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GORDON DUNCAN - "The Circular Breath" - Greentrax CDTRAX122

Given a liberal supply of the amber nectar, someone daft enough to listen and I've been known to expound my theory on why Gordon Duncan is the most influential piper of his generation. I'll spare you the flowery talk and cut to the crux. First, Gordon's tunes have become standards not only in the piping world but also in the wider folk world (Andy Renick's ferret and Zeto the Bubbleman to name but two). Second, Gordon's style of playing, though inimitable, is becoming the goal of many of today's up and coming pipers. Those wishing to disagree please apply at the Living Tradition office with the appropriate bottle.

"The Circular Breath" provides a barrel load of support for my case. The CD features seven new tunes from Gordon and they are all crackers. My favourite is the reel "the High Drive" which Gordon plays on the practice chanter of all things. That Gordon can make the practice Chanter sound pleasurable is a measure of his outstanding musical ability. Gordon gets a little help on "the High Drive" from "Four Men And A Dog" banjo player Gerry O'Connor. This is a pairing made in heaven. Gerry gently spars with Gordon as the banjo weaves in and out of the pipes (or chanter) the result is feisty and spirited with the listener the undisputed winner. Gerry is again to the fore on the cleverly arranged track "pressed for time" which sees the part of the piobaireachd "The Earl Of Seaforths Salute" imaginatively intertwined with the reel "pressed for time". As well as the chanter Gordon also plays the low whistle on the track which gives it a multi layered sound.

In case anyone thinks Gordon only plays the practice chanter on this CD I should point that the Great Highland Bagpipe is given serious stick as only Gordon Duncan can, on all but three of the sets. On most of the sets Gordon gets cracking support from Ian Carr on Guitar, Ronald MacArthur an bass guitar and Jim Sutherland playing clay pots (If Gordon can play the chanter ...). The other track which doesn't feature the pipes is the appropriately named "Clan Meets Tribe". This track has Gordon playing a delightful slow air on the low whistle while Andy Cook does his thing on the Ugandan Harp. I know ... but It works beautifully.

As if the use of Clay pots and Ugandan Harps wasn't cosmopolitan enough Gordon uses a Galician Jig as the opener for one of the sets and it sits well on the Great Highland Bagpipe and has a very catchy melody. That is a feature of this CD all the tunes are of the highest quality. Not only does Gordon write good tunes he also likes to play good "classic" tunes which is why you'll find tunes such as "I laid a herring in salt", "Inveraray Castle" and the timeless "Mrs MacPherson of Inveran" being played. It is probably fair to say that the vast majority of folk who but this CD wont be buying it to hear Gordon play "The Sheepwife" or the piobaireachd "MacDougall's Gathering", but the tracks are worth listening to nevertheless.

In conclusion Gordon has produced a highly entertaining and listenable CD. The support cast have done a magnificent job and little snippets pop out with each listen Bringing Gerry O'Connor in was a master stroke which must be repeated (a joint CD perhaps!). To my mind this CD sees Gordon come of age musically speaking, the piping was always there, but now it has been married with clever arrangements, an eye for detail and of course flaming good tunes. Highly recommended.

Chris MacKenzie
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