A Song In The Air. Norma Munro
I have to confess to being somewhat of a novice as far as this type of music is concerned. Despite having played many of the same concerts as Norma over the past few years, I form half of the Islay Pipe Band anti-social wing (along with bass drummer, David Adams) and can therefore usually be found sitting backstage reading an assembled collection of cycle magazines.
This is meant as no disrespect to Norma, but if you're going to be anti-social you might as well do it right. I have, therefore, missed many an opportunity to listen to these songs performed live, but thousands of others have managed the contrary as a result of Norma's appearances on Islay and in continental European countries such as Germany and France. Some of this is undoubtedly due to the whisky connection, alluded to by the inner section of the enclosed CD booklet showing a picture of Bowmore Distillery (why Bowmore, I have no idea).
As I mentioned above, I am a complete newcomer to this type of music. Granted I have heard one or two of these tunes elsewhere, but usually as background music - songs such as 'Westering Home', 'Marie's Wedding', 'The Rose of Allandale' - particularly well known Scottish songs. However, I can't say that I have ever heard them performed as well as on this recording and without even a trace of 'shortbread tin, tartan dreariness' which I, perhaps unfortunately, tend to associate with most of this type of music.
The singing is darned near faultless, the recording exemplary and the production almost to die for. (Believe me, I am almost as picky about record production as our esteemed editor is about commas). The recording was a long time in the making, partly because of Norma's concert schedule and the fact that she lives on Islay and recorded the album at Earthworking Recording Studio in Dundee. Neither are on the same bus route. Additionally, the accompanying instrumentation by Graham Wylie is almost transparent, which I mean as a compliment. He never gets in the way of the song but supports Norma's singing and her own playing with skill and obvious thought throughout. This is the sort of session musician much of the world is crying out for.
If this is is your scene musically, or you'd just like to have a little bit of Islay playing in the background while you enjoy a dram, this is the CD for you. Beautifully sung, beautifully recorded, Norma has done herself and Islay proud.
As a short footnote, not only did Norma sing and play all the songs on the CD but, due to the way the CDs and packaging were delivered (not all at the same time) she also individually assembled all the jewel cases and inner booklets while autographing enough copies to ensure a swift bout of RSI.
The road and the miles to Dundee
The Rose of Allandale
Westering Home - click here to download an Mp3 version of this track (2.3Mb)
Jock o' Hazeldean
Highland Widow's Lament
Lassie wi' the yellow coatie
The Jute Mill song
The Loch Tay Boat song
The wild mountain thyme
I once loved a lad
Norma Munro - Vocals and Guitar
Grahame Wylie - Backing vocals, Spanish and Acoustic Guitar, Mandolin, Keyboard, Bodhran, Recorder, Tenor Recorder, Congas, Djembe.
Mike McKay - Mandolin (The Jute Mill Song)
All song arrangements - Graham Wylie; Co-produced - Norma Munro & Grahame Wylie. Recorded at Earthworking Recording Studio, South Lodge, Auchterhouse, Dundee. Photograph below - Lachie MacLean, Islay.