WENDY STEWART and GARY WEST
Wendy Stewart and Gary West have a long musical history. They were bandmates in the Scottish band Ceolbeg and West played various bagpipes to accompany Stewart’s gut and wire-strung harps. All of this makes Hinterlands a head-scratcher as the album is singularly devoid of synergy. Or energy for that matter. It goes wrong from the first track, a cover of Gordon Duncan’s “Full Moon Down Under.” It’s an odd composition that features deliberate atonal notes—fine for a bit of Highland pipes experimentation, but such a harsh contrast to the harp that one who didn’t know better would conclude that West wasn’t skillful enough to play the melody. I kept waiting for the pace or mood to shift dramatically, but it never did. We get shopworn tunes and songs such as “Marie Hamilton,” “The Loch Tay Boat Song,” “Ae Fond Kiss,” and “The Slave’s Lament”—each such a classic that one needs to do something unique to keep listeners’ attentions. This does not happen. What we get instead is a safe album that never peaks or dips. When it’s all said and done the adjective “competent” suggests itself. While that may be an accolade for local pub musicians we expect more from experienced professionals such as Stewart and West. Most of this album is as flat as a three-day uncapped Coke.