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DAVID FAULKNER & STEVE TURNER 'English and Border Music for Pipes'
Sargasso Sounds EELCD03

Or more accurately perhaps, Traditional English And Border Music, Arranged For Pipes And Accordion. Although both David and Steve are leading musicians in their own fields, most of their working collaborations over the past ten years or so have been through the celebrated Eel Grinders band, highly respected for its contributions to the dance scene. As single instrumentalists, however, David and Steve each bring a dynamic and innately responsive approach to the music they play.

An enviable quality of relaxed expertise is in evidence on this duo recording, as is their acute ear for instrumental blend. After all, it's not every day that you hear the combination of border pipes and accordion in consort now, is it? It can be a beguiling one, but even so there are times when you might reasonably wish for more contrast - I hasten to add, not due to any deficiency in the playing or the arrangements (track 10 brings a tonal contrast with the use of a whistle, but by then it's probably too late in the scheme of things). Having said that, David and Steve do try for, and achieve, a variety of timbre, light and shade wherever possible, and if taken in two or three separate doses as opposed to in one long sitting, the whole CD (actually an appetising 11-course, 58-minute menu) proves more immediately palatable. It may help also that much of the material the duo have chosen for this CD is relatively unknown and almost all of it is previously unrecorded. Presenting a virtual cross-section of bagpipe traditions, it encompasses dance tunes and slow airs and more complex variation-sets; it spans four centuries, though a goodly proportion of the selections are taken from Bewick's Pipe Tunes and the 1733 William Dixon Manuscript, and David and Steve aren't averse to embracing modern-day adaptations such as Matt Seattle's setting and variations for the familiar Rusty Gully hornpipe.

I liked both musicians' winning way with phrasing and their wholly credible approach to pointing up or isolating specific colours or melody lines within the overall texture to enhance the total effect, so this CD does in the end repay more concentrated listening than at first it might seem to demand.

David Kidman

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This album was reviewed in Issue 58 of The Living Tradition magazine.