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

Hailing from Northern Ireland's South Armagh, Ben started his musical journey in local bands at the tender age of 17 before going solo in the late nineties. In a career that now spans over 20 years he has received much acclaim whilst touring fairly relentlessly throughout Ireland, UK, Europe and the USA, either solo, as a duo with his wife Julieanne, with his Dutch band 'The Haarlem Boys' or his own 'Ben Reel Band'. Ben has been equally prolific in the studio with 2020's 'The Nashville Calling' being his ninth album release. Always one to vary his sound and influences across his records, this one finds him in the near legendary Skinny Elephant Studios in Nashville knocking out eleven new original tracks in a breathless three days of live takes. The line up for 'The Nashville Calling' featured Ben, vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica, Will Kimbrough, electric guitars, keys, mellotron, mandolin, backing vocals, dobro and percussion, Tommy Womack, additional electric guitar and backing vocals, Evan Hutchings, drums and percussion, Garry Tallent, bass and Julieanne Reel, backing vocals. The album was produced by Will Kimbrough, Tommy Womack and Ben, engineered and mixed by Dylan Alldredge at the Skinny Elephant Studio and mastered by Jim DeMain from Yes Mastering Studio in Nashville. Opening track 'All In Good Time' chugs in on tight drums and muted guitar riff before Ben's airy vocal sets the tone as the song gradually builds and opens up into the hookiest of choruses. 'Tough People' is slightly slower but none the less chuggy with a rockier edge and Ben's voice slightly deeper in the mix, conjuring up something of a Warren Zevon vibe as he tells us 'Tough times they never last, tough people do'. 'Safe And Sound' flirts with modern country ballad territory to pleasing effect, 'Like A Breeze' boasts a great country-soul groove and is an early contender for 'best song' on the album, while 'Round The Next Bend' slows things down again to glorious effect with another fine ballad that features some particularly strong harmony vocals. And so it goes through the rest of the album, where the standard and energy never dips or flags. Of the remaining tracks, particular stand outs for me were the Springsteenesque harmonica and phrasing of 'Fine Wine' and the resigned, but still defiant, acoustic led closer 'Borrowed Time', but in all honesty I could have picked any of the other tracks without a drop in quality. Beautifully played by a bunch of stellar musicians, their live sound and energy is captured perfectly in this recording. 'The Nashville Calling' is certainly an apposite title for this little gem from Ben Reel, stuffed full of fine Americana rootsy rock it's a top addition to his impressive album portfolio.” - Paul Jackson

FATEA magazine - UK , The Nashville Calling review 2020

Irish artist Ben Reel released The Nashville Calling, his ninth studio album, at the end of March. The plan was to promote the record with a month long tour of Holland and Germany, but the tour was cancelled when the world basically shut down due to the pandemic. Instead, he’s been promoting the record with live concerts streamed from his house each Friday on Facebook with his wife Julieanne. It’s a shame because this is his strongest album to date. Up until this year, Reel had never done a live virtual concert before. As to be expected, the concept of performing in front of an empty room is something that requires adjustments. “The first night I did it, it was very strange,” admitted Reel. “This was the first time I ever performed into a camera and it was live as well, so that was even harder. But I’m kind of getting used to it now - especially after a few beers.” The concerts take place at 9:30pm in Ireland, which means 4:30pm in New Jersey. Since Reel has played shows in many parts of Europe and a few shows in America, he’s got people tuning in from around the world. He can’t wait to perform in front of an actual audience he can see again, but realizes that may not happen for a while. “Who knows? It could be a long time before I can play a show in front of an audience,” said Reel. “Venues and bars are going to be the last things to come back. When things start coming back to the point where people can mingle a little bit, I might put it out that I’m available for garden parties or something.” The Nashville Calling was produced by Will Kimbrough and Tommy Womack and includes performances by both, along with Ben’s wife and Garry W. Tallent from the E Street Band on bass. It was recorded in Nashville in just three days. For a guy who often lists Bruce Springsteen as a major influence, playing with an E Street band member was a thrill. “It was amazing!” continued Reel. “I’m a big fan of Springsteen. He was my first inspiration actually. When I was 13, I went to see him at Slane Castle in Ireland. It was the first days of the Born In The U.S.A. European tour and I think it was the first time Springsteen had ever performed in front of a crowd that big. There were 100,000 people there and newspapers reported he freaked out a bit when he came out in front of that audience. But it was a great show. When I saw Bruce at Slane, I was hooked. I said, ‘I want to be like him!’ So to be in the same studio as Garry Tallent, I had to pinch myself a few times. I mean, he’s a member of the E Street Band! But he was very down to Earth and is a great musician.” Years after the Slane concert when Springsteen played a pair of shows in Kilkenny in 2013, Reel’s band did four shows (two each night Bruce played). They were billed as Ben Reelsteen and performed sets of Springsteen songs. He laughs remembering that the promoter made posters calling it the “Me Balls Are Wrecked Tour” to contrast with Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball Tour. “I always thought it would have been funny if Bruce had seen that poster!” said Reel. Recording in Nashville is special for any musician, but also very workman like. Reel says it was like going to the office. They’d work from 10:00am to 6:00pm and sometimes a bit later. It was a tight schedule - two days tracking and one day for overdubs and backing vocals - but Reel liked the process and the end result. Many critics are writing this is his most complete album and he tends to agree. Reel is located in Northern Ireland, although he doesn’t recognize it as its own country. He refers to his area as the “occupied six counties.” Since his town is near the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland, he often performs shows throughout the south in places like Dublin, Cork, Kilkenny, and Galway. He has a good fanbase in the Netherlands and Germany, so losing that initial tour for the new album was a big blow. He’s also been to Nashville several times and has even performed at the legendary Bluebird Cafe on a number of occasions. Some of the music writers in Europe have wondered about the title of the album since the music on The Nashville Calling isn’t traditional country. It’s clear they haven’t paid as close attention to Nashville as an artist like Reel has. In the past two decades, roots music and even alternative rock bands have begun calling Nashville home as well. The Nashville Calling was intended to mean that he felt a calling to go to Nashville. Looking back, Reel wonders if he might have made a mistake with the title. “I’m actually mad that I didn’t call it ‘All In Good Time’ which might have been a good title,” said Reel. “Or ‘Round the Next Bend’ - there were a few strong titles that I could have called the album.” Both of those titles are songs on the album with the former being the song that kicks off the record. New Jersey Stage first learned of Ben Reel several years ago from a service called AirPlay Direct, which the publication uses as one of the sources of music for its online radio station. Reel has released several of his albums with them. It’s also helped him make contacts around the world for radio and press coverage. We instantly took a liking to Reel’s music, which reminded us of the music by Joe D’Urso. Not surprisingly, the two have crossed paths in Europe. “I met Joe more than ten years ago in Ireland,” he recalled. “I did a Light of Day show with him once, but didn’t hear from him for years. Then last November I did a Light of Day show again in Dublin. Vini Lopez was on that show, so I got to meet Vini. He told a few stories about being on the road with Bruce. I actually got to play ‘Growin’ Up’ by Springsteen with Vini on drums. I couldn’t believe I was playing with the original drummer on that song.” While live performances with his band are on hold, Ben Reel has been putting digitally remastered recordings of live concerts from over the years for sale on his website. These “live bootlegs” are available for download per concert or by individual songs. “I’ve only put them up now because I had a lot of shows from the past which I didn’t have the chance to mix or have time to mix,” explained Reel. “So during this lockdown period, I went in and mixed a lot of the stuff - just to put up on the website for people to download.” As of this writing, Reel has bootlegs available from a 2007 concert recorded for RTE Radio 1; a performance from a brewery in Monaghan, Ireland in 2008; a show from 2012 recorded at De Waag in Haarlem, Netherlands; and two shows from his “Land of Escape” tour in April 2018: one recorded at Cafe Studio in Haarlem, Netherlands and the other recorded live for radio show Crossroads.nl in Bergen on the last day of the tour. Artists always want to believe their latest record is the best they’ve ever created, but The Nashville Calling just might be Ben Reel’s best. Even though the record is somewhat stuck in limbo due to the cancelled shows, he will never forget the making of this album. “It couldn’t have gone any better,” said Reel. “The whole experience and the trip over there was amazing. The guys were incredible. I mean, there are guys walking around Nashville with t-shirts that say “Will Kimbrough is an alien” and he bloody is an alien! I’ve never seen anybody as talented as him in the studio. It’s bonkers how good he was. I’m very proud of it and I’m glad I did it. It cost me a lot of money to do, but fuck the money, it was worth every penny!” ” - Gary Wien

Gary Wien - New Jersey Stage Magazine, USA - The Nashville Calling interview 25/05/2020