The second album by Manx Gaelic singer Ruth Keggin is, like its 2014 predecessor, a concise, well-crafted record. Wisely sticking with her regular trio of double-bassist Vanessa McWilliam, flute and concertina player Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin, and super-inventive guitarist David Pearce, she’s established a sound that is immediately identifiable and distinct from the Island’s other leading groups.
Flitter Dance is the simplest and most ubiquitous of Manx session tunes, but these musicians render it as something genuinely thrilling. It’s a trick they repeat with Napoleon’s Chanter – a set of Irish marches popular on the Manx session scene. The inter-play between Keggin and Ó Ceannabháin’s flutes (silver and timber, respectively) pushes all the right Flook/Lúnasa buttons, while McWilliam’s supple double-bass playing recalls the early Clannad.
All exciting stuff, but what of the main event, herself? It’s a confident singer who would grant the opening one minute and ten seconds to her guitarist, before singing a note, but that’s what Keggin does here. When she makes her grand entrance, on Irree Ny Greiney, it’s the warmth and expressive-ness of her voice that grabs the listener’s attention rather than her (hugely impressive) range and technical ability.
Ruth Keggin has, to put it simply, a voice that one could never tire of hearing, whether singing in English – as on Carval, or Manx songs like Tra Va Ruggito Creest with its beautiful unaccompanied opening verse. The material is a satisfying mix of traditional and new songs by talented Manx writers Bob Cars -well and Annie Cossack while Keggin’s dispar -ate influences are revealed in the inclusion of Heeym Yn Geurey (a Manx translation of Runrig’s Chi Mi’n Geamhradh) and her auda-cious combining of the Manx traditional/Emma Christian Ushag Veg Ruy with the Lead Belly/Nirvana Where Did You Sleep Last Night as Little Red Bird In The Pines.
The CD clocks in at a (a vinyl-release per-fect!) 39:50 and is packaged in a gorgeous cover designed by Tristan Gell with photogra-phy by Set Murray. Released with assistance from the Isle Of Man Arts Council and Culture Vannin, this tiny Celtic Island has a Gaelic singer to be proud of.