Track 1 – Jigs

Jamie MacDonald:  We kick things off on the album with a set of pipe jigs. I learnt the first tune, The Old Womans Dance, from Ruairidh MacMillian of Blazin’ Fiddles who was my teacher at university. It’s a classic pipe jig from the pen of Pipe Major Donald MacLeod of Lewis who wrote hundreds of great tunes that you still hear played all over the world.

Christian Gamauf: I learnt the second jig, The Fuddler, when I was playing with Boghall and Bathgate Pipe Band a few years back. Compliments to Boys of the Lough is a jig by the famous Boston fiddler, Frank Ferrel, written for the Edinburgh Band that featured Cathal MacConnel and Aly Bain among others. Playing guitar with us on this set and the rest of the CD is Killin’s Jack McRobbie, who was also at college with us in Benbecula. Jack is an incredible accompanist and all round great guy!

Track 2 – Asturian

CG: Asturias is a region in the north of Spain with its own rich Celtic musical culture. We were lucky enough to play there in 2014 alongside members of Llan de Cubel and Felpeyu as part of the Albastur Cultural Exchange project. We have fond memories of the tunes and in particular the sidra!

JM: Salton de la Granda was composed by Elias Garcia who is a member of  afore mentioned Asturian band Llan de Cubel. Simon Bradley, who taught us on Uist and is the fiddler with them and wrote the second tune Last Night at Rodden’s, and the final reel Cariàu Llaniscu is a traditional Asturian melody that we have put our own Hebridean spin on!

Track 3 – Tears

CG: This track is a waltz from the legendary Cape Breton fiddler Jerry Holland. Jerry was one of the most prolific composers of Cape Breton traditional music and his tunes are played all over the globe. I lived over in Cape Breton for a few months, and a lot of my playing style is influenced by the time I spent there. We’re joined on this track by our good friend Adam Young from Cape Breton on piano.

Track 4 – Mo Nighean Donn à Cornaig

JM: This is an old Gaelic waulking song from Tiree. The song tells the story of a girl from the village of Cornaig, who was murdered the week before her wedding. Joining us on lead vocals for this song is my twin sister Anna MacDonald, who is also playing Clarsach, as well as Anna-Wendy Stevenson on viola.

CG: This song is often heard on Uist too, and the origin is disputed –

JM: It’s definitely from Tiree though.


Track 5 – Step dancer

CG: This set starts with a puirt-a-beul melody from North Uist called Fionnlagh ag innearach, which I learned from piper Angus Mackenzie. We follow this with another Donald MacLeod tune, Duncan Johnstone and an old Scottish traditional reel we found in the Skye collection, called The Highlandman Kissed His Mother.

JM: The last one is another reel from Cape Breton, written for and named after Altan’s fiddler Ciaran Tourish from Donegal.

Track 6 – Calum Campbell’s

JM: This is an MSR (March, Strathspey and Reel) of tunes all written by the late Calum Campbell. Calum sadly passed away during a storm in 2005. Calum was a great piper and prolific tune-writer, and his tunes were posthumously published by his son Niall, who kindly allowed us to record this set. The tunes in this set are called Dunskellar, Stranded in Sollas, and Jimmy O’Hara’s. Anna-Wendy Stevenson joins us again on viola on this set.

Track 7 – A Few More Jigs

CG: We are joined again by Cape Breton’s Adam Young on piano for a set of jigs. The first tune, The Way to Judique, I learnt from the playing of Buddy MacMaster, one of the most famous exponents of Cape Breton fiddle playing.

JM: I wrote the second tune Miss Shelly Campbell of West Bay Road for a good friend and fellow fiddler Shelly Campbell from Cape Breton, who has been over to teach at the Ceòlas Summer School in South Uist many times.

CG: The last one was written by the ‘Strathspey King”’ James Scott Skinner, So I’m off with the Good St Nicholas Boat. It can often be heard played by Scottish dance bands, but we like it with a bit of Cape Breton swing!

Track 8 – Tiree Melodies

JM: These melodies all come from Gaelic songs from Tiree. The first song, Òran Manitoba, is from the famous John MacLean, ‘Bàrd Bailemhartain’. Bailemartain was home to so many bards at one point, it was known locally as ‘Baile nam Bàrd’, or the Village of the Bards.

Tir a’ Mhurain, or The Land of the Maram Grass was composed by my great-auntie Sarah ‘Skipinnis’ MacDonald in praise of Tiree. The third song, Air Mhadainn Diardaoin was written by Capt. Alick MacDonald of Milton and tells of a ship leaving from Caolas in the east end of the island. Anna joins us again on the clarsach for this set.

Track 9 – The Boy’s Lament for his Dragon

CG: The Boy’s Lament for his Dragon is a popular pipe march in Scotland and Canada. I first heard Ashley Macisaac play the tune like this – the second part here is slightly different than the way pipe bands in Scotland commonly play it.

JM: Apparently the dragon in question is actually a kite that blew away.

CG: Yeah. The first of the three reels and title of the album is The Pipe Slang, and old fiddle tune from the Simon Fraser Collection.

JM: The next one is The MaSìm, another one of my tunes. I wrote this for my old  fiddle teacher Simon Bradley, who lives on Uist. Simon’s a great texter of Gaelic in phonetics! The tune name is a play on ‘Machine’ and ‘Sìm’, which is the Gaelic for Simon

CG: The final tune, Scars and Tattoos, is another Jerry Holland classic.

JM: That tune is in E major, which isn’t usually done on the pipes, but with a bit of madness and bad maths we’ve made it fit – the album title The Pipe Slang sums up this set quite nicely!

Track 10 – Iorram nan Itheach

JM: This is another song from the book ‘Na Bàird Tirisdeach` is a collection of poetry and songs relating to Tiree, put together by the Tiree Association in 1932. This is a rowing song and describes a journey between Tiree and Iona, a small island to the south of Mull famous for its abbey, which was built by Saint Columba. The melody we use for this song was written by Capercaillie’s Donald Shaw.

Track 11 – The End of the Road

CG: For this final set of strathspeys and reels, we are again joined by Adam on piano. I’m starting off this set with Ronald Kennedy’s, which I was taught by fiddler Kyle Macdonald. The second one I learnt from the famous piano player Dougie Macphee – it’s a bit of an amalgamation of the first part of one strathspey, and the second one of another, but we really liked how Dougie played it and decided to record it like he taught it to me.

JM: The first reel of the set is another old pipe reel called Calder’s Rant, followed by a reel from Cape Breton called Creignish Hill. The final tune of the album was one I wrote myself, called Ruaig Road End, which is where I wrote the tune and where I used to catch the bus to school.