[Release date 22.06.15] www.benreel.com
With each new release Northern Ireland songsmith Ben Reel steps inexorably closer to becoming the home soil torchbearer of American heartland rock. That is, the mantle occupied across the pond by the likes of The Boss and Tom Petty.
There have been pretenders to the crown – Tom Fuller being one of the more recent, but Reel is in a different league drawing on rock, soul, blues, alt folk/Americana and country influences, adding a sprinkling of Irish magic and drawing on the inspiration of Van Morrison.
From the opening bars of ‘Lucky Streak’ – a number that invites pushing the pedal to the metal, through 14 self-produced tracks, the pace and quality control never slackens and 7th is easily Reel’s most consistent offering to date.
Ably abetted by his band – Michael Black (drums), Ronnie O’Flynn (bass), Mick McCarney (piano and keyboards) and wife Julieanne (backing vocals and percussion) – and invited guests, 7th is a timeless ‘no frills’ set which echoes those who’ve trodden the road before including the likes of the Big O on ‘Say’, The Boss at his most reflective on ‘God’s World’, Don Maclean on ‘Coming Round Again’, and oh so many other classic rockers.
In this digital age it’s rare to hear rock as pure as this, and played with such passion – take a listen to ‘Resurrection Man’ – one of the two bonus tracks – probably the finest song Jagger & Richards never wrote. In days of yore there used to be something called ‘good time rock ‘n’ roll’. With 7th, Ben Reel’s just reinvented it. ****
Review by Pete Whalley
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