Scatter Pipes

by Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer

Jonny Dyer (Vocals, Guitar, Accordion) Vicki Swan (Smallpipes, Flute, Double Bass, Vocals) Vicki and Jonny have been playing folk music together for well over ten years both as a duo and as part of SeriousKitchen. Vickis unique style of playing the Scottish Smallpipes; that is at once spellbindingly beautiful and haunting is perfectly complimented by Jonnys driving guitar playing.



Vicki and Jonny have been playing folk music together for well over ten years both as a duo and as part of SeriousKitchen. Vickis unique style of playing the Scottish Smallpipes; that is at once spellbindingly beautiful and haunting is perfectly complimented by Jonnys driving guitar playing. Strong believers in letting music live and breathe, Vicki and Jonny allow the melody to sing without any constraints. Constantly seeking new harmonic pathways they help to keep pipe music alive and growing.

1. Donald MacLeods Reel - Traditional / Stornoway Castle - Traditional / Sandy Duff - Traditional

This is the only set of entirely traditional tunes that we perform, so  weve affectionately called this the traditional set.  Imaginative huh?

2. The Willows - Jonny Dyer  /  The Three Ashes - Jonny Dyer

These two complimentary sounding tune titles may appear to have deep rural references; but in fact they are named after the two pubs in our village.

3. The Hares Lament - Traditional     tunes: Carrock Fell - Jonny Dyer / Jumping The Beck - Jonny Dyer 

The story of a hares struggle for life in a hunt.

4. The Broken Drone - Jonny Dyer / Chasing the Butterfly - Jonny Dyer / Scatter Pipes - Jonny Dyer

The Broken Drone was named in honour of a friends pipes that were broken by her little boy when he sat on them, breaking one of the drones.  Unfortunately the lady has since passed away and the lament is for her too.

Chasing the Butterfly was given its name whilst thinking of yesteryear when Jonny was running around in fields trying to catch butterflies in a net and probably falling over and getting grazed knees!  Scatter Pipes was written whilst on holiday in the campervan without any manuscript and had to be remembered using the jazz scatt method.

5. Hector the Hero - J. Scott Skinner

Hector MacDonald was Major-General who had a distinguished career in the British Army, he started off as an enlisted soldier and rose through the ranks. After being accused of homosexuality, he committed suicide in 1903.  It was because of the beauty of this tune that Vicki was inspired to play the Scottish Smallpipes.

6. Hemligheten - Jonny Dyer

Hemligheten is Swedish for the secret and the inpspiration for this tune is um ..... a secret. Telling you what the secret is would be silly and self defeating - so you will have to imagine your own secret  thing.  Dont tell us what it is though!  

7. The Trooper and the Maid - Traditional (Child #299)      tune: Jocks Box - Jonny Dyer 

Boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy and girl do boy and girl things  together, boy has to go and fight a war.  What happens next we can only guess, but it would be nice if boy came back and they lived happily ever after.

The tune at the end is dedicated to Jock Agnew and his amazing toolbox that rescued Vickis chanter reed in its hour of need.

8. Cartmel Fell - Jonny Dyer / Tigers Eye - Jonny Dyer

Cartmel Fell is a hill up in Cumbria that we have climbed on several occasions when rehearsing.  Its often hard to name tunes and this reverts to the good old, where was I when I wrote it school of naming.  For all this, the name is quite appropriate in the way that the slow pastoral melody reflects the green foothills of the Lakes.  Tigers Eye is dedicated to Pauline - for the eponymous stones she gave us. 

9. Lament for the Lone Piper - Vicki Swan / The Bulgarian Bandit - Murray Blair                                                                      / Answers on a Postcard - Jonny Dyer

The first tune was written as a slow air for Vickis father, Pipe Major Roddy Swan, when he died in 1996.  Although written as a whole piobaireachd this is just the slow air.

The Bulgarian Bandit has a wonderful Eastern European feel to it with a semiquaver being missed out in one bar: Wonderful for bodhran players to get completely confused!

Answers on a postcard was named after its first performance at a club,  still nameless Jonny asked for help in naming it suggesting the answers  be sent on a postcard.  Writing tunes really is easier than naming them!

10. The Blue Man - Jonny Dyer

A friend of ours is very arty and created an animated man using blue tack and a computer animation program.  As the little man was anatomically correct (anatomically lucky some might say) it was felt that he deserved a tune!

11. Seven Little Gypsies  Traditional   tune: Pinetree - Jonny Dyer

Many will have sung or heard a version of the Wraggle Taggle Gypsies  or the Dark Eyed Gypsy.  This is ours.  In the last verse, the gypsies are hanged by the Lord of the land. 

We have an alternative ending that is often favoured by less bloodthirsty audiences where the lady successfully runs away to join the gypsies:



There were 8 little gypsies all in a gang

and none of them more lazy oh.

And they sang high and they sang low

And cast their spells around them oh.



Just goes to show that we dont all want a good death toll in our folk tales.

Donald MacLeods Reel / Stornoway Castle / Sandy Duff
See description section for notes
The Willows / The Three Ashes
See description section for notes
Sample not available
The Hares Lament
See description section for notes
The Broken Drone / Chasing the Butterfly / Scatter Pipes
See description section for notes
Sample not available
Hector the Hero
See description section for notes
Sample not available
Hemligheten
See decription section for notes
Sample not available
The Trooper and the Maid
See description section for notes
Sample not available
Cartmel Fell / Tigers Eye
See description section for notes
Sample not available
Lament for the Lone Piper/The Bulgarian Bandit
See description section for notes
Sample not available
The Blue Man
See description section for notes
Sample not available
Seven Little Gypsies
See description section for notes
Sample not available

Around Kent Folk

Often the Scottish smallpipes can overwhelm other instruments. This is not the case with Vicki ? her playing is well?considered. She decided to learn the pipes after hearing the glorious tune Hector the Hero. With Jonnys subtle guitar work, the beauty of the tunes are allowed to shine through.

The Willows and The Three Ashes (written by Jonny) are lovely tunes named after pubs in their village. The traditional Hares Lament, sung by Jonny is complimented by Vickis flute playing. This instrument is inspirational on Hemligheten (Swedish for secret). The slow air Lament for the Lone Piper written for Vickis dad who died in 1996, is spellbindingly haunting. The whole album is a sheer delight to listen to, by a very talented duo.

Thefolkmag

Bryn Colvin

Vicki and Jonny are two very talented musicians - he plays guitar and

accordion, she plays smallpipes, flute and double bass and they sing

wonderfully as well. Scatter Pipes is an album dominated by tunes - of the

11 tracks, only three are songs, which may discourage some, but even if

tunes arent usually your thing, this album still merits a listen. There is

a very good mix of material on the CD, with plenty of variety where mood and

melody are concerned.

Their performance is tight, with tunes and songs performed skilfully and

supported by sympathetic and very creative accompaniments. Theres some

traditional material, and some self-penned tunes, all of an excellent

quality. In the three songs, Vicki and Jonny prove to have appealing voices

and their talent for arrangements extends to some very good harmony singing.

The real highpoint of the CD for me is the song The Hares Lament, which is

beautiful and haunting.

There is a quality of lightness and delicacy to this album, the only word I

can think of that gets close to expressing its effect is to call it

graceful. I would certainly recommend it.



Dai Woosnam

Dai Woosnam

These two free spirits are two-thirds of the group �Serious Kitchen� who produced a serious album that I had the pleasure to review a couple of years ago. So when this album came my way, I naturally inserted the album into the CD player with greater alacrity than usual.

And so dear Reader, you will want to know if I found it a rewarding experience. Well before I answer that question, let me first detail some of the content.

It's a mix of the traditional and the contemporary (mainly self-penned instrumentals by Jonny), and a similar mix between song and instrumental (with the emphasis more on the latter).

The voices blend together pretty well: the instruments however blend together SUBLIMELY. Vicki's Scottish smallpipes are so persuasive that they almost make me want to dash out and buy a set! Jonny's guitar always gives her room to express herself: not just on her pipes but on her mesmeric flute also.

This is a very pleasant album on the ear. (�Pleasant - Isn't that damning with faint praise?�) No, it is emphatically not. Trust me, it is not easy to find an album to fit every mood, but I reckon this is one.

As I say, their voices harmonise well. As befits WildGoose, the sound quality is top-notch: every breath and every nuance in the melody and lyric comes through in vivid Technicolor. And this duo makes the most of the songs, even though they are missing the more distinctive voice of their Serious Kitchen colleague, Nick Hennessey. Indeed, the songs probably lend themselves to their �Folk mainstream� voices more than they would to a singer with the somewhat special vocal DNA of a Nick Hennessey.

If I am honest, I regret there is no song here that is the equal of �The Silkie of Sulle Skerrie� which proved the standout cut of the album of two years ago. But then, that was made for Nick. And these songs are made for Jonny and Vicki. So there.

No question which is the best cut here. Vicki's pipes and Jonny's accordion really deliver on a number penned by Jonny. And what is the title?

Well, let me give you a clue. If two tunes could ever know each other biblically - Jay Ungar's �Ashokan Farewell� and Phil Cunningham's �Quendale Bay�  then the offspring would be called �The Willows�.

Am I saying Jonny's number is �derivative�? Well, er�yes.

But is being �derivative� a bad thing? When it sounds as good as this, certainly NOT.

An album for lazy summer afternoons, or winter evenings by the fire.

EDS

Paul Davenport

Nice. The exact meaning of this particular word is, precise or accurate. Both words fit this album. The playing is studied and masterly with technical ability in abundance especially in the hands of Vicki Swan whose smallpipes and flute playing are clearly top drawer as we say round here. Nor should I fail to mention the solid guitar work of Jonny Dyer. Altogether a workmanlike job.

So why does the album fail to excite me? There are two main reasons. Firstly the very precision of the playing gives an impression of musicians sitting very comfortably within their limits. The second reason is a little more personal. The songs are traditional yet have been given a rather dated slightly jazzy treatment which causes me to recall early incarnations of Pentangle. Not a bad comparison but not really cutting edge 2005. The songs bring no new observations on content and seem to be vehicles for the singer rather than the other way around. If this sounds unnecessarily harsh then one should remember that the choice of material and genre lie with the artist. Comparisons will be made and so Vicki and Jonny should really move a little closer to the edge of their comfort zone.

All this being said, the album is soothing and makes few demands on the listener. It is quality of its kind and could find a place as background rather than full on serious listening. In a word, nice.

Lancashire Wakes

Gordon Johnston

I checked the artistes website to find out more about them and can inform you that Vicki Swan has been described as the principal exponent of the Scottish Smallpipes south of the border, and that her spellbindingly beautiful style is perfectly complemented by Jonnys driving guitar style. In fact, between them they play a variety of instruments with Vicki on smallpipes, flute, double bass, and Jonny on guitar and accordion. As if that wasnt enough, they both sing as well!

The majority of tunes on the album are composed by Jonny and there are only a few traditional pieces, Including the Scott Skinner chestnut Hector The Hero. Vickis playing is indeed a delight to listen to as she weaves her way through a varied selection of traditional sounding tunes. Being something of a traditionalist I particularly enjoyed the opening tracks of three Scottish reels ? Donald Macleods, Stornoway Castle and Sandy Duff. This set clearly demonstrates Vickis mastery of the instrument and sets the standard for all that follows. And what follows is a delightful programme of piping and singing.

It might seem a bit odd that a guitarist should take it upon himself to compose tunes for the smallpipes but it pays off here. Most of the tunes on the CD are Jonnys compositions and are varied in style and tempo, allowing Vickis playing to shine throughout. We have everything from waltzes to reels, the syncopated The Three Ashes, and the rhythmically odd The Bulgarian Bandit with its missing semi-quaver (designed I believe to confuse pesky bodhran players). Jonny himself is a very tasty guitar player indeed. He plays very much in the choppy, modern style but it perfectly complements Vickis piping.

I particularly enjoyed the solo guitar intro to the `slow pastoral melody Cartmel Fell - a tune named in honour of that South Lakeland hill (which I fully intend to climb sometime...) There is some lovely slow piping in the Lament for the Lone Piper, a tune composed to commemorate Vickis late father Pipe Major Roddy Swan. The Duos wide experience of travelling is reflected in tune titles such as Hemligheten; (Swedish for `the secret) which features Vickis flute playing.

Her flute is prominent throughout the three songs on the CD: The Trooper and the Maid, The Hares Lament and Seven Little Gypsies both featuring Jonny. He sings in a pleasant enough manner. However, it is Vickis vocal and instrumental accompaniment that really makes the songs. So, all in all, a very satisfying recording.

Living Tradition

Andy Jurgis

The music of Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer has an air of quiet confidence about it despite its lack of show and adornment. Vicki is a highly accomplished player of the Scottish smallpipes and also contributes flute, double bass and vocals to the album, while Jonny impresses on guitar as well as accordion and vocals. Although their music is traditionally-based, there is only one set of completely traditional tunes on the album ? the opening track ? while Jonny contributes the bulk of the rest of the material. These contemporary sounding compositions always give the music a cutting edge with various surprises along the way.

The song The Hares Lament is impressively sung by both and perhaps more space could have been given on the album for song to balance the instrumental numbers. The flute and guitar combination on this track is very appealing. The Broken Drone set is characteristic in the way it showcases Vickis fine pipe playing and Jonnys distinctive modern guitar playing particularly in the faster paced third tune.

One of the highlights is another song, The Trooper and the Maid, with its superb extended instrumental conclusion in which Vickis pipes continue on from the song apparently seamlessly. The most distinguished tune is Dyers The Blue Man which suggests that Vickis flute should be heard more on the album. The pipes and guitar are excellent throughout as is the more tantalising taste of vocals and flute - more of the latter in the future please!

Mardles

I fell in love with this album on first listening and couldn't wait to hear them live, so I looked avidly through the artists' lists for the festivals that I was going to this summer � and caught up with them at Whitby Folk Week. Vicki plays the Scottish smallpipes and she explained to me how they differed from the better known Northumbrian smallpipes, although I've now forgotten! Anyway, they produce a smoother and more mellow sound when Vicki plays them. Jonny sings and plays guitar. This album is a fine collection of tune sets, many of which were composed by Jonny, and traditional songs including a lovely version of Seven Yellow Gypsies with the traditional ending where the Lord hangs the gypsies but if you catch them live you can vote to hear an alternate happy ending. There is well over an hour of music on the CD, so at the album's launch at Whitby they only had time to perform some of it, leaving a very appreciative audience hungry to hear more and, hopefully, eager to buy this excellent recording. Because of the nature of the smallpipes the music, which is almost all English, sounds Scottish to me, although when Vicki and Jonny tour Scotland they are told it is too English! Vicki has a wonderful website at www.smallpiper.co.uk in case you're interesting in learning how to play the pipes. And they're based just across the border in Essex so hopefully there will be many opportunities to see them.



Shire Folk

Chris Mills

The CD features the excellent Smallpipe playing of Vicki Swan, with some fine guitar backing and vocals from Jonny Dyer. The album starts well with a trio of Scottish tunes, Donald Mcleods Reel/Stornoway Castle/Sandy Duff, which moves along and gets your feet tapping. The mood changes on track two with a beautifully played pair of slow airs written by Jonny Dyer, The Willows and The Three Ashes. Vicki Dyer is clearly a very accomplished and complete player of the Smallpipes who can deliver both a precisely paced and well driven reel and a haunting slow air. The album features many more excellent pieces such as the trio of tunes Lament for the Lone Piper, written by Vicki, The Bulgarian Bandit, and Answers on a Postcard, written by Jonny. These last two tunes feature some high quality rhythm guitar to support the pipe playing. Theres also some fine flute from Vicki and songs from Jonny, including an original version of Seven Little Gypsies. A delightful album.


Shreds and Patches

Rees Wesson

Scottish Smallpipes and flute are the chosen instruments of Vicki Swan. Her mastery of these instruments is quite stunning. The smallpipes have a richer, fruitier sound than their Northumbrian cousins, bringing a new depth to this style of piping. She also adds some tasty double bass playing to several of the tracks. In fact, my favourite track ?Hector the Hero by J. Scott Skinner ? Vicki multitracks the pipes, flute and double bass. What a soundl Doug Bailey certainly got the production right on this one!

Most of the tunes were written by jonny Dyer. These are some of the best contemporary tunes in traditional style that I have heard for manys the moon. Have a look at their website www.smaUpiper.co.uk and there you will find notation for all the tunes on this CD and more, ready to download. Ill certainly be learning a good few on the melodeon.

Jonny Dyer plays some great guitar and accordion parts, driving the tunes along with a relaxed but highly rhythmic accompaniment. He sings too, but not very well. The duos strength lies in the instrumental content. Simply programme out the songs and bingo, the best piping record for years.

Racing up and down the M5 from Wales to Sidmouth festival and back (several times) this was the CD that got the most repeat plays on the car stereo. Better than Red Bull!

Whats Afoot

Vicky Swan and Jonny Dyer are a perfect blending of musical talents, having been playing together for over ten years both as a duo and as part of Serious Kitchen. Whilst I personally consider Vicky Swan to be the principle exponent of the Scottish Smallpipes ` south of the border, she is also an extremely accomplished flautist and double bass player. Jonny Dyer exhibits outstanding technical ability in his supporting guitar work and also tastefully applies his Pigin72 accordion on a number of tracks.

This CD is not just about Scottish smallpiping. It is a CD packed full with musical delights, songs, superlative smallpiping, brilliant guitar and flute

laying and beautiful innovative compositions. In act out of the eleven total tracks only six are of pure piping. On tracks, 3 7 and 11, Jonny Dyer sings The Hares Laent, The Trooper and the Maid, and Seven Little Gypsies respectively. Jonny has a clear mellow appealing voice and uses it to give an imaginative and contemporary interpretation to the three songs.

Vicky Swans piping is everything that one would expect from a musician of this calibre. Her phrasing, gracing of and empathy with the music is a joy to hear. For me, Vicky Swans interpretation of J. Scott Skinners Hector the Hero and Jonny Dyers The Willows can only be described as enchanting.

I have just two small moans. In the first instance, the sleeve notes simply credit Vicky with playing the Scottish Smallpipes and as far as I am able to determine, they are Smallpipes in `A throughout the recording. I would dearly have loved to hear Vicky play the Smallpipes in `D. Secondly, in the latter part of track 11, there is an instance of double-tracking over Vickys flute playing. I feel that it is not necessary and does not enhance the charmingly fluid purity of the flute.

For those readers with a myopic opinion of pipers and piping The Bulgarian Bandit would be a musical revelation. The Bulgarian Bandit has a wonderful Eastern European feel to it with a semi-quaver being missed out in ore bar. To quote the sleeve notes,  Wonderful for bodhran players to get completely confused. I, as the reviewer of this CD, am lost in admiration for Vicky Swans technical ability.

EFN

John New

By the end of the first bar of the first tune, Donald MacLeod's Reel, my feet were tapping. Track one is the only completely traditional set of this dynamic duo's (who are now formally 'an item') second album. They have put together a great compilation of sets of mainly their own music. Track two, tune one, The Willows, is becoming a standard around sessions these days and aptly named after a pub in their village.

Those familiar with Vicki & Jonny know that they play to the highest standard. Vicki's speciality being the Scottish Smallpipes and flute, Jonny's are guitar and accordion. They are both excellent vocalists too and the first chance to hear their close harmonies is on the Hare's Lament. The fourth and longest set is probably the best which includes the title track, Scatter Pipes, inspired by scat jazz. Vicki herself plays the tune that inspired her to take up the smallpipes, Hector the Hero, and there are more self penned tunes wrapped around traditional songs and music. Track nine is a tribute to Vicki's father, Pipe Major Roddy Swan and includes The Bulgarian Bandit, with and eastern Eurpoean feel that Jonny says will completely throw any bohdran player. The final set is their version of Wraggle Taggle Gypsies & Dark Eyed Gypsy that they call Seven Little Gypsies, great vocals.

The fact that this CD has spent so long in my car lays testament to it being one of the better albums I get for review.