Dai Woosnam of Dai Woosnam
reviews Scatter Pipes by Vicki Swan & Jonny DyerThese 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.