The Occasionals,
Reel of Four
(Greentrax, 2004)

There is little that is as uplifting on a dark day as a bit of Scottish country-dance music. It has a flow and vitality that is hard to resist.

The Occassionals is a group of experts at providing this antidote to a Highland winter. On Reel of Four they outdo themselves. Using accordion, fiddle and an array of stringed instruments from banjo to tenor guitar, backed by the magnificent drum kit, they will have even frostbitten toes tapping.

The album is a collection of old and new music that blends like malt whisky. Opening with "The Thomson Boys," a two-step, they set the scene and draw you right in. They then go into a beautiful waltz set on "Botany Bay," which combines four tunes with an Australian flavor.

The CD continues with a military two-step, Canadian barn dance, reels and more waltzes. Of course, no Scottish album is complete without a "Gay Gordon," and here you can dance one to the tune "Bobby Campbell." Other fascinating dances and tunes include a Mississippi dip to the music of "Maggie Mae." (Apparently, the dance dates back to 1911.)

You may end your 16 tracks of top-class music and dances with "Willie Tait" as you dance the intriguing "Strip the Willow," a dance from the Hebrides dating back to the 1890s.

With great tunes, excellent playing and an insert giving background to the music and the dances -- all that's missing are dance steps -- you get a release here that is educational, beautiful and greater by far than the sum of its parts.

- Rambles
written by Nicky Rossiter
published 26 June 2004

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