Lorne MacDougall Makes the Bagpipes Dance


Hello World

Greentrax 345

Here is a debut bagpipe album that’s so good it will change the minds of pipe skeptics. At turns precise and electrifying, MacDougall’s skill and energy more than justify his two-time inclusion in the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition. Lovers of the Celtic “big set” will thrill to “The Gravel Walk,” a full-bodied Highland pipes tour de force set amidst Duncan Lyall’s bass, James MacKintosh’s drum kit, and Ross Kennedy’s bouzouki. It’s even more impressive when one realizes that the first tune is actually MacDougall’s arrangement of a Gaelic song learnt from Julie Fowlis. He wisely lets us cool down by following with “Waltz of Slurs” on Border and small pipes, and then the slower “Lament for Small Isles Bay,” a melancholic air made all the more poignant by Martin Simpson playing guitar as if channeling Ry Cooder. “Waltz” is one of several pieces in which MacDougall showcases his talent by rapidly repeating the same notes stutter-style and holding others to their breath-defying limits. This is an album of many moods in which MacDougall mixes light and pastoral tunes like “The Manx Minxes” on whistle, with the gale force of the Highland pipes (“Fardach na Pioba”), and the bright pips of the small pipes (“Learning to Fly”). It’s also one of varying musical feels that range from the Spanish spices of “Trip to Aviles” to the stark simplicity of “The Magic Flute” and the formal piobaireachd feel of “MacDougall’s Gathering.” Produced by Brian McNeill, this isn’t just an impressive debut; it’s one of the best albums you’ll hear this calendar year.

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