On Friday, May 18th, we went to hear Scottish band "Old Blind Dogs" at the Irish Cultural Heritage Center. (yes, I'm catching up, here--). Old Blind Dogs is a group whose repetoire includes both traditional Scottish music alond with new arrangements and pieces of the bands' own composition. The group had very unusual "soft" sound compared with other Scottich bands such as Tannahill Weavers or Boys of the Loch, partly because the group's piper, Rory Campbell, plays the "small pipes" instead of the more familiar Highland bagpipe, when he is not playing various whistles instead. The small pipes are a very unusual instrument, since they incorporate not only the standard bag, mouthpiece, chanter, and drones, but also an elbow-pumped bellows of the type used on ulleain pipes. The player tends to inflate thebag initially using the mouthpiece, but then maintains air pressure while playing using the bellows, which frees up the mouth for singing. The drones are shorter and slimmer than Highland pipes giving the instrument less volume than that of the larger pipes, so the music mellows in with the rest of the band. Other band members included original band member Jonny Hardie on fiddle, mandolin, and guitar; Aaron Jones on bass, bouzouki, and guitar; and Frazier Stone on drums. Interestingly, the drum set included an African-style djembe, something we also saw with Steel Bonnets, the opening band.
The band played two good sets (plus the de rigeur two encores--) which gave us a nice mix of traditional and new music. There was a long thoughtful pibroch-like piece that was very nice, plus an enjoyable soft-rock setting of "The Bonny Earl of Murray," among those I can remember now. It was a very fine show, and we will surely want to see Old Blind Dogs again if we have the chance.