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PAULINE CATO "The Wansbeck Piper" PCCD 01

There's a famous American comedian who once said that it was impossible to be sad while playing the banjo. In the case of Pauline Cato, the same must be true of the Northumbrian small pipes. From her cheery grin on the cover to the bubbling sound of her pipes on the disc she evidently has a grand time making music. Even the laments have something less of a mournful tinge, dwelling as she does on the graceful, sweet melodies rather than the sadness which caused them to be written. The greater part of this recording is unaccompanied piping of traditional-style tunes.

Rather than exploring the realm of avant garde music, Cato extends the boundaries of the instrument by playing in unusual keys. She plays duets with herself and has several nice variations worked out, including some of the challenging jig "Random" by James Hill. She is accompanied on a few tracks by keyboardist Stephan Whitlan. Bassist Pete Charlesworth joins them on "The Wild Hills O' Wannies", a slow, reflective tune. On this cut, the bass and keyboard provide a subtle background for the swooping, fluid melody. This track is followed in short order by a delightful pair of polkas which shift the mood back to the bouncy lightheartedness which permeates the disc. My favourite selection is number 13, which pairs the Pigg tune "Wallinton Hall" with "The Locomotive" by Hill. The first is stately and the second, good humoured, sneakily picking up speed as it goes along. Both have nicely composed seconds by D.J. Hobbs.

This is a brilliant first album by a young piper with a great deal of talent. It may be hard to find a copy of this recording in the shops, but it's well worth the effort.

Elaine Bradtke

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This album was reviewed in Issue 3 of The Living Tradition magazine.