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JAMES THOMSON & CHRIS WAITE - Borders Young Pipers

JAMES THOMSON & CHRIS WAITE - Borders Young Pipers
Borders Traditions

Following on from the 2007 Borders Pipes CD which featured Chris Waite among many others, this council-sponsored release is the seventh in the Borders Traditions series. James was seemingly too young for the previous recording, but both pipers are now well established in the Scottish Borders and beyond. They play the conical-bored bellows-blown pipe with a sound quite similar to highland pipes, and have independently chosen instruments made by Garvie, in different African woods. Both pipers also play a set or two on the straight-bored smallpipes, and in addition Waite whistles while Thomson flutes. Chris and James are joined by Marc Duff on whistles, Stewart Hardy on fiddles, Angus Lyon on keys, and Stevie Lawrence on various instruments. There are six piping tracks from each player, and one flute track from Thomson, making a total of 13. Arrangements and production are by Fred Freeman, who strays quite far from the familiar ceilidh band sound at times. It all adds up to a very varied album.

The common factor in their music, as well as both being Borders pipers and playing a mainly Borders repertoire, is the drive and energy which Waite and Thomson bring to their piping. Chris Waite's storming modern style was apparent on the Borders Pipes CD, and is equally obvious here. James Thomson matches him in this respect, so there isn't a dull track on this recording. But it's not all about pace and power. The delicate variations on Bill Malley's Barndance show great mastery of pipes and piping, and the change of gear into James' own composition Hugh's Tune is handled perfectly. Not to be outdone, Chris Waite plays a subtle slow version of Pawky Alan Glen before launching into a spirited romp through The Low Country Jig which comes close to Iain MacInnes' performance with Smalltalk. Classic Border tunes Go To Berwick Johnny and Morpeth Lasses are joined by familiar faces from the Scottish mainstream, and even an Irish visitor or two. Despite the calibre of the material and the accompanists, these two young pipers are clearly the stars of this CD, a position amply justified by their playing. This is a fine debut, and a promise of much more to come from Waite and Thomson.
Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 92 of The Living Tradition magazine.