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Pauline Cato & Tom McConville
Superb Music & Song from the North East's finest

Pauline's first solo recording, The Wansbeck Piper, was released in 1992. It features a mixture of solo, duet and accompanied tracks.

Pauline Cato Northumbrian Pipes
Stephan Whitlan Keyboards
Pete Charleworth Fretless Bass

1 Calliope House / Tripping Upstairs
2 Captain Ross / Cuckold come out of the Amrey + variations
3 The Piper's Weird
4 The Carrick Hornpipe / Happy Hours
5 Lament for Ian Dickson
6 The Acrobat
7 The Wild Hills of Wannies U
8 Town Green Polka / Bluebell Polka
9 The Exhibition / The Hawk
10 Neil Gow's Lament for the Death of his Second Wife
11 Rowley Burn / Remember Me
12 The Lady's Well / Random + variations / The Cliff U
13 Wallington Hall
14 Moving Cloud / The New High Level / The Locomotive

Review - TheWansbeck Piper
The Living Tradition

There's a famous American comedian who once said that it was impossible to be sad while playing the banjo. In the case of Pauline Cato, the same must be true of the Northumbrian small pipes. From her cheery grin on the cover to the bubbling sound of her pipes on the disc she evidently has a grand time making music. Even the laments have something less of a mournful tinge, dwelling as she does on the graceful, sweet melodies rather than the sadness which caused them to be written. The greater part of this recording is unaccompanied piping of traditional-style tunes. Rather than exploring the realm of avant garde music, Cato extends the boundaries of the instrument by playing in unusual keys. She plays duets with herself and has several nice variations worked out, including some of the challenging jig "Random" by James Hill.


She is accompanied on a few tracks by keyboardist Stephan Whitlan. Bassist Pete Charlesworth joins them on "The Wild Hills O' Wannies", a slow, reflective tune. On this cut, the bass and keyboard provide a subtle background for the swooping, fluid melody. This track is followed in short order by a delightful pair of polkas which shift the mood back to the bouncy lightheartedness which permeates the disc. My favourite selection is number 13, which pairs the Pigg tune "Wallinton Hall" with "The Locomotive" by Hill. The first is stately and the second, good humoured, sneakily picking up speed as it goes along. Both have nicely composed seconds by D.J. Hobbs. This is a brilliant first album by a young piper with a great deal of talent. It may be hard to find a copy of this recording in the shops, but it's well worth the effort.

Elaine Bradtke
Review - TheWansbeck Piper
The Bagpipe Society Newsletter, October 1992

Just as I was about to close the file on this edition of the Newsletter, through my letterbox dropped a package containing a cassette and a nice little note saying please review me. My first reaction was sod it, it'll have to wait till the next issue. Then I played it. Ah, I thought, this one's just to good to be kept from the bagpipe-listening masses for such a long time.

Doubtless by now you will have heard of Pauline Cato, the latest brilliant young player from Northumberland to hit the Folk scene. Young she may be, but Pauline has been playing for 9 years and was winning solo piping competitions back in 1985; she also was first recorded along with Colin Ross (her pipemaker) and Adrian Schofield in 1988 as the group Border Spirit. Some of you may have been lucky enough to catch her playing briefly at the Beverley Bagpipe Convention.

The is her first solo (though there's unobtrusive accompaniment on some tracks) album and an excellent job she has made of it. The sound quality is excellent, and the whole job has been professionally produced with full sleeve notes and a full colour cover. The fine full rich cound of Pauline's pipes on this recording is a tribute to her playing, to pipemaker Colin Ross and to the JD recording studio in Sheffield.

There's something about Pauline's playing that I find hard to describe. Adjectives such as spirited, uplifting, vivacious spring to mind but they're about as useful as the pretentious twaddle that wine experts spout when attempting to describe a particularly fine wine. And as with wine, the only way you'll ever know what's meant is to go and taste the product for yourself.

During the course of this album she gets through a bewildering range of keys, modes and drone settings, all of which, coupled with a sensible balance of tempos, help to keep you wanting more instead of falling into the aural lethargy that so often comes with solo piping records. I think she's well aware of this danger because, as well as the above tricks, she judiciously calls on the help of a couple of friends (Stephan Whitlan, keyboards and Pete Charlesworth, fretless bass) to provide a bit of delicate background. I particularly like the use of such accompaniment on Billy Pigg's The Wild Hills of Wannies where the use of these other instruments, plus the careful application of reverb, create a spine tingling ambience.

Pauline occasionally uses those arrangements that only seem possible on closed-fingering pipes whereby the ear is conned into thinking there's a second piper playing - you can sometimes hear the same effect on the Dudy, another closed-fingering pipe. One such example is Remember Me. There's also actual double-tracking on Wallington Hall and The Locomotive where the 'second' piper begins in strict unison then moves on to an interesting counter-melody. As with all the other tricks on this album, it's used sparingly, leaving the punter wanting more - a wise move, I think.

While this album contains a fair few of the de rigeur arpeggiological fireworks of which Northumbrian pipers are so fond, there's also a lot of extremely plain playing that is, quite simply, a joy to listen to. The ability to play a tune simply yet satisfyingly is surely the mark of a true master (mistress?).

There are lots of goodies on this album: old favourites like The Carrick Hornpipe and Happy Hours; new stuff (to me, anyway) like The Acrobat and The Locomotive. The moods range from the sombre (Lament for Ian Dickson) to the bright and cheerful (Bluebell Polka). This latter, by the way, I've always considered to be a bit naff, especially on bagpipes. No longer - it's my favourite on the whole album!

I have to say that, although I've been listening to and enjoying the Northumbrian Smallpipes for many a long year now, I'm no authority on the beast. As a result, I'd originally planned to pass this one on to somebody else who could do it more justice. The trouble was that, once played, I simply couldn't bear to part with it. I reckon it could well have the same effect on you.

Dave VanDoorn