August 31, 2000

Mad COW Release

Scottish Rant, The World Champion City of Washington Pipe Band
Maggie’s Music Inc.
Playing time: 45 minutes

Reviewer's rating: 3 gracenotes out of a possible 5

Reviewed by John Walsh

1999 was a year to remember for the City of Washington Pipe Band as they finally made their mark at the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow by winning the Grade 2 event, even though this important bit of information is not mentioned on the cover of their new recording, Scottish Rant.

Scottish Rant, which, I must say, is quite an interesting name, comprises a varied mixture of traditional and modern tunes, many of which are accompanied by other musical instruments.

The first track opens with a fast and lively group of Asturian reels and jigs originating from Spain. Following a brief drum intro and a slight difference in tempo between the drummers and pipers the band generally settles and is soon joined by the fiddle, cittern and bodhran, with a mixture of band, solo, and combination performances throughout the track. It’s quite an entertaining set and one of the best on the recording.

“The Congress Reel” and “The Swallow-Tailed Coat,” two old Irish dance tunes, are somewhat bland, though they are followed by “Captain Chops,” which is an intriguing short drum break done on Colonial rope tension snare drums. There is once again a conflict in tempos when the band joins in to play “The Phoenix.” The rope tension and snares are played together in this tune along with heavy harmony by the pipers.

“Amazing Grace” incorporates both traditional and gospel styles of music starting with Bonnie Rideout on the fiddle. Mike Rogers delivers a very good solo performance on a lovely sounding bagpipe. What else can be said for “Amazing Grace”?

The medley on Scottish Rant is a well-executed, solid performance. I especially enjoyed the slow air but found the strathspeys and reels somewhat monotonous and lacking in sufficient key changes. However, the harmony at the end ensured a well-intended big finish.

Pipe Major Mike Green displays his talent on a good sounding bagpipe and is joined by a cittern and dombek, both of which were very nicely tuned. He played a great selection of tunes reminiscent of what was popular in the 1980s.

The three 9/8 marches are a collection of traditional old fashioned-sounding tunes, which finish with “The Iceman,” a tune by Mike Green composed for band piper Chris Hamilton. There is a neat story about “The Iceman” that appears to run through the whole band performance. Apparently, Chris’s taste in piping and rock music has been frozen in time somewhere back in 1976. Still a nice group of tunes, but this a track where the pipers struggle with the chanter sound.

“Dunblane” is an amazing tune written by Charlie Glendinning, and it’s inspired by the mass shooting in Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996. A beautiful and haunting rendition of the tune starting off with Bonnie Rideout on the fiddle joined by the viola, and Paula Glendinning on the Highland pipes. This track is a very good reason why one should purchase Rant.

I was not too impressed with “The Recruits.” The march itself is okay, but I am not certain the pipes and fiddle blend well together. The jigs that follow are ordinary tunes jazzed up a wee bit with the bodhran, cittern, and guitar.

Track 10 is a March, Strathspey & Reel: “Highland Wedding,” “Bogan Lochan” and “The Smith of Chilliechassie,” all of which helped the band finally win the Grade 2 prize at the 1999 World’s. Very nicely played throughout.

The last four tracks are made up of mostly traditional tunes, some of which are solo performances, such as Chris Hamilton playing the slow air “The Mist Covered Mountains.” Next Bonnie Rideout takes over on a set of old reels and is accompanied by smallpipes and a variety of other instruments. The band finishes off with a “Marching Reels” set and “Scotland the Brave.”

Generally speaking, Scottish Rant is well presented. The sleeve notes are very informative and, on the whole, all tracks are played on well set-up instruments. The Asturian tunes at the beginning, the competition medley and MSR, the traditional filler tunes and, most importantly, “Dunblane” (which was the highlight for me), combined with the other musical instruments, makes Scottish Rant well worth a listen.

A native of Bradford, England, John Walsh lives in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where he manufacturers the very popular Walsh Shuttle Pipes. He has played with several top bands, including Shotts & Dykehead, British Caledonian Airways, and the 78th Fraser Highlanders, with which he was Pipe Sergeant in the 1980s. Most recently he was Pipe Major of the Halifax Police Pipe Band of Nova Scotia.


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