By Scott Williams


"In and Out the Harbour"
Solo piping CD featuring Scott Long

It has been a real treat for me to do this review of "In and Out the Harbour", New Glasgow-born piper Scott Long’s recently released solo CD. I first met Scott in 1984 when he was a boy of about twelve years of age, and he was brought to a practice of the Clan Thompson Pipe Band, which I was teaching at the time. Though we had made decision at the beginning that Clan Thompson would be an adults-only band, the plan changed when we accepted this talented young piper into our ranks. Scott sort of grew up with us over the next seven or eight years and I can still hear a bit of that band training in some of the music on his CD. He went on to play with the Halifax Police Association Pipes and Drums and then to tour with Ashley MacIsaac before becoming the piper for the American Celtic rock band, Seven Nations, with whom he has toured North America and recorded several CDs. Scott’s first solo CD features himself on pipes along with fiddler Ashley MacIsaac, keyboardist Ryan MacNeil, piper Matt MacIsaac, guitarist David MacIsaac, percussionist Lucy Gallant, and others.

There is really something for every taste on this CD. The music ranges from a traditional competition-style March, Strathspey and Reel set to more modern compositions. Some interesting studio effects add a bit of spice here and there.

The CD begins with the title tune, "In and Out the Harbour" followed by a couple of reels, "The Mabou Reel" and the "Traditional Reel" that he learned from Gaelic singer Mary Jane Lamond. Matt MacIsaac on a Deger chanter and Sean Morton on snare drum provide the background accompaniment.

Track Two presents a pair of quick marches in 6/8 time, "Duncan McGillivray, Chief Stewart" composed by Jim McGillivray of Aurora, ON and a great friend to piping in the Maritimes, and "Mrs. Lily Christie" composed by the late Pipe Major Donald Shaw Ramsay, who spend a bit of time in Pictou County in the mid to late 60s during his recovery from a gunshot wound while employed as a policeman in Edinburgh. The tunes are played on Scottish small pipes with the variable-pitch drone sound provided by an organ. I really like this track a lot.

Track three has Scott playing two very familiar strathspeys, P/M Willie Ross’s "The Devil in the Kitchen", J. Scott Skinner’s "The Laird of Drumblair" and Dr. John MacAskill’s reel, "Lexy MacAskill". It is in this cut that we get to hear Scott as a piper without any of the frills and I think most listeners will find it pleasing.

Track four is the popular 6/8 march, "Angus MacKinnon", also by Donald Shaw Ramasay, presented here as a slow air to great effect with a nicely varied accompaniment on fiddle, guitar, bass, and percussion. The overall feeling is one of melancholy, but you might say the tune is even a little bit on the haunting side. It is most certainly a lovely piece of music.

Track Five is an arrangement of George MacIntyre’s hornpipe, "Lucy Cassidy". A marvellous tune to be sure, on this recording it is presented in a rather ‘funky’ manner that may not appeal to all listeners, though perhaps it will have an appeal to people who follow Scott’s Celtic rock group, Seven Nations.

In Track Six, we are presented with a set of jigs, Bruce Gandy’s wonderful tune "Mrs. Sharon Duthart", Scott’s own composition "Soft Gator Girl" and a very old tune called "David Glen’s Jig", by W. Sutherland that Scott found in "The Glen Collection" which first came to print in the 19th century.

The seventh track features "The Gladstone" – recorded in 1995 with Ashley MacIsaac. Scott was quite pleased with it, suggesting that it "captures the energy that a fiddler and a piper might have playing in a dance hall together". I think that would have been a dance to be remembered!

Track Eight shows Scott in a more traditional competitive piper role as he plays a full March, Strathspey and Reel set consisting of "Hugh Kennedy" by Peter MacLeod, the traditional strathspey "Highland Harry", and John MacPhedran’s reel, "Pretty Marion". I think the style in which he chose to play this set has more of a rounded ‘pipe band’ feel to it rather than the more pointed solo piping feel, but it is good nonetheless.

A set of two ‘slip jigs’ follows in Track Nine. The tunes are the traditional jig, "The Foxhunters", and Donald Morrison’s fabulous jig, "Donald, Willie and His Dog." The set features Dave MacIsaac on guitar.

Track Ten features a set of old and new strathspeys and reels on the bagpipe. You can tell that Scott felt the influence of Cape Breton pipers Paul K. MacNeil and Jamie MacInnis, two wonderfully talented Island pipers who brought their unique style to the Halifax Police Association Pipe Band while Scott was playing with them. Jamie wrote the first tune, "Paul K’s Strathspey" which is followed by two traditional tunes, the strathspey "Black Duncan" and the reel "The Silver Spear". Dave MacIsaac composed the second reel in the set, "Ms. Eireann MacInnis" for Jamie’s little daughter, and the set ends with another masterpiece of a reel, "Amy’s Reel", by Norman Gillis.

The penultimate track features the Irish reel, "The Gravel Walk". Originally recorded in 1998, Mark Horton did some pretty spectacular engineering with it and ended up giving it a real ‘heavy metal’ sound. Some listeners will take to it right away. Others may have to listen to it a few times and push their ideas about traditional music into the background a bit before they will be able to appreciate it.

And finally, the listener comes to Track Twelve, "The 71st’s Farewell to Dover". This tune is another that Scott found in the Glen Collection. For some reason, the sound engineer decided that it would be effective to end the piece with a ’78rpm vinyl recording’ sound, complete with the crackles and pops one hears from the earliest Cape Breton recordings. I’m not sure the special effect enhanced the music, but that is only my opinion.

To sum up, Scott has presented an excellent program of music that has something for every taste. The CD has lots of variety and is entertaining from beginning to end. I think it will be a welcome addition to any pipe music sound library, and may even draw some new fans to this musical genre. I know it has been on my multi-disc CD player turntable since July and until something as good or better comes along, it will likely stay there for some time to come. Look for the CD at your local music shop or check it out on the web at