Kathleen MacInnes is a Scottish actress and singer from the Hebridean island of South Uist.

Her acting career isn't too spectacular as most of her work is done in Scottish Gaelic (I mean, how often do you hear the words 'megastar' and 'minority language' in the same sentence?), but in my opinion that doesn't matter because what you really want to do is hear Kathleen MacInnes sing. Her singing is also done in Gaelic and her repertoire includes traditional songs that very often come from her native island.

Like the best traditional musicians, she manages to put her own stamp on the material that sometimes goes back centuries and very often has already been recorded by other artists. She does so thanks to not only her interesting arrangements and perfect performance but also careful choice of her material. When you read sleeve-notes to her 2006 debut album Òg-Mhadainn Shamhraidh (Summer Dawn), you get the impression that every song has some personal meaning for the singer. No wonder she sings them so beautifully. And as she's accompanied by a group of first-class musicians, the overall effect is very pleasing indeed.

What I find special about her voice is the fact that it's quite low and husky, which is not what you usually expect from a traditional Gaelic singer. I'm not suggesting that all female Gaelic vocalists sound like deserters from a heavenly choir - it's enough to mention such legends as Mary Smith and Rona Lightfoot as a proof to the contrary - but I think they're popularly and maybe even slightly stereotypically expected to sing with high-pitched and crystal-clear voices. Nothing wrong with that but I certainly prefer my singers a bit less angelic.

I've heard it said that Kathleen's distinct voice is in fact a result of too many years spent doing voice-overs on Gaelic cartoons. If this is really the case, it'd mean that those of us who want to add some rough and raspy quality to their singing might have a healthy alternative to cigarettes and alcohol. I'm all for it. Probably cheaper too.

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