John Bushby enjoys an unusual collection of bellows-piping from Appalachia
Timothy Cummings, with Pete Sutherland, Caleb Elder and friends

When we think of music from the Appalachian Mountains in South Eastern USA we think of the the fiddle, dulcimer and 5 string (clawhammer style of playing) banjo.  Oh, and song of course.  Bagpipes?  Now that is interesting, but here they are, featuring and playing tunes and hymns from this region.
The region itself is a melting pot of Scots, Irish, English, Scandinavian and German immigrants to the New World and many of the tunes and songs reflect this migration.  Many versions of English ballads can be found along with instrumental music.  Many tunes have also survived though sometimes altered, though the traditional roots are still there.
This CD by piper Timothy Cummings has taken many of these tunes and also those that are ‘home grown’ and has given them a new flavour by using his instruments, the Border pipes and Scottish smallpipes, as well as Highland pipes (on one track) and whistle.  Added to these instruments he uses the clawhammer style 5 String banjo, old time fiddle and viola as well as vocals. Mandolin and double bass also feature in the last track on the CD.
My first experience of pipes and banjos was Fred Morrison using bluegrass banjo on his latest CD which showed what a wonderful combination this could be.
This CD steps back from the frenetic bluegrass style and is what we call, or at least I do, ‘Old Time’ playing.   The combination of instruments works very well and I love the banjo!
From start to finish the CD is an interesting and refreshing change from a lot of piping CDs we have these days.  The music is simple but in its simplicity there is a beauty; to me it is seems played not to impress but from the heart. Having a soft spot for Appalachian music I have thoroughly enjoyed this offering from Timothy.  It shows that the pipes are not limited to the tradition on this side of the pond and work just as well with tunes from elsewhere.  Of course there are tunes or variants that are played on this side, and the Border Tradition itself gets a look-in with a track featuring Linkumdoddie and Jenny Nettles, though it is given the ‘old time’ treatment.  
The mood of the CD is broken up with some very pleasant singing with pipe accompaniment which once again works very well.
Timothy has opted for a different recording approach too and rather than record in a studio with all the trickery that entails he recorded most of the CD ‘live’ with the musicians playing together in an open, reconstructed barn situated on a hilltop amidst the Green Mountains.  This has given the CD an authentic feel.   The result is that the musicians could be in your living room.
As Timothy says, “This is a piping album to be sure, but one with strong Southern flavoring: a genuinely American expression”
I won’t single out too many individual tracks but I particularly like the opening track which sets the scene with  Bonaparte Crossing the Rockies which is a well kent tune in the piping repertoire but more well known as Battle of Waterloo.  Starting with the Border pipes the fiddle eases in with both instruments giving that real old time flavour with sliding notes and then the banjo comes in nailing the ‘old time feeling’.  All instruments fit so well together with good balance between them.  
On track 2, Tim utilises an interesting adaptation where he tapes the C# down to C natural on A smallpipes and plays a catchy set of tunes in G on the A chanter with drones tunes to G/D.  Once again the combination of pipes and banjo works really well.
Track 3 moves away from pipes and features Tim on whistle with fiddle and banjo.  Listeners will recognise the tune New Rigged Ship but in the Appalachians it is called Chapel Hill Serenade.  
Track 6 is the first vocal offering, The Dying Californian with the pipes providing a delightful harmony to the singing of Hollis Easter.  No other instruments feature on the track. This is a tragically uplifting song about the California Gold Rush.  The pipes fit the song so well.
A nod to the Border and its tunes comes with a rendition on track 8 of the well know tunes Linkumdoddie and Jenny Nettles.  As Tim says these ’were chosen as a nod to the Old World’.  To me the banjo sounds as if it has been tuned down which gives it a ‘growling’ tone which fits well with the chirpyness of the pipes; then we have the only appearance of that quintessential Appalachian instrument the Mountain or Lap Dulcimer.
Following on from this track are a set of three tunes, Wondrous Love, Ecstasy, and Cowper from the ‘Shape Note’ singing tradition which suit the modality of the pipes very well.  Tim is double tracked here playing low D whistle and with banjo providing the backing.  On the next track Tim triple tracks himself playing another hymn from the tradition, Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah.
I will admit it took a few listens to get my ears around this track but I did.  It didn’t immediately stand out as one of the better tracks at first hearing but listening more closely I came to like it.
Some folks may question the playing of religious music on the pipes but heck, why not.  They are good tunes.
Following on we have a second vocal offering, Fathers, Now Our Meeting is Over, sung by Pete Sutherland who puts away his banjo and plays guitar and is once again accompanied by Tim on D taped smallpipes and Caleb Elder on viola.  The song is actually a funeral hymn from the western part of North Carolina.  
The CD ends with a traditional hoedown tune called Sandy Boys where the arrangement is in the true string band tradition where all melody instruments take turns stepping up to the mike and soloing  so in addition to the Border pipes we have, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, guitar and string bass.  This for me works really well with pipes and they don’t seem out of place at all in this instrumental lineup.  Probably one of my favourite tracks.
Although I don’t play this type of music (well perhaps one song when in the mood) I have always had a soft spot for music from the Appalachians and Old Time music in general.
I would thoroughly recommend buying this album and adding it to your collection.  It is a refreshing approach to piping and takes us in a direction we probably would never have thought of.
Playing with Timothy are: Pete Sutherland ( clawhammer banjo, guitar, song, fiddle) and Caleb Elder (fiddle, viola).
Special guests Sandy Silva (hambone or body percussion, clogging), Hollis Easter (song), Don Pedi (mountain dulcimer), Joseph Campenella Cleary (mandolin), Neil Rossi (guitar), and Michael Santosusso (upright bass).
The CD is available via the LBPS website as well as direct from Tim at
Many of the tunes can be found in a book of Appalachian tunes from the same website.

Track list
1. Bonaparte Crossing the Rockies/Highlander's Farewell/Johnny Cope
2. Red Fox/Stony Point
3. Chapel Hill Serenade/Pilgrim of Sorrow/World Turned Upside Down
4. Pretty Saro
5. Natchez/Ducks on the Mill Pond
6. The Dying Californian
7. Wayfaring Stranger/British Field March
8. Linkum Doddie/Jenny Nettles
9. Wondrous Love/Ecstasy/Cowper
10. Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah
11. Fathers, Now Our Meeting isw Over
12. Sandy BoysJohn Bushby Nov 2012

John Bushby Nov 2012