Concert Reviews

Illinois State Senate Welcomes Reeltime.
1997 Springfield Illinois
March 17, 1997

The annual celtic music concert at the Sangamon Auditorium has become a Saint Patrick's day tradition. That tradition was continued and extended by the group Reeltime, performing on Sunday evening, a night before Saint Patrick's day.

Global, world - beat eclectic. Many titles have been assigned to music that cannot be easily pigeon-holed. Although Celtic in Spirit, Reeltime practices pop music : songs of the common culture and the Irish folk tradition, burnished with playfulness and invention. The group fastens Texas swing and new age sensibility to Celtic song structures without succumbing to encroaching cliche. The music achieves an integrity of its own, and is not a hodge-podge of grafted elements.

The Galway based quartet was completing a five week stateside tour, supporting its debut Green Linnet records compact disc of 1995 and whipping up enthusiam for its upcoming 1997 release. In a musical presentation both gripping and jovial, Reeltime represents the best of Ireland's New traditionalists.

The ensemble of guitar, violin, accordion and keyboards meshed seamessly for intricate rythmic and melodic jigs and reels: traditional fare from the 1600s through the 1800s and immigrating to the U.S. for bluegrass and country swing flourishes.

The groups strength was its precision in producing repetitive fiddle and accordion figures with immaculate timing. More amazing is that the band has recently changed members. Violinist Mairin Fahy and squeeze - box prodigy Luke Daniels double as musical cast members in the European production of the smash musical "Riverdance", so Reeltime sandwiches in performances and recording between this and other musical commitments.

Whether producing sweet and sprite waltzes or gamesome jigs from the Irish canon, the ease, - no, nonchalance - with which they dispatch the songs is impressive enough. Add to this their steadfast ability to breath fresh emotion into the compostions. Vocal readings by Fahy, a former member of the all women Irish super - group Macalla,, added a dimension of resonance and emotion to the concert, particularly her warm reading of "The Last Rose of Summer" and "Sile" sung in Gaelic.

Fahy, wife of guitarist Chris Kelly, sashayed to the music in her velvet gown, step dancing in time to the pulsations. Winner of many All-Ireland competitions, her violin etching out scalar filigree and soaring with uncompromising accuracy. Kelly anchors the rythm with an exacting chording style, often embellishing the tone with digital reverb, defining his sound as rooted in tradition yet distinctively contemporary.

Keyboard player, John Flatley, dividing his time equally between the Steinway grand and electonic synthesizer, using the latter to reproduce a woody walking bass on faster jigs, and adding vibe - like shimmers or Fender Rhodes jazz lines to several of the tunes. Ragtime and even jazz readings of his own "Unreel" and "Rambling Cat" owed as much to Errol Garner as to the celtic linneage.

Luke Daniel's almost - motionless caressing of the button accordion was mind wrenching. The bellows appeared to barely breath, yet the notes he poured forth were torrential.

A perfect example of Reeltime's musical linneage was on its own "Caliope house", a fantasia born from a jazz/blues piano section through a series of three sophisticated melodies, with a whirlwind unison fiddle/accordion line conclusion - music born of Irish convention, yet liberated with affable freedom of youthful vigour.

Reeltime offered a Stellar kick-off to St. Patrick's day: Expressing all the beauty, comlexity and heartbreak of living on Earth while maintaining a snap in its step and generosity in its heart.

The State Journal - Register Monday, March 17, 1997 Springfield Illinois By Dave Leonatti (Correspondent).

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