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BRENDAN RING "Troublesome Things" Own Label BPR001CD

Great title for a piping CD: few instruments are more troublesome than the uilleann pipes, which makes Brendan Ring's mastery of them all the more impressive. This isn't just a piping CD, though. Since I first came across him, Brendan has developed an outstanding talent on the low whistle and has been influenced by the many Cork musicians combining Irish and Asian music. There's a little too much of a New Age feel to some of the arrangements for my taste, but then I'm more old-fashioned than most.

Brendan kicks off with three lovely lyrical jigs on low whistle, the first of many Ring compositions on this album. The third one is particularly fine, so fine in fact that he plays it again later on, on the pipes. Track two introduces those troublesome things: two traditional reels, the first from Sligo and the second from Shetland. If it's spirited Irish piping you're after, there's plenty here. Brendan is a bit of a dab hand on the old regulators, and his fingers fairly fly on the chanter. Track three exposes another of Brendan's exceptional talents, a traditional slow air full of nuances and grace, exquisitely played on solo pipes. There are another two nice slow airs which combine pipes and whistle: "Lios an Uisce" is better than nice, but alas far too short.

The faster piping tracks are more of a mixed bag. There's a live showpiece finishing with "Madame Bonaparte" at a ferocious speed, and a first-rate modern reel called The Lasher which Brendan wrote for his wife. There's also a pair of jigs where the powerful use of the regulators evokes nothing so much as a traffic jam in Patrick Street.

The four low whistle tracks concentrate on Brendan's own tunes, and they're all little treasures. My personal favourites are the lilting "Slip Jig for Janet" and the robust "Maverick Angels" which is out of the same mould as "Glen Kabul" and "Return to Kashmagiro". The delicate use of guitar and percussion is more obvious behind the whistle: the arrangements throughout this recording are unusually subtle and effective. There's also a graceful and moving song, written by Brendan and his wife Michele, and beautifully sung by Rachel Healy.

All in all, this is wonderful stuff. My only serious criticism is that at 38 minutes it's a very short recording by modern standards. Brendan was obviously remembering the old adage 'Always leave them wanting more' - well, it worked on me.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 48 of The Living Tradition magazine.