The Uilleann pipes are one of the most temperamental instruments on the planet. Just about anything, from heat and humidity to the phase of the moon can determine whether you get the right reedy tone out of them or belch out a bunch of honks and squeaks. It's a rare musician who can master this petulant instrument. When you hear those plaintive airs on commercials and soundtracks, you can be sure that a heck of a lot of work went into getting those pure tones.
You can also be sure that the piper was influenced, either directly or indirectly, by Seamus Ennis. Ennis, who lived from 1919 to 1982, was a near legendary figure in Irish music. He was a tireless tune collector and a skilled storyteller, with a deadpan delivery and a wealth of dialects at his disposal. This release contains 21 tracks that were recorded throughout his career. Unfortunately, the producers haven't provided dates or locations for the tracks. Despite the scratchy field recording quality of many of the tracks, and the occasional unintentional honk or squeak, Ennis' gift shines through. Aging tapes can't hide the spry rhythm and flawless ornamentation that inspired younger generations of pipers.
Also included are a couple of stories told in Ennis' light, rhythmic speech and a whistle tune, "The Copperplate Reel," in which the tapping of a step dancers feet provides percussion to shouts of approval from bystanders. Forty Years of Irish Piping is a testament to Ennis' distinguished career and a fine document of his artistry. ~ Peggy Latkovich