The Unfenced Land
Junior Hot CellEO-02
Earth Orbit Music
A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
Junior Hot Cell is indeed hot. Their 1996 debut recording, SUNDANCE, introduced us to their all instrumental, original blend of acoustic and world music - something they call "acoustic world fusion." But their second recording, THE UNFENCED LAND, fulfills the promise shown in their earlier work, and moves them to a place reserved for only the finest talents in both acoustic and world music. It is hard to believe that three of the four members of the band are full-time academicians. Clark Kent by day; supermen musicians by night. These guys blow me away!
So, let's introduce the multi-talented members of the band. Writing credits are shared by both George Rhee and Keith Roberson. George Rhee plays lead guitar as well as cittern. He is also an astronomy professor. Keith Roberson plays guitar, bouzouki, mandolin and all of the drums and percussion. He is also a geologist. Tom Flagg plays both electric and acoustic bass, accordian and flute. He is also a college administrator. And lastly, Myron Stewart plays violin and an occasional guitar, and is a full-time musician.
What these guys do is blend traditional Irish music with the sounds of Africa and the Caribbean. They take the rich, warm tones of the acoustic guitar and mix in African drums or a reggae beat. These musicians can play it all, and combine the sounds into their own unique blend of music that moves one to dance, to feel and to simply listen and take it all in.
The recording opens with one of its best cuts, "Il N'y a Pas de Quoi." With a great African beat that is fun to listen to, this tune gets you moving. Violin, cello, African drums and acoustic guitars are all thrown into the mix with tremendous effect - what a treat! It's another one of those acoustic melodies fueled by an African rhythm. You can also hear a bit of the influence of the Caribbean in the percussion.
Other notable tunes include "Dancer's Return to Boston," with a stellar guitar solo by George Rhee, and "Frazzled," with Myron Stewart's gypsy violins and guest artist Steve Smith's wonderful work on mandolin. Do you want to dance? This one is upbeat and lively.
The back to back tunes of "War Hent Kerrigouarc'h/Huron Fire Dance" deserve special mention. Firstly, these are both outstanding contemporary celtic tunes. The first is by Soig Siberil of the band Kornog from Brittany, and the second comes to us from Loreena McKennitt. Keith Roberson does an exceptional job on the war drums and bodhran on this piece. This is celtic music at its best performed by skilled musicians who know and love this music.
"The Unfenced Land" provides a fitting end to a beautiful recording. Majestic cellos and poignant playing on violin give this piece great emotional weight and depth. Keith Roberson's guitar drives the melody. You can almost feel yourself transported to the great open spaces of the far west that this gorgeous tune describes.
THE UNFENCED LAND is simply a triumph for Junior Hot Cell. It does something quite remarkable that very few recordings manage to achieve. It introduces celtic music, African and Caribbean rhythms and acoustic melodies in a single package to an audience that may not be familiar with any of these genres, and makes them fans. It's great, great music that transcends any of these categories. Long live Junior Hot Cell! And perhaps one day these guys can give up their day jobs!
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Edited by David N. Pyles (email@example.com)