Kevin Rowsome,
The Rowsome Tradition
(self-produced, 1999)

Some families have a tradition of being masons or farmers or lawyers or doctors. In Kevin Rowsome's family, it is traditional to be a musician -- and not just any musician, but a player of the uilleann pipes. Several members of his family are mentioned in Captain Francis O'Neill's book Irish Minstrels and Musicians, published in 1913. Kevin's grandfather Leo Rowsome (1903-1970) was a master piper who made many recordings and taught hundreds of students in a time when traditional music was thought to be dying. Kevin's father Leon was famous as a player of the pipes, although he was also a pianist. Kevin, who began playing the pipes when he was 6 years old, is the latest musician in a tradition that spans at least five generations.

With a family history like that to live up to, Kevin has gamely taken on the task of publishing his first CD of uilleann piping with great results. Among the traditional tunes he plays are hornpipes such as "The Woods of Kilkenny & Young Roger Was a Ploughboy" (played together as a single track), jigs like "The Woodcock & Put on Your Clothes" and reels such as "The Broken Pledge & The College Groves." He also plays two airs, "Blind Mary" and "Staker Wallace," on which the drones of the pipes give the music a heavy, mournful sound suited to these two pieces. Kevin is obviously very accomplished with his instrument; his flying fingers never miss a note. (Having seen some of the arrangements of traditional music, I know that that is no small feat.) He is also joined by backup instruments including the bouzouki, fiddle and guitar, to good effect.

Also included on the CD are six archive recordings from 1957 and 1969 showcasing Kevin's father, grandfather and uncle. Unfortunately, the quality of these recordings is not all that great and really detracts from the fine playing.

Except for the two airs, the music presented here is all quite lively and I found myself wishing for someone to dance with. Since my dogs were willing, but not particularly able, partners, I had to settle for jigging in my chair and tapping my foot.

[ by Laurie Thayer ]