Shillinghill, Temple, Midlothian
Scotland EH23 4SH
One Camp Street
Cambridge, MA 02140
This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 12/98
"Kevin and Maxine’s Celtic & Folk Music CD Reviews"
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This latest release by the latest composition of the Battlefield Band is a prototype of professionalism, offering a solid blend of excellent musicianship and affective compositions. Mike Katz' piping, whistle and bass work has replaced Iain MacDonald, while Davy Steele and his special talent for presenting emotive ballads, has come on board in lieu of Alistair Russell. Alan Reid remains on vocals and keyboards, and John McCusker continues on fiddle, whistles, cittern, accordian, and piano to flesh out the latest membership.
Steele shines with the best two songs on the CD--"Norland Wind" and "The Beaches of St. Valery." Originally a poem written by Violet Jacob, Steele provides an elegant and soulful version of "Norland Wind," backed by Reid on harmony vocals and keyboards, and McCusker on fiddle and low whistle.
"The Beaches of St. Valery," is based on the real-life evacuation of British troops, and specifically Steele's father and uncle, from the coast of France early in World War II. Well known as the evacuation of Dunkirk, Steele's father was among the lucky ones who happened to be on the beaches of Dunkirk when the flotilla of boats arrived from England to carry soldiers back to safety. Steele's uncle, through that mysterious and sometimes cruel quirk known as fate, was located south of Dunkirk at St.Valery. Sadly, only one boat showed up there to carry back soldiers and Steele's uncle was captured and spent the rest of the war in a concentration camp. The song laments and drives home the fact that all the soldiers, both dead and living, fought equally hard. However, the ones who through no fault of their own languished in the stalags, were slighted, unrecognized and never lavished with parades and honors upon returning home. In real life, according to the liner notes, Steele's uncle returned to Scotland for a short time after the war but emigrated to Canada, never able to reconcile his feelings of neglect.
Reid also presents a sweet version of "The Lass O' Glencoe," covering the often-told territory of a lass spurning other suitors and dutifully waiting for her love to return from war, howver long it takes. John McCusker's delicate work on piano, accordian and fiddles sets the mood for the story to unfold and flourish. Reid's charming version of "Jenny O' The Braes" is another highlight cut on this release. The apparent contrast between Reid's and Steele's singing styles and voices makes each other's vocals stand out even more so.
The sentimental "Margaret Ann" and dynamic "Trip To The Bronx" are McCusker compositions spotlighting his exquisite fiddle work.
Opening with a few "lost but rediscovered" frantic reels which are given a rebirth here (Bodachan a Gharaidh/General MacDonald/Creag an Fhithich), Katz' work on the pipes, especially in "General MacDonald" is impressive. Closing with toe-tapping tunes that again spotlight Katz' proficiency on the pipes (especially "The Canongate Twitch"), the listener is presented with a dose of high voltage energy coming and going.
The presentation is so sure and convincing here, the sole concern is that the fun just ends too soon--the CD tops out at about 45 minutes. The additions of Steele's and Katz' unique skills sets are effectively showcased and utilized, blending well with the strengths of holdovers Reid and McCusker.
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