If you’ve ever chatted with Mr. David Brewer, Scottish highland piper extraordinaire, you might remember that one of his favorite words is “epic.” David is well known in the American piping community for composing epic pipe tunes, arranging them into epic pipe sets, and bringing them to the stage in an energetic style that can only be described as epic. Now, after leading his former band Molly’s Revenge to fame and glory for the past 20 years (full disclosure: I was the guitarist), Brewski has devoted all of his abundant energies to The Fire, a trio composed of himself and two equally talented artists, Rebecca Lomnicky and Adam Hendey. Their third full length record titled Marigold was released on January 1 and guess what? No surprise here. It’s epic.
Produced by David and recorded at his Redwood Island Studios in Boulder Creek, California, the all-instrumental album contains a satisfying mix of original tunes composed by the band, covers of composed pipe tunes, and traditional melodies — including a few that Robert Burns used for some of his famous songs. With 42 tunes in all, this collection flows wide and deep. Rich textures abound, the result of well-placed layers of pipes, fiddle, whistle, guitar, bouzouki, bodhran, harmonium, and reed organ that never sound muddy or self-indulgent. This album should satisfy any fan of Scottish, Celtic, or uplifting trad music in general. It’s epic.
High points for me are the newer tunes in 7/8 time, especially Hendo’s Bear Creek Road, named after the treacherous, narrow mountain roadway that leads to Redwood Island Studios. I was also sucked into Reba’s gorgeous, emotive fiddling on Mrs. Jamieson’s Favourite, a lovely air composed by Charles Grant. The final set on Marigold is The “Scotch Paisano” Suite of eleven pipe tunes composed by David Brewer. In his words, “This programmatic bagpipe suite is a tribute to California’s journey to statehood, and tells the story of a Scottish immigrant turned Mexican citizen who ultimately became a delegate to California’s Constitutional Convention.” Intrigued, I did a little digging and learned that Hugo Reid was nicknamed the Scotch Paisano during his days as a Scottish settler in Mexican Southern California. He was born in 1810 and he settled in the San Gabriel area in the 1820s, became a Mexican citizen, married a native California Indian, and was a leader in his community. He later served on the ayuntamiento (town hall) of Los Angeles, became a large landholder of Rancho Santa Anita, and represented Los Angeles at the Constitutional Convention of 1849, at Colton Hall in Monterey.
His life, just like this suite and this entire album, was epic.
LISTEN: The “Scotch Paisano” Suite: