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Julie Fowlis -- From Uist to West and Beyond!
by William Ramoutar
It is very hard for me to understand the older I get, how time seems to fly, either in days, weeks or years, but it does. And how some voices I have come to think of as being around for a long time are really very recent on the scene. One such is the incredibly glorious Gaelic voice of Julie Fowlis. She guested on an album by a group of wonderful Scottish artists called Brolum in the year 2000, and from then on she has gone from strength to strength, and will do so for many moons to come.
I suppose I found out about her first when she released a cd with her band of female performers called Dóchas, which in Scots Gaelic means “tradition." Mind you, they do have one male band member - the brilliant Martin O’Neill, all Ireland bodhran champion. He is Scottish born, and of Irish parentage. A true driving force in the music. The sound is pure genius, though. In America, there's the brilliant all female band Cherish the Ladies, so in my opinion, Dóchas are the wonderful Scots counterpart.
On her solo cds and with Dóchas, Julie Fowlis plays a selection of instruments such as highland bagpipes, small pipes, tin whistle, oboe, and cor anglais, and then sings like you won’t believe. Some years ago she guested with the Irish group Danú and met her future husband, band member Eamonn Doorley. Since then she has recorded many Irish tunes and has used Irish singer Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh, also from the group, to round out some of her solo recordings. Julie and Muireann also collaborated with the aforementioned and Scots guitarist Ross Martin, calling this venture “Dual,” which is a collection of Irish and Scottish songs and tunes, which I think should not be the end of this wonderful project. The two ladies are supremely talented and duel, if you pardon the pun, on “Tin Whistles,” and in singing in the Irish and Scots Gaelic languages. The word “dual” in Irish and Scots means “to braid or intertwine,” and if you find the cd and buy it you will understand it is the perfect name for them. It also has another meaning, which is “inheritance,” and that makes perfect sense to me, too. This is truly a heritage cd - in other words, it is a find that, once sampled, will be a staple at the table of traditional music for years to come.
Julie sings almost exclusively in Gaelic and in fact in 2008, Mojo Magazine invited Julie to contribute to a tribute album to The Beatles for the 40th anniversary of their White Album. She recorded Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird” in the language, calling it “Lon Dubh.” Yes, it means “blackbird” in Gaelic. That really brought her to the notice of many a new listener, she successfully crossed over to a new audience, and six years later she is at the top of her profession, performing in open air festivals as well as concert halls. She tours with her husband Eamonn, who produces and mixes the music for her and accompanies her on bouzouki, which is no longer the Russian instrument of old, but a reconfiguration of it to suit the traditional sound of this amalgam of Scots and Irish music.
I am wishing for a few more songs in English on her future cds, as I feel she will make even more friends of the plethora of new listeners to this music.
Although I have to tell you as much as I don’t like to, there are less and less cds being manufactured, as record companies are charging the groups all the fees for doing it, making it almost impossible for the musicians to make any money. And then there’s also streaming music, which is a horse of a different color! What that means is they get a miniscule amount for all their talent and hard work. But that is not what we are here for… I am here to tell you this woman, Julie Fowlis, is hugely talented and well worth finding. Even if Scots Gaelic is not your thing, her sweet voice and versatility on her instruments are second to none.
She is right up there with musical masters, her abilities will win you over. Well let’s hope so, because if not I should have saved my breath for my porridge. She has made some very worthwhile offerings, but mark my words, her best is not far off either. By the way, if you have watched the Pixar movie “Brave” with your kids or grandkids, you have heard her voice, as she is the singer in the animated blockbuster.
It is written somewhere, I know, because I have read it, she used to be afraid to sing in public. No more. Disarmingly confident, unassuming on stage and music to the ears, she will win you over. She will make a fan of you.
BIO William Ramoutar
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Review written by William Ramoutar Presenter of Irish Ways Radio Programme, St Augustine Florida
Main Photo: Scotsman/Robert Perry
Dóchas - from their web site
Julie playing the bagpipes: Forex Trend
Julie playing tin whistle
You Tube - Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh
Recordings: We found a collection of 25 recordings featuring Julie Fowlis on amazon, including Dual
To view the list, please click Julie Fowlis
Fri, Nov 3, 2017
The Round Towers
The Round Towers of Ireland are remarkable among the world's ancient monuments; one author has called them 'Elegant, free-standing pencils of stone.' Today, 65 survive in part or whole. Hand-crafted in native stone and cemented with a sand, lime, horsehair and oxblood mortar - a technique imported from Roman Britain - it's said by many historians that they were built by monastic communities to thwart Viking invaders. And yet, there's reason to believe that the towers were built long before Christianity came to Ireland. Whatever their origins, monasteries did indeed flourish where the round towers existed. And why not. These imposing edifices provided a watch tower, a keep and a refuge.
Image: By kind permission of Stephen Cassidy, The Cassidy Clan.
Click for More Culture Corner.
Derek Bell recorded Carolan's Receipt in 1975, the same year he joined the Chieftains. The selections include "Sídh Beag agus Sídh Mór," the first melody O'Carolan composed, as well "Carolan's Farewell to Music," which was his last. There have been dozens of settings of O'Carolan's compositions released since these, but none have surpassed the beauty of Bell's.
See our Article on O'Carolan
Click here for Carolan's Receipt.