Robbie Byrne,
Sunset Isle
(independent, 2002)

Robbie Byrne's website styles him as a community piper. He offers himself for weddings, funerals and other events in which pipers have traditionally played a strong and significant part over the ages.

A good mix of traditional and original tunes comes together here on Sunset Isle. On traditional cuts, "The Ballintore Fancy Jig," "Spalpin a Ruin," "Amazing Grace" and "Letrim Jig/Queen of the Rushes," Byrne makes the best of every note. There are several truly wonderful cuts of piping music, and to find ones that roll more smoothly through the air would be difficult. Even so, "The Foxchase" sounded way too much like the coyotes that howl outside my bedroom window in the wee hours of morning. It's certainly an impressive technique on the pipes if not a comforting sound.

However, the original tunes might make a few traditionalists cringe, if what I hear is true to the way they were recorded. They are at least very interesting and do contain some fine piping as well. For instance, "Sunset Isle" opens with an alternative modern sound before it moves into a more a regular movement. "Daydreamer" opens with pipes and shifts into guitar and vocals. There's nothing quite like Byrne's "Rhythm of the Sea," which would stand on its own in any type of setting. It is quite beautiful. "Touch the Sky" was also a favorite of mine for its delicate blends.

Closing with "While Angels Weep," it's easy to see why Byrne would be a favourite at family, community and ceremonial gatherings.

In many ways, Sunset Isle is as beautiful as its name implies, but better production is needed. There are 14 tracks listed on the liner, but #10 stalled on me and I could only get past it to #11-14 by manual means. (That's one reason I'm not confident that the alternative sounds were meant to be or if they were errors on the disc.)

Hopefully, Byrne will have another go round at this and bring us more of his compositions and playing to enjoy.

[ visit the artist's website ]

review by
Virginia MacIsaac

8 March 2008

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