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Battlefield Band
Happy Daze
Rounder (www.rounder.com) / Temple (www.templerecords.co.uk)

cd cover Happy Daze is the Battlefield Band's twenty-sixth full-length album, and it is a genuine pleasure to write that the title is quite apropos. Of course, no Battlefield Band recording would be complete without a line-up change, and Happy Daze is no exception. The inclusion of Karine Polwart, the first woman to perform since Sylvia Barnes in the 80s, serves the band well. Polwart's voice is a powerful instrument and her songwriting shows the careful attention to Scottish folklore that hallmarks Alan Reid's own compositions. The ominous opening track "The Devil's Courtship," find Polwart and Reid deftly trading lyrics, while piper Mike Katz cuts through with a feisty tune inspired by the Breton an dro. Multi-instrumentalist John McCusker gets a fine spotlight for his fiddle prowess on the slow air "Happy Days." As with any Battlefield Band disc, the tunes are a blend of tradition and innovation. "The Riccarton Tollman's Daughter" tells a tale of courting brought about by a game of curling, and "Shepherd Lad" turns on its head the old chestnut of a maid ravished by a passing lad: he's too modest to make advances, so she sends him packing.

Four bonus tracks promoting two older Battlefield Band discs, plus solo efforts from Reid and McCusker, conspire with the eleven new songs to make Happy Daze a solid investment. - R. Airiq Williams


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