Pat Kilbride,
Rock & More Roses
(Temple, 1989/1994)

Rock & More Roses is a compilation CD released in 1989, when Pat Kilbride was performing solo. He has since rejoined the Battlefield Band, one of the more exciting traditional bands playing Scottish music today. For those of you who've followed Kilbride and enjoy his music, or if you've just recently been introduced to Kilbride, this is an extended-play CD (72 minutes) that you really should have in your collection, especially if you no longer own a turn-table and can't play the original albums.

Kilbride plays cittern and guitar on this recording. Even though the guitar isn't considered a primary instrument for this style of music, Kilbride is very talented and the songs translate smoothly to -- and sound great on -- the guitar. Obviously on tunes like reels, you can't expect the lightning speed on a guitar that you can get on a fiddle. On the other hand, I find the more moderate speed refreshing, as Kilbride can -- and does -- provide a fresh approach to these songs that cannot be performed when they are played at the more ferocious speeds. His playing is relaxed, yet crisp and clean, and has an overall easy-listening feel to it.

The vocal selections are good. Kilbride has a voice that's perfect for this type of music -- strong and clear, lively in tunes like "Galbally Farmer," haunting in "October Song" and quietly forceful while protesting against injustice in "We Work the Black Seam."

The tunes that include Trevor Ferrier on tablas ("Tir Na Nog," "Dominique's Favorite," "Lord Randall") have a unique sound that's a cross between Irish and Caribbean or African music. While the tone is Irish, the beat is syncopated. It's an interesting effect and a nice change. A similar result can be found in "The Blackbird" and the jig set, "Humours of Ballyloughlin/Slieve Russel/The Eavesdropper," which includes in the instrumentation a balafon, a West African percussion instrument. "The Blackbird" is an instrumental (unrelated to the song that has been popularized by folks like Andy M. Stewart), and is one of the best examples of guitar playing that showcases Kilbride's talent. There's also an ethereal new age/synthesized feel to "Rodney's Glory/Rakish Paddy," if you like that sort of thing.

The instrumentals typically start with a solo instrument and add flavoring with additional instruments as the tune progresses. "The Swedish March," for instance, which is almost long enough for the listener to march from Ireland to Sweden and back again, starts with the cittern, then adds pipes, then fiddle, then hurdy gurdy, building to a delightful combination, with a mix of melody and harmonies. The same is true of the set of jigs "Humours of Ballyloughlin/Slieve Russel/The Eavesdropper," where the instrumentation changes from one tune to the next in the set, at the same time building in intensity to the finale.

Most of the tracks were originally released on Rock & Roses by Temple Records in 1980, and include Patrig Molard on uillean pipes, John Molineux on highland pipes and dulcimer, Trevor Ferrier on tablas, Brian McNeill on fiddle and Jean Pierre Lecuyer on hurdygurdy. Four more tracks were originally released as the B side of the album Both Faces by Colour Records in 1987, including Kieran Fahy on fiddle, Emilian Sanou on balafon, Barry MacNeese on bass and Marc Keyaert on keyboards. "We Work the Black Seam" was originally released on the compilation album Het Zwante Goud (The Black Gold) and includes Wannes van de Veld on backing vocals, Marc Godfroid on tuba, Rogier Deronge on trumpet, Dirk van Esbroeck on oboe and Frans Ieven on piano.

However, this music is timeless, and is as remarkable to listen to today as when it was originally released.

[ by Alanna Berger ]
Rambles: 30 March 2002

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