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VARIOUS ARTISTS "The Northumbrian Small Pipes" Topic TSCD487

Since CD format became the standard issuing medium for commercial recordings there have been many compilations reissued from deleted vinyl. This, however, is the first such anthology devoted to the Northumbrian small pipes, and is drawn from the recordings first issued by Topic in the 1970's and early 80's, although some of the artists represented were recorded in the field many years before that. Accordingly, a few of the tracks are of "vintage recording" quality, but that is far less important than the fact that they are now available to musicians who neither heard some of the included artists live, nor have access to the original vinyl.

The tracks range from the simplicity of Whittingham Green Lane played by John and George Hepple, through the impeccable timing of George Atkinson and Joe Hutton, to the unsurpassed energy of High Level Ranters performances, the wild sound of Billy Pigg, and the traditional repertoire of the Cut and Dry Band. And then there's Tom Clough ... piping in another dimension.

What has been achieved by its compiler, Colin Ross, is a selection of the best-ever recorded pipers, playing in a variety of styles, which makes it ideal as an introduction to the world of classic Northumbrian piping. It is now possible to say to the interested "buy this one recording". At least a third of its tracks would be on my personal top 20 of ALL Northumbrian pipe recordings, but knowing my fellow pipers, I suspect it may cause considerable discussion as to what should have been included, and which tracks could have been omitted. I hope it will be seen by the current generation of pipers as a challenge - "this is the tradition we have, and should live up to".

This CD should have a place in the collection of anybody interested in bagpipes in general, as well as those interested in the regional musics of the British Isles. I shall be inflicting it on all visitors as required listening; and I also hope that it encourages the other labels with Northumbrian holdings to produce CD's of their classic recordings.

Julia Say

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This album was reviewed in Issue 20 of The Living Tradition magazine.