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rhythmnreel Celtic Rock

Keeping it Reel

By Margaret Chrystall
Published:  18 June, 2009

IT'S the start of a new journey for the band, says one of Rhythm N Reel's three fiddlers.

For a lot of bands who have packed in the number of gigs, years, miles, and musicians Rhythm N Reel have, the miracle might be that they've not long since reached the end of the road.

Yet it's anything but for the Highland band which is launching new album The Crossing with a gig at the Ironworks on Saturday.

Fiddler Paul Dzialdowski said: "It definitely marks the beginning of something new."

And Stuart Macdonald, who plays electric guitar, laughed: "It's the continuing adventures of …....!"

"Rhythm N Reel is a lifestyle rather than a band!" said Mike.

But for over 10 years, Rhythm N Reel have been the band to call if you've got a music festival, marquee gig, summer dance, street party, gala dance or Highland games to entertain.

But though there have been line-up changes along the way for the Celtic rock band, the current members are free enough to travel and that has meant extending the reach of Rhythm N Reel to Europe.

Rhythm N Reel includes Catriona MacAffer on bagpipes and accordion, Dave Fleming on vocals and acoustic guitar, Stuart Macdonald on electric guitar, Mike Brown on bass, Donnie MacKillop on drums, and the three fiddles of Debbie Ross, Gillian Stevenson and Paul Dzialdowski. And Allan Hogg features playing whistle and saxophone on the album and on Saturday.

Bassist Mike Brown, who has been in the band from the beginning, explained: "We got this line-up together about two years ago and since then it has been good. We seem to get a great response at gigs and we've been able to play in new places – and not just the Highlands, as we pretty much did before."

Europe has called – and is now regularly calling them back.

Mike said: "We've been having trips overseas. A couple of years ago we made our first trip to a Scottish festival – Scotfest – in Holland, near Eindhoven, and it turned out to be fantastic for us. So we've subsequently been back three times and we've also been to Germany three times – we're back in October. We make a long weekend of it and pack in about three gigs over the three days.

"Scottish music is a big thing there, in the Netherlands and in Belgium. So it has been great fun."

Though they made an album about a decade ago, The Crossing is a milestone for the band.

They recorded some of it at Tulloch Castle in Dingwall – and had an informal launch of the album there a couple of weeks back for friends and family.

"But it just wasn't big enough for all the people who wanted to come along," said Mike. "So when we were invited to play a gig at the Ironworks this summer, we decided that would be a great place to do it and give everyone the chance to dance!"

The album was recorded between October and February with overdubs being done in Skye at Chris Harley's Vital Spark studio, with recording, production and mixing by Eric Cloughley there.

"We wanted to do it as 'live' as possible," said Dave Fleming, a successful solo performer in his own right, who joined the line-up in 2007.

Stuart added: "When we'd recorded before, it had been one person recording and then another, so we just wanted to try to do it as a band this time around."

Dave said: "Later, on reflection and with time and budget constraints, we had to make a few compromises. Eric was brilliant. And everyone seems to love the album."

Now The Crossing – made album of the week on Celtic Music Radio and Isles FM – is available from the band's website.

And after Saturday's milestone gig, the band can be seen in some of its regular summer haunts.

Mike smiled: "It's still the highlight of our summer, doing the marquee dances. Applecross, Tain, Helmsdale for the games, Kyleakin.

"The West Coast is our heartland," said Mike. And with the band spending many of their summer weekends at dances and galas throughout the West, it's no surprise that Mike's response is instant when you ask him for the band's anti-midge strategy.

"Industrial quantities of Skin So Soft – and alcohol – in equal measure," he laughed.

"It's great having the mix of different event and gigs are the lifeblood of the band and when we have the time we can have our jaunts across the pond to Europe. With the CD, the idea partly is to open up one or two new doors too."

TV stardom was an unexpected benefit of playing Applecross last summer.

BBC Sunday night reality show Monty Halls' Great Escape was being filmed – and Monty ended up giving them a great quote in his book that they've used on the cover of their new album – "... surely the greatest band I had ever heard".

Mike said: "We didn't realise that we were being filmed till just before the event. I think we probably just featured for about 10 seconds on the finished episode, but it was a great experience."

And yet another new one bagged by the band.