The Battlefield Band has proven to be one of the longest running institutions of Scottish music. At their inception in 1969, they were one of the most adventurous young groups around, mixing traditional music with some rock and pop, and even in the time since, they've remained somewhat abreast o ...
The Battlefield Band has proven to be one of the longest running institutions of Scottish music. At their inception in 1969, they were one of the most adventurous young groups around, mixing traditional music with some rock and pop, and even in the time since, they've remained somewhat abreast of trends, although not as much as those who've followed in their footsteps and sometimes overtaken them. But that's fine, they have a comfortable niche and a dedicated following. During the '70s, Scots music was very much a live thing, restricted to the folk clubs, with not much thought of the recording studio. And the Battlefield Band, under the leadership of Brian McNeill, spent much of the decade finding their feet -- indeed, McNeill was growing by leaps and bounds as a songwriter, which found its first flower on "The Lads O' the Fair" on 1980's Home is Where the Van is, where subtle electric arrangements met a traditional sound. They followed that up with an even stronger disc, There's a Buzz, and then in 1984, Anthem for the Common Man, where some personnel changes brought in singer Alistair Russell and saw a more political tone creep into the lyrics -- a reaction to Margaret Thatcher.
More lineup changes followed, making it hard for the band to get a grasp on who they were and for the latter half of the '80s, they seemed to be adrift as is evident from the pleasant but unspectacular live disc Home Ground, released in 1989, and the problem became even more acute following the departure of McNeill in 1990 to an acclaimed solo career. However, his replacement, virtuoso fiddler and singer John McCusker brought a new energy to the band. Even so, it took several years for a new identity to assert itself, until 1997's superb Across the Borders, which found them once again at the height of their powers. There was still the basic Battlefield Band sound, but on albums like Rain, Hail or Shine they sounded confident and actually happy to be playing again. That has continued over several more albums into 2001's Happy Daze, where a slimmed-down lineup still satisfies, even if there aren't fireworks every time they pick up their instruments. 2002's Time and Tide brought back singer Pat Kilbride to the mix, after a 20-year abscence, who then stayed on for Out for the Night in 2004. ~ Chris Nickson
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