Monday, 3 April 2017

OLD BLIND DOGS

CD review

Room With A View


Eclectic and global is the simplest way to describe Old Blind Dogs’ new album. The music and the influences driving the nine tracks on this, their thirteenth album, come from far and wide snared in the dream catcher of their travels; from right under their feet in the earth of Scotland and from wider traditions, culture and legends.


Old Blind Dogs
All but three of the tracks are multiple tunes so no one can complain they have been short-changed. OBD even has a new line up to give the tunes a fresher look. Jonny Hardie is now making music with Aaron Jones, Ali Hutton and Donald Hay.

Opener Bunker Hill/Sandy Boys has a strong feel of Scotland with a tune akin to Tossing the Feathers and the pipes, from Hutton, though going full pelt remain subtle. Then there is the switch to Jones on bouzouki which brings a definite bluegrass feel underpinned by Hardie’s fiddle. For the big finish they throw everything into the pot before suddenly pulling the plug.

Another doublet follows with A Ring On Her Hand and Cairo Day. The electronics bring in the tune with a gentle touch from Hutton’s whistle before Hardie’s smooth tones begin the tale. With the lyrics dropping out, in comes the deep rasp of the fiddle driven by Hutton’s pipe playing keeping pace with the hopping beat underneath.

Newe is a triplet of John McCall’s March to Kilbowie Cottage/Joel Turk’s and An Iuchair. Hutton’s understated and wind gentle tones on the whistle are accented precisely by the picked strings. A drawn out note indicates a change of pace and the whistle brings a livelier dance. The percussion pushes to drive it into the third part where Hardie’s playing takes up the mantle before cranking it right up with a galloping beat matched by the pipes.

As if to give the listener a breather there is the single tune of Earl O March’s Daughter, a smooth ballad from Hardie. His voice lies somewhere between the nasal tones of Kris Drever and the soft singing of Ewan McLennan. This makes for a very pleasant song.
Donald Hay

The band goes back to a triplet with Nevertheless which is Billy Rush’s/Nina’s Jig and The North Star.

Jones kicks things of with his lovely, light and dancing strings before being joined by Hardie’s fiddle. It’s the kind of tune which can lift your spirits on a dull day. Hutton’s deeper whistle adds texture through to the second part. 

This is picked up by the jerky, sawing sound of Hardie’s strings which are an introduction for the pipes to catch anyone who might be getting too relaxed.

Sawney Bean comes in almost like a snake charming tune before the vocals begin the dark tale of the song. It’s a delicious and complex tune with the subtle but definite percussion from Hay holding up the strands of fiddle and whistle as they weave in and out of each other like insects in an aerial mating ritual.

The throaty sound of the fiddle brings in Gavottes Des Montagnes and once again the band bring their respective talents together in a dance for this instrumental with a tangible eastern flavour and almost sees the whistles and strings fighting for prominence, but of course the winner is the listener.

From the title of Warlike Lads of Russia you almost expect a marching sound but instead this is a tale of war with a distinctive light touch with the feel of a poem in its own right which has been set to music. What you get is a great tale of over the top of music which accents the story for a double treat.

The new album
The band keep the biggest chunk for last with Died and Gone which is a set of four tunes Abair Thusa Mi Bhi Tarraing/Highland Harry/Died and Gone to Prague and Sisters Reel. 

The tune gently eases the listener in with the liquid sound of fiddle, whistle and strings with the occasional Will O’ Wisp thrown in as a wee treat. the pipes at not long in coming starting slowly but then setting a grand pace for what is a fitting end to an enjoyable album which is Scottish enough to make you crave an Irn Bru but cosmopolitan enough to have wide appeal. 

Fans have had to wait six years for this album but it’s been worth the wait, however let’s hope they don’t leave those who want to enjoy what seems to be a new wave of traditional Scottish music, gasping for another six years.



Room With A View is out now on the band’s own label and is available from their website, and you can see them on tour throughout this month starting with their album launch on April 5 at Eden Court, Bishops Road, Inverness. IV3 5SA. Show starts 8pm and tickets are £15.
They continue the tour the following night, April 6, at Queen's Hall, 85- 89 Clerk Street, Edinburgh. EH8 9JG. Show starts 8pm and tickets are £15 or £12 concessions.
On April 7 they were due to play The Old Malthouse, Old Market, Bristol. However, this show has been CANCELLED, along with the concert planned on April 8 at Ferndown Village Hall. You can however see them on April 14 at The Arc Sessions, Fochabers Institute, 15 High Street, Fochabers, IV32 7EP. Doors open 7pm and tickets range from £6.96 to £16.52. 
Finally on April 15 you can see them at Tolbooth, Jail Wynd, Stirling. FK8 1DE. Show starts 8pm and tickets are £14 or £12 concessions.