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HOOGIE "Just for the Halibut" Kylin Studios KSCD 007

These guys will blow your socks off. Hoogie is a quartet of musicians from the vibrant Edinburgh music scene, this is their second recording, and both are outstandingly good. The combination of fiddle, pipes and accordion is ideal for traditional tunes, but also works well here for some much more modern material. The back line of guitar, bass and drums is flexible and tasteful. The three songs on this recording are a mixed bag, with a traditional Scottish ballad, an old Gaelic lament, and a recent composition from Hoogie's guitarist: all three are nicely sung and expertly arranged, although most of the vocals come from guest singers.

The album title is hugely appropriate. Hoogie seem to have thrown an enormous range of music onto this CD, to see what happened. The opening set of reels on fiddle and box, against a rich modern background, is followed by a sumptuous Scottish waltz in the style of Blair Douglas or Sandy Brechin, and then the idiom shifts away from the contemporary: a traditional song that owes much to Ossian, a fine fiddle solo with ringing strings, and a set of Breton Larides with the pipes coming in half way through like a vacuum cleaner. Things start to build up again with a set of extremely bouncy reels, then a medley of dance tunes over slap bass and percussion, then a lovely slow air with a terrible name, and into the gorgeous Gaelic song "Braigh Loch Iall" which gets a dramatic but sympathetic treatment.

Still with me? There are another seven tracks to go in this hour-long outburst, including an unannounced bonus, but there are a couple of other things I want to mention.

First, Hoogie's musicianship is top class. Most of the tunes have been written and arranged by the band to a stunningly high standard. Hoogie's technical brilliance is equally high, particularly on the accordion. I learnt about this CD because box supremo Sandy Brechin included it in his 2001 favourites, and it's not hard to see why.

Second, the taste and understanding shown on this recording is exemplary. With a broad mix of styles and lots of guest musicians, this could have been an unremarkable and disjointed CD, but instead there's a consistency and coherence which connects all the different tracks. The only oddball is perhaps the midatlantic song "Find You" which isn't really from the same stable.

Last, it's obvious that Hoogie had great fun recording this material. "Just for the Halibut" is extremely enjoyable, not just because of all the corny jokes. I've rarely heard music with more bounce, and the combination of this with Hoogie's tight sound and sound technique is a definite winner. If you want to know more, visit - maybe you'll even find an explanation for the name.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 47 of The Living Tradition magazine.