Dàimh – The Rough Bounds
Goat Island Music – 27 May 2018
For twenty years Lochaber based Dàimh (pronounce that ‘Dive’) have been crafting exceptional Gaelic music that takes its very heart from the traditional music of the region. In that time the band have released six memorable albums that add a contemporary edge to traditional forms and do so with consummate skill. In 2015 The Hebridean Sessions was easily one of the finest live trad albums ever produced, and it helped earn the band the title of Folk Band of the Year at the 2015 Scots Trad Music Awards. Their last studio album, Tuneship, was almost five years ago; but at last Dàimh have emerged from the studio once more, with The Rough Bounds, a collection of traditional and self-penned tune sets and songs that feature some new additions to the line-up, and some stellar guest appearances.
Those last two albums took up opposing views of Gaelic music, with Tuneship presenting the band’s own, contemporary material, and the contrasting Hebridean Sessions adopting a more overtly traditional approach over three live performances at island venues. The Rough Bounds seems to take the best of both worlds, in an album that doesn’t specifically present either approach but is simply a group of artists enjoying music for its own sake. Simply, though, is far from an apt description. These arrangements are as intricate as the tattoos on the arms of the salty sea-dog that adorns the album cover.
Gaelic singer Ellen MacDonald first joined Dàimh for the live album and seemed instantly at home. Her light and breezy vocal opens the album in a puirt à beul trio as ’S Trusaidh mi na Coilleagan provides an irresistibly merry opening; with guitar and fiddle, a lightly stepping tempo, and Angus MacKenzie‘s whistle providing suitably light harmonies, before a bassy backing for the lively, toe-tapping close. Dàimh stalwarts Angus MacKenzie (pipes and whistles), Gabe McVarish (fiddle) and Ross Martin (guitar), continue to drive that fascinating instrumental sound. The more recent inclusion of Murdo Cameron‘s accordion has added further scope to an already far-ranging sound; for The Rough Bounds, Dàimh also enjoy the luxury of a second fiddler – in the form of Lewis native Alasdair White, of The Battlefield Band.
That makes for an exciting instrumental line-up and the collection of tune sets on the album is a testament to the skill behind them. Donald MacLeod Reels opens confidently above a soft wail of fiddle before moving on to a brace of reels from the man himself- fiddle taking a gleeful lead for John Garroway before a rousing close among Angus’ pipes in Drumlithie. Dàimh are undeniably masters of the reel – it’s an art form in itself. The trio of Cameron, MacKenzie and White also provide the raw material for 12th of June, a trio of pipe jigs to lift the heart, with the guest appearance of Martin O’Neill‘s bodhrán setting the perfect pace. There are more distinguished guests on the album, and the sense of longing that shines through in Ellen’s perfectly subtle contemporary setting for Tha Fadachd orm Fhìn, is enhanced with guest vocals from Kathleen MacInnes and Ewen Henderson, Signy Jakobsdottir‘s percussion and Duncan Lyall‘s double bass. The same guests feature in Turas Dhòmhsa Chun na Galldachd, as cheerful a waulking song as you could wish for. The whole piece swings along blithely with Ewan and Kathleen’s backing vocal further enhanced by a guest appearance from none other than former Dàimh vocalist, Calum Alex MacMillan. Calum’s appearance is a fine reminder of the origins of the band’s name, Scots Gaelic for kinship.
Òran Bhàgh a’ Chàise brings song from Uist to the album, with a gentle whistle and soft bass from the accordion, while Murdo Morrison’s well-known love song A Nìghneag a Ghràidh sees accordion move on to providing beautiful harmonies alongside the fiddle melody. Ellen’s flourishing vocal talent isn’t only suited to songs of love and parting, though. Bodach Innse Chrò offers another puirt à beul set that charms and delights, a breezy outing powered along by Ellen’s vocal and MacKenzie’s pipes.
Mary’s Fancy is a Strathspey & reel set composed by master Cape Breton fiddler, the late John Morris Rankin. It’s a beautifully presented set and a fine tribute to a great musician – bursting with energy, light-hearted, and skilful beyond measure. For Happy Fish, Ross Martin provided the opening melody, The Fossilised Fisherman. This perfectly balanced fiddle/accordion duet moves on to Murdo’s Happy Hour, and as his accordion takes the lead, Angus’ whistle sings along beautifully.
Chì mi’n toman brings the album to a conclusion, as Murdo’s accordion takes the melody for an instrumental rendition of the well-travelled and beautiful song, in which a woman laments the loss of her love, at the hands of her brothers. Intricate layers of highland and border pipes, accordion & fiddle send tingles down the spine and end the album with heart-wrenching solo pipes.
The Rough Bounds is filled with Dàimh’s typically rich, skilful arrangements. Those arrangements are never over-worked, though – they are as varied and, at times, as breath-taking as the corner of Gaeldom that is the band’s home, and from which the album takes its name. From the Gaelic Na Garbh Chrìochan, The Rough Bounds covers the North Morar and Moidart peninsulas. It’s an area of wild country, steeped in history. 20 years into their own history, Dàimh’s reputation as writers and interpreters of traditional Gaelic music, for a contemporary audience, goes from strength to strength. With each successive release, Dàimh seem to exceed their aspirations, creating and recording peerless new music. The Rough Bounds is an exceptional album, from an exceptional band.
Pre-Order The Rough Bounds here: https://www.daimh.net/merchandise/the-rough-bounds/
The Rough Bounds Launch Tour
11th The Maltings, Berwick
12th Astley Hall, Arisaig
23rd Paisley Arts Centre, Paisley
24th Isle of Muck
25th Isle of Canna
26th Seall – The Stables, Armadale, Isle of Skye
31st Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore
1st Sutherland Sessions – Ardgay Hall
2nd Strathy Hall, Strathy
More details via https://www.daimh.net