PIpe SlangJamie and Christian met on the Isle Of Uist and, having participated in a cultural exchange in Asturias and paid their dues at small gigs, eventually making it to Celtic Connections, they started work on their debut album, The Pipe Slang. The title tune is an old reel but be careful if you Google it – you’ll learn more than you needed to know. Jamie plays fiddle and Christian performs on a variety of pipes. They keep it very simple, with just a guitar or piano continuo added to most tracks with Jack McRobbie (guitar) and Adam Young (piano) sharing arranging credits.

Much of the material is traditional in spirit, but in Scotland the tradition is an on-going process so here you’ll find tunes by James Scott Skinner and Pipe Major Donald Macleod – both legends in Scottish music. Although they keep coming back to the Hebrides, Jamie and Christian spread their net wide with tunes from Asturias and several by the late Jerry Holland, who is clearly a favourite – Adam is also from Cape Breton.

The exceptions to the pattern are the well-known waulking song ‘Mo Nighean Donn à Cornaig’ and ‘Iorram Nan Itheach’, a rowing song from Tiree with a melody by Donald Shaw. These are sung by Jamie’s sister Anna Rachel who also plays clarsach and add a contrast to what is an album dominated by pipes. ‘The Step Dancer Reels’ are augmented by the feet of Sophie Stephenson, another unexpected variation. I’m convinced that several tunes were chosen just for their titles: ‘The Highlandman Kissed His Mother’ and ‘The Boy’s Lament For His Dragon’, for example, not forgetting Scott Skinner’s ‘So I‘m Off With The Good St. Nicholas Boat’. But what do I know?

There is some fine playing here and I found that The Pipe Slang benefits from speakers with a good bass response to bring out the undercurrents.

Dai Jeffries

‘Asturian’ – official video:

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