Monday 29 October 2012

Neglected Nuggets #3: The Northumbrian Small Pipes

This is the kind of thing I mean…

A 1969 by Jack Armstrong & Patricia Jennings called The Northumbrian Small Pipes on Clock Tower, catalogue no. MIN 3073. Genuinely old, curious, rare, wonderful music, going for a song on eBay because nobody knows or cares. And why? Because the artistes are, well, elderly, and, what’s worse, are wearing kilts on the cover.   

But what’s not to love in this set devoted to the Northumbrian small pipes (friendlier and more approachable than their cousins, the Highland bagpipe) and so evocative of place, especially on tunes special to the locality like ‘Lads of Alnwick’ and ‘Bonny at Morn’. The legend on the label reads “Made in Newcastle Upon Tyne by G.L. Morton & Co. Limited”. 

Also in this category - that is, terminally unhip but wonderful nonetheless - one might include Brenda Wootton, Again, it’s a problem of image: if she were a beautiful vagabond, silhouetted against the sky whilst taking her whippets for a morning walk, she might command the cult following of Anne Briggs. Instead, the cultural reference is to Hattie Jacques as matron in Carry On Nurse. (Another notable folk singer of wide girth is Rosemary Hardman, but their contrasting personalities warn against generalising according to body type.) I would particularly commend Wootton’s work with Robert Bartlett as Crowdy Crawn. No Sing to Sing (Sentinel, SENS 1021) is a jewel - casual, homegrown, and inspired - and, credited as Brenda Wootton & Robert Bartlett, Tin in the Stream (Stockfisch, SF 7001) is nearly as good.Whereas Pamplemousse (Barclay, 920.475), alas, is one to avoid. 

Maybe (casting around for gainful employment to fill the hole left by journalism) I could offer my services as a professional Duendeist (someone, if you remember, in the business of the transmission of art) by recommending all these wonderful records known only to the coterie. Patrons who lead busy lives but would nevertheless like to advertise their esoteric musical taste, might like to try the Duende Deluxe service, in which dog-ears are given to sleeves and scuffmarks applied to vinyl to make records appear played and loved. Naturally, Duende Deluxe comes at an added cost. 

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