Pastures of Plenty, which is their new album, comes after a slight break for the band as they persued other interests — 25 years to be precise. (It is actually their second CD after the long break, but the first was material from before the break.) John Peel of the BBC helped break the lads out as a band in the late Sixties. All of them were from Glasgow, and they formed the JSD Band initially in 1969, before breaking up in 1974. During that brief period, some critics put them on the same level as the Richard Thompson-era Fairport Convention, Lindisfarne and Steelye Span. They packed out halls and other venues around the world including the Cambridge Folk Festival, the Albert Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and a residency in New York’s Greenwich Village at the famous Bitter End Club. There were copious television and radio appearences including the Old Grey Whistle Test, Radio 1 “In Concert” and the John Peel Show.
Pastures of Plenty, named for one of the more famous Woodie Guthrie song, brings back togather all the original members of the JSD Band for only the second time in the recording studio since their breakup in 1974. The band have been compiling new material over the last couple of years which draws from the same original mix of traditional Irish, Scottish and American traditional music along with a new song penned by fiddler Chuck Fleming. Like the Old Blind Dogs, this album has a contemporary feel featuring the sax of Sean O’Rourke, the electric guitar of Des Coffield and Rob Mairs, a new member, on 5 string banjo and dobro. The line-up is completed with Chuck Flemming on fiddle, Jim Divers on bass, and Colin Finn on percussion. There’s also a slight old-time music feel to this group which certainly makes sense given the album title!
This album has great songs (“The Bonnie Lass of Albany,” “Pastures of Plenty,” “Shake Loose the Border,” “Patrick’s Island,” “The Gypsy Laddie,” “Shady Grove,” and “The Spanish Lady”) and truly great tunes including “The Silgo Maid / The Humours of Tulla / St Anne’s Reel” and “The Downfall of Paris / The Chanter’s Tune”. Their cover of “Pastures of Plenty” strongly reminds of the Old Blind Dogs when they cover American traditional music as they did on their cover of Bob Dylan’s “Hollis Brown”.
The bottomline is that the JSD Band has very neatly combined Celtic traditional music with American traditional songs in a way that will please fans of both genres. I certainly enjoy this album.