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Great White Records GWR002CD

Sprue: a word I'd almost forgotten, but it features prominently on the cover of this second album from piping prodigies Ainslie and Henderson. Jarlath Henderson was a multiple All-Ireland champion and winner of the BBC Radio 2 young folk award before he and Ross joined forces to produce their Partners In Crime CD a few years back. Ross was one of the top young Scottish pipers, a pupil of Pitlochry piping genius Gordon Duncan, and was making a name for himself on the trendy Border pipes. Now these lads are both household names - if your household has “Failte” on the doormat, or a sign saying “Pipers do it very noisily” in the car window.

As well as traditional tunes from Ireland and Scotland, Spain and Bulgaria, Ross and Jarlath have included several of their own excellent compositions. Ross's evocative slow jig Man Who Painted Trees glides into his reel Loch Bheemtaal and then Jarlath's 12 Weeks And A Day (currently trending at sessions near you, soon to be a major motion picture - or at least a YouTube clip). There's a bit of a Basque feel to Hiya Pal, another Henderson original on low whistle with simulated txalaparta accompaniment. The Ainslie reel Fred's Advice is smoothly joined on, continuing the Spanish theme. Ross and Jarlath even composed one piece jointly, the slow sad Something For Gordon to commemorate probably the most influential piper of the last century.

This joining together is a feature of Air-Fix. That's where the sprue comes in, linking the parts into a single structure. Ross and Jarlath have natural sprue in this sense - their music is so tightly knit that it's hard to tease them apart. Is that one whistle or two, two pipes or one? The various backing musicians also provide sprue, musical pegs to hang the tunes on, and in some ways there isn't a clear line between soloists and accompanists. Ali Hutton's guitar, Duncan Lyall's bass, James Mackintosh's percussion, Hamish Napier's wurlitzer and, of course, Innes Watson's fiddle, are essential parts of the finished product. The only place where this CD becomes more of a solo album is the vocals: two songs from Jarlath, with backing from his sister Alana, add another dimension - or displace a couple of instrumentals - and give Ross the chance to be an accompanist for a change. Personally I prefer the instrumentals: but whatever your fancy, Air-Fix will exceed your expectations.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 99 of The Living Tradition magazine.