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Music review

Kathleen MacInnes & Fiona Hunter

Kathleen MacInnes & Fiona Hunter

Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh

Rob Adams

Two of Scotland's finest voices got Edinburgh's TradFest celebration of the traditional arts off to a great start. Kathleen MacInnes and Fiona Hunter represent the Gaelic and Scots languages respectively and their brand new Crossing Points project brings the two onstage together in a way that focuses on each language individually and in interwoven, sympathetic verses and melodies.

It helps that each has a distinctive vocal timbre and approach - MacInnes's smoky, alluring and thrillingly expressive; Hunter's bright, forthright and lightly percussive - and the two blended powerfully on the opening, bi-lingual reading of MacCrimmon's Lament, with Hunter carrying echoes of the great Jeannie Robertson and both singers conveying a sense of loss that sounded genuinely deep and sincere.

Despite Gaelic songs' reputation for sadness, this was far from an evening of woe. Both singers have an ear for the mischievous, not to say saucy, and gowns were torn and milk maids pursued - by more than one gentleman, MacInnes noted with an enigmatic look in her eye - in a "puirt off" or mouth music duel.

Hunter's regular touring partner, Mike Vass, provided splendid, variously discreet, spare and propulsive arrangements on guitar, tenor guitar and fiddle when called upon, and Hunter's just-so cello playing made an especially telling contribution on her reading of Robert Tannahill's Thou Cauld Gloomy Feberwar.

It was those two voices working in tandem, though, that served notice that they already have something special going on. Their weaving together of Scots and Gaelic on their Miller To My Trade medley gained fabulous momentum and a quality of vocal sound that made it exciting just to be in the same room.

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