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KATHRYN TICKELL & ENSEMBLE MYSTICAL Park Records PRKCD57

There is certainly an air of mystery and darkness surrounding many of these tracks. Lantern slides, drawn from instrumental patterns and textures built round a selection of songs and tunes. For this is no straightforward recording of mainly traditional material, much work and thought has gone towards the arrangement and production of these set pieces. Brought into service in broadening the ensemble's traditional character are influences from many spheres including, Jazz, classical and folk tradition.

Joining with Kathryn Tickell on Northumberland pipes and fiddle are Mary MacMaster, harp and voice; Ron Shaw, cello; John Kenny, trombone, sackbut, alphorn, recorder, carnyx and Julian Sutton, melodeon. This controlled mix of style and instrumentation turning out far better on CD than on paper. Control being the key here, both in the playing and the production.

I found the instrumental tracks to be the strongest. This is not a reflection on the songs or Mary MacMaster but the band do seem to lose some of the mobility shown on, "Sevens", "F/G Set" and "First of the Year". Having said that the two outstanding tracks have to be, "Day Dawn/ Taladh ar slanair", with Mary MacMaster singing Father John Rankin's moving lullaby and, "Corn Fiddler", with Allan Wood reciting his poem in his Coquetdale dialect.

Peter Fairbairn

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This album was reviewed in Issue 43 of The Living Tradition magazine.