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Kathryn Tickell "Debateable Lands" Park Records PRKCD50

The Debateable lands are a stretch of wild, inhospitable country about 4 miles wide, spanning the old border of Scotland and England. In times gone by it was a refuge for outlaws and bandits, it is still remarkably unspoilt today. Recently it was the subject of the excellent "Fyre and Sworde" concept album featuring another from the Park recording label -- Maddy Prior amongst others. Now it is the centrepiece of this new work by the wonderful Kathryn Tickell.

The suite of tunes was commissioned by the National Lottery ( there's an interesting thought!!) and is an interpretation of the different aspects of that area. Quite simply it is stunning, simply stunning, well worth buying the CD just for that. But there's lots more to enjoy here as well. The second version of "Our Kate", written for Catherine Cookson is probably the first time Northumbrian and Uilleann Pipes have duetted together, hopefully not for the last time either.

Kathryn has changed the line up of her band for this CD but they sound as if they've been together for years, Kit Haigh plays some great accompanying guitar-- noticeable but unnoticeable if you know what I mean. Julian Sutton's melodeon has some wonderful interplay with the pipes, whilst Gregor Borland fills in well on bass, fiddle and bass. That just leaves Kathryn. To say that she plays Northumberland pipes is like saying Shakespeare was a bit of a writer. In here hands the instrument weaves effortlessly one sound into another, one emotion seamlessly into another and one set of tunes into another.

On this CD --more so than on some of her others-- there is a feel that each set is there to complement the previous or next one. Oh and don't forget she's a bit special on fiddle as well. Not only that, but much of the material on "Debateable Lands" is written by her as well. We tend to forget that Kathryn is still young because she was one of the first of the young performer to achieve success. And, unlike many of the new breed, she knows how to do just that, be it live or on CD.

Whilst music of this quality is being produced then the future looks bright. However I do feel some comment needs to be made about the awful layout of the back cover. Someone has gone to the trouble of arranging a suitable band photo only to have it spoilt by someone with a dreadful sense of layout. Come on lets make sure the whole package ( The rest is of good standard) does the album credit. We get enough criticism from those out there.

A high class album by one of the true stars of our music. It deserves a wide audience.

Dave Beeby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 36 of The Living Tradition magazine.