Various Artists

Northumberland Rant: Traditional Music from the Edge of England

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Northumbrian folk music is often characterized by instrumental music played on smallpipes, which differ from other bagpipes in that their chanters (or melody pipes) are chromatic and closed at the bottom end, which enables them to produce shorter, more staccato notes. Smallpipe instrumentals are the main, but not exclusive, fare on this collection, consisting of performances recorded in the field and studio between 1954 and 1998 (mostly from the latter portion of that time frame). The fiddle also features strongly on some of the selections, either alone or in tandem with the Northumbrian pipes and other instruments. The contrast between the types of instrumentation alone provides more variety than many a British Isles folk compilation. But the Northumbrian pipes are the main attractions, as they have a tonal clarity and economy not associated with much bagpipe music. The 1954 field recording by Jack Armstrong & the Barnstormers has that slightly wobbly feel beloved by those who like their folk with a faint patina of moldy mystery, but for the most part the tracks are of very modern fidelity.

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