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Vicki Swan Jonny Dyer

I have waited with some anticipation for this CD. The follow up to Serious Kitchen Music would be difficult but it has been successfully achieved with Thumb Twiddling.

Largely self penned tunes, beautifully crafted with a care that is obvious. RTW is easily my favourite and I caught myself humming it as I walked through the hills today. The other tune in the set is The Home Coming and they merge superbly together. Proving she is as good a flautist as a piper, Vicki makes a great job of The Geordie Lad set.

The guitar work of Jonny reminds me very much of Martin Simpson, the basic sound seem- ingly simple until you really listen and then it hits you, wonderful (why could I not play like this when I was younger). I defy anyone who listens to this album not to want to play at least one of the tunes. Which brings me round to the dots : they are easily downloaded on line. The track info for Jesters Waltz says “ many of the bars are in 7/8” , yes, and in 5/8, 6/8 2/4, 4/4 - pure sadism, it's great! The whole album has been put together very well not only by the musicians but also by the engineer, who has recorded an excellent album. Go on, buy it!

Jon Redpath




Donald Lindsay

R2CD2012 R2/Rel Records

There has been a lot of hype surrounding this album, including one email suggesting that I get in touch with various radio stations to request one of the tracks, ‘Bays of Harris’. This alone made me determined not to buy the CD. I won the CD in the LBPS raffle at the Invi- tation Recital Competition and I have to say that I am rather glad I did because this is an al- bum well worth listening to.

It is unusual to have an album of one man’s music and the listener, as well as being exposed to Donald, will also hear the compositions of Alex Muir, probably for the first time. Alex Muir is a former Church of Scotland Minister and not surprisingly writes tunes that are easy to listen to and contemplative in nature. I really like them and they sit well on smallpipes.

There are some cracking tunes. My favourite is ‘The Queen Mothers Welcome to the Mey Games’ which is as good a 2/4 March as you will ever hear. Many of the tunes (other than the Psalms) call out for lyrics (‘The Lochs of North Uist’ and ‘The Castle of Mey’) and there is unfinished business here.

I did get some sense of musical Deja Vu. Track 1, with Highland Pipes, starts with what seems remarkably like ‘Because he was a Bonny Lad’ played slowly. This happens more


than once on this album. Being an album confined to one composer does give it a strong musical continuity but variety is possibly lacking. On balance I think Donald has pulled off the challenge of representing one man’s tunes and that is quite a feat.

The accompanying musicians (Keith Easdale on cittern and whistle, Celine Donoghue on fiddle and vocals and Stuart Glasgow on guitar) fit very well with the pipes and this album demonstrates how musically sociable smallpipes are. These fine musicians should be given more credit in the album notes as they are a very important part of the CD - they barely get in. The whistle playing is skilled and there is really balanced stringed accompani- ment throughout, as on track 10. Track 6, ‘Carinish’ is a sensitive blend of whistle and fid- dle.

Donald is a fine musician and demonstrates a wide range of skills as a player, arranger of music and lyricist. His pipes always sound good. He conveys a strong sense that this music means a lot to him and there is great feeling evident throughout. The playing is laid back and relaxed with a strong emphasis on melody. The gracing is not overdone and this enhances the listening. There is fine steady playing of marches with pleasing phrasing. I particularly like the effect of the change from slow air to catchy hornpipe, ‘The Pentland Fishermen’, on track 11. This is a hugely nostalgic album that makes me want to ring Cal- Mac and book a passage to the islands.

My only criticism of this album is that some of the breaks between tunes and tracks seem weak. Track 7 for example starts with the wonderful 2/4 march mentioned above and then breaks into a strathspey. The strathspey is called ‘The Merry Men of Mey’ which is meant to capture the rhythm of the foaming waves, but sounds like ‘The Limping Men of Mey’. Track 5 starts with another 2/4 march ‘The Lochs of North Uist’ and then breaks into a ‘jig’ that is surely a 6/8 march? (nothing wrong with it though). Track 4 is beautiful but ends unsatisfactorily (the track is entitled ‘Friendship’ and maybe that is the point).

In track 12, ‘Duncansby Head’, which is definitely my favourite on the album the vocals are strong - just who is singing on this track? - and Donald’s piping weaves poignantly between verses. The album is worth buying for this song alone. Donald shows he is a skilled lyricist and the words to the song are poetic, but why he has to break into a retreat march, nice though it may be, is beyond me. It seems corny when I want to linger on the mood that the song sets up.

These may seem trivial faults but without them you would definitely be slumped in your armchair with your whisky in a pretty mellow mood by the end of the CD - if not asleep.

Even with these reservations, I have to say this is an outstanding CD and definitely worth buying.

Nigel Bridges