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JON SWAYNE & BECKY PRICE - Love and a Bottle

JON SWAYNE & BECKY PRICE - Love and a Bottle
Rocke Records ROCCD2

Take the piper and whistler from Blowzabella and the piano box leader from Finality Jack, add a repertoire of piping and other tunes from Gloucestershire to Gretna, plus a little love and a large bottle, and you have this charming and unpretentious recording which is Rocke Records' fitting follow-up to Moebius. Swayne and Price stick to what they know, English dance and song melodies from various collections, and they set out their stall with the opening combination: the stately 3/2 hornpipe Mr Preston's and the jaunty 9/8 jig Somerset, led by Jon's pipes over Becky's muted chords and traditional harmonies.

The other twelve tracks neither surprise nor disappoint, as song airs and Scots marches, slip-jigs and Swayne/Price compositions are paraded for our pleasure. The Trees They Do Grow High, Woo'd and Married and A', and Swayne's Cowpie are among the more familiar tunes here, but it's the strangers who carry the day for me: the 18th century dance tune Hodgson Square is a little beauty, as is Mr Tollett's Hornpipe, two of the many 3/2 melodies on Love and a Bottle. The medley Three English Carols elicits some lovely deep sounds from the pipes, echoing the powerful Bourbonnais piping from central France. Little Wee Winking Thing is close kin to a Northumbrian piping showpiece with its virtuoso variations. Swayne's own Bagpipers displays a very different set of variations on a theme, with more of that French piping feel to it: a relaxed jig or bourrée rhythm, and mellow harmonies rather than the flash staccato Northumberland style, with a pleasing change of pace at the finish.

Jon sticks to border pipes in various keys on this album, except for some very fine whistle on The Throne. I assume all the instruments are of his own manufacture. Becky's box is versatile and seductive, but stays mainly in the background. If you're a Blowzabella fan or an English folkie, this should be right up your street. If you're into European piping, I'd recommend this as an excellent example. English music was rarely better served than on Love and a Bottle: give it a try.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 66 of The Living Tradition magazine.