There is something about Scotland that seems to create a powerful sense of yearning for those who have had the pleasure of visiting; in quiet moments I often find my mind wandering familiar hills and glens, desirous to return to its simple and luxurious landscapes, its quietude. It’s difficult to describe the effect it has on an individual, the sense of enjoyment that comes with being in its places and the strong wist that departure generates. Between visits Julie Fowlis’s work has become a much needed tether, a musical connector that brings a modern twist to traditional Gaelic versus, reinforcing the need for these timeless places in a frenetic world; of all her tracks though, Biodh an Deoch is the one that has always called to me the most.
This delicate acoustic Folk arrangement is elegant in its simplicity: just seven short verses sung to the light accompaniment of guitar, bouzouki and the harp, Julie’s voice unfolding sweetly in Scottish Gaelic. Clean and simple at first she sings in tandem with the guitar, playful reminiscences and romantic affectations intoned purely by the silkiness of voice, language barrier defiance established quickly as she skips effortlessly into the first chorus and the origin of its namesake.
“The drink would be in my love’s hand
Here’s a health to the chief”
As it progresses it gets texturally bolder, more adventurous, in line with its dreams of travel and yearning (“A boat was seen on the waves/ And the red hand at the helm”). It takes on a crooning lilt as more instrumentation comes into play, a certain level of urgency being drummed up at its midpoint but never allowed to trickle into anxiousness or melancholia. It softens for a moment as it enters its penultimate verse, but only for a moment; “Though I am here in Coll/ I long to go to Rhum” Julie practically whispers in its most wanton and intimate passage, a feeling of need so strong that it can only be murmured lest it overwhelm us. It doesn’t last long though as it slips quickly and energetically into the final verse, filled with life and love as the harp serenades its romantic daydream prospects into conclusion.
How apt that Biodh an Deoch is a piece filled with such notions of reunion and return; though not necessarily regarding place, the romance that bonds individuals is all but the same as that desire for moor and mountain. Its light, loving verses have come to epitomise that nostalgia of distinct place for me, the Gaelic only reinforcing its almost foreign, distant origins, waiting patiently and contentedly for my arrival again.