page 24

Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer

Vicki and Jonny have brought enthusiasm and dynamism to this recording, which show- cases Vicki’s excellent piping skills and Jonny’s incredible talent as a tune writer. For instance: The Willows is a lovely, dreamy tune that stays with you long after the track has finished, and The Three Ashes displays excellent and effective syncopation. Clearly pubs that inspire such music should be visited (and often). Broken Drone is another beautifully haunting tune, a true lament -- with wonderfully understated guitar harmonies blending effortlessly into the original melody and taking the listener seamlessly on into the next tune (Chasing the Butterfly).

The rousing Scatter Pipes might perhaps have been slightly more effective played on the ‘sharper’ Border pipes, but great nonetheless. I loved Hemlighmen and the Cartmel Fell/ Tigers Eye set, the former being a very thoughtful tune beautifully played on flute and ac- cordion, and the latter again having a nice guitar introduction and accompaniment, and an excellent link into Tiger Eye. These tunes arc particularly suited to the timbre and range of the small pipes, and there are one or two good, crunchy dissonant harmonies.

It’s always difficult to make a comment about a track like Lament for the Lone Piper which is so personal to its composer, but I felt the slur at the end rather detracted from its emotive feel. The Bulgarian Bandit was slightly reminiscent of Fleshmarket Close and it sounded too fast for me, but the speed was right for Answers on a Postcard so perhaps I’m just being pedantic.

I have to say that I also found Stornoway Castle rather like Mrs. MacLeod of Raasay which was a little off-putting - but a wonderful set nonetheless. The songs were nice with gentle unobtrusive harmonies, but having learned two of them myself to different (and perhaps more ‘traditional’ tunes) they were more of a challenge to my ear. But The Hare’s Lament certainly gives a testimony to why hare coursing should be ended - lovely double tracking on flute and very sympathetic guitar work. I was a bit disappointed that the CD ended on a sad note with the Seven Little Gypsies, and left me rather flat - I would have preferred a rousing finish - but again, that’s just a personal view.

I loved Jock’s Box [named after the box of reed revitalising instruments that Jock used to resuscitate Vicki’s reed - Ed], but then as I am closely acquainted with that box myself I know only too well what they mean! I felt the insert was a bit disappointing - too many ‘hip’ words (‘imaginative huh?’ being just two). And there were a number of typographical errors in the text. I would also have liked to have seen the song words, together with the in- struments/voices etc. used on each track . But all that aside, this is a CD I will definitely have in my car to play loudly with the hood down!

Sam Allen