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SEUDAN - Seudan

SEUDAN - Seudan
Greentrax  CDTRAX362

Four pipers, four matching sets of pipes, and forty-eight minutes of great mini-band music: Seudan is a powerful all-star quartet, augmented by producer Allan MacDonald who pipes, sings and plucks the jaw harp here. The stars are Fin Moore from Dunkeld, Angus MacKenzie from Cape Breton, Calum MacCrimmon from Alberta, and Skyeman Angus Nicolson.

Let's start at the beginning. Around 1785 a fine set of highland pipes known as The Black Set of Kintail was made for Sir John MacRae. It eventually found its way to a museum in Inverness, where it lay until Hamish Moore decided to make a copy. The meticulous reproduction sounded in the key of A, perfect for playing with other instruments, so Hamish used it to record his 1994 album Dannsa air an Drochaid with Cape Breton fiddlers and pianists. Hamish and his son Fin then made four sets of these pipes for a quartet of young pipers: the quartet took the name Seudan, meaning treasures, from another of Hamish's previous projects.

Seudan play music from at least three centuries, starting with the great strathspey and reel Tullochgorum which was first published in a 1737 collection. Several eighteenth and nineteenth century tunes follow, and perhaps some more recent compositions. The Pibroch Of Donald Dubh dates from the seventeenth century or earlier, and is one of five vocal tracks, all featuring highland pipes or small pipes. Allan MacDonald makes a great job of illustrating the link between piping and Gaelic song, rendering MacFarlane's Gathering in particular as only a master piper can. Kathleen MacInnes sings Gaelic mouth music and waulking songs in a more lyrical style, but the link with the pipes is still apparent. On some of the instrumentals, Donald Hay and Ross Martin provide solid Scottish backing while Mac Morin does his Nova Scotian thing on the piano. There's plenty of pure piping to enjoy: Caber Feidh, Hot Punch, The Braes of Mar, a little-known trio of quicksteps from Willie Ross's 1869 collection, and a final set of strathspeys and reels fit for Cape Breton dancers. The unison playing is tighter than a highlander's sporran, and the lads throw in some tasty harmonies. This is accessible music, world class piping, and a fabulous sound which owes absolutely nothing to the 21st century. A historic recording in many ways.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 90 of The Living Tradition magazine.