The Tall Islands
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The interface between Scotland and Latin America has been so fruitfully grant-aided by the Scottish Arts Council and perhaps Creative Scotland too, that I know of two musicians who went there on an exchange and have not returned.
So when Salsa Celtica claim that the opening track of their fifth album, Descarga Gaelica (Crathadh D'Aodaich a Ghaoil), is "the world's first Gaelic salsa track", I'd hesitate to endorse.But there is little doubt that the band - and there are 15 musicians on this disc, from five different countries - has found a refreshingly original seam to mine, albeit one that builds on the test bores made by Martyn Bennett and Mouth Music. In fact "port-a-beul" is the Gaelic ingredient of that opener, supplied in beguiling harmony by band member Megan Henderson and guest vocalist, the great Kathleen MacInnes. That's a partnering that is mirrored in band member Ross Ainslie inviting fellow piper Jarlath Henderson to join the party.
With regulars Toby Shippey and male vocalist Ricardo Fernandez Pompa joining Ainslie in composing the bulk of the tunes, this a melodious set, with perhaps less from the horns (Phil O'Malley, Sue McKenzie, Shanti Jayasinha and, on just one track, Steve Kettley) than on previous outings. That's not a weakness, just a change.