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Pipin' Hot

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Album Review

New Zealand's Pipin' Hot is a contemporary pipe band combining traditional melodies and bag-pipe standards with rock, world, and new age instrumentation. So while opener "When the Pipers Play" is guided by the surging melody and soaring vocals of Shannon Cooper-Garland, the instrumental "Busindre Reel" ambitiously crosses a chorus of bag pipes with dance beats and hissing synthesizers, and turns toward pop pacing that mix with the traditional reel. While fusionists such as Afro-Celt Sound System and Martyn Bennett often get caught up in the more exotic flavors of DJ culture and hip-hop, Pipin' Hot seems happy to draw from the more middle-of-the-road sounds of contemporary pop or new age music for inspiration. Cooper-Garland returns for "Calypso," which begins as an adult contemporary snoozer only to build toward an epic finish that features pipes, the fiddle of accompanist Sheena Naughton, and a variation on yodeling by the vocalist. Sometimes the contemporary influences can outpace the traditional; "Bells of Dunblane," for example, is formlessly vague until the pipes open up on the melody. Likewise, the Celtic new age of the theme to "Last of the Mohicans" soars with the usual keyboard star streams and Uillean pipe calls, doing little to distinguish itself. The band does a much better job with a lively rock arrangement of "Over the Hills and Far Away," which is filled with percussion, fiddle, and organ and features rousing duet vocals. Pipin' Hot also features a version of "My Heart Will Go On" that, while not as stirring as Celine Dion's original (and in line with the numerous versions of the song that followed the film's unprecedented success), is nevertheless made powerful by the fleet of pipers. Pipin' Hot doesn't make music for the global dance community, nor does it cater exclusively to fans of Celtic-tinged new age. Instead, it tries to balance all of these influences on a foundation of bag pipes, which, in the end, are its greatest asset. The experiment doesn't always work, but it should be interesting for listeners that like exploring new horizons while keeping an eye on tradition.

Pipin' Hot, Pipin' Hot
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