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REELTIME "Reeltime" Green Linnet GLCD 1154

More young(ish) rising stars of the Irish traditional scene, Reeltime's debut album draws on its members' depth of experience of the tradition and of playing with Macalla (Mairin Fahy) and the Frankie Gavin Quartet (Eilis Egan and Chris Kelly). The heart of the band may well be Fahy's fiddle and Egan's accordion, but its the pervasive jazz, American and European influences of Kelly (guitar) and Benny Hayes (keyboards) which give Reeltime their distinctive sound. The swing/ragtime/jazz/waltz style of many of the tunes may not be to everyone's liking (if Leon Redbone played Irish reels, they might sound like this), but get your head around them and they are beguiling. Calliope House begins like the theme to Bergerac while Bulgarian Bash is just crying out for a Rory McLeod vocal. Chris Kelly's performance of Daithi Sproule's Pockets of Gold wouldn't be out of place in John Renbourn's repertoire. For Torc Waterfall they have slowed down the normally fast reel The Virginian and, with Benny Hayes contemporary keyboard/piano approach, given it a dreamy arrangement which works beautifully.

However, this diversity doesn't quite hang together. It's probably a stew which works better live than on record as their growing reputation suggests (a U.S. festival tour completed this summer). The influences brought to bear on the Irish tradition (particularly Kelly's marvellous percussive jazz chording) throw up many enjoyable moments, but with such ingenious and endless possibilities the "straight" traditional pieces somehow feel out of place if outstandingly played (The Bantry Girl's Lament). Further out of place is Stongest Weakness, a somewhat cheesy keyboard song which might yet be rescued by an alternative arrangement. Yet they finish brilliantly with a rollicking Blackberry Blossom/Ragtime Annie which does justice to their goodtime live performances. A show-stealing appearance at this years Belfast Festival at Queen's could do them the world of good.

Kevin Cooper

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This album was reviewed in Issue 13 of The Living Tradition magazine.