Battlefield Band,
Out for the Night
(Temple, 2004)

Battlefield Band's roster seems to change with almost every new release, but the music never falters. The band on this new CD is made up once again of old faithful Alan Reid, Mike Katz, Pat Kilbride and Alasdair White. These lads make beautiful music together, hewing more to the traditional sound than the more contemporary tones that some previous incarnations of the band had produced.

From the first minute of the first tune set, you know the boys are back in town, with elegant fiddle from White and mellifluous guitar from Kilbride. When Katz's pipes kick in, it's like being home again. The CD has a fine blend of vocals and tunes, and Reid's burr does wonders with his "The Earl of Errol," adapted from an early 19th-century tune. The next set starts with a slow and stately "Christ Church," on which White shows his lyrical side, and ends with two peppy reels.

"Jewels of the Ocean" launches the next set, which concludes with Katz's delightfully frantic "Barbhas agus Butthead." Next it's Kilbride's chance to sing, with the Henry McCullough song, "Belfast to Boston," a glorious ballad of an Irishman who comes to America, takes too many peyote buttons and decides to go back to Belfast. There's grand Scots charm in "The Anniversary Waltz/Out for the Night," both sentimental and moving tunes, after which Reid's piano tune, "Rest and Be Thankful," makes for a lovely and wistful change of pace. Ian Sinclair's "The King's Shilling" is a spirited anti-war song that should find its way into the repertoire of many Celtic groups. Kilbride's voice and the stirring instrumental backup make this one an instant classic.

The next tune set starts off with an almost jazzy riff from Reid's keyboards before Katz launches into a pipe solo to which the fiddle, guitar and other instruments are added. It's a marvelous building up of layers, like paint on an impressionist's canvas, and is the perfect example of why Battlefield Band creates more interesting tune sets than any other group. The same can be said for the next set, starting with a slow "Bagad Kepmer" that moves into a sprightly Katz tune, "Trouble at Baghdad Roundabout" and "McKenna's Jig." The booklet comments about this set indicate why Battlefield Band's liner notes are nearly as interesting as their music! Next, Reid is back for a delicate "The Banks of the Carron Water," followed by an Alasdair White showcase of Scots fiddling that ends with the buoyant "Tournemine et Gasdebois," a Breton tune that the band admits "sort of turned into a klezmer tune."

The last three tracks leave the studio for live venues from the band's 2002 UK tour, and it's a joy to hear the audience's reaction to this bonnie music. "Clan Coco/Fifteen Stubbies to Warragul/The Road to Benderloch" is a tune set that shows the quartet at its instrumentally strongest, and the old chestnut "Lord Randall" gets a jaggedly driving reading that only adds to its haunting and eerie qualities. The finale is a tune set that begins with White's luxuriously slow "Time & Tide" and segues seamlessly into three other tunes, ending with a raucous "The Mill House" and the well-deserved response from the crowd. If you have a drop of Scots soul in you, you'll applaud too.

Once again, Battlefield Band proves that they're still unparalleled when it comes to traditional Scottish music. The songs and tunes are well chosen, the performances impeccable, the recording near perfect and you get over 70 minutes of it. If that's not enough to make you run out and buy a copy today, then, um ... why are you here?

- Rambles
written by Chet Williamson
published 18 September 2004

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