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ROBERT WALLACE "Breakout" Lismor LCOM5255

From extinction to booming popularity in a little over twenty years is the remarkable story of the Scottish "cauld wind" pipes ("cauld wind" because they use the "cold" wind of bellows rather than the "hot" wind of breath). This revival is due to a small, but extremely dedicated, group of people, including Hamish Moore, Gordon Mooney and of course Robert Wallace.

The Whistlebinkies piper has been experimenting with both lowland (or border) and smallpipes on Whistlebinkies CDs for the last twenty years (while also continuing to be one of the most outstanding highland pipers of the period). On this recording he puts the lowland pipe (which sounds like the highland pipe turned down) and the smallpipe (closer in sound to the Northumbrian pipes) to the forefront.

As you would expect from Robert the material comes from a wide variety of sources. Not for Robert the "easy" route of endless jigs and reels. Instead tunes as diverse as "Father John MacMillan of Barra", "King of Leis", an ancient march, "Etain", the theme from Eddie McGuire's opera "The Loving of Etain", and to even the ground, the first variation of the evocative piobaireachd "The Old Woman's Lullaby" played on the Bb smallpipe.

Eddie McGuire - the flute player with the Whistlebinkies has a strong influence on the material even though he doesn't play on the CD. A number of the tunes have been arranged by Eddie, including a tune originally from Duncan Burnett's music book of 1610 which is arranged with smallpipe and cello. The diversity of the material and the tonal range offered by the different pipes Robert uses (lowland, and smallpipes in D an Bb) gives the CD a very listenable variety. This is enhanced by the use of guitar,piano,viola or cello to give "body" where needed. This CD does two things. First, it beautifully illustrates the range of material that the 'cauld wind' pipes have access to (it needn't be a relentless diet of jigs and reels). Second, it demonstrates Robert's all-round ability as a piper, and musician, as he provides forty-three minutes of very enjoyable quality music.


Chris MacKenzie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 19 of The Living Tradition magazine.