The Kitchen Band,
(self-produced, 2000)

The cover of this disc was comforting in its simplicity, a picture of four smiling gentlemen crouched on the bank of a river. The greenery behind them extends the promise that the water would deliver a soothing, relaxing and refreshing environment. The 14 folk songs on this disc kept the promise that I found in the cover, and kept it well.

As I listened to this disc the first time through, my mind flashed upon the Irish Rovers, and I'd honestly have to say that there is some similarity. The vocal harmonizing that these gentlemen provide is wonderful to listen to as they play through material that ranges from Celtic to Canadian, the old and new. It is a great collection, and the musicians expand upon the original pieces and bring more enjoyment from the new arrangements. So, if you find an old "friend" in one of the tunes, be prepared to have it take you to a new height of pleasure.

The Kitchen Band is Tom Arthur (guitar, melodeon, lead vocals), Ray Higgins (guitar, bouzouki, lead vocals, vocal harmonies), Tony Anderson (bass, vocal harmonies) and Ian Rennie (5-string banjo, tin whistle, harmonica, tenor banjo, vocal harmonies). According to the liner notes, this group has been together on and off for roughly 20 years or more. This is what they do for fun. It is always nice to see a group actually enjoy what they are doing, and be able to pass that on to their audience. The Kitchen Band will do that -- in spades!

"Spancil Hill" pulls at the emotions, as the tin whistle provides contrast for the lead vocals. This tale of melancholy dreaming will have you near to tears if you allow the music to work its magic and the lyrics to entangle your heart. It's perhaps one of the best renditions of this traditional piece that I have ever heard.

The banjo introduction to "Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms" brings a smile to your face and set the toes a-tapping, as this traditional piece is given a new life. The vocals are incredible, complete with a warble. The chorus is just as delight when the entire group sings, their voices twining around one another and conveying the fun they are having while playing. The banjo is spotlighted, not quite a solo, but Ian definitely shows some of his stuff.

Of course I have to comment on the Kitchen Band's version of "Cotton Jenny," as it was written by one of Canada's more famous folk artists -- Gordon Lightfoot. I do like the original, but these boys add an energy to it that is impossible to resist. If you add in the superb vocal mix, and the banjo, well, I'd have to say that they do give Gordon a run for his money. It is also nice to see this old piece brought to light once again. If folk is your thing, then this disc should be in your collection. It's well worth a listen or 20!

[ by Naomi de Bruyn ]
Rambles: 20 July 2002