PressIrish Times - 7th 2015
Ben Reel: 7th | Album Review 4/5 stars
Calling your new album by its numerical sequence seems to signify either a pompous regard for its importance or, perhaps, a paucity of inspiration.
Or maybe for Ben Reel it represents relief that, all those years after his debut in 1999, he can still deliver a great tune.
Certainly the South Armagh man shows no sign of flagging on this self-produced 14-track set – and that goes for his impressive band as well.
He sits happily in that more rockist Americana space, similar to, say, Rodney Crowell. Reel’s 2013 Darkness and the Light album was strong, but this is better balanced and more consistent.
The songs are good (if lyrically a tad cliched), with blues and gospel mixed in with country, and there are none better than the rolling gait of Gimme Some Room, the Jimmy Rodgers- styled Reflection of the Blues or the bright-eyed glint of One of These Days.
Hot Press- 7th review 2015
FINE RETURN FROM NORTHERN IRELAND’S
PREMIER EXPONENT OF AMERICAN ROOTS
One of the most enduring performers on the home-grown landscape and a regular at the likes of the Kilkenny Roots Festival, Ben Reel is back with his seventh album. The gnomically titled 7th finds the Armagh man once again looking at Nashville, Memphis and beyond for inspiration.
An Americana freak, in the past he has also embraced an epic, Springsteen-esque template, but here he ups the “twang” quotient several notches. The opening track ‘Lucky Streak’ channels the spirit of Steve Earle in his late ‘80’s heyday, with Reel defiantly declaring “I went off the rails/but now I’m back on track.”
Over the course of 7th, Reel utilises a broad musical palette: there’s mid tempo rock – and barely restrained anger – on ‘Crushed It’; Roy Orbison-influenced rockabilly on ‘Say’; and swampy blues on ‘Back On The Road.
Elsewhere, ‘Meant To Be’ is Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes-style Jersey shore soul, while a poignant country ballad, ‘God’s World’, features Nashville legend David Olney, who also co-wrote the track.
If Reel wears his influences just a tad too visibly, he does it exceptionally well – ‘Gimme Some Room’ is a second cousin to the Georgia Satellites’ ‘Keep Your Hands to Yourself’, while he does a decent impression of Exile-era Stones on the soulful’ Given It All’.
Well worth checking out. Colm O’Hare
R2 - John Atkin -
" He's not afraid to throw in some in folk, soul, reggae vibes, which in turn call to mind John Hiatt at his best. " 4/5 stars
Irish Times - Joe Breen-
"His energy & desire to communicate, to sing, is infectious, and the Armagh man's band rises to the challange. This is a meaty, mature, well produced album concerned with serious topics."
Maverick Magazine -June 2013-
'A Stunning collection that confronts the everyday struggles of ordinary folk'.
Get Ready To Rock April 2013
Darkness & The light review
You never quite know what to expect from Ben Reel. Over his previous 5 studio albums he’s touched on rock, soul, blues, alt-folk, Americana and even indulged in a little reggae.
His new album, his first recorded and produced in his own home studio in Co. Armagh continues to keep fans on their toes – the opening title track is a monster with a wonderfully soulful funky indie groove.
But sadly the album doesn’t stick with that killer theme. ‘River Of Time’ sounds like Dire Straits meets Chris de Burgh (which is better than you might think), ‘Watershed’ brings the Big O to mind, while ‘Heart Just Won’t Fail’ is heavily reminiscent of the Mersey’s ‘Sorrow’ (covered by Bowie on ‘Pin Ups’).
‘Before Your Time’ echoes The Boss (with a hint of Dylan) in storytelling gospel mode, ‘Counting Down The Days’ continues in the same theme but takes a more Van The Man bluesy perspective and is another highlight, while ‘You’re Not Alone’ returns to the Big O theme.
‘Flickering Light’ has soulful groove with some lovely slide guitar work, ‘What Is Done’ is another bluesy number, while’ Could Have Done’ is The Eagles crossed with Springsteen tripping down the West Coast. The closer, ‘Our Father’s Sins’ is simply anthemic.
Recorded digitally, but with an analog warmth, ‘Darkness & Light’ might, on face value, seem a little derivative. But the truth is, it immediately has the comfort of an old jumper, and on each subsequent listen begins to sound more and more like the best knitwear in town. ****
Review by Pete Whalley
HOT PRESS April 2013
Darkness &the Light
A career highlight from the south armagh man,his best yet
colm O.Hare/ hot press
Roots Cafe Netherlands REVIEW 'TIME TO GET REAL' - 14th December 2009
Time To Get Real ".... Indeed, despite the hard work of five albums in a period of 10 years it seemed that singer / songwriter Ben Reel spot kick was particularly unfortunate because not only ..." Just Times Slips Away "but the Irish singer / songwriter is clearly more international attention. The final breakthrough seems the album" Time To Get Real "to finally come because of" Feel Alive "to Rod Stewart - in Younger - days (with John Mc Cullagh on piano / organ), to the "You Is not Going Nowhere / Down in the easy chair" linking opening track "Rainy Night in Ireland" and "Summers Always Here", with one of Jimmy Dale Gilmore / Flatlanders nasal-like voice and gospel - esque "Keep on Drivin '" the man from Castleblayney, Monaghan clearly not only our musical heart stolen. "Raise Your Glass" for Ben Reel and his idealist vision of a better world (What's wrong with peace and love and end all war?) for each of us, "Old & Wise", to put your faith in peace and love - from "Who Are You" even more of that wisdom has.
I can see the clouds are clearing, I can see the clear blue skies, I can feel my fear is fading, Blowin away your seeds of doubt, just cast them out ... from the title track "Time To Get Real" and the closing track "Old Bog Road" I do strongly think that living legend Steve Young and Ben Reel immediately implies that for a while doing good is cruel! (SWA)
REAL ROOTS CAFÉ Netherlands
Maverick Country magazine
BEN REEL/ TIME TO GET REAL /Maverick Country magazine UK
B. Reel Records-BRBCDA007
* * * ½
Ireland has a habit of producing good singer/songwriters and this guy is another fine example.
Ben Reel is from Silverbridge in County Armagh and started his first band back in 1989 as a teenager. That group was called Trim The Velvet and they broke up in 1997 whereupon Ben took a short break from music before returning fully charged with his debut album THIS IS THE MOVIE in 1999.
TIME TO GET REAL marks his fifth album to date and is a very good Americana CD. Tracks like the motivationally energetic Keep On Drivin’ with Ben’s expressive voice supported superbly with backing vocals from his wife Julieanne Reel and Kelle Redmond highlight the power of the music.
Old & Wise again proves his worth as a songwriter with its wonderful lyrics and punchy rhythm. He also rocks it up a little bit on the forceful Feel Alive.
Good album from this fine singer/songwriter. DK
Hi Fi + Magazine (Drew Hobbs)
Ben Reel ~ ‘Time To Get Real Hi Fi + Magazine (Drew Hobbs)
B.Reel Records / BRBCDA007
There are times in a music junkie’s life when one stumbles upon something so magical that it creates an insatiable hunger for more. An outpouring of superlatives follow, with a need to tell as many people as possible about this wonderful new singer or band you found when you weren’t even looking. The net’s scanned to see if there’s an album you missed or if said performer’s playing in a town near you. It’s in the car stereo permanently, it’s the last thing you play under the phones at night and it makes you late for work in the morning. Ben Reel’s music has done all that to me. Ben’s previous album, ‘New Horizon’ became one of my favourites of 2007 and this is having the same effect. The man’s a genius, a flat-out musical superhero. He comes from Ireland. He reminds me a little of Tom Petty, circa ‘Southern Accents’. Country and folk permeate the songs along with lashings of je ne sais quoi the Irish are famous for. He writes thought-provoking lyrics, employs his wife on backing vocals, hangs around with some pretty ****-hot musicians, sings like a dream and on the strength of the hidden track is an absolute must see live. His name is Ben Reel, and if you haven’t got any of his music yet then shame on you.
Music 9 / Recording 8
IRISH TIMES (JOE BREEN)
IRISH TIMES (JOE BREEN)
Time To Get Real
B.Reel Records ***
The opening track in Ben Reel’s 20th anniversary album is a cracker. Rainy Nights nails down the pang of loneliness that emigrants feel when they are far from home and someone says something that just triggers regret. The easy, soulful melody and performance underlines the impact, with Reel’s singing striking just the right note. It is the high point of the album. Though Feel Alive , the title track and the gospel of Old Bog Road come close. The Armagh singer-songwriter comes across as a honest man determined to use his love of music to best effect, and his lucky in having a band, particularly guitarist Mick McCarney, full of expression and no little skill. www.benreel.com Download tracks: Rainy Nights, Time to Get Real
GETREADYTOROCK.COM REVIEW 'TIME TO GET REAL' - 15th December 2009
Elly Roberts reviews
The Ben Reel Band: Time To Get Real
Another little gem from the Emerald Isle. Rating: 8/10
Irishman Ben Reel has consistently released solid albums over the past 10 years. My last CD encounter was 2007’s fabulous New Horizon.
Now on his fifth album, Time To Get Real, keeps that tradition well and truly alive with a dazzling collection of Americana crossover songs that ought to have ears pricking at all the ‘real music’ stations. Reel has a penchant for ignoring fads and trends keeping the focus on real music which is why he’s become a cult artist in his native Ireland, though sadly he hasn’t been picked up as genuine singer-songwriter in the UK. Everybody in the business knows he’s hot stuff having supported Jools Holland, Alabama 3, The Cranberries and stage star Michael Ball no less. The good news is he doing rather well in Holland, Belgium and Germany.
As an introduction to the album he’s released Feel Alive as a single. The down and dirty groove has some sublime guitar licks carried by a great melody and his rough edged vocals.
This box of delights opens with a gentle country shuffle in the form of Rainy Night as the band moves with confidence and swagger, again with Reel dropping in some superb guitar breaks and a fine line in vocal gymnastics including falsetto along with a Neil Young-like harmonica swish. The introduction of songbird Julieanne Reel on the deliciously tender love ballad Summers Always Here only adds to the romantic mood. With a troubled heart he gushes with lyrics like – “You’re like the warm summer sun that’s rising / Feel your warm love in my heart / Melting away the cold ice of winter / The storms have passed / There’s a new life on the way.”
Embracing an eclectic mindset, Keep On Drivin’ takes on a C.C.Rider rockabilly hue drenched in honeyed vocals, stylish pedal steel, thumping basslines and wah wah, whereas Time Slips Away is deeply reflective, yearning for his childhood days and the onset of wisdom now he’s turned 35. A heavy funky bass, rolling organ, and acoustic chords make Who You Are the albums catchiest song, with the main hook coming in the chorus.
For Old And Wise Reel delves deep into a more traditional Irish template which brings forward his wishes not to die a typical rock’n’roll death – “Don’t wanna overdose like a rockin-roll star /Or choke on my vomit after whiskey in the jar.” By far the best song on the album, closes it – the stripped back dusty-bowl ballad Old Bog Road. Reverbed harmonica leads to gentle acoustic picks, chords slabs and wailing solos, on what is essentially a mournful ballad.
The verdict – Quality album.
HOT PRESS/ JACKIE HAYDEN April 2010
THE REEL DEAL cd review from Jackie Hayden "Hotpress"
vol:34, issue 07 April 21st 2010
On this album "Time To Get Real", Monaghan,s Ben Reel explores the rockier side of folk-country while alsoadding his own personal bluesy twists. The loping "Rainy Night" has a Neil Young feel, forlorn lyrics and some cracking falsetto vocals. There,s a boot tapping Springsteen grittiness to "Feel Alive", while Julieanne Reel becomes his Emmylou for the delightfully upbeat "Summers Always here". A rural Band-like swell underpins Reel,s songs with terrific results. Overall, there,s no fat on the bone.
PICK OF THE FORTNIGHT: BEN REEL