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Foot Stompin' Records CDFSR1733

A young piper with a big sound, Stuart Cassells won the 2005 Scottish Young Tradition award in a stunning live set. His music reflects influences from Blair Douglas to Wolfstone, and his personality overflows from recording or live performance. The wall-of-sound overture, Big Al's, shows Stuart can handle his pipes, blasting over the hard rock backing. The Paps of Jura and The Hills of Argyll get the big band treatment too: Ross Kennedy on guitars, Douglas Millar on keyboards, Craig Strain on bass and Paul Jennings on drums.

In more traditional vein, Stuart plays The Snuff Wife, The Kitchenmaid, Athol Cummers, and a few compositions by pipers such as Fred Morrison and Donald MacLeod. On Moran and Bodhran Martin O'Neill throws in a bodhran solo, and Simon Moran plays fiddle, hence the name. For even more variety, there's a song and a low whistle track. The Terror Time is a Ewan MacColl classic, sung here by Ross Kennedy with backing vocals and piping solos. Ginny's Tune shows a gentler side of Stuart Cassells, a composition for his girlfriend played by Lorne MacDougall on a surprisingly breathy instrument.

There's one other Cassells composition here: The Salmon and the Clyde, a very fishy hornpipe, which leads into a fine version of Rory MacLeod. And of course, no modern CD is complete without a big finish. Sexy Lexy provides this, with blistering versions of Lexy MacAskill and Thomson's Dirk. For good measure, and to mark the passing of a great man, Stuart adds Just For Gordon: an eclectic set including a couple of traditional piping jigs, Music for a Found Harmonium which has now almost lost its Penguin Cafe Orchestra associations, and ending with Gordon Duncan's masterpiece The High Drive - one of many.

An exciting album and an excellent debut. It's a wee cracker, out in good time for Christmas.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 70 of The Living Tradition magazine.