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MATT SEATTLE "Out of the Flames" DGM 9907

Subtitled "Music for Border Bagpipes from 1733 to the present", this CD is played by one of the few experts on this too-long neglected subject. It was a tradition that died out - and is now being revived, particularly in the wake of Matt's publication of the earliest bagpipe MS known from the British Isles. Matt states in his extensive notes that his is not the only way of resurrecting the lost art of 18th century Border piping, though his knowledge and experience of the subject must command respect; and in another publication that nine-note music with variations may not be to everyone's taste. However, with the assistance of a battery of distinguished colleagues - on a range of instruments from fiddle to saxes and exotic percussion - he has produced a CD of really good music which should suit musicians well beyond the confines of the piping traditions, and which can be listened to at a multitude of levels of appreciation.

These are seriously good tunes, which have been waiting for someone to discover, study, interpret and then play them. Of the 12 tracks, five are from the 1733 William Dixon MS (seven tunes in all), and several others from the 1770 fiddle MS of William Vickers. A couple of Matt's compositions, - Lindisfarne, and the tune to the only song "The Fisherman's Daith"; plus a Nathaniel Gow composition and a sprinkling of traditional material of the 17th or 18th century make up the balance.

It is safe to say that there is not a poor set amongst them - the accompanists styles are diverse, so that there references to Hamish Moore / Dick Lee style material in places, echoes of the Battlefield band (c. late 80's) in others. But always there is the driving rhythm that Dixon's tunes demand, and the unique excitement of playing with a drone instrument. There is occasionally a slight lapse in piping technique (if one listens very carefully) - but it is easily overcome by Matt's infectious enthusiasm for his subject.

This is music, and a tradition, from which many of us have much to gain - and learn. Favourite tracks? - well, alright, the first, "Little Wee Winking Thing" - it's a gem on the Northumbrian smallpipes too, how did we mislay it? And the last - the "New Way to Morpeth". Matt points out that "to Morpeth" isn't a verb, but I suspect it is now, and this CD is the way to do it.

Julia Say

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This album was reviewed in Issue 34 of The Living Tradition magazine.