REVIEW: A Hawk and a Hacksaw

Posted: March 1, 2011 in Records
Tags: , ,

I’ve been trying my best to ferret out the latest rumours about the pending Crawl announcement … but to no avail so far. I’ve spotted a few repeated acts in the bill, so I’m not abandoning my Gang of Four theory just yet. There may, though, be more afoot: the Crawl always stagger their announcements, but I get the distinct sense there’s something different going on this year.

Meanwhile, one act I don’t expect to be on the bill is Jeff Barnes’s A Hawk and a Hacksaw. I caught them a couple of years ago in a tiny venue being supported by a certain Mumford and Sons, who have of course since eclipsed AH&AH, who continue to play venues with a capacity of about 60 people including the bar staff. Shame, because they’re making some of the best music inspired by world forms there could possibly be, and remain wedded to the idea that instrumtation shouldn’t be restricted to two guitars and a bass. Intellectually, I know they’re not alone in this – but it’s sometimes easy to forget amidst the onslaught of dreary skinny white boys and all their angular woodling.

The band’s latest release, Cervantine, is in many ways a more up-beat, lightly coloured affair than some of their past offerings: Darkness at Noon and Deliverance alike emphasised dark undertones and brooding atmospheres over sprightliness or melody. The band’s grasp for rhythm remains at the heart of the new record, but there’s an added dusting of what might almost be termed accessibility, were it not for the prominent bouzouki and tuba.

Take the swirling, serpentine title track, ‘No Rest For The Wicked’, which marches along in one section, and whips up into a tornado of accordion in another; likewise, the vocals on ‘Uskudar’ lift it apart from the instrumental movements found elsewhere on the album, leading it down paths which might even be described as romantic; the final track, entitled ‘The Loser’, has none of the down-cast lope the title might suggest, instead practically skipping along with as close to a hummable tune as this act ever get.

All of which makes for a refreshing effort, one which is thoroughly consistent with the bright, almost cheeky, brass on its title track. Self-released and not yet available in the duo’s native USA, Cervantine is a welcome companion of a record. Maybe next year for the Crawl, eh?

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