Of all of Charles de Lint’s novels that have music intrinsic to them, the one most infused with it is The Little Country, the story in part being of Janey Little, a Cornish smallpiper who admires Northumbrian smallpiper Billy Pigg. I won’t bother detailing that novel as you can read our review here. Note that there was an appendix with the tunes de Lint composed that were mentioned in the text.
That de Lint is an accomplished musician is something you can see in our review of Old Blue Truck, his first album. MaryAnn Harris, his wife, whose first album, The Crow Girls, we’ve also reviewed, is also splendid. He’s also an excellent tune composer as noted previously, but before Old Blue Truck, only a single tune, ‘The Tinker’s Black Kettle’, was recorded on Old Enough To Know Better by The Tinker’s Own, a Celtic band long gone now. We do have a recording of ‘Sam’s Song’ which de Lint did some years ago, which you can listen to as well.
Zahatar is more akin to a classical music ensemble than it is to a folk group, and their arrangements of de Lint’s The Little Country compositions very much reflect that. It’s a lively but dignified approach to his songs, more closely akin to what you’d hear if you were listening to any classical music ensemble than to, say, a contradance band. The band describes itself as ‘a band made up of classically trained musicians who also have fun exploring other musical styles. We arrange all of our own music, pulling themes from the Celtic tradition, Chinese and Spanish folk melodies, bluegrass, pop/rock, film soundtracks, ragtime, the Classical era, and even composing original pieces!’
Zahatar certainly took to the music de Lint composed for this novel: Christopher Grano, their arranger, spent three hounded hours ‘arranging all of the music from The Little Country!’ By my count, that’s about twenty hours apiece for the fifteen tunes de Lint composed. That the band cares about his music is clearly evident in this recording, which is both well-played and feels as if it could be trad.
If you enjoy trad music from either the Celtic or British traditions, you’ll find much to enjoy here. It’s a warm, engaging album that does great justice to de Lint as a musician and a composer, both of which he’s been doing for many decades now. I’d say ‘Billy’s Own Jig’, obviously named in honor of Billy Pigg, ‘The Nine Blind Harpers’ and ‘The Lost Music’ are ones that I particularly like but really everything‘s superb.