Karen Matheson The Queens Hall Edinburgh review Friday 3rd June New album Urram (Respect)


Karen Matheson stopped off at The Queen’s Hall tonight as part of the mini tour to promote her new album “Urram”, and the show was a mixture of songs from “Urram” and music close to Karen’s heart.

“Urram (Respect)” the album is a musical journey taken by Karen after the death of both of her parents last year that sees her re-evaluating and in many cases discovering her own family history as well as re-visiting some of the Gaelic songs of her childhood.  The 11 songs that make up this personal journey on “Urram” are in Gaelic, and sadly I do not speak any of this beautiful language, but with Karen introducing the background to these songs on stage, I was at least able to appreciate their history even if I missed out on the words themselves, and  the music itself was something that everyone in the audience could understand.  Gaelic does seem to be a far more musical sounding language than English.  This album is available at http://www.karenmatheson.com/ and each track is given its own history here.

As well as the usual “boy meets girl”,  “stories of the landscape”,  and “reels”, there are darker issues raised here too.  Issues like the forced removal of Karen’s ancestors from the land they loved onto ships bound for Nova Scotia. Important history here that somehow needs to be told in its original Gaelic language...the two are inseparable.

This was a Gaelic and English language performance from Karen, and opening the show a rendition of a not too often heard Robert Burns song “Lassie Wi' the Lint-White Locks”.  Stories of class divide and the lives of ordinary working people were reflected in songs like “The Diamond Ring” and  “Aaragon Mill”.

With Karen on stage here were her band Donald Shaw, James Grant, Sorren Maclean and Innes White, and it was from the songwriting talents of James Grant that some beautiful music originated...songs such as “Evangeline” written for his daughter,  a murder mystery song “I Will Not Wear The Willow” and the set closing “There’s Always Sunday”.  All these songs show just what an outstanding songwriter James Grant is and when sung by someone with a voice like Karen Matheson’s they take on an extra special quality.

Another interesting song from this show was from Sorren Maclean who gave us “The Speed Of the Sound of Loneliness” written by one of his favourite writers John Prine.

As you would expect, there was an encore, and the music of Robert Burns “Ae Fond Kiss” closed this evening as it had opened it.


Review by Tom King

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