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All reviews by David Marcus unless otherwise noted.
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Ceolbeg: Ceolbeg 5
Peter Boond (flute, whistles, cittern, vocals); Mike Katz (Highland bagpipes, electric bass guitar); Colin Matheson (keyboards, guitar, accordion, vocals); Rod Paterson (guitar, vocals); Wendy Stewart (electric harp; clarsach, concertina, vocals); Jim Walker (drums, percussion, udu). 11 tracks, 52'19". Green Trax CDTRAX100. Discography & Order Info
The phrase Ceol Beag, Scottish Gaelic for "small music," refers to the jigs, reels, and strathspeys of traditional Scottish pipe music and contrasts with Ceol Mor, the `Big Music' of the pibroch or classical Highland bagpipe repertoire. Ceolbeg has been together for 18 years, albeit with many personnel changes, but their stated aim has always been to focus on innovative approaches to traditional Scottish music while preserving the essence of the original tunes.

With their fifth album they seem to be quite focused on this mission; more so than in some of their previous endeavours. This album sounds like a cross between the the light, bouncy syncopated sound of Sil‚as and the strong synthesizer- and pipes-driven sound of The Battlefield Band--with drum set and bass added to the mix. (If I wanted to introduce a teenager to Scottish music, this is the band I'd pick.) Somehow, the sound seems right for their material and they usually avoid compromising the feel of this very Scottish repertoire.

The eleven pieces on Ceolbeg 5 range from two songs by Burns (Willie Wastle and The Nodding Sonde - Gude'en tae ye Kimmer) to tunes written by some of the great 20th century pipers such as Donald MacLeod. The album also includes older traditional tunes and music written in the lowland style by band members.

Even more than with The Given Note, the listener must be able to enjoy an evolving traditional sound. This is a dense high-energy album that demands and holds your attention. It will keep you awake on a long drive home, and make you want to explore both this band and the Scottish music they play.

David Marcus  
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