Selected Reviews

“Plenty of playfulness and sheer musical power…They are a compact class act, live or recorded” (Irish Music Magazine)

“Nothing short of sublime, the dance sets implausibly quick, yet immaculately detailed, brilliantly intense yet utterly supple, silkily dovetailed in a thrilling panapoly of colour, texture and taut-sprung rhythms” (The Scotsman *****)

“real magic….”a powerful Celtic synergy of reels, airs, old-time tunes and that fast silvery group-play that makes their music such an intoxicating experience. This refashioning of the Celtic world map in sound is as beautifully ornamented as a fine piece of jewellery” (Songlines****)

“a blistering set of reels performed immaculately by Brian Kelly at eye-watering pace, full of fire and excitement and culminating in a two banjo harmonic showdown” (The Living Tradition)

“The Long Notes are…a stellar cast of instrumentalists” (Shirefolk)

Inspired Londoners work up a lava Real magic in the form of “Rockin'” the Boat, a rollicking instrumentals set of three tunes from Galway and Quebec, set off this fine album from the London-based quartet. Scottish fiddler Jamie Smith, Irish accordionist Colette O’Leary, London Irish player Brian Kelly and Dorset guitarist and singer Alex Percy have performed together for almost five years. Their second album, recorded with guests including Martin O’Neill on bodhran, and electric guitarist Barry Reid, feature tunes of Irish, Scottish, French-Canadian, Galician and Quebecois descent. The result is a powerful Celtic synergy of reels, airs, old-time tunes and that fast silvery group-play that makes their music such an intoxicating experience. “Solace and Joy” has a plumb-line of a bass part hitting the deeper emotional centres, and comes from a book of 19th century lyrics found in an antiquarian bookshop in Brighton. It’s paired with a fiddler’s reel “Beautiful Gortree” and a similarly emotive bass line features on “Come by the Hills”, a 1960s lyric attached to much older melody. Such fruitful pairings are scattered throughout this fine set, mixed with the likes of Colette O’Leary’s “Reflections”, a slow lovely paean for piano and accordion, drawn from the landscape around Lochcarron in the Highlands. The title song “Stromboli” is also drawn from the band’s experiences – the band played a festival in Calabria and took a boat across the Tyrrhenian Sea to view the volcanic spume of airs from Stromboli – and is paired by a tune inspired by the Brecon Beacons. This refashioning of the Celtic world map in sound is as beautifully ornamented as a fine piece of jewellery.

Tim Cumming, Songlines, Aug 2012

‘In the Shadow of Stromboli’ is the second album from The Long Notes – Jamie Smith (fiddle), Colette O’Leary (piano accordion), Brian Kelly (banjo/mandolin) and Alex Percy (guitar/vocals).  The band formed some five years ago having played together regularly at sessions in Camden Town.  A cast of supporting musicians gives the album a very full sound with the addition of piano, bass, bodhran and electric guitar on selected tracks.

It kicks off at a rollicking pace with a set of three tunes – Beoga On IceRockin The Boat and the Quebec Reel.  A fine opening set to showcase the bands individual and collective talents.   As with many of the instrumental tracks, this one bounces along with some sudden and unexpected tempo changes.

There are a number of original pieces included, and these fit very comfortably with the more traditional material, moving nicely between moods, with a good balance of fast tunes, slower pieces and songs – all played superbly.

Plain of Jars is a standout track even though it is a banjo solo with guitar accompaniment and not a band piece as such.  A blistering set of reels performed immaculately by Brian Kelly at eye-watering pace, full of fire and excitement and culminating in a two banjo harmonic showdown!

Guest singer Adam Holmes delivers a refreshingly new treatment of the classic Come By The Hills which is at once familiar yet very different.  Adam’s effortless delivery and the sympathetic accompaniment make this version a treat.

The inclusion of two Sean Og Graham tunes is perhaps a giveaway to one of their influences, as the many twists and turns in their sets are “Beoga-esque” in treatment.  It certainly makes for entertaining listening – expect the unexpected!  Well worth a listen. Jim Byrne, Living Tradition, Apr 2012

Three stars of the London music scene playing mainly Irish style but with a broad range of material from Canadian to continental European: this is the second album from The Long Notes, following on from their excellent eponymous debut. Since poor Paddy Gallagher was struck down, the trio have recruited singer/guitarist Alex Percy who contributes two songs and accompanies the eight instrumental tracks here.

Colette O’Leary’s piano box launches into Beoga on Ice, a modern accordion jig, followed by the Mairtin O’Connor favourite Rocking the Boat and the traditional Quebec Reel, giving plenty of scope for Jamie Smith’s driving fiddle and Brian Kelly’s laid-back banjo. Next up is a pair of classic Scottish reels, JB’s and The Little Cascade: blistering triplets from all three front-liners, leading into another accordion jig with a real swing to it. Then comes the first, and best, of Alex Percy’s vocals, a nineteenth-century love song paired with Tommy Peoples’ composition Beautiful Gortree. Alex has a gentle clear voice, and his fingerwork is very tasty here. The fine picking continues into Bogbeat, a pair of Smith compositions with a hypnotic groove which Colette settles into comfortably. Plain of Jars is a brusque awakening, one of Brian’s own tunes and the title of his fine solo CD, as the banjo fires its thrusters and goes into a low orbit, leaving heads spinning until the inimitable Mr Kelly spashes down on the familiar Old French Reel.

From the ridiculous to the sublime: Reflections is a chance for Colette to muse on the beauties of Lochcarron, near Torridon. The title track features two more O’Leary originals, a dark swirling Balkan number and a punchy little reel commemorating The Trip to Trecastle. The second song, Come By the Hills, is an anthem from one or other of the folk revivals of the sixties and seventies, and shows what a hard song it is to sing well: this version doesn’t improve on The Corries’ 1977 recording. The last two tracks, however, are both exceptionally good: The Salt Reel deserves to be adopted by session musicians everywhere, and Viva Galicia combines three great tunes into a magnificent final medley. There’s poignancy here, but there’s also plenty of playfulness and sheer musical power.

With a few carefully chosen guests, The Long Notes make a wonderfully full sound: on their own they are a compact class act, live or recorded. Get a taste at, but beware – you could soon be hooked.

Alex Monaghan, Irish Music Magazine, Dec 2011

The Long Notes is a newish name for his well-seasoned trio with Glasgow fiddler Jamie Smith, Galway accordionist Colette O’Leary – formerly of the much-missed Bumblebees – and London-Irish banjo/mandolin ace Brian Kelly. They usually add a singer and/or guitarist to their live line-up, both roles occupied here by the current BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year, Ewan Robertson. It’s a line-up of copious strengths, and they played expertly to all of them. As each individual took their turn in the spotlight, highlights ranged from Kelly’s astoundingly fleet-fingered picking, as wild as it was exquisite, to Robertson’s audacious, jig-tempo version of Richard Thompson’s Beeswing. Their ensemble playing, meanwhile, was nothing short of sublime, especially in the dance sets – implausibly quick yet immaculately detailed, brilliantly intense yet utterly supple, silkily dovetailed in a thrilling panoply of colour, texture and taut-sprung rhythms. Unsurprisingly, Scottish and Irish material formed the bulk of their repertoire, a discerning mix of traditional, contemporary and original tunes, plus the odd American or Galician number. A not dissimilar mix, on paper, to many a contemporary Celtic act, but the magic that The Long Notes make with it is truly something else.

July 2008

Sue Wilson – The Scotsman

“The ‘The Long Notes’ debut album arrived in great time for Paddy’s Day…they had a great reception at the Celtic Connections Festival this year by all accounts and after listening to the album I can see why. This is the best traditional instrumental album I’ve heard so far this year and I hope the standard of other trad based releases continues like this one. There are some great numbers on here from powerful uplifting Jigs and Reels to airs that will no doubt please those hardened traditional musical fans and bring new ones into the fold as they demonstrate a cutting edge to their music that makes it all the more enjoyable and exciting…it’s just what the trad scene needs.”

March ’08

“The three play together with grace and solidity, and there are some lovely original compositions from Smith. There are six guests in all, each appearing on three or four numbers. Ewan Robertson and Julia Reid also contribute a song apiece…The Long Notes have a heavy touring schedule ahead of them…Judging by the superb standard of the musicianship here, it should be something to look forward to.”

Sarah McQuaid, Hot Press, March ’08

These three London-based musicians build a wide range of music on top of essentially Irish foundations…Together they can handle almost anything, and their debut CD presents eleven tracks of tunes from Ireland, Scotland, Brittany, Quebec, Cape Breton and beyond. Most of it is traditional, much of it is dragged without warning into a new century, and none of it is in the least bit dull.

Take the opening track, Lisa Orenstein’s and Lorient Tune, both picked up on tour and remembered because they’re just great wee tunes. Track 2 begins with James Kelly’s charming Eve’s Jig, and the change into Tommy Peoples’ Reel starts the old diesel suction. Myra’s Tune slows the tempo right down for a bewitching melody by the late great Tom McManamon.

In between the ensemble tracks are three solos and two songs. Bright Blue Rose and When I’m Gone are sung by Julia Reid and Ewan Robertson respectively, and a fine job they make of them…Julia and Ewan also contribute accompaniment on a few tracks, as do Paddy Gallagher, Tim Edey, Martin O’Neill and Oscar Cainer. The end result is a very varied and thoroughly enjoyable album: an excellent taster and a spur to see The Long Notes live. Nice one, guys!

Alex Monaghan, Irish Music Magazine, May ’08

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