Sleeve not available
ALLAN HENDERSON "Estd 1976" Macmeanmna SKYECD 24

Okay, so he's only 28. Big deal: just because he's mastered three instruments (fiddle, pipes and piano) and written loads of brilliant tunes (fifteen on this album). It's taken him two years to finish his debut CD, so he does have his faults ... but that means he started it when he was only 26! Prodigious little upstart.

Anyway, leaving middle-aged envy aside, Allan Henderson has been no slouch in his short life. He and sister Ingrid produced a couple of albums in their teens, and Allan has been involved in several major musical projects since, including supergroup Blazing Fiddles. The music on this CD is brimming with energy and passion, fiery traditional reels on track 1 contrasting with a gorgeous piano version of Farewell My Love. A couple of sets of Allan's own tunes follow, jaunty little numbers which grow on you like the well-named Fungus Reel. Sleeve notes notwithstanding, track 5 is a set of stirring strathspeys and track 6 brings Allan's pipes to the fore on a roller-coaster set including Welcome Home Gráinne and The Piper's Ceilidh. Two of Allan's own slow airs are divided by a wonderful set of pipe jigs: Petticoat Loose, Donald MacLean, Islay's Charms, and The Goatherd, famous tunes every one, all fitted neatly into Allan's down-to-earth fiddle style. The Wonderful Oban Surrealist is a smashing wee tune with a story to tell: it's followed by a descriptive piece, combining several instruments and Gaelic song, called Lochaber after Allan's homeland. The final track is a pair of charming jig-time marches, a new one by piper Allan MacDonald, and a lovely old one named Dugald Gillespie.

Unfortunately, Allan forgot to make a note of who played what when. Reading between the lines, there's flute and whistles from the album producer Iain MacDonald, harp and probably some keyboards from Ingrid Henderson. Guitar and button box are supplied by unknown Highland geniuses, and I think the vocals are Margaret Bennet's. The arrangements and combinations of instruments are pleasing and varied, producing a full sound which never dulls. Allan gives first-class piano performances: his piping and fiddling is not quite in the same league here, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear him playing in the premiership before he's my age. 'Estd 1976' is a very pleasant CD, and a treasure trove of great tunes.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 57 of The Living Tradition magazine.