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BRENDA STUBBERT - "In Jig Time" - Greentrax CDTRAX139
MICHAEL GREY - "Cuts from Traditional Cloth" - Lismor LCOM5261

A better grasp of historic and geographical facts and figures could well add much of significance to this reviewer's preamble. The music under review is of discernably Scottish lineage, with a measure of Irish influence, although many of the tunes are contemporary, written individually by the featured musicians who are both from Canada. Of late there has been much to savour from Canadian musicians via a number of sources and outlets. Indeed, I would have to confess that just about every recording that I have been impressed, excited or entertained by so far this year (1997) has originated in Canada.

Brenda Stubbert is of the fiddle tradition of Cape Breton Island. As well as the fiddle playing, Brenda Stubbert is also regarded as a fine piano accompanist, stepdancer and composer. Some of her marches, strathspeys and reels such as "Goose Cove", "Lester Stubbert's", "Ashley MacIsaac's Reel", "Barbara Magone's Visit" and "Rita's Tearoom" are included on this recording. A volume of over seventy-five of her tunes is currently available through Cranford Publications, so this represents only a small fraction of her compositional work.

Brenda Stubbert's playing is highly charged, mainly with an energetic, attacking bowing technique which has many overtones of the Scottish style. The music being played is for dancing to and this invariably takes the form of stepdancing. So it's de'il tak' the hin'most as Brenda Stubbert and her lively and hard working accompanists drive on through the sets. Worthy of particular note is Jackie Dunn, whose enthusiastic work on the piano consistently adds much by way of lift, pace and good humour.

Another musician who is as much renowned for his playing as his ability to extend the musical repertoire is the Canadian piper Michael Grey - a name to be found among the credits of many a recording. Michael Grey is normally at home among the massed pipes and drums of The Peel Regional Police Pipe Band, however, on "Cuts from Traditional Cloth" he reveals some piping of a quieter, more reflective nature.

On this recording Michael Grey also confronts some piping myths and traditions. Mixing and matching as he pleases he blends in some fiddle from Oliver Schroer; flute from Patrick O'Gorman; bodhran from John Walsh; some gaelic from Isabel MacDonald and Calum Johnstone and some canntaireachd vocals from Ryan and Shannon MacDonnald and Glenna MacKay-Johnstone. Various sets of pipes are "aired" as well. The highland pipes are well to the fore on most tracks but a lower pitched set are used on some late nineteenth century tunes to demonstrate the older sound and style of playing, while the two droned shuttle pipes set the tone on the first collection of strathspeys and reels.

Much of this could be considered as Traditional; much of this could be considered as folk. It is certainly great piping and great music.

Peter Fairbairn

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This album was reviewed in Issue 24 of The Living Tradition magazine.