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WINDY GYLE BAND - Purple Hills To Coast 

WINDY GYLE BAND - Purple Hills To Coast 
Hooky Mat Records HMR024 

An iconic group including key figures from the Northumbrian folk music revival, the Windy Gyle Band only performs and records occasionally but they boast a great repertoire of pipe and fiddle music, as well as crossing a few borders to bring in pieces from Scotland, Cape Breton and a couple of other North American traditions. With three Northumbrian pipers in this six-piece group, you'd expect a high percentage of piping showpieces - and you'd be right, but you also have to reckon with the four fiddlers in the band (both Anthony Robb and Paul Knox wielding both instruments), and with Ged Lawson's guitar, as well as Kathy Anderson’s piano accompaniment which is flexible enough to handle Frank Jamieson's Shetland two-step or Cotton Collins' Westphalia Waltz.

On this fourth recording, the Windy Gyle Band drafts in a few guests including two more fiddlers, two pianists and a lutenist. Jacob Heringman's piece for lute and pipes, Mr Christoper Moss His Lament Upon The Passage Of Time, is a definite highlight and one of few unfamiliar tunes here. Anthony Robb plays some stunning solos on the classic piping variations Oh Dear What Can The Matter Be and a number of virtuoso hornpipes, while he and piper Alice Burn produce a lovely duet version of the Willie Taylor jig Snowy Monday with Heather Robb on fiddle harmonies. The band's other fiddler, Nikki Lawson, is featured on a Scottish-themed set of hornpipe, strathspey and reel, finishing with Jerry Holland's flowing Marie Claire which is not heard often enough. After a nice little Lawson composition, the band piles into Bobby MacLeod's great jig, Charlie Hunter, for one of several stirring sets. I really enjoyed Quebec accordion maestro Philippe Bruneau's version of Danse De Chez Nous transferred to the pipes, and Billy Miller's great Cheviot Rant taken at a punishing pace. The last two tracks are slower: the old air Wild Hills O' Wannies on unaccompanied pipes and fiddle, and a final foray into cinematic soundscapes with the new composition North Point Of Maclean in mint condition.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 117 of The Living Tradition magazine.