Macmaster/Hay are a duo combining electro harp and percussion in their eclectic mix of songs and tunes. Hook is their second CD and it features songs and tunes from their native Scotland as well as a few interlopers.
Their music mixes traditional Gaelic songs ([Hook and Tha mi fo churam) with self penned tunes (Stratherrick Sunday, Chimes), songs (Stay With You) and the odd surprise (a cover of Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding which ends the album).
The title track Hook has a tribal feel to it with its driving rhythm and strong vocals. Stratherrick Sunday, which follows, is in sharp contrast - a delicate instrumental with gentle percussion accompaniment, some exquisite harp playing and some interesting electronic effects.
The mood changes again with the punchy dance tunes Aird Ranters, another instrumental. White Gates, inspired by a visit to a war memorial, has an understandably spooky feel with distorted chanting, beautiful harp interludes and some lovely Gaelic singing from Mary MacMaster. Peace is restored with the tune Chimes - inspired by a set of hanging chimes and a beautiful view.
No folk album would be complete without a song of lost love, and here we have Tha mi fo churam (I am full of care) in which the delicate harp playing is the perfect accompaniment to the ethereal vocals. Another song of love, Stay With You is the pair’s only self-penned song on the album, and is sung in English.
One particularly unusual track is I Can’t Conceal, in which the music weaves around a Gaelic poem.
The pair leave the British shores briefly with a set of three Breton tunes that fit their style perfectly.
Overall, there is a haunting quality to this album - perhaps it is the Gaelic element? The use of this language certainly isn’t a barrier to enjoyment for those who don’t speak it. It is also an album of contrasts, from driving rhythms to lilting melodies, sadness to joy, war to peace.