Karen Matheson, Urram (Vertical)

Karen Matheson’s latest solo album – her first album of all Gaelic material – is inspired by the recent loss of her parents and the music and stories that accompanied their early lives and those of their ancestors. It’s a collection of songs both traditional and from the bardic canon that simultaneously looks inward and outward. This is the voice of Capercaillie exploring and revisiting her roots but with her relaxed, quietly commanding singing partnered superbly by musicians and instruments from outside her tradition. Soumik Datta’s marvellously searching, soulful sarod playing brings out the heartbreak in opening waulking song, Gura mise tha gu dubhach’s dark narrative and the more humorous tale of Ca na dh’fhag thu m’fhichead gini steps all the more lightly as Seckou Keita’s kora dances around Matheson’s lightsome vocal. Elsewhere, Brendan Power’s harmonica and Sorren MacLean’s electric guitar perform similar roles in arrangements that also feature strings, courtesy of Mr McFall’s Chamber, and a well-tempered band - all expertly piloted by pianist, accordionist and producer Donald Shaw.

Rob Adams