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HOOVER THE DOG "Scratch 'n' Sniff" Hidden Valley Music HVM981001

It's not often that a CD gets my attention from the opening bars, but this one did. They start off with a set of two reels, Matt Seattle's "The Tartar Frigate" followed with a fine version of the Irish tradition "Dinkies" - and it's obvious that these guys are playing for keeps!

The musos are: accordionist Paul Hutchinson, who was in the Pull and Push band and is well known in English and Irish music circles; John Hymas, whose fiddle playing comes from a classical and jazz background - including a Portuguese symphony orchestra; and Tony Harris, who has played bouzouki and guitar with Kitsyke Will, Kempion, and more recently, the Ian Bruce Breezeband. This diverse and unusual mix of influences melds together to give a breath of fresh air in an atmosphere that currently sees so many bands stagnating in seemingly endless variations on an Irish theme. Although the Hoovers treat us to a selection of Breton, English and Irish tunes, the overall impression for me was East-European.

There is a spectacular version of "Toss the Feathers" which opens with the driving strings of Harris putting down the line which is then picked-up by the fiddle and accordion in turn. A belter! As is "Flea Circus", written by Hymas, and very fast and tricky. These guys are good, very good! Another Hymas composition is the super slip jig, "The Slippery Pollack", which has sleeve notes stating "Unpopular with dancers", however, the well-defined, punctuated playing of "Whinhams Reel" marks the Hoovers as musicians who know just how to play for dancers. Despite being a trio the instrumentation and skill combines to give a helluva lot of sound from just three blokes. They manage to build and develop tunes, with often understated strings forming a platform over which the fiddle and accordion can soar. They life the tunes, powering them up, and giving them a vitality and energy that is perfect for dancing.

Their name suggests that they probably don't take themselves too seriously, but make no mistake, these guys certainly take their music extremely seriously, and have produced a terrific CD - I just love it to bits. Buy it, and play it LOUD.

Mel Howley

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This album was reviewed in Issue 31 of The Living Tradition magazine.