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THE BATTLEFIELD BAND - The Producerís Choice

THE BATTLEFIELD BAND - The Producerís Choice
Temple Records COMD2108

In 2016, The Battlefield Band was inducted into the Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame - a worthy accolade for a group of musicians who have, since their first recordings in the mid-1970s until today, created some of the finest Scottish contemporary influenced folk music committed to the recorded medium. Having heard them first on RTE Radio One in 1977 and having bought my first LP of theirs, At The Front, in Easons in Dublin, I have been hooked to a considerable degree, though I may have lost out on some of the more recent material from the band whose line-up has undergone a continual change of personnel, though no lack of quality in the musical or creative departments.

This 19-track compilation assembled by producer/manager/label owner Robin Morton (a “fifth member”) salutes their combined creativity and musical diversity. The 19 tracks included here go back to their second album for Topic Records in 1977 right up to updated contemporaneous recordings. The individual strands of their sound - from the citterns/whistle/pedal organ of The Silver Spear and the Northumbrian pipes led air, Blackhall Rocks, and the use of various pipers from Duncan McGillivray, Dougie Pincock, Iain MacDonald and now Mike Katz - has strengthened and added variety to the overall band sound, which was originally fiddle/strings/keyboard based.

Vocally, the male tones of Jamie McMenemy, Pat Kilbride, Davy Steele, Alastair Russell and now Sean O’Donnell easily blended Irish/Scots nuances, and their female voices - Jenny Clark, Sylvia Barnes and Karine Polwart - again balanced freshness and creativity, mixing traditional expertise with contemporary vocal approaches. Musically, the sound has developed through the decades into something unique and distinctive, continually renewing itself. Some 30 albums in and still counting, still relevant and vital, this personalised anthology from Robin Morton salutes their creativity and acknowledges the figures who have shaped their destiny – all highlighted on the CD cover notes. The Producer’s Choice may be a personal choice, but the music is universally great and the results magical.

John O’Regan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 119 of The Living Tradition magazine.