David South and his Scottish Dance Band
Australia isn't the most obvious country one would think of in connection with a new SCD CD release. However, the dancing must be great »down under« if they have musicians like David South and his band - Duncan Smith on piano and (MIDI) bass and drummer Jonathan Jones -, who have just published their first CD under the title of »Kardinia Capers«. The thirteen tracks on the disk offer an interesting mix of old favourites and new dances, with three »demonstration medleys« and a waltz thrown in for good measure.
But let's take it from the top: The CD opens with a »Set of Hornpipes« which is almost guaranteed to get your feet tapping only seconds after you have hit the »Play« button. This set, like most on the album, combines well-known tunes - here, »Kirk's Hornpipe« and J. Scott Skinner's »Arthur's Seat« with more rarely heard material (»Lime Street«) and original music (»Caylie's Hornpipe«, written for David's step-daughter by The Man himself) - and it moves along at a good pace with lots of energy. »Spiffin'«, devised by a committee of ten dancers from the US East Coast, has not only become popular in Australia (as the liner notes say) but also here in Germany, and it is great to have the original music available! The same goes for two of the more unusual dances in the SCD repertoire, Hugh Foss's »The Wee Cooper o' Fife« and »Cairn Edward«. There are a number of recordings for the Wee Cooper, but since I got into teaching, music for Cairn Edward could only be obtained by begging a copy off somebody with the old Peter White record! Now this CD contains Hugh Foss's original set for Cairn Edward and an arrangement for the Wee Cooper which brings together the canonical three tunes from Peter White's recording with one of David's own. The third »old chestnut« on this CD is »Red House« from RSCDS book 7, but again there is a special twist to this since it is recorded six times through, suitable for dancing in three-couple sets. (Judging from discussions on the Strathspey list, this will be welcomed by many who think that the dance is too strenuous and boring in a four-couple set.)
The CD also contains music for four previously-unrecorded dances, full instructions to which are given in the liner notes. »Jan Wilson's Strathspey« and »Cauld Comfort« have connections with Australia, the former having been devised by John Drewry for the leader of the Sydney Prince of Wales Hospital SCD group and co-producer of this CD, the latter a Ron Wallace invention to commemorate a gas shortage during the 1998 Australian winter school. »Monadh Liath« on the other hand is a mountain in Scotland as well as another John Drewry dance, and anybody who thinks accordions can't play strathspeys should listen to David's rendering of Capt. Simon Fraser's music for this dance - they might just change their minds! Finally, »The Travelling Dancers« was written by Carol Smith for two members of the Wellington SCD club.
Demonstration groups may welcome the addition of three »demonstration medleys« to the selection of tracks on the CD. While the third is a fairly standard selection of rhythms - 64 bars of strathspey followed by 64 bars of reel - it would be useful for dances including Highland steps such as »Schiehallion« or (if I may be permitted) »Jack's Delight«. The tunes are all Scott Skinner favourites and it moves along at a fairly zippy speed. The other two medleys both combine jig, strathspey and reel time, and it will be an interesting challenge to choreographers to find dances to suit.
The CD contains extensive liner notes which give timings, composers, and some stories behind the tunes and sets. In addition to the dance descriptions, there are also short biographies and photographs of the musicians. The sound quality is excellent, and the only small problem I've found is that the graphical presentation of the liner notes makes some of the dance descriptions a little bit difficult to read.
In a nutshell, this CD can only be highly recommended. It seems that the Australians even solved the distribution challenge - always a problem with newly-issued CDs unless you run into the musicians at a ball or workshop. I got mine by sending e-mail to Robert Davidson at the POWH SCD group, and telling him my credit card number by fax, and the CD arrived ten days or so later after a trip around half the globe. I'm sure that in due course we will see »Kardinia Capers« featured by most of the SCD mail-order places, and then it will be even easier for you to pick up a copy. Do so.