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OLD BLIND DOGS - Four on the Floor

OLD BLIND DOGS - Four on the Floor
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New CD, new line-up, very recognisable sound … Old Blind Dogs are now Fraser Stone (percussion), Aaron Jones (bouzouki/guitar), Rory Campbell (pipes) and the only remaining founder member Jonny Hardie (fiddle).  They continue their habit of many years of treating the tradition with respect … but not too much respect.  So – the weel-kent and weel-loved Braw Sailing on the Sea acquires a cheeky shuffle and thus a new set of clothes.  Ewan McColl’s chilling Terror Time loses its normal anthem/dirge delivery, but none of its drama, as it gallops along, propelled by driving guitar and percussion.  New-boy vocalist Aaron Jones brings his own sound to the OBDs as well.  It’s more reminiscent of the intense, occasionally almost snarly Ian F. Benzie sound of yore than of the creamy, mellifluous tones of Jim Malcolm, and the OBDs seem to have adjusted their choice of songs to take account of that.  This is a well-balanced set of well-known songs/tunes including a second pop at The Bonnie Earl O’Moray and Bedlam Boys/Rights of Man.

The most memorable track for me is, however, Davie Robertson’s Star O the Bar – a club/pub standard, generally bellowed by massed voices, unaccompanied (and not always entirely in tune).  Here, the song finds itself with an almost string-quartetty arrangement … that works, against all odds.
Perhaps that’s the OBDs’ greatest skill – to find new facets of a song or tune, to give it a tasteful, if often improbable, new set of clothes and let us all hear it as if for the first time.  Or perhaps it’s their ability to change line-up and come out sounding radically different, but still the same – the Old-Blind-Dogness seems to survive line-up changes and anno domini - and that’s remarkable … as is this CD.

Alan Murray

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This album was reviewed in Issue 76 of The Living Tradition magazine.