Iain MacInnes,
(Greentrax, 1999)

Iain MacInnes is a veteran piper, having trained under Jimmy MacGregor as a child and played pipes with such groups as The Tannahill Weavers (1985-1990) and Ossian (present). MacInnes plays both the Highland pipes and the Scottish small pipes, but is better known currently as a smallpipe player, supporting the instrument both in his performances and on his BBC radio show Pipeline.

This is MacInnes' first solo recording, and it is no surprise to find him surrounding himself with some of the best musicians in Scotland. Mairi Campbell (fiddle), William Jackson (harps, bass, piano, laud), James Mackintosh (percussion), Iain MacLeod (mandolin), Tony McManus (guitar) and Aidan O'Rourke (fiddle) all join MacInnes on this collection of mostly traditional pipe repertoire, adding their finesse to the music. Overall, despite a couple of solos, this comes across as an ensemble recording, featuring the outstanding work of the guest musicians as prominently as MacInnes' piping. The result is a lush and memorable recording.

The album opens with a lively rendition of "Eliza Ross' Reel" paired with a MacInnes original and a Duncan Johnstone tune "James MacLellan's Favourite." Guitar, mandolin, fiddle and percussion give this set a strong beat and uplifting edge, starting the recording on a high note.

The second track starts with a harp solo by William Jackson, showing the flair with which the harp can play a dance melody. The harp recedes to the background as MacInnes continues "My Love is the Fair Lad" on small pipes in D. As is typical of pipe sets, the strathspey moves into a couple of rollicking reels, "The Man from Glengarry" and "Johnnie MacDonald's Reel," both contemporary tunes.

MacInnes holds his own on his solo tracks, including the set of quicksteps, deftly played on small pipes in C. Nothing on the recording stands out more than his solo march set, "Jamie MacInnis of Cape Breton/The Portree Men," which shows his unquestionable love of pipe marches.

The great Highland bagpipes are featured on two tracks, "Highland Lassie/The Hen's March/The Snuff Wife" and "The Highland Brigade at Waterloo/Glasgow Gaelic Club/Duncan MacGillivray, Chief Steward." In both sets, the Highland pipe's distinct sound creates variety, despite the fact that both sets are ensemble pieces, featuring guitar, fiddle and bass as well.

"Miss Victoria Ross" opens with a lively fiddle solo by Aidan O'Rourke. "Vatersay Bay" again features solo harp, which fades at the entrance of the small pipes, soon joined by guitar accompaniment by Tony MacManus. Mairi Campbell plays a stirring solo opening on "Miss Ferguson of Reith/Invergordon Castle/Lady Loudon/Lord MacDonald/Sandy Cameron." The laud (a Spanish lute) makes an interesting solo instrument to open "My Home Town/Brose and Butter/Drops of Brandy."

The final track captures all that is Scottish Gaelic, with a mournful solo rendition of "Angus Ramsay's Lullaby" on small pipes, moving into "Dr. MacInnes's Fancy/Peter Mackinnon of Skeabost" with guitar, mandolin and fiddle accompaniment. A fitting end for a fine collection of pipe tunes presented in a spectacular ensemble style.

[ by Jo Morrison ]

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