Image © Brid Ni Mahaoileoin and
Alan Burke 2004
(20 October 2004) Striking vocals characterize Irish Gaelic singer Brid Ni Mhaoileoin's debut album, Ar Mhuin na Muice (translated to On the Pig's Back) (Habari Records (Ireland) 001, 2004). It is an album of Sean-Nós (unaccompanied traditional singing in the Irish language) and contemporary Irish Gaelic song. Brid was born in Kenya and spent her early formative years immersed in music, colors and rhythms of the Masai. She grew up on the west coast of County Donegal, Ireland--also the home of Clannad, Enya and The Corrs--an area rich in music and culture.
She played music in the family group, Ceoltóirí Ghoill, together with her four siblings traveling around Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Brittany and the United States. They were reknowned for their a capella numbers sung in Gaelic and Swahili. The group split up in 1985, and Brid went on to pursue her love of languages, where she is proficient in Gaelic, Swahili, English, French and German.
Fortunately, the CD booklet has translations of the lyrics, with prefaces by Brid about her musical choices. This album is rich with brilliant instrumentals: uilleann pipes and whistle player Joe McHugh, fiddle player Kevin O'Connor, accordion player Kate Dunne and bass player Wolf Zwiauer, guitar and vocals by Alan Burke, lovely backing harmonies by Brid's mother, Caitlin, and her brother, Padraig, and bodhrán by Brid.
There is a clarity and joyfulness throughout this album and Brid's vocals are a pure delight. A blend of traditional Irish melodies as well as a capella songs create a wonderful and varied musical tapestry. Lush tones welcome a mix of traditional and contemporary songs. Brid sings with limitless passion and her exquisite vocals are perfectly executed.
"Bideach na gCarad" highlights Brid's sparkling approach to this traditional Connemara song. "The Fuschia" and "Green Grows the Laurel" are sung in English, and the lilting melodic tones of her vocals are enchanting. A purity of sound is found in "Ailiú Éanaí" and "A Stór a Stór a ghrá" in which Brid sings unaccompanied with her own backing vocals as well as those by Alan Burke (producer and music arranger) and the latter with her brother, Padraig.
Guitar and whistle create a lovely ambiance in "Cá raibh tú ar feadh an Lae uaim?" Beautiful guitar riffs open "Brid Óg Ni Mhaille" and Brid's tender rendition of this Donegal tune make it magical. The next song, "Máire Bhruinneal," was performed by Clannad live in 1978 to great acclaim. Brid certainly has put her special stamp on this traditional song and sings a beautiful version.
"Caldé sin don tsé sin?" showcases this talented singer's clear tone and expertise on the bodhrán. Alan Burke performs the vocals on the final track, "an Trocallin Donn," which is a lively song, based upon a true story. Backing vocals on this track were performed by Brid.
The thirteen tracks on this debut album are a pure delight. Brid's superb vocals and the dynamic instrumentals make this album a standout. This is a collection of spirited songs, filled with boundless energy. Available online via Brid's website, Ar Mhuin na Muice is a stellar effort and you'll want to play it again and again!