Produced by Julie alongside husband Éamonn Doorley, and mastered by Calum Malcolm, Alterum remains strongly anchored in the pulse of the Gàidhealtachd, whilst adding a further layer of refinement to the finished result.
This approach is apparent throughout the album, but especially noticeable on those tracks enhanced by some evocative string arrangements, such as A Phiuthrag’s a Phiuthar (O Sister, Beloved Sister) ─ a duet across the ocean featuring Mary Chapin Carpenter that subtly emphasises links within the worldwide Celtic diaspora.
This segues effortlessly into Camariñas, a collaboration with South Uist’s Gillebride Macmillan drawing on Galician and Hebridean influences. Ewan Vernal’s double bass adds depth to the sound by augmenting the rhythmic core of Tony Byrne’s guitar, Eamonn’s bouzouki, and Duncan Chisholm’s subtly dextrous fiddle lines.
Meanwhile, Julie exhibits her characteristic mastery of the comprehensive range of shades, textures and tempos to be found in Gaelic song, especially noticeable on the wonderful Fear a’ Bhrochain / Dòmhnall Binn ─ a fine example of puirt à beul (meaning ’tunes from the mouth’): a Gaelic song form native to Scotland, Ireland, and Cape Breton Island.
The two English-speaking tracks ─ another duet with Mary Chapin Carpenter on Archie Fisher’s Windward Away, and Anne Briggs’ Go Your Way ─ add to the interest by bringing linguistic contrast before Donald Shaw’s piano on the dream-like Cearcall Mun Ghealaich (featuring Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh) bring this wonderful album to a close.
AudioCelt Star Rating: 5 out of 5