Listening Post 108. A passionate artist and pillar of the Manx-language revival movement, Ruth Keggin is blessed with a voice that floats gently as it penetrates deeply. Turrys (Journey), her second album, is both a voyage across the diminutive Isle of Man and also part of a quest measured in generations. Her universal themes—nature, work, romance, celebration, leaving home—have a strong sense of place, and while her songs rely mainly on Manx tradition she also draws on Scottish, Irish and Breton sources as naturally as one might borrow a spool of thread from a neighbor. Irree ny greiney (Sunrise), the album’s lead track, blossoms slowly and rises high: “This is the hour that the day appears,” Keggin sings, “Beams scattering across the ocean/The light reaching far and wide” (video 1). Quests have rewards and discomforts, as in the upbeat Arrane sooree (Courting song): “Water running off my hair, my teeth chattering,” she quotes a patient suitor, “My knuckles raw from tapping the glass outside/Saying: “My love, my solace do let me in” (video 2). Keggin and her band mates (guitarist David Pearce, bassist Vanessa Hutchinson and flautist Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin) also seamlessly mix new melodies and tunes with classic works, suggesting that a culture needs to move forward even as it reclaims the past. Among the album’s imaginative new-old mash-ups are Carval/Turrys (Carol/Journey) linking an instrumental folk song inspired by biblical temptresses with the story of a night journey on an old fishing boat; and Mish as y keayn/Arrane ny niee (Me and the sea/Washing song), pairing a contemporary separation ballad and a traditional lullaby. The more Ruth Keggin sings her ballads and lullabies, the more her fellow islanders recognize their own voice. (Purt Sheearan Records)
Note: For the review of Ruth Keggin’s first album, Sheear, see Listening Post 43, April 18, 2016.