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OLD BLIND DOGS "Close To The Bone" Lochshore CDLDL 1209

In hot pursuit of their successful "New Tracks" recording, "Close To The Bone" sees the chums from the Scottish North East revealing more of their pedigree and breeding.

Ian F. Benzie takes lead vocal on the six traditional songs, all of which have strong north east connections. His singing style is deceptive, sounding fairly direct and straight forward, yet through changes of emphasis in timing and phrasing maintains his voice as the centre of interest. "Glenlogie" and "The Cruel Sister" are both "big" ballads or Muckle Sangs and have in the past been generally sang and recorded unaccompanied. The musical treatment given to them here detracts nothing from the songs, although "Glenlogie" is taken at a fair lick, usually sung by others at about two thirds of this speed. The other songs, "Kilbogie", "Twa Corbies" and "MacPherson's Rant", also receive the Old Blind Dogs treatment, being whipped on to reveal the drama contained in lyric and tune, while an unaccompanied treatment is given to "The Trooper and the Maid".

Many of the tunes recorded here have been written by "Jonny" Hardie the band's fiddle and mandolin player. "The Clayslaps Reel", "The Winging", "Margaret Cromar", "The Fall" and "Seonaidh Mor" are all by J. Hardie. "The Honeymoon Reel", "Kings", "The Nuptial Knot" and "The Broken Pledge" are traditional tunes and airs from around the country. The sets of tunes breeze along in similar style as the song accompaniments, with "Jonny" Hardie well to the fore, fiddle and mandolin blending with Ian F. Benzie on guitar, "Buzzby" McMillan's cittern, bass guitar and low whistle along with Davy Cattanach on various percussion instruments, including xylophone.

I recently had a chance to again hear the band live, albeit this time in their ceilidh band guise and without Davy Cattanach (recovering from an injured hand). The crowd that night were in a dancing mood and the band acquitted themselves well, "Jonny" Hardie's fiddle playing drawing more and more dancers on to the floor. Old Blind Dogs have developed a style of playing which allows them to perform traditional and contemporary material without a noticeable join or change of character and this recording does much to capture the spirit of their distinct sound.

Peter Fairbairn

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This album was reviewed in Issue 5 of The Living Tradition magazine.