A Production of The Folk Life ( Inc. 1976)
John McLaughlin and Jamie Downs, Editors
CD Reviews: Roots & Wings, (dba The Digital Folk Life. Org)
The Occasionals, "Reel of Four" (Greentrax Records), www.greentrax.com
Awright, back up oan the flerr fur the auld-time music!
Its The Occasionals third or sixth CD, depending on whether you count the Greentrax samplers on which theyve appeared with other ceilidh bands, and this time theyre providing music for a ceilidh or a class, not a recording of a live concert or dance, but in the role of the record for the night, fifteen dances for the instructor, if thats whats involved, to use in as many ways and as often as he or she would like, this time around without their own caller (Mairi Cameron), leaving that up to the foresaid instructor or helper. What could be simpler, or more fun?
Once more, Gus Miller provides the necessary strict-tempo percussion, on his favorite wee snare drum and Ziildjan hi-hat cymbal, with Freeland Barbours accordion and Ian Hardies fiddle, and Kevin MacLeods tenor banjo in the background, more or less. Its a unified, crisp band, four professionals whove been together more than a dozen years, the core group of Occasionals without their occasional Occasionals and old friends, additional fiddlers such as Mairi Campbell and Alison Hiley, and without the services of master-piper Duncan MacGillivray or additional accordionist Robert Duncan. This is, as Eugene ODonnell would have said, music for dancing, strict tempo, with the band completely understanding their function as accompanists for dance instruction or as music just for a happy ceilidh, without competition for the dancers attention in the way that a record with a live caller or a live audience would have provided. Let the dancers in the hall whoop and hooch aye! it up to their hearts content, or let the instructor hit the pause button as necessary to go back over that practice step. Its fine by these professional musicians, and theyre happy to provide the well-understood basic service.
The fifteen sets run from The Thomson Boys, for the opening dance, the Britannia Two-Step, and go on to Botany Bay, for a Pride of Erin Waltz/Waltz of the Bells medley, and then to a Loch Maree Islands set to accompany a Military Two-Step/Anniversary Two-Step, followed up by Bobby Campbell for a Gay Gordons/Call of the Pipes. Then its Jock Mackay for the St Bernards Waltz/La Rosa dance, followed by Maids of Kintail for Bonnie Dundee/Eva Three-Step, and Stirlingshire Militia for Canadian /Barn Dance, and Flowers of Edinburgh for well, what do you think? Flowers of Edinburgh and on and on, old favorites all of them, with highly informative notes on the CD booklet if you get puffed oot. For the complete listing, and the CD itself, you can go right over to The Occasionals website, at the URL provided on the CD http://mysite.freeserve.com/theccasionals, if youre interested in booking the band for a local ceilidh, or visit their record company, Greentrax Records, in Edinburgh, or thro their website, www.greentrax.com for other fine Scottish music. You can tell them wee Johnny McLaughlin sent you, if youd like.
(Copyright John McLaughlin, 3/28/2004)