Album Review: Runrig – The Cutter and the Clan

Runrig were formed on the Isle of Skye in 1973. Their style of music can be termed Celtic Rock, Folk Rock, influenced by traditional Gaelic music and the pop revolution of the 60’s they grew up with. Their first album Play Gaelic (NA 105) was released in 1978 and was sung entirely in Gaelic. Calum and Rory MacDonald write most of the songs.

On Runrig’s following albums The Highland Connection Ridge Records (RR001) 1979, Recovery Ridge Records (RR002) 1981 and Heartland Ridge Records (RR005) 1985, all released on their own label, the brothers began writing also in English. This developed more as time went by.  In their writing there is a sense of place, tradition, a love of your homeland. Relationship with nature, the environment and immigration are themes that permeate their songs. You can feel the heart in their playing, a richness in the vocals.

The Cutter & the Clan is the 5th album from the band. It was released in 1987, originally on their own label Ridge Records (RR008), like their previous three albums. They had arrived at a point where there was a confidence in their writing and performance. The press and various record companies were showing an interest in the band. A worldwide deal was signed with the Chrysalis label providing a springboard for their music. The Cutter & The Clan was re-released (CHR 1669), followed by a live album, Once in a Lifetime.

The Cutter & The Clan (track listing):

Side one :  Alba, The Cutter, Hearts of Olden Glory , Pride of the Summer, Worker for the Wind.

Side two :  Rocket to the Moon, The Only Rose, Protect and Survive, Our Earth was Once Green, An Ubhal as Airde.

Album produced by : Chris Harley.

Band Members:

Donnie Munro : vocals,  Rory MacDonald : vocals /harmonies, bass, acoustic guitar, accordion, Malcolm Jones : guitars, bagpipes, mandolin, Peter Wishart : keyboards, backing vocals, Iain Bayne : drums, percussion, Calum MacDonald : percussion, backing vocals.

Alba : written in Gaelic by Calum and Rory. On the flight returning to your home place (Scotland), the high mountains, the glens, the houses and seeing the landscape changed.

The Cutter : written by Calum and Rory. Thoughts on immigration to Canada, returning home on a visit to your people and place.

Hearts of Olden Glory : written by Calum and Rory. Walking, reflecting with a sense of healing. ‘Where hearts of olden glory grow young’

Pride of the Summer: written by Calum. Reflecting back on youth. ‘It’s good to be young and daring’

Worker for the Wind : written by Calum and Rory. Thoughts on working with the land. The importance of having and knowing love.

Rocket to the Moon: written by Calum and Rory, The open landscape, the changes brought by enterprise, the railroads, the closing shipyards. Immigration and the blooming of new lives made.

The Only Rose : written by Calum And Rory. A song about being away, loneliness, Thinking of being with and missing someone.

Protect and Survive: written by Calum. Out in the open, reflecting, coming to see what matters.

Our Earth was Once Green: written by Calum and Rory. Damage done to the environment and nature. ‘But mountains are holy places and beauty is free’

An Ubhal as Airde: written in Gaelic by Calum. Standing, aware of the abundance that is here, and the apple of knowledge that will be reached.

Runrig went on to have a fruitful relationship with Chrysalis remaining with the label until 1996. They continued their musical journey, releases again on their own label, until they announced their final tour The Final Mile in 2017. On 18 August 2018, open air at Stirling Castle, Runrig played their final concert after 45 years of music. A performance celebrating a lifetime of song was released titled The Last Dance as a CD set and on DVD.

by Dave Burke

The Cutter and the Clan is available to borrow from Cork City Libraries along with many of their albums.

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