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HEKETY 'Furze Cat' WildGoose Records WGS319CD

This is strong stuff. If I didn't know better, I'd have guessed that Hekety were an offshoot of one of the better Central French bands of the '90s. But the sleevenotes insist that this is English music, so let's go with that, leaving aside the vexed question of what counts as English music anyway.

Hekety are first and foremost a dance band, with an unambiguous beat and solid tempo. This makes them particularly good for listening to, because you can tap toes and and drum fingers without annoying other dancers. And make no mistake, this is toe-tapping and finger-drumming music. Never mind that some members of Hekety are self-confessed Morris dancers: the closest they come to the Morris tradition is probably The Man Tiger, a Cotswold tune that's been forged in the Sheffield steel mills and now has an edge on it that would cut through baldricks and bells like a chainsaw. There are hints of John Kirkpatrick on The Rambling Sailor too, but they don't last long in Hekety's crucible.

So who are these motley-clad mayhem-merchants? Rich and Jess Arrowsmith provide the basic box'n'fiddle groove, although the fiddle turns into a hurdy-gurdy at full moon. There's a powerful blast of clarinet from Jo Veal, easily mistaken for bagpipes in a certain light. The tried and trusted guitar of Gavin Davenport is joined down below by Nigel Holmes' electric bass. Add some sharp haircuts and shades, short skirts for the girls and long dresses for the lads, and there you have it. As seen on no less.

Arrowsmith and Davenport compositions abound, including the charming waltz Elvaston Castle and the menacing title track which conjures up the sort of barn dance where everyone wears black and carries scythes. Other high points are the dark brooding Panaché de Main and the Breton-influenced Battle Swing. All the material on Furze Cat is played magnificently, with surprising depth for an unadorned five-piece. Well worth a listen.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 59 of The Living Tradition magazine.