language and Gaelic music from an early age and that is reflected in this beautiful album.
Gaelré (which translates as ’Era of the Gael’) contains eleven songs all of which are performed in Gaelic. Regardless of that, this is an accessible album and one that is very, very listenable to. Holland’s vocal delivery is evocative and wonderfully expressive, even for those of us who don’t understand a word of Gaelic.
And the talented cast of supporting musicians adds to that mood, with some perfectly judged fiddle, flute, guitar, bouzouki, pipes and percussion creating a wonderful and varied texture of sounds. It’s extremely well-produced with quite a contemporary feel, too. This signals an album that though absolutely steeped in tradition, has the potential to reach out beyond any niche and appeal to a diverse range of modern folk audiences.
The gentle but captivating melody of Síos an Sliabh opens the album. It’s an Irish translation of the Robert Burns song Down The Moor. It begins with lovely acoustic strings to complement Holland’s vocals and then percussion, pipes and flute gradually come in to build the song and provide a really strong opener for the album.
One soon realises that over the course of the eleven tracks this is an album of contrasts, in both sound and mood, and it’s all the stronger for that. Holland cites Clannad as an influence and perhaps that influence is most apparent on the uplifting An Fear Foltliath, with its evocative Irish whistle and lovely melody.
The album takes a completely different turn with the moodily atmospheric Úna Ní Chonchubhair Bháin, a song of unrequited love, where nothing but brooding cello accompanies Holland’s heartfelt vocals.
This is Griánne Holland’s second album and she is clearly a name to watch on the traditional Irish music scene. Accompanied by a fine set of musicians, Holland sings beautifully throughout. Through her empathy and expressiveness she is able to form a strong emotional bond with the listener, including those without any knowledge of Gaelic.Darren Johnson
Released on Gael Linn September 2015
1. Síos An Sliabh
2. Shíl Mé Féin
3. An Droighneán Donn
4. Séimí Eoghainín Duibh
5. An Drúcht Geal Ceo
6. Thug Mi Gaol
7. Malaí Mhómhair
8. An Fear Foltliath
9. Úna Ní Chonchubhair Bháin
10. Airde Cuain
11. Ceol An Phíobaire