And So We Gather marks Gaelic singer Kim Carnie’s accomplished and thoroughly captivating solo debut. Oban-born Carnie balances her Scottish background and various musical influences well, ensuring an engaging and pleasing release that effortlessly explores the tradition and vitality of Gaelic song.
There is an impressive gathering of musicians with Donald Shaw on piano and harmonium, Innes White on guitar, James Lindsay on double bass and James Mackintosh on percussion, whilst guests include John Lowrie, Alyn Cosker and Charlie Stewart, alongside the vocal talents of Julie Fowlis, Kathleen MacInnes and Karen Matheson. Indeed, as the Press Release notes, And So We Gather is set to be one of the largest-scale solo Gaelic records of a generation. It’s an ambitious but equally accessible recording, with Carnie’s soft yet powerful voice providing the keystone to proceedings.
The album was written during lockdown, whilst Carnie lived in Glenlyon and the Isle of Skye and reflects her background and interest in Gaelic songs and poetry. Consequently, several of the songs here are traditional, such as the aforementioned ‘Nighean Sin Thall’ and a beautifully haunting ‘Laoidh Na H-Oidhche (Night Hymn)’, which incorporates words from hymns by Sileas Na Ceapaich.
‘Caoidh Mhic Shiridh (Lamenting Mac Siridh)’ is a powerful lament with some evocative backing vocals from Calum MacCrimmon and Kathleen MacInnes, whilst ‘Chan Eil A’ Chùis A’ Còrdadh Rium (I’m Not Enjoying The Matter)’ is a little more playful, and brimming with resilience, and some nifty fiddle from Charlie Stewart.
It’s not all Gaelic, though. Senegal’s Kadialy Kouyate provides kora on ‘Nighean Sin Thall (Girl Over There),’ whilst Max Carmichael brings the saxophone from Glasgow to the Isles for ‘Disathairne Ghabh Mi Mulad (One Saturday, Sorrow Came).’
There are self-penned songs here too. Closer ‘Loving You’ is a heartbreaker – “I’m still drowning in you / And the days are seeming longer”, sings Carnie, her fragile, homespun voice beautifully accompanied by the Scottish Session Orchestra, whilst the title track, ‘And So We Gather,’ is a sweet little romance with gentle, unobtrusive backing vocals from Julie Fowlis and Karen Matheson.
The opening track and single ‘She Moves Me’ is a stunning and heartfelt love song, innocent and knowing at the same time: “She’s the fire within me / And the air that chills me”, sings Carnie over Lowrie’s light piano. It’s these tracks that stand out, demonstrating Carnie’s flair as a songwriter as well as a singer.
And So We Gather is a confident and accomplished debut, celebrating the best of Gaelic song and stories which find a thrilling new voice in Carnie’s sublime vocals. Carnie’s velvet-tinged voice, light as a feather yet sharp as slate, is the real star here. There is a timeless quality to her vocals, so much so that it feels as though you have been listening to Carnie for years whilst simultaneously just discovering her for the first time. A rare trick. Carnie’s voice is one I hope we’ll be enjoying for many years to come.
And So We Gather will be available to buy on CD and stream and download on all major digital platforms on Friday 17th June.