Temple Records COMD2100

There may have been enough changes in Battlefield Band line-ups over their thirty or so years to qualify it as a specialist subject on Mastermind, or to challenge any family tree compiler, but they remain quite simply the acme of their genre.  The current membership is Alan Reid, Keyboards, accordion and vocals; Mike Katz, pipes, whistles, bass and “dancing shoes”; Alasdair White, fiddle, whistles and bazouki; and Sean O’Donnell, guitar and vocals.  As if that’s not enough, there are guest appearances from Mike Whellans on moothie and Mitch Greenhill on guitar.  There are songs by John Spillane and Ewan MacColl, and a thought-provoking Alan Reid number, Gathering Storm, ostensibly about the weather, then there are arrangements of Allan McLean, for which Alan wrote a new tune, and the often-jaded Burns Red Red Rose is reinvigorated by a tune which some say is the original air.

To complement the songs, however, there is the usual Batties’ powerhouse pyrotechnics in the tune sets.  Just listen to the layering in the third track, where the wailing harmonica adds a new dimension to everything else that’s going on. Or how about the Breton drive of Ton Bole Leon Braz, which doesn’t actually feature a bombarde, but somehow gives the impression that it does.

Overall, despite the staff changes, there remains the essential infectiousness that has always characterised the Batties – not for them the easy, unprofessional option of a bland potboiler, but rather another pearl to add to the string.  These are musicians enjoying themselves doing what they do best, and should be essential listening for anyone interested in the way our traditions are being enhanced and expanded, without losing sight of their origins.

Gordon Potter
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This album was reviewed in Issue 76 of The Living Tradition magazine.