From present Éire to reminiscences of the past, self-reinventing minstrel is tripping down memory lane. Introspection has always played a major part in Ben Reel’s oeuvre, even though a lot of his songs seem to be in minor, yet if the Irish musician’s 2018 effort "Land Of Escape" was a wonderful instant of his craft, with subsequent concert documents and a set preserved for posterity in Nashville, this offering finds him turn the regular formula on its head to go down the rabbit hole of taking stock. Devised during the pandemic period, the pieces that form “Come A Long Way” reflect Ben’s desire to glance over his shoulder and painstakingly plan further steps – which is why, perhaps, such soul-searching resulted in Reel’s attempt to provide his voice with different personas and, thus, highlight the essence of what he’s done until now. The key to this album is not the minor one, however. For those who missed the clues scattered around the first ten cuts, its gloomy finale “I Shall Be Redeemed” – which channels both Dylan and Cash and wraps it up in a spiritually majestic way – will have the answers to all the questions the listener may ask from upbeat pop-folk opener “Don’t Fight It Baby” – immaculately sculpted, delivered in an irresistibly alluring, intimate voice, and given a delicate guitar twang and synthesizer’s shimmer – onwards. Going through predatory promises of the riff-driven, insistently scintillating “Hunter” and the pensive “Hardwired Blues” in which harmonica-spiced countrified licks lay the blame for enforced procrastination on complacency, Ben doesn’t stop at his inner-world affairs, letting the finely orchestrated epic “From The Day I Was Born” flow like a proper protest song and listing names of politicians and name of places where war raged at various points of Reel’s life. Still, the platter’s piano-laden title track locates pride and glory in the many miles the artist’s left behind, and the funky “Let The Road Rise” gets a gospel choir, made up of vocals by Ben and his wife Julieanne, vie for space with another family member, Gerry Black Jr’s taut six strings, before the pedal-steel-caressed “Loretto On My Mind” evokes Orbison-patented balladry and reveals new colors to Reel’s velveteen pipes, while the acoustically laced “I Get It” transmogrifies external virus into lovesickness to bring hope to the surface. Yet the stately “Old Whore” unseals unexpected sentiments Messrs. Zimmerman and Brel could kill for, and the Jagger-teasing “The Finish Line” throws together the many characters Ben Reel reeled in over the years in a bluesy groove. Yes, he’s come a long way, and it felt good to be following him, so feeling tired and leaving him is not an option now. (****1/4)” - Dmitry M. Epstein

DME Let it Rock, Canada - Come a Long Way review 2023

'Come a Long Way' reviews (2023)

‘Come A Long Way’ is the 11th album from Ben Reel, with many of his previous releases given favourable reviews by GRTR! reviewer Pete Whalley (who has now, sadly, hung up his keyboard). This album features 11 brand new self penned songs all recorded & produced by Ben himself in his home studio in South Armagh, Ireland. Lyrically he tells the story of his journey thus far, with most of these song written during the pandemic. ‘From The Day I Was Born’ is a fascinating look at history, specifically wars, from the year he was born in 1971 through to now. It is amazing and frightening in equal measure, how much conflict there has been in such a comparatively short span of time. ‘Loretto On My Mind’ is a lovely bit of country, whilst the up-tempo ‘Hardwired Blues’ was an obvious single choice with its radio friendly sound. ‘Hunter’ has a Roy Orbison feel about it, both in the vocals and the music. Wonderful listening and the album highlight for this reviewer. Bit of gospel on ‘Let The Road Rise’, dirty under the nails blues on ‘The Finish Line’ and a from the heart piece ‘I Shall Be Redeemed’ finishes the album in style. Ben Reel covers many musical bases, each with deft skill & dexterity. This reviewer has a lot of catching up to do on the back catalogue of Ben Reel and would humbly suggest, dear reader, that you do to. Lovingly crafted music that would easily find a place in the music library of Bruce Springsteen, Steve Earle and Johnny Cash fans to name but three. Impressive. ****” - Jason Ritchie

Get Ready To Rock (UK) - 'Come a Long Way' review July 2023

Irish singer/ songwriter Ben Reel definitely keeps at least a foothold in the blues on this, his eleventh album. There is an element of Bruce Springsteen about his vocals on the opening track, Don’t Fight It Baby’ and something of Bob Dylan to Hardwired Blues (it’s not just the harmonica work), the Blood On The Tracks sound of I Get It, and the powerful, moving, quasi-autobiographical – sadly, it is mostly by way of listing all the conflicts – From The Day I Was Born. But then there is a strong Americana feel to the title track, and even more so to Loretto On My Mind, with its pedal steel playing and a vocal which immediately made me think of Roy Orbison. The closing I Shall Be Redeemed is a strong country - gospel piece that makes for a strong finale. I’ll just note here the excellent and sometimes under-stated band accompaniment throughout, and that many of these songs are reflective – after all much of the material was written during the pandemic. Ben obviously used his time wisely. Let The Road Rise is the traditional Irish blessing here, somewhat surprisingly maybe, framed in a very effective gospel/ blues-rock arrangement, with harp and psychedelic blues guitar in the backing, whilst the excellent The Finish Line isn’t a million miles away from Sam Cooke’s R’n’B classic Bring It On Home To Me. Yes, if your tastes are broader than just a straight twelve bar blues, this thoughtful and thought-provoking release will certainly repay your attention.” - Norman Darwen

— Blues Matters (UK) - Come a Long Way - review August 2023

When Roy Orbison was inducted into the 'Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Fame' in April 1987, barely a year and a half before his sudden death, Bruce Springsteen delivered the so-called 'induction speech'. The Boss ended his eulogy with the line "I wanted to make a record with words like Bob Dylan, that sounded like Phil Spector's productions, but most of all I wanted to sing like Roy Orbison. Now, everybody knows that nobody sings like Roy Orbison.” Well Bruce, we think we're going to have to argue with you on this one because with American crooner Chris Isaak and Irish singer-songwriter Ben Reel from Silverbridge, South Armagh we have two artists who really appreciate the unique vocal abilities of 'The Big O'. to approach well. We have just received from Ben Reel his eleventh studio album “Come A Long Way” for writing a review and on that record there are several songs that evoke happy memories of what we believe is the most beautiful voice of all time. Ben Reel's previous two albums were live records with 2021's "Live @JJ Smyths Dublin" and 2022's double album "Locked In & Live", a mix of live sung songs and studio recordings created during the corona pandemic come. His last studio album came in 2019 with the fantastically beautiful album “The Nashville Calling” that was recorded in Tennessee. When he started his musical career in 1999 with the debut album “This Is The Movie”, Ben Reel could only have hoped that 25 years later he could still perform his songs on stages all over the world. We think that he manages to surpass himself with every new record because the eleven-track “Come A Long Way” album could well be the best of his career. The first two songs from this CD that have been released as a single are "Don't Fight It Baby" and "Hunter" which you can both listen to on the first two videos. If the ghost of Roy Orbison doesn't resonate with you on these two songs, then we don't know what will. For a third single we recommend the album title song “Come A Long Way” (see 3rd video) in which he looks back nostalgically on his long musical career, but the Dylanesque folk song “Hardwired Blues” is also a strong candidate for this. In the song "From The Day I Was Born" Ben Reel looks back on all kinds of important events and conflicts in the world after his birth on November 25, about 50 years ago. The second part of “Come A Long Way” begins with the gospel blues song “Let The Road Rise”, followed by the emotional “Loretto On My Mind”, which again resembles the work of Roy Orbison, which he wrote when he was unable to travel due to a tour in Germany. could attend the funeral of his brother's mother-in-law. In “I Get It” Ben Reel sings about the lockdown period in which he hoped to be able to perform in complete freedom again. The song “Old Whore” tells about how a 64-year-old prostitute in Amsterdam looks back on her turbulent life and in the subsequent bluesy song “The Finish Line” another fictional person at the end of his life asks for forgiveness for all committed sins. The closing song “I Shall Be Redeemed” is a song about looking back at life with a search for comfort, peace and tranquility. The album was produced and recorded by Ben Reel himself with the instrumental assistance of bassist Ronnie O'Flynn, drummer Michael Black, guitarist Gerry Black Jnr and backing vocalist Julieanne Black Reel, Ben Reel's partner on five songs. There were also guest contributions from John McCullough on piano and Hammond organ on four tracks, Jaap Somsen on accordion on the song “Old Whore” and Percy Robinson on pedal steel on the song “Loretto On My Mind”. As with all previous albums, this is another top disc from this Irish troubadour, which you can come and listen to and admire live on Wednesday, November 8, 2023 in a 'Living Room Concert' by 'Bed 'n Blues' in Halen. Really… and absolutely not to be missed!!!” - Freddie Celis

Rootstime (Belgium) - 'Come a Long Way' review July 2023

South Armagh singer reels in the years". - South Armagh native Ben Reel is back with his 11th studio album, Come a Long Way. Reel’s vocals on the opening ‘Don’t Fight It’ recalls Johnny Cash in his final years. Current single ‘Hardwired Blues’ has a story-telling, Steve Earle-ish flow to it, as Reel sings , “I’m still stuck in the groove”. ‘From The Day I Was Born’, feels like a genteel version of Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ as Reel name checks Vietnam, Bloody Sunday, The Berlin Wall coming down and the Iraq War through the lens of his own life. The overriding style is definitively Gospel-inspired with the likes of ‘Let the Road Rise’ and ‘The Finish Line’. There’s also some great musicianship in evidence, including backing vocals from Ben Reel’s partner Julieanne Black Reel. The overly straightforward Country nature of the songs is counterbalanced by Reel’s honest lyrics. Case in point: ‘Loretto on My Mind’ – a song he recorded and sent on his phone to his loved ones – was written about the death of a family member and a funeral he couldn’t attend due to his touring commitments. Admirably, Ben’s self-penned songs are sung very much with his heart on his sleeve. There’s a lot of personal reflection here. ” - Lee Campbell

Hot Press (Ireland) - June 2023 - Come a Long Way review 7/10

I've been looking forward to the new album by Irish singer-songwriter Ben Reel for a long time. This is mainly because his previous albums were all of a very high quality. Filled with a mix of folk, rock and the occasional blues. And once again Ben Reel does not disappoint! On the contrary! His new album is one of the better albums of recent times! The album was recorded at his home studio in South Armagh and Ben was aided by Michael Black (drums), Ronnie O'Flynn (bass, drums), Gerry Black Jnr. (guitar, slide guitar), John McCullough (piano, Hammond organ), Jaap Somsen (accordion), Percy Robinson (pedal steel) and Julieanne Black (backing vocals). The album immediately starts impressively with Don't Fight It Baby. A dreamy, intimate swaying song with great lived vocals by Ben Reel, creating an almost Roy Orbison-like beauty. In Hunter, a brooding driving number, those Orbison influences resurface. The sparkling Hardwired Blues moves towards the sound of the Travling Wilburys. Pounding drums set off the impressive historiography From The Day I Was Born. In a Willie Nelson-esque way, Ben tells that since he was born there has always been war. There is also rocking on this album, in the unpolished Let The Road Rise, which is reminiscent of Neil Young due to its raw sound. Old Whore is the very intimate swaying story of an old prostitute. The lazily driving Finish Line has a bluesy sound and Ben closes his new album impressively with the penetrating I Shall Be Redeemed. Ben Reel has done it again! Another very impressive singer-songwriter album!” - Peter Marinus

Bluestown Music (Netherlands) 'Come a long Way' review 2023

Based in South Armagh, written during the pandemic, Reel's 11th album is very much about taking stock of his journey so far, drawing on blues, gospel, country and folk for songs of reflection and redemption as he looks to the road ahead. Backed throughout by a rhythm section of drummer Michael Black and bassist Ronnie O'Flynn, it opens with the Springsteen-tinged 'Don't Fight It Baby', an end of days reflection ("If there was one more song that I had to write/If there was one more fight that I had to fight/One more dream that I could dream/If there was one more kiss that I could steal") and a carpe diem message that, boosted by the 80's synth vibe of the Prophet 5, captures the lockdown frustration of a performing musician ("get out there and play like it was your last show/As if your days are numbered cause you never know/The final hour cometh the man/So go out there and give it all you can"). Again with a Springsteen/Petty rock framework but a more deliberate marching rhythm and chiming guitars melody, 'Hunter' could be seen as an ostensible love song ("When the time is right …I'll make my move on you") though in fact the prey is an artist's quest for success "I'm coming for you/I've waited for this moment all my life/For I am the hunter in the night". Introduced with harmonica and sporting Telecaster and early Dylan colours, the steady walking rhythm 'Hardwired Blues' addresses complacency and feeling stuck in a rut ("I'm just like a rat on a tread mill/Chasing after my own tail") but also a toxic relationship ("it ain't right for u to judge me at all/No it ain't right for you to let me to always take the fall/You say it's my fault every time we hit the wall …Heads u win, tails I lose/I fall off the wagon, cut and bruised") Opening with military snare before adopting a piano-backed slow marching beat, inspired by Sinatra's 'It Was a Very Good Year', 'From The Day I Was Born' is a world weary seven-minute look back on a life backdropped by conflict, from Vietnam ("Nixon and Kissinger, still bombing the shit out of them") through the Cold War, the Troubles and Bloody Sunday ("I was 11 when it came to our door/Balaclava boys , evil eyes and guns"), two Gulf Wars ("Texas cowboy/Looking for WMDs /Never found them/War that was built on a lie, thousands of innocent people died/Blood on your hands, Bush, Cheney & Blair"), and 9/11, and while there may have been moments of light (World Cup 82, Gorbachev, the end of the Berlin Wall, The Good Friday Agreement), "Here we are again/The year 2020 and we're locked in/I'm 48 and counting/And I'm nearly a half a centurion/From the day I was born there was war". Returning to roots rock, it's pertinently followed by the title track, another number about looking back on the journey taken ("So many winding roads, I've roamed through many lands/Got shipwrecked on your shore/You took me by the hand/I've come along way/From those dark days of yesterday"), with memories of childhood ("Kicking football in the fields we'd play/Soldiers up on top the hill") in Drumill in South Armagh and a determination to keep moving forward, to "finally see peace in our time/Leave all those troubles behind" and contemplating what lies ahead ("I've gone too far now to turn around/Still got a long way to go now/A long way to go/ And I dunno where I'm goin'"). Again its fittingly followed by the benediction of the crunchy, bluesier, organ-backed 'Let the Road Rise' and its Irish blessing "May the road rise up to meet you", before switching style with the piano and pedal steel of the countrified 'Loretto On My Mind', a memory of a his brother's late mother-in-law ("She was a Belfast girl/The finest you'd ever see/She had a great big smile, time for everyone she'd meet/When the trouble times came she give only love and peace/One more in heaven tonight …And I will try to follow you/I'll be searching for your light/Driving through the night with Loretto on my mind"). There's another shift for the slow shuffle and gospel hints of the whisperingly sung 'I Get It', one of the more obvious pandemic numbers ("The bustling streets, where did all the people go/The silence is deafening, and the lights are low/You ain't been round for ages/Nobody's coming here soon/You gotta play out the stages/The seventh act will be played out on Zoom") /albeit with a romantic metaphor twist ("Yeh it's contagious infectious,/It's in the room/It's called love and I get it when I'm with you"). It also strikes a note of hope and recovery as he sings "We will get there soon/All the sorrow will be gone tomorrow/All will be forgotten/In the coming bloom/And all the tears will be washed away/By rivers so clean All our fears will evaporate/Just a like bad dream/And all the loneliness/And the sadness and pain". That said, Gerry Black Jnr and electric and slide guitars, Jaap Somsen on accordion with John McCullough on piano and Hammond, there's a touch of backsliding with the slow waltzing, harmonica flavoured soulful 'Old Whore', a touching narrative delivered from the perspective and in the cracked semi-spoken voice of an ageing Amsterdam sex-worker reflecting on her own journey and where it's brought her ("I still try to sell my body/I've long sold my soul/Along the Amstel river/For a price unknown/10,000 men maybe more/You stop counting when your 64/What else I'm I meant to do/A washed up hag a dried up prune/Now I'm just some kinda freak show/In that window near Moulin Rouge/Drunken sailors don't come here no more trade is slow at my door"). Maybe, still selling his songs to paying punters as he turns 50, Reel also sees himself as "an old whore on the game". It ends on notes of redemption, first with the bluesy Sam Cooke-influenced 'The Finish Line', the narrator parading a litany of sins ("I've been a drunk, I've been a gambler /my soul is black as the Boston strangler…I left my woman my little boy of 2/I've been with all the hoes down on 7th Avenue… I killed a man in a rage on the whiskey/Got off with the crime, I lied to the jury") and calling on Jesus to wash his soul clean as he faces death ("They say you can change the water into wine/Well can you can take my blackened heart and make a divine"). And, finally, on similar lines, it ends with the churchy organ notes and gospel robes of 'I Shall Be Redeemed' ("I've walked through the valley of darkness/I've lived in the shadow of fears/I've been lost in the caverns of my mind/I've drowned in a river of tears/I come before thee humbled and scorned/I'm naked for all to see/Just say the word and I shall be healed"), seeking to become "a soldier of love/A soldier for God above". As the title says, Reel has indeed come a long way since he first started playing music at the age of 17, exploring different musical style along the way but always underpinned by his early musical influences and inherent soulfulness. This is, in some ways, his crossroads album as he embarks on his post-pandemic path, armed with the strength of experience and fuelled by the fire of the yet unknown. To echo his own blessing, may the road rise with him.” - Mike Davies

FATEA Magazine (UK) - Come a Long Way review 2023

Nine months after the excellent Locked In + Live the eleventh album Come a Long Way by the Irish roots rocker Ben Reel is released. His solo career has been going on for twenty years now. In addition to songs for himself, he also wrote songs together with David Olney, Nanci Griffith and our compatriot Michael Prins. Those songs span quite a few genres. This time, Come a Long Way Rock, Blues, Alt Country and the necessary Gospel influences. The title And cover already betrays that it has become a retrospective album. It's a retrospective on Ben's life so far. The new songs are about reflection, hope and Seeking redemption, all written during the pandemic. The most retrospective songs are the title track and From the Day I Was Born. The title song contains memories of his childhood, when he grew up in Drumill in South Armagh. In the beautiful, narrative From the Day I Was Born, Ben looks back on his life since birth and at the same time lists the necessary historical events in the world. It is inspired by Frank Sinatra's It Was a Very Good Year. Loretto On My Mind is an ode to his brother's mother-in-law. According to Ben, he was a beautiful woman from Belfast with the typical humour of that city. She died during a German tour of Ben, which prevented him from attending the funeral. That same evening he wrote Loretto On My Mind and recorded it on his phone and then sent it to his brother and sister-in-law. By the way, the song pleasantly reminds me of a Irish holiday of mine. During that holiday I met at Camp de beautiful guy Peter Daly, a B&B holder originally from Belfast. Ben took Old Whore though five years earlier for his beautiful album Land or Escape. It is a fictional song seen through the eyes of a sixty-four year old sex worker, working in the Amsterdam Red Light District. The accordion becomes played here by the versatile Amsterdammer Jaap Somsen. The retrospective Come a Long Way is again a beautiful addition to Ben's oeuvre, hopefully he will come back to the Netherlands soon Performances.” - Theo Folk

Music that needs attention (Netherlands) - 'Come a Long Way' review 2023

The Irish Ben Reel is a singer / songwriter who has been working for several decades. Almost tirelessly and imperturbably, he regularly releases albums in which he mainly focuses on the Roots/Americana/Folk and Rock genre. With Come A Long Way he delivers his 11th! studio album. The sympathetic Irishman can regularly be found in the Netherlands for performances and because of Springsteen's preference for his E-Street Band, this reviewer discovered Reel when he released his album The Nashville Calling in 2020. None other than Garry Tallent, bass player of the famous E Street Band, made his appearance there and this way interest in Reel's music was aroused. In recent years there were still some live registrations that were released, but now Come A Long Way is the 11th studio album with new work. Also now the singer / songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is assisted by his regular backing band and his wife Julieanne. In itself he remains true to his sound in which he taps from various musical kegs. For example, opener 'Don't Fight It Baby' and 'Hunter' are smooth Roots-rock oriented songs while he makes a small trip to Country with the ballad 'Loretto On My Mind'. It is not surprising that Reel's music is linked in sound to that of Springsteen and you can't escape a few parallels on Come A Long Way either. 'Hardwired Blues', with a nice piece of harmonica is such a track. With 'Let The Road Rise' and 'The finish Line' he serves us a piece of Blues rock and the title song is another beautiful piece of singer / songwriter work. Special is the quiet 'From The Day I Was Born; Reel takes us on a piece of world history since his birth in his own way; the enumeration of all wars and global conflicts since 1971 can be called confrontational to say the least (Here comes 90s now the Gulf and the Balkans are in flames.- I've just turned 21). Furthermore, the acoustic 'I Get it' is very tasteful, partly due to Reel's beautiful guitar playing and the gospel-laced occluding track sounds like it comes straight from the heart. Ben Reel is steadily building up a more than respectable discography and with Come A Long Way once again delivers a varied album that is well put together musically and in terms of production. Have fun listening!”

DeMuziekplank (Netherlands) 'Come a Long Way' review 2023