MusicReview

Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin: Seven Daughters of the Sea – A concept album of original songs in Irish that steals into your heart

An eclectic array of accompanists includes guitar god Steve Vai, who was inspired by Ní Uallacháin’s music almost 30 years ago

Seven Daughters of the Sea/Seacht nIníon na Mara
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Artist: Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin
Genre: Traditional
Label: Independent release

A concept album of original songs in Irish is a valiant endeavour. But the Oriel singer, songwriter and historian Pádraigín Ní Uallacháin has always favoured the path less travelled. This collection sees her mine a rich seam of mythological women’s experiences, anchored by the pre-Christian Brigid and embracing many more from ancient manuscripts and song.

There’s a deep wisdom threaded through Ní Uallacháin’s songs: odes to the primacy of the heart over the head, of the duality of human experience and to its universal truth.

Caoineadh Cine/Ancient Keen, which is layered on the subtlest of arrangements of fiddle, viola, harmonium, guitar and drones, and ably steered by the producer Dónal O’Connor, is a visceral and timeless reflection that speaks as powerfully to the agony of Gaza as it does to our native history. The Irish language is clearly the primary instrument here, its words and sounds shaping the music in a way that feels fitting for the chosen subject matter of Gaia.

Ní Uallacháin has chosen an eclectic array of accompanists, among them, startlingly, the American guitarist Steve Vai, who was inspired by Ní Uallacháin’s music almost 30 years ago, along with the Indian classical flautist Rajat Prasanna. Their contributions are anchored by the singer’s unforced vocals and writing.

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A collection that insinuates rather than insists, Seacht nIníon na Mara appeals to the heart of the listener, and to the ties that bind ancient past to present.

Siobhán Long

Siobhán Long

Siobhán Long, a contributor to The Irish Times, writes about traditional music and the wider arts