The Kathryn Tickell Band: “Instrumental”
I’ve just aquired this and heard it through.The players are Kathryn Tickell, Ian Stephenson, Julian Sutton and Peter Tickell, now very well used to playing in each others company; and a few others who come in for incidental effects.
It’s confident and classy. The only Northumbrian trad tune on it is my favourite - Keelman Ower Land - and apart from an Asturian muneira all the other tunes are recent compositions, mostly by Kathryn. The disc, then, stands or falls on these.
They’re all well played and cleverly arranged. At least a couple have that shaken-kaleidoscope quality which leaves me, anyway, baffled by where the time signatures and bars have gone (Cat In Coldstream, Captain Scuttle). Kathryn’s own Farewell To Rothbury, though, is a beautiful air right in the older tradition of Northumbrian pipe tunes expressing nostalgia or other sadness. Meanwhile, One For Julian is a rather grotesque slow reel in a minor or modal key - closely arranged and harmonised, but the actual tune doesn’t make me sit up and beg. There are (at least) two of Kathryn’s specialities - extended pieces inspired by local places. Yeavering is a moody one, Hareshaw Burn livelier; to me at any rate, both work, and retain the attention - which is what matters in concert pieces, which these are.
Tight and clever arrangements, original tunes, extended compositions - In these regards "Instrumental" is in the territory opened up in Northumbrian music by Alistair Anderson and friends on "Steel Skies" in the 80s. It’s really concert music; but dare I say it, I think it would really come into its own as TV or film soundtrack music.
(I’d add "radio" to the last comments made above…)
- And indeed, stage: Jamie’s Air / Jamie’s Jig were composed by Kathryn for "The Ballad Of Jamie Allan", a folk opera about the life and death of the Northumbrian piper and ne’er-do-well Jamie Allen.
Nice review, Nicholas.
This "film soundtrack" stuff is all well and good, but I reckon what the northeast needs is some good ol’ hardcore trad…
In the piece "Yeavering", the strong theme introduced is actually the tune of the shanty "Bold Riley", or a variation on it. But it’s not in copyright and fits in really well, so why not.