The Rock ‘n’ Reel
As two out of five band members are musically rooted in rock music, it is not a big surprise to find traces of that in the music of Smoky Finish. With their characteristic arrangements Smoky Finish have found a unique style that blends folk and rock music and distinguishes their music from that of a classical folk band: rock ‘n’ reel.
Rock ‘n’ reel music is defined by three criteria: The rhythm section of Smoky Finish with guitars, bouzouki, mandolin, bass guitar and various percussion instruments works with many classical elements of rock. The accentuation and harmonisation of the accompaniment are taken over from rock. So much for the „rock“ part. The melody section of the band with its fiddles and flute places folk tunes such as jigs and reels over this basis. Sometimes the tunes will be affectionate, sometimes rough, sometimes lyrical and another time full of energy. That’s the „reel“ - the tune part. The third component is the singing: the two lead singers couldn’t be more unlike each other. Esch’s voice has a “soft, soulful and contemporary character“ (shupi, „Concerto“ 3/2000), while Andy’s is a typical rock-voice: rough, archaic, manly. When Esch sings you hear folk, when Andy sings it is rock. The total is neither folk nor rock, not some kind of folky rock nor rocky folk - it is rock ‘n’ reel!
Rock ‘n ‘ reel music is music to listen to - but above all it is dance music. Esch: „Rock is dance music, really. The musicians move, the audience moves, has to move, wants to move. And the same is true for Irish and Scottish music: jigs and reels, that’s dance music. If you have ever been to a festival in Ireland or Scotland you know what I mean: the whole crowd is dancing like mad! So, rock and folk have a great many things in common even though it may not seem so at first sight. And by stressing these basic common elements - the driving rhythm and the dynamism it creates - we build a bridge between rock and folk!“
Smoky Finish uses mainly acoustic instruments. Esch: „We have never really thought about using E-guitars or an E-bouzouki. We love the sounds of our acoustic instruments, they are a trademark. In our musical visions, an E-guitar wouldn’t fit because the sound of it, even when using all sorts of sound effects, can’t be anywhere near that of an acoustic guitar. The same with percussion: The sounds of bodhrán, cajón, bongos to name just a few, couldn’t be realised with an ordinary drum kit. And it’s these sounds we are after.“
The musicians of Smoky Finish do not, however, reject all the „blessings“ that electronic music has brought us. The wah-wah pedal is one of Esch’s favourites and Pauli likes the distorted sound of his E-fiddle. Experimenting with new combinations of percussion is one of Bernhart’s favourite pastimes.
Esch: „We’ve been asked many times, what we mean by „rock ‘n’ reel“. Well, it’s hard to define music with words. Music between folk and rock, modern acoustic rock with influences of folk would be another definition or maybe the other way round...it’s hard to define music with words. I suggest you just listen to it and you’ll know what „rock ‘n’ reel“ really is!“