It’s great to see the mighty Highland pipes take centre stage once again and for those of us that were brought up on bands like Alba, The Tannahill Weavers and Battlefield Band will know just how powerful a tool it is featured in the context of ‘folk’ music. When it is taken out of this natural comfort zone and placed in the more, shall we say ‘commercial’ arena then it becomes a different beast altogether coming into its own when competing with the Heavy Metal riffs of guitarist Gajus Stappen and Lukas Rausch’s pounding drums. If you hadn’t guessed it already, Celtica Pipes Rock are not a band for the feint-hearted but for ‘entertainment’ value they seriously know how to rock. On their debut release they show their true colours with tracks including “Smoke On The Water”, “Rocking All Over The World” and “We Will Rock You” whilst their latest recording is a loosely theme based project taking in voyages and the sea. I’m not really sure about the introduction (a bit too ‘hammy’, like a reject from a Rankins album perhaps) or “Drunken Sailor” but hats off to them for cheekily including the track “Celtica Goes To Hollywood” and I’ll leave you to ponder that one…although having thought about it the term Schlock-Rock does come to mind. With a respectful nod to the tradition including “Crossing The Minch” and “Paddy’s Leather Breeches” musically speaking I can’t fault any of the performances from the other band members Gwendolen Rowe and Duncan Knight (Highland pipes), Harald Weinkum (bass) and Josy Svajda on keyboards and spot on production from Stappen. OK, so maybe not for die-hard traditionalists but great if you’re looking for an interesting after-dinner conversation piece and, of course…coming from me…both albums get a resounding thumbs-up!
It’s been a 10-year gap between recordings but fans of the folk veterans Meet on the Ledge will rejoice when they listen to the just-released “Long Shadows”.
Of course the folk harmonies and masterful instrumentation upon which MOTL built it’s well deserved legacy and following, are beautifully showcased and presented on its latest release. There’s no arguing that.
But if forced to choose one song that showcases the band’s musical chops and expertise it would have to be its cover of “Smoke on the Water.”
What the band did when it rethought and rewired the classic heavy metal anthem is a task at which only a master could excel. Clearly MOTL founder Ron Holmes, who has his own independent musical pedigree, and his band mates were more than up to the task.
They created a version of “Smoke on the Water” that has just enough electric guitar and pulsating drums to make it familiar. Yet the slower tempo and acoustic accents give it a whole new personality, showcasing an elegance that is often lost amid the clanging and banging of the heavy metal versions.
As fans know, Meet on the Ledge rarely make missteps and that’s certainly true on this 12-track gem. Just listen to “Who Told the Butcher,” the Peter Knight tune, which marries contemporary instrumentation to world-weary lyrics and binds them together with glorious harmonies. The same came be said of “Travelin’ Soldier,” a tune the band found in America, which gives a slightly different perspective to the lass who longs for a connection to a certain soldier.
Other don’t miss tracks include the upbeat (yes, really) “The Murdering of Edwin Jones,” – presented in a bit less grisly way than the much-loved “Matty Groves” — and the hearty, traditional “Last Boat from Bolton” written by long-time friend of the band, Kevin Day.
The album is as satisfying as a bowl of hot soup on a cold, winter’s day and just as tasty.