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DEAF SHEPHERD - "Ae Spark O Nature's Fire" - Greentrax CDTRAX104

Big pipes,little pipes,whistles or fiddle it doesn't matter which instrument this young Scottish band chose to lead with, the result is as lively as a nudist camp full of midges (skye midges at that). Unusually for this type of band, Deaf Shepherd can have two sets of the Great Highland Bagpipe in full banshee at the same time, and when they do they produce a potent brew which really kicks ass. It is not so much a case of "Wake up the neighbours" but "wake up the whole street". This is no one - paced CD though, as with all good bands "Deaf Shepherd" can slow things right down when needed which gives the CD a rounded, complete feel.

Rory Campbell takes the lions share of the piping and proves that he knows his way round them with some fine playing on both types of pipe (a solo piping CD from Rory is "in hand"). He also provides a number of tunes for the band as does the "other" piper Malcolm Stitt and they sit very comfortably amongst such favourites as "John MacDonald's Exercise", "the Ross Battery" and "Lochiels away tae France" which illustrates their quality. Rory on whistle and Malcolm on guitar, bouzouki and Hammond Organ (Georgie Fame needn't start worrying just yet!) give the band a whole load of variations to play with and they make full use of them.

Clare McLaughlin doesn't shy from taking the lead on fiddle and she has a sureness of touch which drives the sets on. It is testament to Malcolm's production that Clare's fiddling is not lost when all hell breaks loose on the pipes. There are three songs on the CD all sung by John Morran. "Logan Braes", "Peggy Gordon" and a new song by Brian Smith and John, "Lost For Words at Sea" are all sensitively delivered by John with a little help from Angus Mclaughlin (whose bodhran playing makes itself known) and Rory.

The band have said that their heroes are the "Tannahill Weavers" and their music reflects that. They have produced a CD which is firmly rooted in the tradition of the Tannahill's and the Battlefield Band and for my money this CD would sit easily in the catalogue of either band, which is no mean achievement. Full marks to this young band for producing a lively and entertaining CD which is a delight to listen to.

Whisky usually gives me "Ae spark o nature's fire" but Deaf Shepherd give the same kick without the hangover in the morning.

Chris MacKenzie
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This album was reviewed in Issue 17 of The Living Tradition magazine.