Battlefield Band, Alan Reid, and Beyond


Line-Up; Recollection

Temple Records 2104; 2103

The cover of the new Battlefield CD pictures the band posing in front a height chart, as if they were crime suspects. It’s a fun idea as we know this “line-up,” or do we? We see Sean O’Donnell (guitar/vocals), Alasdair White (fiddle/fretted instruments), and Mike Katz (bagpipes/whistles/guitar/cittern), but who is the tall man holding another set of pipes? That would be Ewen Henderson, who also plays the fiddle, whistles, and piano. He tips us off that we’ve seen the passing of an era; in 2010, Battlefield cofounder Alan Reid retired from Battlefield after 41 years. Battlefield can now throw two pipe kits or two fiddles at a time at us. The opening set, “Raigmore,” is a very cool one--edgy, loud, and ever-so-slightly dark and frenetic, with fiddles popping in an out like a man with a secret. It’s suggestive of future directions Battlefield might

take. Two others are “The Herring,” a bouncy cittern and fiddle-driven piece, and “The Pits,” a big-reel set that airs out the pipes. Two of the album’s songs are in Gaelic, a language in which Henderson is fluent. So is Battlefield alive and well? I think so. The new album also features a lot of quiet material, with many of them evoking the Boys of the Lough more than Battlefield’s backlist. The concluding “Me n’vin BĂȘlek, na Manac’h” stands as the bookend opposite of “Raigmore.” Solo fiddle sets the mood for a pastoral, wistful tune in which even the pipes are feathery and light, though they move the piece onto a more joyous plane. Good stuff, though also a hint of hesitancy. Label it new steps, but not yet full stride.

Not ready to go cold turkey on Alan Reid? No need; Recollection is an eighteen-track compendium of Reid originals, covers, and classics culled from the Battlefield backlist, plus a 1981 duo project with Brian McNeill. Can any of us hear songs such as “The Green Plaid,” “I am the Common Man,” or “The Gallant Grahams” and not hear Reid’s voice in our heads? And then there are songs he penned such as “The Dear Green Place,” “

Jock the Can,” and “The Arran Convict” that have become so well known that many people assume they are traditional songs. Savor this collection, but don’t file it under “nostalgia;” at age 61, Reid has left Battlefield but has no plans to hang up his pen or vocal cords. Recollection is just out there to tide us over until new projects appear.

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