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MP3 Piper Johnny - Pipes for the People

Bagpipes playing everything from trad Scottish/Irish to Americiana to rock ''n roll and even hip hop - the one album that does it all, pipe-ifically speaking.

17 MP3 Songs in this album (42:26) !
Related styles: WORLD: Celtic, FOLK: Contemporary Celtic

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Songs by John Music
Press Release
Songs by John Music, Frankfort, IL proudly announces the label’s newest release titled “Pipes for the People” by American pipe artist Piper Johnny. It is a bagpipe blitz consisting of 30 songs on 17 tracks. What makes the CD notable is the musical breadth of material that is presented. The beguiling arrangements include other instruments ranging from the expected Highland snares and drums to bass, guitars, keyboards, strings, horns, cello, harmonica, fiddle, mandolin, and even an album-opening timpani roll. A total of 14 top-flight instrumentalists and vocalists from around the Chicago and New York area lend their expertise to the proceedings.

There are favorites from the traditional side of Scottish and Irish music like Scotland the Brave, Wings, a moving version of Danny Boy, When Irish Eyes are Smiling, Garry Owen, Blue Bells of Scotland, and the Irish Washerwoman.

Amazing Grace is the song that led to Johnny’s decision to play the pipes. It’s offered up here in a tender-to-magnificent version worthy of the great song. There are also other favorite church tunes where soul stirring pipes complete with harmonies (called ‘seconds’ in pipe lingo) bring new majesty to great hymns of the faith.

But just when you think you’ve got this one figured out it’ll throw you in another direction. Rock ‘n Roll Part II, the stadium-shaking favorite, gets a rollicking “more bagpipe, more cowbell” treatment that has listeners shouting out, “Aye, aye, laddie!” What makes it fun is that a trad tune like Bonnie Galloway turns on a dime into a tuba thumping, N’Arlins soaked Dixieland romp of Saints. The evocatively titled Midnight O’er the Misty Loch starts innocently enough then takes a radical turn courtesy of New York cello innovator Von Cello who seems to find a way to land Space Invaders in the loch.

That quintessential slice of Americana, Take Me out to the Ballgame, is droningly served up with mustard, relish and a dog. Coming out of left field is the over-the-top, genre-busting, brogue-soaked hip hop of Piper’s Rap which has left listener after listener busting a major smile. In the rousing Instrument of War, Piper Johnny notes how although bagpipes were once considered an instrument of war, he is actually an instrument of peace.

Yet more awaits - a pretty Christmas medley with strings and horns. Then the disc finishes with Auld Lang Syne, a metaphorical Gaelic toast raised to close an album well done and artistic achievement realized. If you were to limit yourself to just one bagpipe album, Pipes for the People is the one that fully explores the many facets of this ancient and powerful instrument.

Piper Johnny Bio
Piper Johnny is an enigmatic and some would say legendary figure. His origins are shrouded in mystery. It is known that he spent his early years in an area noted for its glens, moors, and dales. Rumors are that he was raised by wolves, a story that perhaps came from those who have seen his carnivorous consumption of raw red meat. Howling at the moon certainly foreshadowed the droning of the pipes.

The story of his conversion to the ways of piping starts in his late teens. The heathen lad was in church of all things. Unbeknownst to him, the old Presbyterian minister had lined up a Canadian pipe band to play for the 125th Anniversary Sunday it was. As they came marching down the aisle he was overwhelmed by the ringing truth of Amazing Grace as it cored a shaft through his heart like a claymore swung in the heat of battle. His knees began to buckle and he hung on to the pew in front of him for support. The raw glory and power of the pipes laid claim to him. He knew not when or how, but a date with piping destiny was made then and there.

Several years later found him making a call to Pipe Major Cecil DeRushia of the Scimitar Pipes and Drums. Showing up at a Monday practice he found himself in his first parade that Saturday despite protests that he knew nothing. He learned many things that day – pleats go in back on a kilt, spats are buttoned to the outside, “Just drone” meant blowing into a wooden pipe that went into an elk-hide bag, and that Shriners know how to party.

This was a memorable group of lads. The band wasn’t necessarily noted for its musical excellence, but was noted for veering off parade routes into bars to try and quench the overwhelming thirst that accompanies piping. His girlfriend, and later wife, was bestowed the nickname of Sudsy for her prowess at beer pouring and consumption at one of these events.

Several years later life took him to another state where he played with the Scimitar Highlanders. A small but determined group he found himself in the role of Pipe Major on occasion. This was mostly due to the lack of other able bodies – at times he was the entire pipe section too. It was valuable experience in playing solo. It also brought a steely nerve into play as wearing a kilt in Arkansas wasn’t a normal sight for the local populace and could lead to, ahem, ‘questions.’

Ensuing years found him in another state playing with the Mohammed Kiltie Band. Many more parades and performances, and an expanded musical repertoire, some of which can be heard on the Pipes for the People CD. It was there he did his first stint as a snare drummer for a while, which proved to be helpful. It was with regret that he left those lads behind.

The current locale is Chicagoland with the Medinah Highlanders for 10+ years now. A great bunch of guys who are like family to each other. They’re also noted for stops in bars along with some award winning piping. Piper Johnny’s ability to show up in the nick of time is certainly legendary – such as the ninja-like entrance into the marching rank going into the Traffic Club gig in Chicago. There was also a legendary Memorial Day where due to a Mapquest inspired wrong turn and confusion over multiple Old Rand Roads he ended up in Lake Zurich rather than Wauconda. By the time the error was discovered there were two choices – go back home empty handed or play the parade as an impromptu solo. He ended up accompanying a somewhat surprised group of Cub Scouts.

All told, over 27 years since that first Monday practice. Hundreds of performances and parades before hundreds of thousands of spectators. A very cool musical journey with many great times along the way. Summer parades with wool clothing, no shade and temps in the upper 90s are definitely not cool times, but as they haven’t killed Piper Johnny, they musta made him stronger. That, and he says he likes to be sure every pore on his body is fully capable of sweating.

The other extreme would be the December day the Pipes for the People cover was shot, reprising the Marilyn Monroe skirt-blowing picture. Piper Johnny said that with the gale force sub-zero wind chills, it wasn’t the day for the lassies to have the “what’s worn under your kilt question answered?” He does report (with a grin) that despite use, there is no undue wear on any working parts under his kilt. But for the curious lassies who always ask, there is a specific answer given to that question in the Piper’s Rap tune, track 11 on the Pipes for the People CD.

A final piece of practical advice for fellow kilt-wearing lads, apparently based on some sort of experience, is that when the time comes, use the LADDIES room, not the Ladies Room.

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