Traditional Celtic Music
Tight Squeeze
Format: cassette

By John Goodin

"Traditional Celtic Music" is the subtitle of the cassette recently released by Louisville-based Tight Squeeze. While it is possible to come to some agreement about what "music" is, "traditional" and "Celtic" are more mysterious terms. "Traditional" as used here means mostly old tunes played in old dance forms by predominantly acoustic instruments: guitar, accordion, piano, flute, pennywhistle, piccolo, bodhran and fiddle. "Celtic" means coming from the Celtic lands: Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, Wales and wherever red hair grows.

Strangers to this music are in for a treat. Friends of the genre will not be disappointed. Henry Austin, Beverly Buchanan, Nancy Harris and Pete Komsiski (with help from Bruce Spencer) have assembled an expertly played collection of instrumentals sure to please. This is carefully arranged, professionally recorded music played with art and heart and confidence. From the opening jig "Ten Penny Bit" to the high energy finale "Rights of Man," Tight Squeeze performs as a band, not as a collection of talented soloists. Everyone gets to sound good and the listener benefits from the sound of a team at play.

Most of the thirteen cuts are medleys of two or three different tunes. The arrangements are inventive and often feature harmony parts and modern chordal underpinnings. On the faster numbers, the subtle influence of modern rhythms is apparent.

Tight Squeeze is foremost a dance band that knows how to swing. A good example is their arrangement of "Rights of Man." One of the loveliest of "traditional" melodies, it is first stated in a restrained, gentle way by solo flute, which is then joined by a unison fiddle for the "B" section. A quiet guitar enters as the tune repeats, with the fiddle switching to a low contrapuntal harmony. At the end of this repeat, the band is kicked into high gear by a rhythm section of guitar, accordion and bodhran playing a variation on the African groove commonly known as the Bo Diddley beat. Fiddle and flute trade prominence through the next few rounds until the intensity gives way to a quiet finish. All that's missing is a John Coltrane solo. This is clearly a successful attempt at a flashy closing number and the kind of thing that "traditional" bands in any style often do just to see if any of the purists will have a fit.

A final caveat: If you're an experienced follower of Celtic music, don't expect the next Bothy Band. This is good, solid work and deserves your support. If you're new to this kind of thing, and you've read this far, you'll probably be pleased with Tight Squeeze.

The cassette is available at Hawley-Cooke Booksellers, The Harp and Shamrock in St. Matthews, and Four Seasons Records.