CD review by Roger-Z (05/18/06)
Appeared in More Sugar, June 2006, P. 23B
This band rocks. And reels. And jigs! I never knew the power of Celtic rock. Or how it managed
to embed itself in the pub circuit of America. The recipe appears simple. Replace lead guitar
with bagpipes, whistle, trumpet, spoons, and fiddle. Throw in a dash of Irish melodies. Mix with
traditional Irish themes, and stir over a hot fire of rock and celtic beats. Oh, and play the heck out of the
Greenwich Meantime sound tight for a very good reason. They spent years on the road as the backup band for
"The Glengarry Bhoys." Dissatisfied
with the musicial direction and fueled by burning ambition, they split and added a new
lead vocalist. The group now consists of Nicholas Matthew (lead vocals, guitar, banjo), Shelley Downing
(vocals, fiddle), Nigel Gibson Bazinet (bass, vocals), James S. Libbey (bagpipes, piano, whistel, trumpet,
spoons, vocals), and Stephane McAlear (drums, percussion, piano, vocals). Hailing from Eastern Ontario,
Canada, they spend most of their time on the road in the U.S. and Canada.
I stumbled on the group one February weekend playing at The Vintage Bar
in downtown White Plains, N.Y. Unphased by the small turnout, the group floored me with their high energy mixture of
covers and originals -- although I only later found out which were which! Every song displayed a distinct beat
and unique instrumental textures. Despite featuring a lead singer, other members received
their solo turn in the spotlight. My eyes focused on James S. Libbey manning his
battery of instruments as well as Shelley Downing rocking back and forth playing the fiddle with a big smile.
After their first set, I introduced myself to the band. No rock star attitudes here. Although it did take
a little time to convince them that I actually review bands! Just humble, homesick, musicians on an endless van tour
hoping to break onto the next level.
The CD abounds with excellent tunes -- some traditional, some not. "A Girl" positively throbs over a pumping,
eighth-note beat and a supremely catching chorus of "Nothing can change the way I feel." This song screams hit
single. The instrumental "Frenchies," an amalgam of two traditional reels, builds and builds on Shelley Downing's
fiddle until it takes off for the stratosphere. The haunting "Process" depicts a
bitter story of betrayal, sounding like Genesis in the process. "Leaving Toronto," with Ms. Downing on lead vocals,
somehow combines a rock beat with a jig and just all around kicks butt with its singalong chorus.
Momemtum continues to grow for Greenwich Meantime as they roll across North America. Featuring
captivating and diverse tunes, beats, vocalists, and instruments, they mange to cover all bases.
But in the end, this band simply rocks (and reels, and jigs!)