Old Blind Dogs
The title of Scotland's latest Old Blind Dogs album means what? in the Doric dialect and is often used as an expression of disbelief. And such was my reaction when I first played this new disk. Where are the bleak Scottish songs, the tragic deaths and bloody murders? Fit? is a happy Old Blind Dogs album.
It seems that singer/guitarist James Malcolm and the boys have turned a musical corner. Five songs (two by Robert Burns) glory in drink, politics and lost love and the 4-part a-cappella "Tatties and Herrin'" seems to have been recorded at the end of an all-night pint-fest, but there is nary a tear to be shed on this joyous offering. The achingly seductive "Reres Hill" exemplifies this new breed of Dog, as a wooer gets his girl and then hopes that he hasn't harmed her future by taking her virtue. On this track, Malcolm, whose voice could well woo any eligible lass, is expertly backed by Jonny Hardie's mournful fiddle and the mystical fluting of Rory Campbell.
All five Dogs, Malcolm, Hardie and Campbell plus Paul Jennings on percussion and Buzzby McMillan on electric bass and cittern, are at the top of their game. Jennings, who has finally reached the ripe old age of 18, continuously pushes this group in new directions with his exotic blend of world rhythms on djembe and congas. Hardie's lyrical fiddling combines with the powerful flutes and pipes of Campbell to create tunes of beauty and intricacy, whether racing each other through "The Rejected Suitor" or entwining on "Sky City." My only complaint would be that McMillan, whose playing and humor shines so much on stage, is once again relegated to background rhythms and accompaniment.
Still, this recording has certainly benefited from the group's participation in Green Linnet's 25th Anniversary Tour. On the heels of the intensity of 1999's The World's Room, Fit? captures the playfulness and diversity that is so evident in a live Old Blind Dogs show. - Helene Northway
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