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MAcGREGOR, BREcHIN,
within the group (over half the album’s 17 something other musicians ought to copy.
tracks are original), they clearly have an ear for
O’HEADHRA
a good song and the album features several To pick out a few tunes: track 1 is the old
well-chosen contemporary compositions. favourite, The Flax in Bloom coupled with
Sonas
Although they are vocally commanding (all Corney is Coming, which I first knew as Boney
Brechin All Records CDBAR006 hail the captivating voice of Nicola Lyons), is Coming. (So much for my hearing) These
they choose to open the album with four are two great reels and Hannan does them
Three big names and an even bigger sound. instrumental tracks, the first of which is an justice. On track 2 is Cailleach an Airgead
Bruce MacGregor of Blazing Fiddles and Brian urban stereoscopic soundscape called neO. (The Hag with the Money), which has many
O hEadhra of Anam are held together by Sandy Although their music is rooted in tradition, it songs put to it in Conamara, not all of them
Brechin from Planet Box. Great tunes, powerful is heavily influenced by jazz in its rhythmic fit for polite company (whatever that is). The
arrangements, and five lovely Gaelic songs: structures and phrasing. title track, The Tempest, was learnt from Derry
Sonas harks back to the golden days of Ossian piper, Joe McLaughlin, and is a fitting title
and Silly Wizard, with contemporary drive and While most of the material on the album will because there’s some fierce fingering in it. The
bite. I always look for variety on an album, be new to most listeners, a couple of modern jig, Seán Buí, dates from at least the 18th C,
and this trio provide more than their fair share classics immediately invite comparison – Pete and was used by Munster poets as the air for at
with old tunes such as Captain Donald Stewart Scrowther’s Lily of Barbary and Richard least 15 songs. The follow-up is usually known
and Chorus Jig, classic airs like Sitting in the Thompson’s Farewell, Farewell. Interestingly as Pádraig Ó Keefe’s because he taught it to
Stern of a Boat, several modern compositions programmed next to each other towards the so many fiddlers. The closing reels, The West
including a couple of Sandy’s own, and those end of the album. The former was learned Wind and Seán Reid’s Fancy, are well-known
five songs. All three musicians are masters from P J Wright’s recording (duly credited and a fitting conclusion to a really good album
of their art, needing only the tiniest touch of in the notes): a rich arrangement and of piping.
support from guest Fiona Mackenzie. Sonas uncompromisingly off-beat driving percussion
came just too late for my 2008 Top 10, but I’m give the tale of love and piracy a new slant The Tempest might not be an ideal introduction
already sure it will make the 2009 list. which is totally valid. Farewell, Farewell should to the uilleann pipes but it’s certainly a good
be a different matter: a piece of miniature introduction to close piping on a flat set of
The medley starting with John Roy Stewart is a perfection from ‘Liege and Lief’, it is almost pipes. It’s definitely a pipers’ CD. Hannan
fine example of exciting traditional music. The musical holy ground. What 4square have does a really good job of work here and rightly
fiddle strathspey flows into a piece of mouth done with the song is stunning – a sparse gives thanks to Na Piobairí Uilleann for all the
music from Brian, before the final reel sees box initial arrangement, a gorgeously arranged sterling work they do for pipers and traditional
and fiddle united over Brian’s guitar. Sandy and instrumental section, an acapella verse and music and musicians in general.
Bruce play complementary harmonies, and a coda of sublime wistfulness. This is a
Brian’s guitar floats slightly lower in the mix as bold, adventurous, rewarding and extremely
Mick Furey
befits a backing instrument. On some of the promising debut.
vocal tracks, the guitar takes centre stage for
THE OLD DANcE ScHOOL
a bit of tasty picking while box and fiddle hold
Nigel Schofield
back. Full marks for the mixing throughout this
Based On A True Story
recording.
ROBBIE HANNAN
OBSCD003
There are plenty of crowd-pleasers here.
The Tempest; The Ace and
Another new young band - another exciting CD.
Goat Island Reel is followed by a pair of great
Deuce of Piping Vol 3
Based on a growing reputation as a live band
Gordon Duncan reels, Zito the Bubbleman
NPUCD016 Na Píobairí Uilleann
- although I must admit to not seeing them
and The 4th Floor, for an unrestrained romp. yet, The Old Dance School mix the various
Sandy’s candid reel Sometimes It Doesn’t Work
Never mind about young-looking cops making
influences the six members have brought to
is paired with Alasdair Fraser’s rollicking Skye
you feel old, when you realise that someone
the band. ‘Based On A True Story’ is a mix
Barbecue. A gentler side comes through in
you first heard of as a ‘promising young …’ is a
of traditional and self-penned, instrumentals
the air Sitting in the Stern of a Boat, and in two
very mature musician, your joints start to creak.
and songs. Eastern European arrangements
striking waltz tracks. All the songs are gentle
Robbie Hannan gives the lie, as so many
sit alongside jazz based tunes, soul and even
enough, including two of Brian’s own, both soft
contemporary pipers do, to Séamus Ennis’s
early music.
and lyrical: Mo Chaileag Bhon Eilean in the
mantra that it takes seven years learning, seven
Hebridean style, and his version of Born Free.
years practicing and seven years playing to
Whistles, fiddles, guitar, drums, percussion,
There isn’t a bad track on Sonas, and most of
make a piper.
bass, viola fuse into exciting tracks showing
them are excellent. I could have done with a big a variety of moods. Vocals are confident and
brash final set of dance tunes, but that’s just my
Hannan’s style pays tribute to Ennis without
the songs interesting - I especially enjoyed
inner teenager.
being enslaved, but he uses the ‘close’ style
‘The Silver Pin’ a story of witchcraft and
beloved of Ennis. ‘Close’ piping, with its
suggestiveness.
Alex Monaghan
staccato effect, is harder to achieve than
the looser ‘open’ style traditionally used by
Everything is based firmly within the tradition
4SQUARE
Traveller pipers but Hannan has it mastered
but not stuck there. There’s a real sense of
here. The basic difference is that close
heritage but also of today. A good first offering
20:20 Manchester
piping takes as few fingers as possible off the
which should do well during the festival season,
Own Label SQUACD001 chanter, while open piping does the opposite.
and I look forward to catching them live.
Hannan plays a ‘flat’ set in B rather than the
4square is a quartet of young musicians based more modern and widely used concert pitch
Dave Beeby
in Manchester. This is their debut album. On in D. This gives a warmer tone to the music,
it they successfully walk the thin line between especially effective on slow airs. The eleven
THE DUPLETS
experimentation and overconfidence. The tracks here are classic dance tunes and airs. As
album is self-assured in every respect, but one you’d expect, reels are in the majority but only
Tree of Strings
is never left with a sense of innovation for its just, with five out of the eleven tracks. Pond Chicken Music CHIK001
own sake or of ideas, which would have been
better off abandoned. Although based around Hannan says that his main influences are This is an auspicious debut album from Gillian
the group’s four musicians, the album makes Ennis, Willie Clancy and Tommy Reck, who Fleetwood and Fraya Thomsen, two young
well-considered use of guests and sessions never got the wider recognition he deserves. Scottish ladies who began learning and playing
players, among them brass, a string quartet He also thanks the Fermanagh piper Seán together at the Balnain House Harp Group in
and the bellringers of Manchester Cathedral. McAloon for the help he gave to the young Inverness some ten years ago. Since then
Hannan. Throughout the insert notes he names they’ve graduated from music courses at
Although there is clearly composing talent the musicians he learned the tunes from; RSAMD and Strathclyde University, started on
The Living Tradition - Page 42 Sponsored by BIrnam CD
Issue82.indd 42 24/2/09 14:01:06
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