John McLean Allan & Stand Easy,
(Bagpipe Tamer, 2007)

This could be called bagpipe rock, as a subset of Celtic rock. Stand Easy is led by John McLean Allan, who also releases traditional bagpipe music under his own name. This is the group's second CD.

Bagpipes fit well with rock, since they are loud and dramatic, if somewhat limited melodically. Allan alternates instrumentals and songs in these 11 tracks. The instrumentals are both traditional and modern, all backed by guitars, bass and drums.

All the vocal tracks are written by Allan except the standards "Mile Marbhaiag air a Ghaol" and "Nancy Whiskey." The former uses female vocalists. The latter is the only one without bagpipes (Allan is also credited for vocals and guitar).

The melodies are well tailored for bagpipes, both for the instrument's strength and its haunting quality. And Allan is a passable vocalist. With the songs tending towards acoustic guitar, they do not rock as hard as the electric instrumentals.

The only thing tainted is the lyrics. An example on "Watch Me" is: "It's not so easy leaving / It's not easy to understand / Why every time I close my eyes / I see you making love to another man." The band lives up to its CD sleeve description "Celtic that really rocks," and it is too good to be burdened with mediocre soft-rock musings.

Of course, few people listen to rock music for its lyrics (at least I hope not). Stand Easy captures the majesty and excitement of Celtic music and bagpipes, and is well worth hearing.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Dave Howell

17 November 2007

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