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World Music CD Reviews Europe

Battlefield Band

By Rob Weir
Published March 16, 2007

The Road Of Tears
Temple 2098

Although Scotland’s Battlefield Band is famed for its high-energy sets, founder Alan Reid and producer Robin Morton are also cultural preservationists. The Road Of Tears takes immigration as its theme. As the title suggests, such a topic doesn’t lend itself to the rock-and-reel approach. There are several uptempo pieces, such as “The Highlanders Farewell To Ireland” set, but mostly the mood is wistful and reflective. Appropriately, Mike Katz spends more time on whistles than Highland pipes, and Sean O’Donnell and Alasdiar White add tasteful but not showy backing on guitar and fiddle. Reid’s superb “Five Bridges To Cross” justifies purchase, but the Batties explore immigration’s bittersweet side in various contexts, including retoolings of Woody Guthrie’s “Plane Wreck At Los Gatos” and Robert Burns’ “The Slave’s Lament.” O’Donnell’s light tenor voice is also appealing, though one wishes for more contrast to Reid’s dry vocals. But the easy-does-it approach works well.