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Greentrax Recordings CDTRAX390

Almost extinct in the early 80s, the Scottish smallpipes and Border pipes were resurrected through the dedication of Mike Rowan and a few similarly committed souls. Their efforts created The Lowlands and Borders Pipers’ Society, and Reclaimed celebrates their wonderful instruments with 17 beautiful and atmospheric recitals.

Quieter in volume, more mellow and warmer in tone than the highland pipe, these bellows-blown pipes use drones issuing from a common stock.

A variety of pipers – including Mike Katz and Gordon Mooney – perform music old and new, five tracks deriving from the key William Dixon manuscript of 1733. Several Burns’ melodies also feature. With tunes largely traditional in nature, including Now Westlin’ Winds and The Night Visitor’s Song, there are marches, laments and reels. Accompaniments from cello, viola, violin and mandolin, emphasise the “ensemble” qualities of the instruments. Vocal contributions from Iain MacInnes, Mairi Campbell and Fiona Hunter – particularly on Helen Of Kirkconnell Lea – revive the concept of pipes supporting singers. Pastoral pipes, precursor to Uileann pipes, feature in one track. An interesting historical aside has the voice of Willie Scott describing The Jedburgh Ba’ Game, the composition itself having won a pipe society competition.

Excellent sleeve notes provide backgrounds and stories to the tunes, their composers and the musicians.

With playing of the highest standards, Reclaimed is an ideal example of smallpipe and Border pipe music, and the passion that helped restore them to public attention. Stirring and haunting, rollicking and intimate, harmonic and hypnotic, the result is a rewarding listening experience.

Jim McCourt

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This album was reviewed in Issue 115 of The Living Tradition magazine.