It should come as no surprise that Northern Irish singer-songwriter Ben Reel's sound is passionate and soulful. Just like most Northern Irish releases. Ben Reel has been a singer-songwriter for some time and his new album was recorded during the lockdown period at the Iontas Theater in Castleblayney with his band, which consists of Ronnie O'Flynn (bass), Michael Black (drums), Mick McCarney (guitar), John McCullough (piano, organ) and Juliann Black Reel (backing vocals), supplemented by other musical guests. The first half of the album was recorded live and opens in a pleasant way with Tough People. A song in which you can recognize influences such as the Waterboys and Bob Dylan. A wonderful opener with Ben Reel's groaning harmonica, Mick McCarney's burning guitar and John McCullough's soulfully fluttering organ. Safe And Sound then sounds passionate in an intimate way with soft biting guitar work. Then there are two intimate soulful songs in which you cannot escape the sound of Van Morrison, Like A Breeze and Landscapes. Then Up There In The Sky sounds energetic and very soulful. In Darkness & The Light brooding funky grooves emerge. A song with very intense echoing vocals from Ben Reel. 2020 Vison sounds very gritty in a Neil Young-esque way. The funk returns in the relaxed groovy Tear It Down, with Hot Stuff (Rolling Stones)-like funky guitar riffs. U People is a lazy skank reggae song that sounds like Sting playing with Bob Marley. This album is very intimate and fragile closed by three intense acoustic songs. The Bob Dylan cover Oh Sister, the Springsteen-like Old & Wise and the penetrating Bruce Sprtingsteen cover Drive All Night. The new Ben Reel album is an absolute must for fans of very passionate roots rock.” - Peter Marinus

Bluestown Music - Ben Reel - Locked In & Live review

BEN REEL LIVE AT JJ SMYTHS DUBLIN B. Reel Ben Reel is a singer, acoustic guitarist, rack harmonica player and here, leader of a very tight and versatile band. His music is difficult to categorise, except maybe to say that he makes it plainly obvious on this live set, recorded at the legendary Irish venue back in 2013, that he is no fan of “The X-Factor”. That is apparent not only from his between song comments, but also from his own music, the opening track, Darkness & The Light, proves he has a penchant for funk, Heart Just Won’t Heal rides a riff reminiscent of Chariots Of Fire, and Before Your Time reminds me of Americana pioneers’ The Band, a simply beautiful performance. Mention of The Band leads me on to Bob Dylan, whose The Times They Are A Changin’ is given a fine band treatment; so too is The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, rendered extremely bluesily, and Our Fathers Sins is a powerful ballad, whilst the vocal on Who You Are sounds like a vintage Appalachian performance early on, before it builds a rather awesome head of steam. All Souls Alive is a strutting piece of bluesy rock and roll that also morphs into a reggae-tinged piece. A few lines at the end brought Memphis soul legend Al Green to mind, whilst other soul-flavoured tracks as the set draws to its close are the lovely Sweet Victory (nice falsetto) and Cosmic Shifting, with some fine wah-wah electric guitar playing by Mick McCarney. This Is The Movie closes out this thoroughly entertaining set by managing to seamlessly include just about every style mentioned so far!” - NORMAN DARWEN

— Blues Matters UK

Ben Reel and his band performed in 2013 at the once iconic blues and jazz venue JJ Smyths situated in Dublin, Ireland. It has now sadly closed its doors in recent years and Ben made the most of the lockdown period by spending a large part of his spare time mixing a live album from the JJ Smyths venue. It has now since been unveiled and is available to download from multiple online platforms. The album contains some original classics that were released from some of his previous albums and coincides with the release of his ‘Darkness And The Light’s’ album which was also released at that time. Covers of ‘A Hard day’s Night’ by The Beatles and ‘The Times They Are A Changing’ by Bob Dylan also make it on to the live recording. The launch of the live album comes exactly eight years after it was initially captured on camera. ‘Darkness And The Light’ kicks off the concert in what feels more like a blues ballad. The Wah peddle draws its audience ever nearer to the song’s underlying meaning as it resounds and lingers in the memory of the listener. ‘River Of Time’ is captivating from start to finish. The switch in rhythm and style combined with the variation in dynamics makes for a true classic in the eyes of a musical connoisseur. ‘What Is Done’ serves as a pleasant reminder to those who needs it most in the sense that life can only be lived, and the past simply cannot be changed whether it is desired or not. The song encourages people to forgive themselves of their own sins and shortcomings because life is simply too short to live in fear, misery, and regret. It contains an irresistibly sensual and suave live guitar solo that makes the listener want to put this on repeat. ‘Feel Alive’ provides an injection of pace and into the tempo and dynamics. ‘’You’re never free until you free your crazy mind/Can you feel our hearts are breaking all the time’’ serves as a reminder to those who need of some emancipation. ‘One Of These Days’ switches to a shuffle rhythm on the drums and includes a recurring melody played on the blues harp. The syncopation and alternation between a common and cut common rhythm provides more tension and musical flavour for one of the most enchanting tracks on the live record. Classic renditions of ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and ‘The Times Are A Changing’ compliments the album by adding even more quality to what is already bound to be a classic for many Country and Blues listeners out there. The performance, although it is quickly approaching ten-years-old, is serving as a timeless classic at one of the most iconic music venues on Dublin’s music circuit. Consequently, this album will always serve its audience a heavenly slice of nostalgia and sentimentalism due to the venue no longer being in operation.” - Antony Bailey

Country Music News International - Ben Reel Band - Live @JJ Smyths review

The recordings of the tenth album by the Irish Ben Reel Band date from 2013, just after the release of their album 'Darkness & Tbe Light'. The album was recorded at JJ Smyths club in Dublin, a club that closed in 2017 after owner Brian Smyth passed away. The Ben Reel Band at the time consisted of Ben Reel (vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica), his wife Julieanne Black Reel (vocals), Michael Black (drums), Ronnie O'Flynn (bass), Mick McCarney (guitar) and John McCullough ( piano, organ). The music of this Irish band certainly falls under the roots rock, but then Irish roots rock. So you are dealing here with powerful, intense folky rock in which the sound of The Waterboys can be heard more than once. The album opens with Darkness & The Light, an intimate grooving song with powerful vocals and biting guitar work. River Of Time then sounds very pleasant and languid with atmospheric Mark Knopfler-like guitar playing. The band sounds quite fragile in the ballad Before Your Time. There is also powerful rocking on the album, such as in the driving pumping Who You Are to which some Who Are You (the Who) elements have been secretly added. All Souls Alive is an unpolished brooding rocker. The Beatles classic A Hard Day's Night has been transformed into a lazy swaying folkie rocker with bluesy biting guitar work. The cover of Bob Dylan's The Times They Are A Changin' is also impressive due to the combative vocals and the flaming guitar. Sweet Victory is a funky indictment of the Idols and X-Factor bullshit and Cosmic Shifting sounds soulful a la Curtis Mayfield. A great atmospheric live album by the Ben Reel Band. A band that is still active and should therefore be heading our way soon.” - Peter Marinus

Bluestown Music - Ben Reel Band - Live @JJ Smyths review

When you can get Tommy Womack, Will Kimbrough and Garry Tallent to play on and co-produce your album, you must be doing something right and Irish singer­ songwriter Ben Reel certainly is. Recorded 'as live' in just three days in Nashville, his latest outing has eleven tracks brimming with soul, passion and fire. Reel sets out his stall on the epic opener, 'All In Good Time', which has something of peak E Street about it, and builds on that with the likes of 'Up There In The Sky' and the driving 'New Jerusalem' where the band really lets rip on a dirty barroom rocker. He can do slow, too, as on 'Tough People' whose easy, swinging groove belies its hard but hopeful message, and the sadly elegiac 'Round The Next Bend', while the chorus of 'Like A Breeze' shows his way with a delightfully insidious hook. The playing on The Nashville Calling is peerless, as one would expect from such high-calibre musicians, while Reel's vocals have more than a hint of Roy Orbison about them, which, together with his incisive lyrics, make this an outstanding album of rootsy, soulful music.” - Jeremy Searle

RnR magazine UK, The Nashville Calling review 2020

Ben started in 2007 as a welcome guest on the Dutch stages. Beside his own irish musicians he also has a Dutch band (Haarlem boys). Normally his cd's fall in the category" interesting but Ok". Till he decided to make this one in Nashville. This cd is not only by far his best cd, we can speak of "the candy of the month". Almost made within 3 days with Will Kimbrough, Tommy Womack & Garry Tallent from E Street band onboard. These 11 heavenly storming roots rocksongs sounds like the urgency of a hungry debutant who wants to win a war. And he sometimes can put the finger on the spirit of the age. Tough times... That's the Reel stuff. - 4/5 stars” - Herman Van Der Horst

— Lust for Life Magazine, Netherlands. The Nashville Calling review 2020

Irish singer and songwriter Ben Reel has never been afraid of varying his template over the years, and with nine albums to his credit, that easily accounts for a rich catalog that accommodates folk, country, reggae and R&B. He’s sometimes compared to Bob Dylan and John Hyatt in terms of his rich melodies and effusive approach, but even so, there’s little doubt that he’s also a singular artist and individual. His new album, The Nashville Calling, finds him firmly imbued in Americana firmament, and with such stellar sidemen as Will Kimbrough, Tommy Womack and Garry Tallent providing support, it finds him reaching a new pinnacle of perfection as well as offering his fans ample cause for renewed recognition. Reel is, of course, an astute instrumentalist, but here he also excels as a songwriter, and there’s not a single track that doesn’t immediately sink in tomake an emphatic initial impression. For those who are unfamiliar with his previous work, this is the place to begin. Dare we say it’s the “Reel Deal?”

Lee Zimmerman - Goldmine,The Music Collector's Magazine. U.S.A - The Nashville Calling review 2020

I could listen to his harmonica and acoustic guitar all day long. I would describe the lyrics, in general, quite motivational. I imagine me listening to it when I wake up off to university/work, while driving and holding my coffee trying to refuse that I have a routine that kills me slowly. It’s what I want to listen to; an acoustic guitar, a harmonica, a beautiful voice and his realistic approach of signing his motivational songs and passing a good, positive vibe about life and how strong people can be. And remember “Tough times they never last – Tough people do”. Ben Reel – you are now on in my fav morning playlist – hope to hear from you soon.” - Joanna Demee

Country Music News International - Germany - The Nashville Calling review 2020

The Nashville Calling is the ninth album by Irish singer / songwriter Ben Reel. The Irishman has been making music for over twenty years and has built up a very respectable track record. Since his debut This Is The Movie from 1999 and his last album Land Of Escape from 2018, he has developed himself as a solo artist and together with his band he recorded this new album in Nashville in the span of just under three days! Musical outings. After the first thirty seconds of "All In Good Time" you know that this new album by the sympathetic Irishman will be fine. The pleasant mix of Americana, Folk and Country is immediately infectious in this opener and the inspiration of Springsteen's music is palpable. Then he switches to "Tough People", a song that is actually unexpectedly topical in this current difficult time (Tough times they never last, tough people do). On this uptempo song you get the feeling that the voice of Reel comes close to that of Roy Orbison. Every now and then the Irishman makes a musical outing, such as with the subtle and soulful "Like A Breeze", where a comparison with Paul Carrack may not be strange, and with the wonderfully swinging Rock "n Roller" New Jerusalem ". Excellent tire Of course we also find The Nashville Calling some quieter songs. Just listen to songs like "Broken" and "Fine Wine", which, partly due to the harmonica and the structure, are reminiscent of the small, personal songs of The Boss. "Safe And Sound" is not really a ballad, but an understated song in which Reel manages to create a certain intensity together with the participating session musicians. We also find a striking name among those musicians; Gary Talent from the famous E Street Band provides the bass part on this album. With the seductive "Round The Next Band", again with the modest but all-important role of Julieanne Black as the background singer, we probably mention the price track of this album. For example, the level on The Nashville Calling is consistently high and Reel proves to be in good mood with "Up There In The Sky", with a nice piece of guitar playing. Ben Reel closes with the beautiful "Borrowed Time", in which we also want to mention guitarist Will Kimbrough. Final verdict The eleven beautiful songs on The Nashville Calling make for a balanced album where the quality really drips. The enchanting mix of various music styles such as Folk, Americana, Soul etc. makes for a fascinating and varied album. The idea was to introduce the audience to this collection of new songs live during a number of performances in the Netherlands, but because all performances have been canceled until further notice, we (unfortunately) have to do it with the album for the time being. All in all a great production. Have fun listening. - 8.5/10 stars” - CORNÉ VAN GROENEDAAL

click here for Dutch translation - M Podia, Netherlands - The Nashville Calling review 2020

Ben Reel bears his influences on his album sleeve, acknowledging on the cover of The Nashville Calling that he’s a fan of Bruce Springsteen and becoming understandably gleeful that this, his 9th album, was recorded in Nashville with bass guitar duties taken by Garry W Tallant of the E Street Band. So it’s hardly surprising that the ghost of Bruce flits in and out of the 11 original tracks, as if he’s keeping a fatherly eye out. He’s there in the arrangements, some melodies and the style, although Reel’s voice never reaches the bombast of his working-class hero. So fans of both Bruce and Ben (guilty on both counts) should feel at ease here from the opener ‘All In Good Time’, born for a stadium singalong. ‘Tough People’ even slips in a 1-2-3-4 count, and it could be an anthem for these challenging times. “Tough times they never last, tough people do”, Reel sings in a lyric that also touches on bankruptcy, redundancy and greedy banks, the Troubles, and how to survive them. The croonsomely soulful ‘Like A Breeze’ glides smoothly along with a catchy melody. ‘New Jerusalem’ is a solid 12-bar floorfiller, while Reel’s harmonica on ‘Fine Wine’ will also strike a chord back in Asbury Park. But it’s not all Bruce. ‘Round The Next Bend’ is a seductive slow-mover, with Reel’s voice as deliciously expressive as Roy Orbison. The album ends with plaintively with ‘Borrowed Time’, also featuring Will Kimborough’s tasty electric guitar and harmony vocals from Julianne Black Reel. Her backing vocals bring much to the album, especially on the mid-tempo ‘Up There In The Sky’ which starts as a more introspective item but soon builds into a wailing rocker with gritty electric guitar from Kimborough. The Nashville Calling is arguably Reel’s most inspired album to date, and a useful reminder that no artist of merit creates in a vacuum. 7.5/10”

Jackie Hayden - Hotpress, The Nashville Calling review March 2020