PAULINE CATO - New Tyne Bridge
Tomcat Music TCCDO5

In 2002, this Northumbrian smallpiper was appointed as a Research Fellow in the Creative and Performing Arts at Sheffield University . A three-year post which gave her the chance of visiting many older musicians in Northumberland, delving into museum archives and ancient manuscript collections. A logical end product lay in performance and this CD includes some personal favourites, containing in particular, tunes from the Bewick and Vickers collections plus compositions by James Hill, Billy Pigg and James Scott-Skinner.

A potent live performer, usually in company with fiddler/singer Tom McConville, Pauline has proved herself, over many years, a vital creative force in traditional music. Here she is joined by, amongst others, the estimable Phil Cunningham whose rhythmic piano gives a real bounce to many of the uptempo pieces. The sixteen all-instrumental tracks here, contribute jigs, hornpipes, slow airs, slip jigs, waltzes and marches to what is, undoubtedly, a labour of love.

Complemented largely by a band that’s sensitive to her needs, this reviewer finds the skittering bodhran playing of Ciaran Boyle somewhat intrusive and too busy on several tracks where frankly, percussion is superfluous. However, this is merely a minor point and it’s not to deny the overall warmth and musicianship of this captivating album, which combines purpose and accomplishment in equal measure.

It could never be said of Pauline Cato that she’s someone, in whose hands, the way a thing is done becomes more important than the thing itself; she values not only her source material but also its originators as her informative insert notes fondly testify. Fine stuff and a pleasure to hear the lass herself on ‘Woman’s Hour’ some months back; giving a break to the usual suspects who are corralled when the programmers remind themselves that some Folk input is due!

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 65 of The Living Tradition magazine.