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The Whistlebinkies "Timber Timbre" Greentrax CDTRAX159

The Binkies are renowned for their gentle treatment of Scottish traditional music. Their concerts are more like the parlour recitals of a chamber orchestra than the raucous carousals of a typical folk club. Nonetheless, this CD is surprisingly genteel. In forty-seven minutes, there isn't a raised voice or a runaway finger.

The tunes are the finest Scotland has to offer: "John Roy Stewart" and "Achmore Loch" are beautiful, "The Sailor's Wife" is a jig I've played for a long time which deserves to be widely known, and there's a fine set of Shetland reels fitted onto the pipes. Piper Rab Wallace also illustrates the difference in tone between the lowland pipes and the Scottish smallpipes, and as if that weren't enough he fits a pair of traditional Chinese tunes onto the limited smallpipe scale with breath-taking results.

There are four songs, three in Scots Gaelic from Judith Peacock and one in Scots from guest James MacMillan. Two of them are from this century, but all are in a very traditional style. Judith has a light, pure voice which suits the sadder Gaelic songs perfectly, and the instrumental arrangements are suitably discreet.

Once or twice this recording seems about to take off into stirring, energetic flight, notably in the hornpipe "Sandy's New Chanter" and the jig "The Earl of Dunmore", but for some reason the wings never quite open. The Whistlebinkies' musicianship and control on this recording is certainly impressive, and if timbre is what they're after then they've achieved their goal here.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 33 of The Living Tradition magazine.