(Sheldrake / Jones)
02 Red Crayon (Tabbush and Weaver)
03 Kemble / Zender (Sheldrake)
04 Not A Reel Polka (Jones)
05 Jig of Slurs / Atholl Highlanders (G S MacLennon / Trad)
06 Aunty Forever (Sheldrake)
07 Yey (He's Here) / Mug of Brown Ale (Tabbush and Weaver / Trad)
08 Convenience Reel (Olcan Masterson)
09 Month of Mead / Money Tree (Tabbush / Cliff Stapleton)
10 Jack-in-the-Green (Jones)
11 The Empty Road / Chipperfield's Circus (Emma Peters / Jones)
12 Anna and Nick's Marriage Mazurka (Sheldrake)
13 Staten Island / Kitchen Girls (Traditional)
Now here's an interesting background for a band! CCB's accordion player Richard Jones was a founder member of the Climax (Chicago) Blues Band, thence bassist of Principal Edwards Magic Theatre, rejoining Climax Blues Band as keyboardist for their hit years; after a few years out of the business he discovered a love for folk music through Folk Camp in Devon, and decided to form a band to play dance music. This was Meridian, where he was joined by fiddler Anna Tabbush and piper/whistle & flute player Chris Walshaw; but he felt the need to expand the tonal palette into a fuller-blown primarily dance outfit that could actually play ceilidhs and festival stages, recruiting an additional fiddler Holly Sheldrake and guitarist Mark Weaver to provide the rhythmic undertow. Reborn as the Climax Ceilidh Band, here's their debut on record - and pretty good it is too. Richard's aim was for CCB to be a ceilidh group with a subtle twist, and in providing an album full of sparkling, well-organised and expertly played tune-sets, CCB falls between the various orthodoxies as far as accepted practice in ceilidh band approaches is concerned. There's plenty of lively vitality in the playing, a spring in the step which neither clodhops with the leaden feet of overwhelming tradition nor throws out the heritage completely with programmed fusion beats, preferring to keep the instrumentation firmly traditional and primarily acoustic. There's a nicely organic feel to the writing and the arrangements, whereby any influences from world musics (especially French and Breton) are gently integrated rather than thrust in the listener's face - which is quite refreshing in this impression-seeking day and age. Nothing feels needlessly rushed - not even the pell-mell blink-and-you'll-miss-it Staten Island/Kitchen Girls medley that closes the disc with such panache. And don't worry, there's precious little attempt to shoehorn blues or jazz into the proceedings (yet), and Richard and his merry band have no truck with unnecessary electronic gimmicks. Nine out of the thirteen tracks feature tunes composed by band members in various permutations, and several of these come with delightful, often surprising little quirks like unusual chords and innovative rhythms (Richard's step-hop hornpipe Jack-In-The-Green has both!) within the conventions of the dance structure. Although I did get the distinct feeling that the Chipperfield's Circus jig was all poised to morph into Nellie The Elephant! For the music succeeds in its intentions, being both highly danceable (yes, there's even a schottische you can polka to, apparently!) and highly listenable - not an easy trick to pull. Victor Sylvester, eat your feet off!
David Kidman April 2007
Dirty Linen (USA)
If you’re in the mood for tunes meant more for brisk foot-tapping than quiet contemplation, there's Come Dancing [Beautiful Jo Records BEJOCD-49 (2006)], the inaugural recording from England 's Climax Ceilidh Band. This is an acoustic quintet built on the drive of two fiddles and an accordion, supplemented by wind instruments, smallpipes, and guitar, playing a very enjoyable collection of original and traditional jigs, reels, polkas, and mazurkas in modern English country dance style. The jig "Red Crayon" finds twin fiddles skipping along with a pennywhistle and meeting up with an assertive accordion, and then everyone happily marches off together. "Not a Reel Polka" leads off with a satisfyingly reedy blend of pipes and accordion, and in the bouncing horn pipe "Jack-in-the-Green" you can almost hear the dancers clacking away in the background. (Tom Nelligan)
The five musicians here are all well-known faces around folk song and dances in the South of England and they have played in a wide variety of bands in recent years. Four really powerful players lead the melody playing usually with the powerhouse of Richard Jones’s accordion to the fore. The interplay between the fiddles of Anna Tabbush and Holly Sheldrake on the likes of “The Jig of Slurs” is exhilarating and Chris Walshaw is heard on bagpipes and a variety of whistles. Mark Weaver’s guitar completes the group. Many of their tunes are written by members of the band and the gentle and quite stately “Aunty Forever” by Holly contrasts with the straight ahead power of many of the tracks. Almost certainly this band will be coming to a festival near you this coming summer.(Vic Smith)
You've got to the love the fact Richard Jones, accordionist with Climax Ceilidh Band, came to this from a career with Climax Blues (and, before that, Principal Edwards Magic Theatre, for aficionados of the obscure). But what makes it even better is that this group is a crack outfit, with some ace tunes to keep the feet moving. The band consists of a pair of fiddles, guitar and Chris Walshaw, whose pipes, whistles and flute form the centerpiece of the sound. That said, everything is a band effort, with some clever, imaginative arrangements where every element links with the others to build a very joyful whole. A word, too, on the material, much of which comes from their own pens, and which actually throws up a couple of what could become twisted ceilidh classics in "Spike" and the gentle "Aunty Forever," a waltz that drifts lovingly across the scenery. There's a great variety of dances, jigs, hornpipes, polkas and even a short set of traditional American reels, " State Island/ Kitchen Girls." It's not merely that the playing is excellent (and the way Walshaw's pipes lead everything is a revelation), it's the thought that has gone into all this to make it light, but with enough rhythm to excite the dancers. Most definitely a top notch debut - they've definitely got it right. — CN
The Climax Ceilidh Band's first CD, shows just why this relatively new ceilidh band is making such headway in the folk scene. With their mixture of accordion, two fiddles, guitar, pipes, whistles and flute, they cover a range of traditional and well-known tunes that are great for dancing. Ultimately however, it is their original material and arrangements, which makes this CD so attractive.
Come Dancing is a varied album of traditional and self-written material, and covers a range of different dance tunes from jigs to mazurkas, and this variety shows what makes them such an attractive ceilidh band. The self-written material is especially good, as some of it has hints of other styles and unexpected rhythms, whilst keeping the beat needed for dancing. Track one, 'Spike', is a great example of this; it has brilliant driving rhythms which make you want to dance, and the tunes are catchy as well.
The mix of instruments of the Climax Ceilidh Band is another reason why this CD would always be worth a listen. The accordion and guitar are the main rhythmic elements of the band and the use of two fiddles adds to this; although sometimes both play the melody, at least one fiddle is sometimes used as a harmonic or rhythmic instrument and this increases the power of the band. The balance between the different instruments is very effective as the power of the accordion and fiddles is balanced out by flute, especially the harmonies, and the pipes. Several of the tracks are pipe tunes such as track four 'Not a Reel Polka', and these are some of the best on the CD.
Interspersed with the self-written material are several traditional tunes, some well known such as 'Mug of Brown Ale'. By incorporating these into the album, they balance out the CD, showing the band to have a varied repertoire, and the two American reels that the CD finishes with, shows the pace of the album as a whole. Overall, this CD nicely demonstrates why the Climax Ceilidh Band is fast becoming known on the ceilidh circuit. Florence Bearman
Meridian are Richard Jones, Anna Tabbush and Chris Walshaw. Add Holly Sheldrake and Mark Weaver and you get the Climax Ceilidh Band (not to be confused with the Climax Blues Band, still gigging). With both the trio and the quintet their own material predominates. This is very much in the slick, modern manner with not a ragged edge in sight. The tunes have a range of European influences (notably French pipe music and bal musette accordeon) and the occasional bluesy touch might be interjected but, unlike some, they don't lay either the eclecticism or the virtuosity on with a trowel. Meridian include three songs (two trad, one Shakespeare) attractively sung by Tabbush, but Climax stick to tunes. Both bands seem to fall somewhere between the various available extremes: they aren't exactly wild and abandoned, nor do they go for clinical, high-velocity virtuosity or down the cerebral/ meditative route. The Meridian album is available via www.meridianfolk.co.uk; the Climax one from www.bejo.co.uk Nick Beale
Another ceilidh band invites you onto the dancefloor. Fronted by some of the usual suspects, Holly Sheldrake and Anna Tabbush on fiddles, Chris Walshaw (does he ever sleep?) on bagpipes and woodwinds, there’s also a most unusual suspect…Richard Jones on accordion. Readers of a certain age might remember shaking their heads in a semi-rhythmic fashion to a certain Climax Chicago Blues Band. He played bass with them. There’s also some driving guitar from the intriguingly named Swerve.
So is this an invitation you’re likely to accept? I would if I were you. Come Dancing offers a mixture of traditional and self penned tunes, and each has that all important danceability factor. Any band featuring fiddles and pipes is going to invite comparisons to early Blowzabella, but such a comparison is only useful as a musical signpost. CCB are very much their own band. Each of them can write a good dance tune (which isn’t always the same as a good tune!) and the trad arr is sympathetically played. The opening track Spike sets a high standard which is maintained throughout. Red Crayon (2) and Jack-in –the-Green(10) are particularly fine and Not a Reel Polka (4) (it’s a schottische!) a delight. The closing Staten Island/Kitchen Girls proves them no mean hands at that stuff from over the water, albeit englished up a bit.
All in all, a good thing. And three cheers for a booklet with a typeface and background colour that’s easy to read without searching the house for a magnifying glass. Just one small complaint. Their website promised me an”orgasmic” experience. I must have the wrong sort of record player.
Remember Blowzabella? Remember the Climax Blues Band? Well, the disintegration of the former might have left a big void in the English music scene, had a string of new combos not stepped into the breach. Climax Ceilidh Band is the latest to don the mantle and, by gosh they wear it well.
And CBB's bass/keyboards player, Richard Jones, has swapped attitude and electrickery for a simple accordion, to be joined by Anna Tabbush (along with Jones a member of Meridian) and Holly Sheldrake on fiddles and Mark Weaver on guitar. But perhaps the weightiest contribution comes from the third member of Meridian, bagpiper Chris Walshaw, who also adds whistles and occasional flute to the heady mix.
They create wonderful music, which constantly changes, divides, reforms, recedes and resurges. Their emphasis is firmly on engaging, stimulating arrangement with an almost classical feel yet, as the title proposes, it's still feet shifting material all the way, and the album has been stuck on my CD deck for weeks.
A handful of original arrangements of traditional tunes nestle amongst a feast of perfectly memorable band compositions, quite a few of which I'm certain will start cropping up in sessions before the summer's out. Do look out for them.
Great instrumental CD from a very talented group of players who are, I am pleased to see, proud to call themselves a ceilidh. They breathe and bow great life into old favourites like 'Jig of Slurs' and the self penned offerings have an equally tempered and lilting sound. I liked the drive and pace of 'Spike', the moodiness of 'Aunty Forever' and the stagger of 'Anna and Nick's Marriage Mazurka". The band are Richard Jones (Accordion), Holly Sheldrake (Fiddle), Anna Tabbush (Fiddle), Chris Walshaw (Pipes, Whtles, Flute) and Mark Weaver (Guitar). The album ends with two 'supercharged' American reels, 'Staten Island' and 'Kitchen Girls'. This is the kind of music you already enjoy, well played and fresh to the ear. Look out for them. And buy the album.
Before you ask, not all the tunes end with a crescendo! Climax Ceilidh band have a very traditional line up of Accordion (Richard Jones), 2 Fiddle players (Anna Tabbush and Holly Sheldrake), guitar (Mark ‘Swerve’ Weaver) and pipes/flute/whistle (Chris Walshaw), but they have included many self penned tunes here, and very good they are too. They are all highly competent musicians, and the chemistry between the players in this band is something special. Somehow you can tell that the band are good friends by the balance of the music and the warmth and cheerfulness with which they play. The jokey, intimate sleeve notes are also a giveaway! "Anna and Nick's Marriage Mazurka" is one of my favourites, written by Holly Sheldrake for Anna Tabbush's wedding. Sometimes the best presents are homemade!
The various band members bring together a range of influences and experience, with Richard Jones ‘a renegade from rock music’, Anna Tabbush and Swerve coming from strong folk backgrounds , and Chris and Holly bringing in a sound knowledge of European folk traditions. The result is that the dances are impressively diverse and erudite - from Scottish jigs to American reels to polkas, mazurkas, a hornpipe and a schottische.
Traditionalists are sure to love this album, as there’s no drum, bass or vocals – but those of us who have admired Anna’s distinctive, clear voice from her solo work and with the trio Meridian may wish the CCB had stretched a point!
As has been mentioned by other reviewers, CDs by ceilidh bands are unusual things with an uncertain market. After all, the dancing is a big part of the enjoyment of any ceilidh band and, given the general antipathy of the ceilidh fraternity to dancing to anything other than live music, the CD is unlikely to be used for dancing and it therefore needs to hold its own as a listening experience.
The Climax Ceilidh Band are a very talented five piece outfit from the South East that comprises two fiddles, accordion, pipes and whistles, and guitar. They write tunes as well, because nine of the 13 tracks on this album are the compositions of members of the band, either singly or in various combinations.
The answer to the question posed above is that the album does work for the listener. Much thought has been put into the arrangements and the excellent recording quality brings out the texture of the various instrument combinations. The fiddle-led tracks are, for me, the outstanding ones, but that's purely my personal inclination. It's an enjoyable listen, but I would still prefer to dance to them.