Humours of Piping - Various - CDLDL1299


There are two good reasons for buying this CD. Firstly, it features four outstanding young uilleann pipers from Ulster. Claire Byrne, Patrick Davey, Barry Kerr, and Darragh Murphy contribute four tracks each. Secondly, it's packed with great tunes from the Irish piping tradition, plus a few fine recent compositions.

Each piper has a four-track section of this recording, and they all more or less follow the same basic pattern of reels, jigs, slow air, and hornpipes. Claire Byrne, a relatively unknown piper from Newry, sticks to traditional favourites and plays them fairly straight. Patrick Davey, a Belfast man and member of Craobh Rua, takes a few more liberties with vibrato and bent notes, especially on a pair of his own jigs. He also plays his two slower tracks on an old set of flat pipes, with some very unusual resonances.

Armagh piper Barry Kerr already has a solo CD on Spring Records, where he plays mainly flute. His playing has an eerie quality, which is increased by his choice of modal tunes and relatively slow tempos. These are probably the most listenable tracks here. Darragh Murphy is another Newry musician, and plays with a slightly more punchy style: this time it's the fast tunes which grab the ear, particularly the unusual jigs Out on the Road and Princess Nancy.

Two general comments are worth making. Firstly, the standard of accompaniment here is very high. Most tracks are accompanied, by one of five different guitarists, and the guitar never gets in the way. Secondly, the piping styles of all four pipers are strikingly similar. Like so many young Irish musicians, they have all been greatly influenced by the top recording artists of the moment, in this case mainly the flowing style of Paddy Keenan. There is little or no strong staccato here, and not much use of the regulators. Although the traveller style of the Dorans has been tempered by the influences of Liam O'Flynn and others, there is little here to remind you of Seamus Ennis, Willie Clancy, or Leo Rowsome. I for one regret this loss of stylistic differences, and I hope that these young players will acquire a wider range of styles in the course of long and successful piping careers.

As a showcase for promising young pipers, this CD is a total success. It also has great value as an inspiration for less accomplished performers. As entertainment, it is rather monotonous and unadventurous. While it's interesting to listen to once or twice, I think I'd only go back to this recording if I wanted to learn a tune or compare a later album from one of these musicians.

Alex Monaghan


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