La Tortilla Asesina
GAELIC music and a Spanish restaurant?
Not perhaps the most obvious setting, but it made a good fit for quartet Cruinn as they launched their eponymous debut CD in Inverness.
"This is like having a gig in your front room," James Graham noted, while Inverness-based Fiona Mackenzie reckoned that between them the group knew pretty much everybody crammed into the upstairs room of the Castle Street restaurant.
It made for an intimate and informal setting for Cruinn.
Comprising Graham, the first male recipient of the BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year Award, Mackenzie (from family trio Mackenzie and the bands Seelyhoo and Anam), her husband Brian Ó hEadhra (also of Anam and trio MacGregor Brechin & Ó hEadhra) and RSAMD graduate Rachel Walker, the band can make a fair claim to being something of a Gaelic singing supergroup.
When so many bands place their emphasis on the instrumental side, Cruinn’s balance is firmly weighted towards the songs. With simple accompaniment from guitar, keyboards, whistles and the harmonium soundalike shruti box, the voices of the quartet, both solo and in harmony, were to the foreground.
Though naturally drawing on the Gaelic tradition, the band have other sources to call on for their music. Walker, Ó hEadhra and Mackenzie all showcased their songwriting talents — Ó hEadhra pointing out the ironies of singing "Faoiseamh", a song he wrote 20 years ago about emigration while still living in Ireland.
Now he was an emigrant himself, but did not feel like one.
"We’re all Gaels," he added.
Other songs were translations from Irish, English — Ben Jonson’s 16th century ballad "Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes" — and even Hungarian. Or "Hungrish", as Walker confessed she had told an audience at Celtic Connections the previous month.
The new and translated material gave the evening a friendly contemporary feel, though maybe those older tunes like "Caite a Bheil i ann am Muuile" still had the edge when it came to encouraging the audience to sing along.
Many of the band’s Inverness audience were fellow Gaels, but Cruinn’s voices and easy delivery should make it easy for them to smash through any language barrier.
• Cruinn’s self-titled album is on release now through the band’s own label.