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Not too many people could make an instrument as localized as the Northumbrian small pipes sexy, but that's exactly what Kathryn Tickell (who's also an accomplished fiddler) has managed. Along the way, in addition to many records under her own name, she's recorded with Sting and the Chieftains, and elevated her instrument to the international stage. Born in 1970 in Northumberland, her family was immersed in local traditional music and it was only natural that she'd become a part of it, taking up the small pipes when she was nine and winning every pipe competition by the time she was 13, in addition to making a name for herself on the fiddle. In 1984, she released her first album, On Kielderside, and was also named official piper to the Lord Mayor of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and by the time she reached 16, she'd become a professional musician, putting out her second release, Borderlands (which included original as well as traditional work), and touring throughout Europe. The following year, she became the subject of a U.K. documentary, but rather than rest on any laurels, she pressed ahead with the album Common Ground. By 1990, she'd formed the Kathryn Tickell Band. In addition to more recording, she composed for local theater, hosted shows on BBC radio, and recorded with the Penguin Café Orchestra, Sting (another Geordie), and the Chieftains -- quite an accomplishment for someone barely out of her teens. The Gathering, her sixth album, was released in 1997 and garnered worldwide acclaim. But again, her head wasn't turned. Instead of using it as a stepping stone to greater fame, she instead issued The Northumberland Collection, which brought in many local musicians, and also began teaching in local schools prior to coming out with Debateable Lands, an album of music from the English-Scottish border, in 1999. 2000 brought a new venture, Ensemble Mystical, which crossed plenty of musical boundaries and resulted in the album Kathryn Tickell & Ensemble Mystical. That led to a live and recorded collaboration with saxophonist Andy Sheppard on Music for a New Crossing. The following year saw the Kathryn Tickell Band perform at the prestigious Promenade Concerts in London, the first time a traditional folk band had been invited there, and Tickell also took up a part-time position as a lecturer in folk and traditional music at Newcastle University, prior to releasing Back to the Hills, a traditional disc of solos, duets, and trios. ~ Chris Nickson