Link to Living Tradition Homepage





JOHN DEW - Mackerel Sky 

JOHN DEW - Mackerel Sky 
Private Label 

John Dew is a young piper, whistle player and composer from Crieff in Perthshire, now living in Glasgow having graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. A keen competitive piper, he plays with the Inveraray and District Pipe Band, and has also won several solo piping competitions.

This, a solid debut album, sees him perform mostly his own compositions, with a smattering of traditional tunes and others, with the backing of Dylan Cairns on guitar and Eoghainn Beaton on bodhrán. His pipes and whistles are front and centre, and on most tracks are multi-layered, “exploring the concept of polyphony underneath traditional and neo-traditional tunes.” This attempt is largely successful, and gives the CD a different feel to other piping albums. The overall sound is bright and modern, particularly in the guitar accompaniments, but the new tunes are seldom too far removed from the traditional idiom, making them work well alongside the others here.

The title track sets out the album’s stall early, with atmospherically layered pipes and jazz-tinged guitar and drum, depicting the build-up of clouds, and the coming of rain – tension and release - hence the Mackerel Sky connection. This melds perfectly into Merlin’s Leap, a driving reel from John. Later, Osprey Flight sees him lay down the pipes in favour of his whistles, which are also layered with a gentler effect. Connor’s Debut features solo pipes in a more traditional sounding set (though all four are tunes of John’s), and the quality of the piping really stands out here. After a rousing penultimate set, the album comes to a fitting close with a track of piobaireachd.

Just as a mackerel sky is an indicator of the weather to come, so this CD predicts that there is much more to come from John Dew. With it he makes his mark as a piper, arranger and composer of tunes, with an intuitive feel and a skilful touch.

Fiona Heywood


This review appeared in Issue 142 of The Living Tradition magazine