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Calum Alex Macmillan Calum Alex Macmillan
Album: Till
Label: Vertical
Tracks: 11

It's been 12 years since Macmillan released his debut album, the acclaimed Taladh Nan Cuantan. Not that he's been inactive for that time, having been part of Gaelic supergroups Dàimh and Na Seòid, and given he's been thinking of a new solo album since 2010, Till has had a long gestation period. Till is Gaelic for return, named for the frequent visits Macmillan made to his family home in Point, off Lewis's east coast, where he slowly gathered songs and tunes for the album. Mostly this was done around the kitchen table with his father John 'Seonaidh Beag' Macmillan, a celebrated singer and co-founder of The Lochies, as well as research within the local community.

This all gives the album a personal touch, with a weight of history behind it. Macmillan comes from a long line of singers, in a community of singers. Some of the songs on the record were written by his ancestors, and many of the songs have, "so many interconnections for me: with my childhood, my family's history, with that particular place and that community." An Iarran-Monach was composed by his father, and Fagail Shiadair was composed by William MacKenzie, one of Lewis' best known bards, and an ancestor of Macmillan, so the family link is clear throughout.

Unless you speak and/or understand Gaelic, you aren't going to get the full flavour of the album, though there is much to enjoy even if you only speak English like me. These songs are filled with beautiful melodies, and wonderful musicians, including the likes of Julie Fowlis, Greg Lawson and Ross Martin amongst several others. Songs such as Thug Iad A Thung Thu, and Nam Faighte Long Dhomh will stay in the head, even if the words won't necessarily stick.

This is a wonderfully crafted album, full of gentle gravitas and soaring tunes. The musical accompaniment is especially impressive, lifting the songs without overpowering them, leaving a delicate but powerful record.

Adam Jenkins