Link to Living Tradition Homepage






Leiselaut Music  LLCD1023

This is firmly postmodern piping. Post Planxty, post Spillane, post Moving Hearts: Schiefner's piping eschews the classic distinction between open and closed piping, taking the freedom of the travelling style but stripping it of its ornaments and virtuosity. Pipers such as Dicky Deegan and Eoin Dillon have taken a similar approach, playing the pipes almost in isolation from the tradition, sidestepping the piper's craft and going straight for self-expression. Is it still uillean piping if there are no crans? I don't know, but this German player certainly poses the question.

Watergrasshill, a name encountered on the journey between Dublin and Cork, combines compositions by Schiefner and friends with a core of traditional Irish fare, as well as odds and ends from other European traditions. Schiefner seems to aim for - and often achieves - a sound reminiscent of Spillane's Shadowhunter album, clean pipe chanter surrounded by instruments old and new. From the outset there are recorded effects, background vocals, and all the tricks of a modern soundtrack. Penalty sets the jig Back To The Mill Wheel against a recording of a working water mill. Bellbridge uses seabirds to introduce Bobby Casey's reel Porthole Of The Kelp. Moving Hearts meets Mike Oldfield on Underworld, combining a gorgeous if overproduced slow air with a punchy Schiefner reel and a classic Donald Shaw tune usually known as The Wedding Reel.

Schiefner's music continues to surprise with two English 3/2 hornpipes in a Baroque style, echoing Planxty's Irish Marche perhaps, and a very decent pair of reels with some superb flute by Regina Elling on A Montreal Leftover. The jig set Julia's Favourite is another tasty morsel, with particularly catchy bouzouki lines from Kaspar Laval. Schiefner finishes with a great trio of tunes, his own plus one by fiddler Franziska Urton who does sterling work throughout this recording, and then the final kitchen sink set which seems to overreach itself but is pulled back from the brink after five minutes by a last burst of polished piping. There are some less successful tracks here - Heaven Heath, Sinu Stujene, Piper's Whim and Tiny didn't really work for me - but most of Watergrasshill is fine music for the broadminded fan of Irish folk.

Alex Monaghan

Secure On-line mailorder service
Buy this CD online from The Listening Post
The Listening Post is the CD mailorder service of The Living Tradition magazine.
This album was reviewed in Issue 92 of The Living Tradition magazine.