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Words like "classy" and "courageous" spring to mind when reviewing this album. Old Blind Dogs have taken a mixture of mainly well known songs and tunes and added to them a smaller number of lesser known items. The "courageous" comment arises from their very individual interpretations of some of the material. On songs such as "Mormond Braes" and the "Birken Tree", it is more of a "tweaking" of familiar arrangements which lend a fresh edge to them, and it works. For my money they lose it sadly with the "Bonnie Early of Moray", however, as their own arrangement is much less effective than the one most people are used to. However, full marks to Old Blind Dogs for having the guts to dare to be different.

There are two songs on the album that I have never been a great fan of. The first of these is the "Rose and the Lindsey O". Whether it is called by this title or the "Cruel Mother" or which ever one hundred and one variants I hear sung I can never get away from the dreichness of the song. The Old Blind Dogs give it their best shot but not even Freddie Mercury at his ranting wildest could have done anything with this number. On the other hand their version of the "Ballad of Hollis Brown" must be the definitive one. This comes from the pen of one Bob Dylan and I am a firm believer that Bob Dylan has existed for a quarter of a century on a few brief initial years of good output. Even in his halycon days, however, he used to produce one or two that were a bit below par. I always felt that "Hollis Brown" was one of the weaker things on the "Times They Are A Changing" album the way that he did it. I used to thing that Dylan over did it so that it came out like a piece of Victorian melodrama, almost toppling over into bathos, and by the finish of his version I sometimes wanted to giggle because it sounded so OTT.

The Old Blind Dogs do not have that effect, however, and their arrangements complete with onomatopoeic counterpoint provided by the instrumentation (I always wanted to write a phrase like that - does it qualify me for pseud's corner?) adds to a growing feeling of unease as the song builds to its denouement.

There are many other good things on the album, both vocal and instrumental. I had never heard the "Lancashire Lads" before but on listening thought it a fine song and on reading the notes easily understood that when I read it was learned from a cassette by the irreplaceable Nic Jones. There is a variety of well done tunes such as the "Salmon Leap" and "Rip the Calico" from the band how really sparkle on these numbers, but for me the finest of the instrumentals is a slow and beautiful arrangement of "There Were Twa Bonnie Maidens" which I have always heard done as a fairly brisk tune. Here it's really slowed down and the result is an exquisite piece of music which to me is an outstanding part of what is overall a very sound album.

Old Blind Dogs seem to be an extremely busy gigging band, and I would imagine need little recommendation from me. However, on the strength of this album i would say what they have produced is not just a good album but an interesting and challenging one as well, and unfortunately there is not enough bands around who seem prepared to take the risk that they do so more power to their elbows.

Hector Christie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 14 of The Living Tradition magazine.