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.
Bringing a new dimension to Irish traditional music, Reeltime is a charismatic new quartet out of Ireland that combines stellar instrumental skills with a genius for arranging. Their music has that incredible energy and lift found only in the very best Irish music, but goes even further, with uptempo percussive jazz guitar chording and exquisite effects from clarinet, piano, electric guitar, percussion and synthesizer. Centered around the virtuoso duet playing of accordion and fiddle, Reeltime infuses their music with unquenchable energy and humor. Halfway through the first set of tunes (Gort to Texas to Honolulu), the band kicks into high gear with the introduction of what might be called "sock guitar" (a la Django Reinhardt, to whom their guitarist is frequently compared). When the sly wail of clarinet slides in a few bars later, the energy climbs even higher and listeners are absolutely compelled to dance.
Reeltime moves easily from straight-ahead Irish traditional to Texas swing to love songs to ragtime--constantly inducing metamorphoses of mood. Regarded as one of the best fiddlers in Ireland, Mairin Fahy (who also sings lead vocals) delivers a stunning version of the wonderful Calliope House following an eerie electric guitar and accordion intro. On Bulgarian Bash, which they learned from American fiddler Kenny Baker, the duet of clarinet and sock guitar returns invoking images of a gypsy campfire. For their debut self-titled recording, Reeltime (GLCD1154), the band has chosen a combination of reels, waltzes, slow airs and songs that showcase the tremendous talents of the individual players and their gift for arranging.
1. Gort To Texas To Honolulu: Master McDermot's/The Plough And The Stars/Dillon Brown
2. Calliope House
3. Siuil A Run
4. Pachelbel Reels: The Maid Of Castlebar/Cregg's Pipes/Pachelbel's Canon
5. Savoy Bouresque
6. The Last Rose Of Summer
7. Torc Waterfall
8. Bulgarian Bash
9. The Bantry Girl's Lament
10. Pockets Of Gold
11. Terryglass Reels: The Four Stroke Reel/Martin O'Conner's
12. Strongest Weakness
13. Ragtime Annie