Runrig are a cultural phenomenon unlike any other, bringing Gaelic to the fore and broadening the appeal of Celtic Rock across the continent and across the Atlantic Ocean. In their 40+ year career, they have done it all and maintained the same approachable sound that found them success as a ceilidh band back in the early days.
If The Story is their parting gift to an adoring audience that has followed them everywhere for the longest time, then it is a fitting one.
Being the band’s 14th studio album, it’s hard not to tread over the ground they’ve covered before. The classic song-writing of the MacDonalds never fails, and the sweeping vistas and images of the Gaidhealtachd that the lyrics evoke give the strongest sensation of attachment to the land of the Gael.
There is a big feeling of nostalgia with the album too, perhaps expected from a band capping off a 40-year career. There are a few Gaelic tracks on the album that returns Runrig to the language from which they came and these tend to be the more uplifting and choral songs on The Story.
But that isn’t saying that this album doesn’t try anything new. Lead single “The Story” is the best example of a more modern and electronic influence taking over from the traditional Celtic Rock sound that Runrig have come to personify.
The album also takes a lot of cues from American rock, with songs like “18th July” being particularly grounded in a country-influenced sound. These tend to be the best songs on the album, hitting that familiar Runrig tone whilst changing things just enough so that you know this is new material.
For me, The Story lacks the punch and the exciting core that other albums have had. That’s the Runrig I identify most with personally, but that’s not their only appeal. The songs won’t be given the time to become legends in themselves, and will always be in the shadow of the greats of yesteryear, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth a spin.
Runrig’s contribution to Scottish music and to the Gaelic community has been immense over their 40 years, and even though their recording days are over their live concerts will continue to delight new generations of fans for years and years with any luck. The Story isn’t the definitive Runrig album, but as a final record in an illustrious career it does them justice.