English and Border music for Pipes
Sargasso Sounds EELCD03
Track list:Recorded music on the Border pipes is still rather rare, and this new record is to be welcomed. Though there has been something of a revival of interest in the Border pipes in recent years, and occasional outing on recordings in groups such as Red Shift, the Goodacre Brothers, Eel Grinders (of whom both these musicians form part), and Border Pipes contributions to mixed recordings by Scottish piping societies, this is the first CD entirely devoted to the instrument played (virtually) solo that has come my way.
Mitford Galloway, Lasses Make Your Tails Toddle, The Bonny Miller/ Rusty Gully, When I was a Lady/ The Lilly, Jack Warrell's Hornpipe, Boxing Hares/ A Hornpipe, Cuddy Claw'd Her, The Silver Pin/ An Ye Had Been Where I Had Been You Would Have Not Been So Canty, Hey My Nanny/ Hit Her Between The Legs, Alloa House, Welch Hornpipe.
All tunes Trad. Except Boxing Hares (David Faulkner). Total Running time: 58.45
The music on the CD is predominantly from the 18th and 19th century Northern English and Border repertoire, gleaned from both the better-known and the more recently rediscovered tune books from the North of England; tunes from Bewick's Pipe Tunes and John Offord's John of The Greeny Cheshire Way feature alongside items from Vickers, Marsden, Winder and Dixon. It's a nicely chosen selection of tunes, exploring some of the less-played tunes from those sources, and covering a good range of the characteristic rhythms of the 18th Century Border and northern dance repertoire - 3/2, 6/4 , and 9/4 hornpipes, 9/8 jigs, and slow airs. The playing of these less known rhythms is clear and precise, with a good sense of their rhythmic structure, and with a nimble danceability. It's a valuable demonstration of the vitality of these tunes, and will be a good opportunity for other instrumentalists to diversify their repertoire - many of these would fit well on fiddle and other instruments as well as the pipes.
The slightly off-centre thing about the record is the choice of dispensing with the drones of the bagpipes, and replacing them with accordion. My guess is that this is done to make the CD somewhat more accessible to a wider audience than would have been available to a purist solo pipes recording, and it's true that it opens up a wider harmonic landscape, and gives a slightly more 'interesting' overall sound. But I'm not sure that it doesn't end up slipping rather between two stools, as a purely listening experience ... On one hand the device is probably radical enough to upset dedicated pipers, who may well still be looking for authoritative recordings of Border Pipe music, while on the other hand, having embarked on a freer route with the potential of the accordion, it isn't taken very far in terms of opening out the music for a more general audience. The overall sound isn't actually very far from pure pipes - in fact it was a few tracks in on my first playing before I actually twigged what was happening.
The upshot is that, while it's thoughtfully structured as a programme, with slow airs and waltzes breaking up the insistent dance music, at nearly an hour's running time it's not really a CD that you'd listen to straight through every time.
However, it's certainly an album that's worth having; a real addition to the rediscovery of this repertoire, a well produced and attractive sound, and with useful notes covering the sources of the tunes, and completed with handy relevant bibliography.
Available from 18 Betton Way, Moretonhampstead, Devon TQ13 8JA or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Barry Callaghan - 20.6.04
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