REVIEWS: ONCE UPON AN OLIVE BRANCH:

 

*****  Scotland On Sunday
“One of the greatest new Gaelic singers that have come on the scene”
– Mike Harding, BBC Radio 2

Another triumph from Ms. MM! – Penguin Eggs

Delicate, intricate and inspiring musicianship – Folkword

An album brimming with confidence and finesse – Folk Radio UK

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Scotland On Sunday

*****

“One of the most visible of our current crop of younger singers, Mackinnon moves between Gaelic and English in modernist fashion, split evenly in clever arrangements, recorded and produced by keyboard wiz Angus Lyon, with Innes Watson on guitar and fiddle and Fraser Fifield’s whistle and sax.

Bass and percussion add to the fractured, moody textures, except in a poignant piano and fiddle setting of Ewan MacColl’s Father’s Song, and the a-capella version of She Moved Through The Fair” – Norman Chalmers

 

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Penguin Eggs
“This is the second solo album from Glasgow’s Maeve Mackinnon and once again her fine voice, singing in English and Scots Gaelic, is the main attraction. It is a fine instrument, capable of much variety in both tone and emotion, whether on the quiet and reflective A Mhic Dhùghaill ‘ic Ruairidh, or the lilting, up-tempo O Phail O Ho Ghràidh. The instrumental backing is imaginative and varied in style with equal measures of urban grooves, traditional Scots playing, jazzy swing and rhythmic changes. The title track was written by Mackinnon to draw attention to the struggles and suffering endured by the people of Palestine and is an indication of her potential as a lyricist: “Once upon an olive branch in 1999/ One hundred and fifteen homes reduced to just nine/ If home is where the heart is, the heart must be blind/ As land disappears in these hard troubled times”. Another triumph for Ms. MM!” – Tim Readman
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R2 Magazine

****

“It’s been five years since Maeve Mackinnon released her debut album, Don’t Sing Lovesongs, to critical acclaim. Once Upon An Olive Branch follows the same pattern, mixing old songs with new, Scots and Gaelic with English.

Her band includes producer, Angus Lyon, and Innes Watson who worked on the arrangements together with Fraser Fifield, James Lindsay and Signy Jakobsdottir who make important contributions to the feel of the album. Just listen to Fifield’s keening whistle on “A’ Mhic Dhùghaill ‘ic Ruairidh”, and his saxophone on the title track. Jakobsdottir’s percussion seems to encompass everything from a tiny shaker to a very big drum, and Lindsay’s double- bass is solid but unobtrusive. On top of it all is Maeve’s voice and acoustic guitar.

It’s interesting to hear what songs the newest generation of singers goes back to. “She Moves Through The Fair” has never lost its appeal and Ewan MacColl, represented here by “The Father’s Song”, is regularly revisited. The Saw Doctors’ portraits of Irish life are attracting attention and Maeve has chosen to cover “Sugar Town”. Once Upon An Olive Branch is a lovely, thoughtful album. Let’s hope we don’t wait another five years for the next one”.

– Dai Jeffries

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Folk Radio UK 

“Maeve Mackinnon’s follow-up album Once Upon An Olive Branch interweaves a distinctively Scottish sensibility with far-reaching musical influences. In the foreground is her  many-hued voice: warm and mellow on Oran do Ghilleasbuig òig Heisgir, reflective and heartfelt on unaccompanied She Moved Through the Fair. She brings a restrained anger to self-penned The Olive Branch where her husky, jazzy tones are exchanged for a glacial purity.  Ewan MacColl’s The Father’s Song gives Mackinnon the opportunity to shade a wistful tenderness into wounded ire. She’s a perceptive, expressive singer and this album shows how versatile she is.

Vibrant, sophisticated  instrumental arrangements underpin Mackinnon’s vocals and  draw attention to her rich cultural and musical background. Fionnghuala is an interpretation of the eponymous Scottish port a beul. Here the nimble lilt of the original mouth music blends  funkily with the vamped-up accompaniment. Horo Iollaraigh’s airy vocals are laced with  hypnotic variations  that are both dreamily ethereal and evocatively elemental. The Hebridean folk song, O Phail o ho ghraidh,  is transformed into an  urban-groove love-lament where traditional and contemporary musical styles unify to produce something sassy and new.

Once Upon An Olive Branch is an album brimming with confidence and finesse.  Whilst it has its origins in Mackinnon’s desire to honour the wellsprings of her musical heritage it also demonstrates how diverse and eclectic her influences are. She is fluent in both ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’, switching easily to and fro using the latter to translate and interpret the former – and vice versa. Her voice, mature and knowing or girlish and innocent, with many shades in between, draws the listener into her musical world – one that is shaped and influenced by tides flowing from different shores but centred in her homeland: its city streets and mysterious, remote islands. The result is an eloquent, beautifully sung synthesis and a rich and varied listen.”

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Fatea Magazine, 19 Oct 2012 

“Back in 2007, Maeve won the Scots Traditional Music Award for Up and Coming Artist of the Year, then soon afterward she released her debut album Don’t Sing Love Songs (on the Footstompin’ label). At the time, its freshness of outlook and execution impressed me almost as much as Maeve’s own quite striking singing voice. That album was showcased at 2008′s Celtic Connections, but although I was kind of aware of her work with Michael McGoldrick and the band Sketch, I’d not heard much more of her in the interim before this new disc arrived in my mailbag, so its appearance was doubly welcome.

If anything, her singing, while still retaining its basic qualities of sensuousness and grit, has now developed into an even more eloquent expressive instrument, now seeming also to incorporate a newly playful element, a sense of confident abandon, that’s well mirrored in the slightly puckish yet often assuredly experimental nature of the musical settings on this new disc. Under the guiding hand of producer Angus Lyon (who also plays Rhodes, piano and accordion), are paired the ever-inventive grooves conjured by Fraser Fifield (whistle, sax), Innes Watson (fiddle, guitar) and James Lindsay (bass) with the trademark creative percussion eccentricities of Signy Jakobsdottir, The varied nature of the musical settings takes us on a journey from the exotic, often eerily spine-tingling atmospherics of the nostalgic, keening pibroch-style Western Isles emigrant song Hòro Iollaraigh (a standout track) to the relaxed jazz-funk grooves of the Hebridean song O Phàil O Ho Ghraidh and the more upfront tonalities and momentum of Maeve’s own composition The Olive Branch (her public songwriting debut, and an extraordinarily powerful one at that), which reflects on the troubles in the Middle East with a timely maturity.

Activism is not a new strand in Maeve’s song predilections, however, for a keen political conscience had pre-dated her now-parallel interest in, and experience of Gaelic song, and the shared experiences of both cultures have informed Maeve’s choice of songs to cover here, from the bittersweet Saw Doctors number Sugar Town to Ewan MacColl’s achingly poignant The Father’s Song (the latter given an almost Lied-like power with its stripped-down, mostly solo piano, backing). Fully half of the album delivers Maeve’s special takes on Gaelic material, while further incidentally reaffirming the Gaelic and Irish traditions’ kinship with more than able renditions of Kind Friends And Companions and She Moved Through The Fair (the latter sung a cappella). I’ve since learnt that Maeve’s been writing an original song suite (The Exile, now under development as an opera) that links the diasporan experiences of Gaels and Africans.

Once Upon An Olive Branch is a clear-sighted and very persuasive collection, and it’s well recorded too. To compensate for the suitably economic digipack, full lyrics and translations are available on Maeve’s website.” – David Kidman

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The Morning Star 7th October 2012

“This is the second album by Maeve MacKinnon, the Associate Gaelic Artist for the National Theatre of Scotland, and it comes five years after her acclaimed debut Don’t Sing Love Songs.

Even if you don’t understand a word of the Gaelic songs on the album, the beauty of MacKinnon’s voice and the sterling musicianship of the band enables the listener to appreciate what an important feature of Scottish life this poetic language is. Mixed in are traditional songs including Maeve’s own rendition of the Ewan MacColl favourite The Father’s Song. Maeve’s strong socialist roots shine through with her plea for social justice in the Middle East and an end to the senseless arms race particularly appealing.

MacKinnon’s voice is from the angels and she’s blessed too with assured musicianship and considerable songwriting and arranging abilities. A pleasure to listen to and highly recommended.”

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Folkword 17 Sept 2012

Maeve Mackinnon, she of the magical, striking voice, has a new album coming out in October 2012 – called ‘Once Upon An Olive Branch’ it is a spirited collection of stunningly attractive songs that will captivate your soul and seduce your ears. Singing in Gaelic and English she weaves her vocals around melodies delivered by Innes Watson, Angus Lyon, Signy Jacobsdottir, James Lindsay and Fraser Fifield.
The album is from start to finish an enchantment of epic proportions that will weave its spell to linger long after the last note fades. There’s so much to enjoy – the tradition of singing to a parting delivered to perfection through ‘Kind Friends and Companions’, the cherished touch of mythology given life with ‘Fionnghuala’ complete with spirited edge and punchy beat. There’s the hypnotic and fragile ‘The Olive Branch’ complete with understated sax breaks and also Maeve’s purely breathtaking unaccompanied version of ‘She Moved Through the Fair’ – surely a song to savour.
The delicate, intricate and inspiring musicianship on this album builds a remarkable structure to support the intensity of Maeve’s vocals. ‘Once Upon An Olive Branch’ will resonate across the folk music for some considerable time. A spirited collection of stunningly attractive songs that will captivate your soul and seduce your ears.

– Dan Holland

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Northern Sky 7th October 2012

“ONCE UPON AN OLIVE BRANCH is the second solo album by Scots singer Maeve MacKinnon, the follow up to 2007′s DON’T SING LOVE SONGS and once again showcases the singer’s range in both English and Gaelic. The balance is just about right, with fine accompaniment from Fraser Fifield on whistles and sax, Innes Watson on guitar and fiddle, Signy Jacobsdottir on percussion and James Lindsay on bass. Produced by Angus Lyon, the album also heralds MacKinnon’s debut as a songwriter with The Olive Branch, from which the album’s title derives, not only demonstrating her burgeoning talent as a songwriter but also her commitment to humanitarian issues, something that runs in the family. With some fine interpretations of traditional songs such as She Moved Through the Fair and Kind Friends and Companions, the album closes with an assured performance of Ewan Maccoll’s The Father’s Song, once again reminding us what a true poet Maccoll was.
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LIVE REVIEWS

THE HERALD | MON JANUARY 21, 2008 | ARTS; CELTIC CONNECTIONS

LAUREN MACCOLL WITH MAEVE MACKINNON, ST. ANDREWS IN THE SQUARE

*****

TWO of Scotland’s brightest talents brought out another full house in what must surely be one of the most ornately beautiful venues in Scotland.

This concert was in the Classic Album series and, while it is a little early for either of them to be talking of classics, they are surely both destined for greatness.

 

First up was Maeve Mackinnon and her excellent band. A graduate of the RSAMD, she played tracks from her album Don’t Sing Lovesongs. Drawing on influences from all over the globe, she concentrated on murder ballads such as The Silver Dagger. Singing mostly in Gaelic and with a truly stunning voice, her most memorable song was, nevertheless, her English language tribute to Dick Gaughan, The Cruel Brither.

 

Fiddler Lauren MacColl is another product of the Academy and a former winner of the BBC Radio 2 Young Folk Award. Featuring tracks from her album When Leaves Fall, she was backed by another set of exceptional musicians. The sound they created was at times ethereal and at others, foot-stampingly riotous. The highlights were the beautiful I’m Sick With Love and the set-closing, eighteenth-century stomper, Put the Gown Upon the Bishop.

– Stuart Morrison

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Another fine voice among the Gaelic throng – June 2007

JIM GILCHRIST

 

THE resurgence in Gaelic music marches on, vigorously and inexorably. Julie Fowlis has been wowing the London media, last weekend we had the much-publicised “Gaelic opera” about St Kilda webcast and simultaneously performed across Europe, while this week the Ceòl nam Fèis concert tour has hit the road, showcasing the formidable talents of just some of the young singers and musicians who have emerged from the community-based fèis movement , currently celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Now, along comes an impressive first album, Don’t Sing Love Songs (Foot Stompin’ Records) from Maeve Mackinnon, a 25-year-old Gaelic singer based in Glasgow, who (like Fowlis) has worked extensively within the fèis network. Having studied at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the Gaelic college in Skye, after majoring in Gaelic song in the RSAMD’s Scottish music course, Mackinnon has now produced an intriguing collection of Gaelic, Lowland Scots and American songs.

The opening waulking song, Mac Iain ‘ic Sheumais sets the contemporary tone of the album. Mackinnon learned it from one of her RSAMD tutors, the respected traditional singer Kenna Campbell, and she sings it over slinky strings, in a contemporary, almost chamberish setting. Her accompanists on the recording are bassist and pianist Duncan Lyall and guitarist Ali Hutton (both of whom produced), bodhran player Martin O’Neill and former Glenfiddich fiddle champion Patsy Reid. It was Reid who came up with the string arrangements, says Mackinnon: “She’s an amazing musician, with very strong classical background as well as traditional, so she was ideal have in the studio, playing fiddle, viola and cello parts.

“At the RSAMD, Kenna was a major influence on my singing and repertoire, and she was always keen to make sure that our versions were accurate and we didn’t mess about with the originals. The arrangements here are very modern, and my big concern was to do that without jeopardising the integrity of the songs.”

In another track, there’s a whiff of the croft house original, courtesy of a brief extract from a School of Scottish Studies recording, before it shifts into Mackinnon’s own plaintive version, sung over spare, syncopated guitar. However, she also draws from the Lowland repertoire, such as the elemental murder ballad, The Cruel Brother, and a version of The Wild Rover – not the hackneyed pub-table-thumping version, but set to a winsome tune she gleaned from Willie Beaton of Plockton, via Glasgow singers Sylvia Barnes and Mick West. How songs travel – witness another track, The Diver Boy, which hails from the Ozark Mountains but which turns out to be a version of another old favourite, The Lowlands of Holland.

Mackinnon, whose family hail from Skye and Sweden, agrees on the current cultural ripples: “I do Gaelic language support teaching and it’s incredible to watch what’s happening in the language and the culture at the moment. Obviously the two are intertwined – it’s difficult to say whether or not the cultural resurgence is feeding into the language resurgence, but I do think the fact that the Scottish Parliament has pushed the Gaelic Bill forward has had a massive impact and given people a lot more confidence in Gaelic, as well as raising awareness among people who may not know anything about it.”

Next month, one of Mackinnon’s teachers and song sources, Christine Primrose, joins another fine Lewis singer, Margaret Stewart, in concert during the Fèis an Eilein – the Skye Festival (see www.skyefestival.com). The singers appear at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on 23 July, along with musicians Blair Douglas and Neil Campbell.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned youngsters of the Ceòl nam Fèis play the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall’s Strathclyde Suite tonight and Edinburgh’s St Bride’s centre tomorrow night. Is there no stopping them?

For further information, go online at www.maevemackinnon.com

This article: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/features.cfm?id=1012942007

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REVIEWS: DON’T SING LOVESONGS

 

SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY – July 2007

*****

From the crunchy opening string chords and cross-rhythmic tension, you know an unusual musical intelligence is at work. The title comes from the Stateside favourite ‘Silver Dagger’, and while the Scots ‘Cruel Brither’ makes an appearance, most of the songs are in Gaelic. Striking arrangements might on occasion overshadow a song, but this is one of the most absorbing albums to be released in Scotland for a long time.

Download these: MacIain ‘ic Sheumais, Silver Dagger

 

NORMAN CHALMERS, SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY

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THE SCOTSMAN – 6 July 2007

MAEVE Mackinnon remains faithful to the title on her debut album, and focuses on murder rather than love as the dominant theme of the songs in this collection. The Gaelic tradition furnishes a good clutch of these, but she has also unearthed some in English, including The Cruel Brother from Scotland and The Silver Dagger from the USA. She sings with equal distinction in both languages, and despite the subject matter, this is not a gloomy album, although it is generally quite reflective in mood. Her voice is generally accompanied by discreet but effective acoustic instruments (musicians include Ali Hutton, Patsy Reid, Duncan Lyell and the ubiquitous Martin O’Neill), with occasional diversions into less traditional backings. She has already demonstrated that she has a fine voice in her live work, and her deft phrasing of the songs makes for an appealing first outing on disc.

THE SCOTSMAN, 6TH JULY 2007

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FOLKING – 6 July 2007

It probably would have been easy for Maeve Mackinnon to release a formulaic album of traditional Scottish music. Fortunately for us, Maeve has chosen to push at the boundaries of convention and create a sumptuous, avant-garde collection, at times flirting with a subtle menace and rich, dark intensity.

“Mac Iain ‘ic Sheumais” is laced with Patsy Reid’s deliciously mysterious string arrangement, lending a foreboding atmosphere from the outset, whilst Maeve’s strong and stirring vocals reveal an instrument of evocative beauty. Maeve’s vocals are more restrained on “Fiollaigean,” where she sings with sweeter, lilting tones to stunning effect.

Reaching beyond her native Scottish tradition, Maeve has included a couple of transatlantic gems, adding an interesting eclecticism to this collection. The jaunty melody of “Diver Boy” allows for Maeve’s delightfully flowing vocal delivery, punctuated by Ali Hutton’s sprightly whistle. Similarly, “Silver Dagger” trips along at an agile pace, with a contemporary rhythm and another of Patsy Reid’s captivating fiddle arrangements.

There’s an affectionate nod back to the tradition on the waulking song, “Ho ro hùg o hùg o,” beginning with a sample of earthy voices from an archive recording, which Maeve follows with her own assured interpretation, sung over some fairly funky guitar riffs. Likewise, a set of puirt-a-beul, “Fhuair sinn ìm a’s a’ ghleann mhòr,” receives a contemporary makeover, starting out with a relatively stark arrangement but building up to a full-on band arrangement with Martin O’Neil’s thundering drum rolls and more of those funky guitar riffs — this turns into an epic performance reminiscent of Capercaillie in all their splendour!

The album ends with an interesting interpretation of “The Wild Rover” — definitely not the usual bawdy sing-along that most will be familiar with. Here, Maeve turns in a sprightly vocal set to an unusual melody that well and truly banishes the image of the drunken reveries with which this song is usually associated.

Don’t Sing Love Songs oozes appeal and offers a refreshing approach to the material, all made most resplendent by the utter beauty of Maeve’s honeyed vocals, delivered with her dulcet Glasgow brogue — a convincing and thoroughly captivating debut from this fine singer.

– Mike Wilson

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FOLK RADIO UK 10th Aug 2007

There are some great debut albums appearing and this one is exceptional.

Maeve Mackinnon was a finalist in the BBC Radio Scotland Young Tradaitional Musician 2005. The time from then to the production of this, her debut album, has clearly been worth the wait. I am amazed at the quality of British Folk debut albums recently and this just tops it for me. Maeve has an amazing voice and the material chosen is great. The album interweaves Gaelic songs with folksongs from Scotland, Ireland and north America. This will captivate you and you will play it again and again.

– Mark Watkins

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THE LIVING TRADITION– 11 July 2007

 

Maeve Mackinnon makes a stylish debut with a lovely collection of songs marked by a cool, contemporary feel and clean-sounding arrangements. Her voice is gorgeous and she sings in both English and Gaelic. She became a learner of Gaelic language and song at the age of 17, and was motivated to study Gaelic song at RSAMD. Her decision to interpret the songs she learned from tradition bearers including Christine Primrose, Flora MacNeil and Kenna Campbell in this thoroughly modern, very elegant manner is exactly right. Maeve hails from a political family and now works with the Gaelic language; her commitment to Scotland’s cultural and linguistic resurgence seems resolute.

 

There’s a really dramatic feel to the instrumentation, especially whenever Patsy Reid has a hand in proceedings – those shimmering twists and turns of fiddle, cello and viola are consistently enthralling and deliciously dramatic. There are nice moments too when Fender Rhodes intersperse the traditional instrumentation. Ali Hutton’s guitar is pristine throughout, providing supple, restrained support. The arrangements of Gaelic songs including ‘Mac Iain ‘ic Sheumais’ and ‘Mo Nighean Donn an t-Sùgraidh’ are really striking. English language songs include ‘Silver Dagger’, ‘Wild Rover’ and ‘The Cruel Brother’ – Maeve cites Dick Gaughan as a major influence. It’s good too to hear Martin O’Neill playing drums on this album as a change from his trademark bodhrán.

This is sassy, smart, beautifully arranged music, and Maeve’s voice captivates.

– Debbie Koritsas

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