THE BATTLEFIELD BAND has taken traditional folk music, mostly from the group's native Scotland and neighboring Ireland, subtly suffused it with a contemporary edge (synthesizers, drum machines, some original songs) and emerged with a winning sound that, being both now and then, is somehow timeless.
"Anthem for the Common Man," the band's ninth album, is another graceful outing that kicks off with "Four Minute Warning," a sprightly medley of three reels and two jigs. Battlefield's use of hornpipes over a synthesizer cushion is indicative of its forwarding of tradition, as is "Saudiehall Street Salsa," an intriguing medley of Scottish reels with a quirky Latin edge. "Anthem," based on a traditional Scots lament, emerges as an uplifting mix of the Chieftains and Vangelis.
There are several lovely ballads by fiddler Brian McNeil here, including "The Snows of France and Holland," a snapshot of separation; and "The Yew Tree," a grainy slice of Scottish history.
But the album's finest moments come on a trio of songs that look at the price of progress, the cost of change. First, there's Richard Thompson's "The Old Changing Way." Then Kieran Halpin's "Port of Call" and "Miner's Wives/I Am the Common Man," musical settings for two poems by proletarian Scots poet Joe Corrie, use Battlefield's exquisite instrumental interplay and rich vocal harmonies to full effect.
THE BATTLEFIELD BAND -- "Anthem for the Common Man" (Temple 015); appearing Saturday at Friendship Station.