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CHRIS ARMSTRONG - "Notes in my Heid" - KRL CDLDL1271

Stratospheric jigs and reels which require fifteen fingers to play. Masses of cracking new tunes and inventive and exciting arrangements, it must be a new CD from one of the piping big guns - Duncan, Mathieson or Pincock. Well no. It's actually the debut release from Chris Armstrong. Who? - I hear you say - the hottest new kid on the block. That's who.

Chris, who comes from Boghall in Scotland, played for ten minutes at a workshop two years ago and so impressed Fred Morrison that talk of the CD began there and then. Given that Chris has been composing tunes since he was nine (and has written well over one hundred) there was never going to be a shortage of material (and in fact only six of the tunes on the CD weren't written by Chris). That in itself is not that unusual (lots of pipers write tunes) what is surprising is the sheer quality of Chris's material. As you would expect from a child of the times, hornpipes, jigs and reels dominate, with 2/4s, 6/8s and a slow air providing the rhythmic colour. Although it tends to be the jaw dropping quality of Chris' fingering when he is at full rev which grabs the attention, he isn't a one speed piper and the slower sets are full of musical expression.

Fred Morrison produced the CD and astutely drafted in quality musicians (including Marc Duff and Steve Lawrence) to see what could be constructed around Chris's piping. They have done a fabulous job weaving a variety of interesting sounds in and out of the piping (and occasionally the other way round). I suspect there were some blistered fingers in the studio as the players tried to keep up with Chris when he really lets fly. Fred Morrison should take a bow for taking Chris's raw talent and honing it into such an excellent CD.

This CD marks the arrival of a major new talent on the piping scene. That it stands comparison with those of the trio mentioned above speaks volumes for its quality, and means it is a must for all but the terminally traditional.

Highly recommended.

Chris MacKenzie

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