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Kathryn Tickell & Friends Kathryn Tickell & Friends
Album: Water Of Tyne
Label: Magnetic North East
Tracks: 13

2013 BBC Folk Musician of the Year Kathryn Tickell has been the go-to exponent of the Northumbrian pipes for some thirty years since she first emerged on the folk scene as a teenager. A successful composer and recording artist in her own right, Kathryn has been involved in a vast range of projects, often promoting the region's musical and social history, and is a strong advocate of young musical talent, not least through having founded the Young Musicians' Fund, which has raised over £100,000 for grants to young musicians in the region, several of whom feature with Kathryn in the Superfolkus project. Kathryn also performs regularly with her own band The Side.

For this album Kathryn gathers the cream of north east musicians to present what could well be described as the definitive collection of the region's songs, both traditional and new, expertly performed in a true celebration of the area's heritage.

The album opens with the title track, the classic regional folk song sung with superb clarity and warmth here by Hannah Rickard, who also sings Kathryn's 'Song For A River At Night', a paean to the eponymous waterway, a delightful, soulful, almost jazzy piece which truly brings the Tyne to life.

Kathryn's pipes are to the fore on 'Between The Piers' and 'Sandgate Lass On The Ropery Banks', two of several instrumental pieces on the album, as well as accompanying her Dad Mike - a fine traditional regional folk singer in his own right - as he delivers the spoken words of 'Bede's Sparrow', an extract of the venerable scholar's writing which was used in Michael Chaplin's 2013 play 'Tyne', for which Kathryn acted as Musical Director and contributed new arrangements of traditional Northumbrian airs.

Local heroes The Unthanks contribute a typically expressive version of the traditional 'Canny Keel Lad', given a wonderful new arrangement here by Kathryn. While the War Horse Songman himself, Bob Fox, ably provides his own take on Jimmy Nail's nostalgic classic 'Big River'. The title track is reprised instrumentally for the album's penultimate track, with Kathryn's pipes once again prominent in a beautifully rich arrangement.

Overall this album is more than just a fine stand-alone collection of new and traditional songs of the north-east; it is also a vehicle for some fascinating variations on the themes of those songs, some very strong collaborations and some excellent new compositions. Kathryn Tickell should rightly be very proud of the project.

Ian Taylor