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Review BmB - Ge vindt wel een taal Wouter en de Draak - Donnevachter

This week, I’ve been listening to two different combos featuring the Dutch bagpiper Wouter Kuyper.

First in the CD player was BmB’s 2021 offering, ’ Ge vindt wel een taal’ (which Google translates as ‘You will find a language’). In addition to Kuyper’s bagpipes, recorder and shawm, BmB consists of Luc Plompen on vocals and guitar, and Nick van Uden-Luteijn on accordion. All tracks are for dancing, and helpfully labelled as gavottes, mazurkas, bourrĂ©es etc.

Before I go any further, I must confess that I generally prefer instrumental music over songs. When I do listen to vocal performers, I like their voice to be beautiful and their singing in tune and melodic. Unfortunately, Luc Plompen doesn’t tick any of those boxes. His voice is on the agricultural side, and he adheres to the old folk tradition of shouty-singing, with the excitement ramping up (in Dutch) towards the climax of the story, making it increasingly hard to follow the narrative thread. Kuyper’s piping, on the other hand, is lovely. His pipes sing and soar as they should, but they only feature on seven of the tracks, mostly as brief interludes between verses. Only one tune, the Schottische/Polka ‘Kievit/Kraai’, stands out with joyful bagpiping over the sounds of fine accordion playing - uninterrupted by song.

My favourite thing about this band is that they “were world famous in the Dutch folk-scene already”, according to their online blurb...

My verdict: good piping, but nowhere near enough of it. Suitable for dancing, but so are many other (and better) albums. Recommended only if you are partial to post-match or pub type singing. You can have my copy if you want it.

The second CD is by ‘Wouter en de Draak’ (Wouter and the Dragon), and titled ’ Zonnevachter’ (sun watcher). If we assume that the Wouter of the duo is our bagpiper Kuyper, then the Dragon must be the guitarist, Joris Alblas.

All twelve tracks are original compositions by either Kuyper or Alblas.

The good news: there is no singing at all on this album.

Most tracks feature Kuyper on diatonic accordion, which he plays sensitively and softly; plus Alblas on guitar, sometimes providing rhythm, sometimes leading or providing more complex accompaniment; always beautifully. They are aided by four very capable guest musicians with percussion, flute, bombarde, hurdy- gurdy and - delightfully - trumpet and flugelhorn. The latter are played by Frank van Vliet and invariably introduce a 1950s or 60s black & white flavour, like a mellow jazz soundtrack for lonely late night city street scenes, with cigarettes being smoked in the rain. I love it.

The not so good news: there’s still not enough piping. Kuyper plays bagpipes on only three tracks, but it’s a delight every time.

All twelve tracks are also danceable, if you’re that way inclined.

My verdict: It’s subtle, and beautiful, and rewards repeated listening.

There’s no outstandingly ‘wow’ track, and nothing wildly inventive or unconventional, but the whole album is sufficiently varied and yet coherent. I’m keeping this one.