Personnel: Norrie Maciver (vocals, guitar); Ewen Henderson (vocals, fiddle, whistle, highland bagpipe); Ross Saunders (vocals, bass guitar); Calum Stewart (wooden flute, Uilleann pipe); Gary Innes (accordion, keyboards); Scott Mackay (drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Stuart Hamilton.
Recording information: Castle Sound Studios.
Photographers: Louis DeCarlo; Graeme Macdonald.
Traditional Gaelic music might have been largely absent from the mainstream since the heady mid-'90s days of Capercaillie and Runrig, but Scottish six-piece Manran, a group of fresh-faced musicians who look more like a well-groomed boy band than a collective of flutists, fiddlers, and uilleann pipes players, are perhaps more likely than anyone to revive the genre. Produced by Calum Malcolm (Wet Wet Wet, Simple Minds) and legendary accordionist Phil Cunningham, their self-titled debut album is still firmly steeped in the culture and history of their homeland, with a faithful performance of "An Eala Bhan," the Domhnall Ruadh Choruna poem written during the Battle of the Somme, and a Celtic rock interpretation of "Oran Na Cloiche," an ode to the '50s group of students who returned the Stone of Destiny to Scotland from Westminster Abbey, sitting alongside traditional pieces like "Fingal's Cave" and "Reels." But in an effort to distance themselves from their old-school predecessors, the band also tackle less conventional material, as Norrie MacIver's shimmering vocals provide a lilting Gaelic-language take on the Waterboys' "Sunny Sailor Boy" with "Maraiche Nan Aigh," replicating the plaintive melancholy of U.S. singer/songwriter Darrell Scott's country-folk ballad "The Open Door" (on the only English-sung track), and showcases their own songwriting skills on the jaunty, fiddle-led instrumental "Chasing Daylight," the acoustic-driven "Glaodh an Iar," and the foot-stomping anthem "Latha Math," the latter of which narrowly missed out on becoming the U.K.'s first Gaelic-sung Top 40 single in over a decade. Its native-tongued delivery may deter some, but you don't need to understand a word to enjoy the genuine warmth and passion of a debut record which may seem resolutely old-fashioned compared to the nu-folk brigade, but is no less enchanting. ~ Jon O'Brien