Tempest - The Gravel Walk

Year of Release: 1997
Label: Magna Carta
Catalog Number: MA-9018-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 49:29:00

The interest in Celtic music and Celtic styled music is on the upswing, in case you haven't noticed. Certainly this trend was started by the overwhelming popularity of Riverdance. But the Celtic influence has always been with us and has seeped into many other categories of music. I've not done a deep analysis, but I would imagine Bluegrass has its roots in Celtic music, brought over by Scottish and Irish settlers. It has found its way into Country, too - via Bluegrass, no doubt (is there even a difference? Is it just regional?).

And, of course, it has found its way into Progressive - not just Tempest, whose latest release, The Gravel Walk, is another excellent example of a rock and Celtic meld. Earlier there was Gryphon, for example. And Jethro Tull. And now, if you look in any music store, especially in the New Age section, and almost every other album is Celtic something. Some are cashing in on a trend to be sure, but not all.

There is something endlessly enjoyable about Tempest and their music. As on earlier albums the tracks here are either arrangements of traditional compositions or have traditional reels, marches, and such appended to the end of original compositions. The fiddle seems more prominent here than on 1996's Turn of The Wheel, especially on (not surprisingly) the opening track "One For The Fiddler." Mullen's playing here is so vivid, that you can almost see the bow dancing across the strings.

"Buffalo Jump" gives a Celtic tone to a American Southwestern rhythm (though the region evoked is the mid-west). This song jumps along from note to note, reinforcing the imagery in the chorus by separating the lines of the chorus with a pause (e.g. "Buffalo jump - feel the thunder"). And for those who might think the "Buffalo Jump" is some sort of dance or jig - think more literally - though the tune is danceable.

Although the mood here is much lighter than on Wheel, where more of the music is spritely, open and airy, "Sinclair" which begins with a slow march, details the fate of an army of Scottish mercenaries (led by the titular Sinclair) who were journeying to Norway to help the Swedes wage war against both Norway and Denmark in 1612.

The Scottish poet Robert Burns (1759-1796) has his version of the poem "Green Grow The Rashes" melded with an unnamed traditional tune. Because, in various versions, this has been identified as a bawdy song (not quite so here, though), I'm sure that there is a subtle play on words with the title. Rashes, by the way, are rushes, a grass-like plant - but that is where the play on words comes in.

What impresses me the most is the level of playing here, which is consistently great. With the complexity of some of the arrangements, one needs to be dexterous and skilled. To be otherwise would disastrous. Here again Sorbye's voice is rich and expressive, and rereading the review I gave Wheel, just about everything said there applies here.

The closing track, "The Karfluki Set," is an instrumental workout sure to get you dancing. And even if you don't dance, would air violin work?

Needless to say, Tempest have put together another great album, playing tradition against modernism and bringing in various influences into a seamless whole. This comes highly recommended.

One For The Fiddler (3:30) / Buffalo Jump (5:49) / Bonnie Lass Of Anglesey (4:46) / Green Grow The Rashes (4:39) / Flowers Of Red Hill (4:07) / Sinclair (6:11) / Plains Of Kildare (4:14) / Trip Across The Mountain (4:42) / Broken Ring (4:49) / The Karfuki Set (8:02)

Lief Sorbye - lead vocals, mandolins, octave-mandolas, flute, and pennywhistles
Michael Mullin - acoustic fiddle, five string electric violin, and harmony vocals
Rob Wullenjohn - guitars, harmony vocals
Adolfo Lazo - drums
Jay Nania - basses
Robert Berry - keyboards

Springdans (1987) (Lief Sorbye)
Bootleg (1991)
Serrated Edge (1992)
Sunken Treasures (1993)
Surfing to Mecca (1994)
Across The Borders (1994) (Sorbye)
Turn of the Wheel (1996)
To Cry You A Song - A Tribute To Jethro Tull (1996) (contrib. one track)
The Gravel Walk (1997)
Caliban (1998) (Sorbye & Michael Mullins)
10th Anniversary (1998)
1999 Live at the Philadelphia Folk Festival (1999) (only available through Tempest)
Balance (2001)
Shapeshifter (2003)
15th Anniversary Collection (2004)
The Double Cross (2006)
Lief's Birthday Bash (2007)
Prime Cuts (2008
Another Dawn (2010)

Live At Karfluki Fest 2006 (DVD) (2006)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: August 11th 1998
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website: www.tempest-music.com
Hits: 1626
Language: english


[ Back to Reviews Index | Post Comment ]