A Hawk And A Hacksaw and the Hun Hangar Ensemble

Vajdaszentivany, whilst being a bugger to spell, is also a sweet little tune for the cimbalom and so sounds a little like a prepared piano playing a folk song. I'm reliably informed, by the way, that a cimbalom is a stringed instrument like a zither

 

A Hawk And A Hacksaw and the Hun Hangar Ensemble

www.theleaflabel.com  www.konkurrent.nl

 

A few months ago I saw A Hawk supporting Calexico and overheard main man (Jeremy Barnes) trying to arrange with his manager (or some sort of record company apparatchik) a trip to Hungary to record an EP. The manager seemed unsure about this (though not in Barnes' presence) but it seems as though sense has prevailed. Not only do we have a new mini-album but we also have a twenty minute DVD comprising tour diary and concert footage. The DVD is enjoyably amateurish and for anyone who has not seen A Hawk and A Hacksaw live it gives you a good flavour of the band in the flesh.

 

Not that there is anything amateurish about A Hawk and a Hacksaw the band. And I should mention that they are definitely a duo now with violinist Heather Trost an integral member of the band. In fact the album kicks off with one of Trost's compositions, Kiraly Siratas. Based around a melancholy violin melody the song is embellished with various percussive flourishes. Zozobra (written by Barnes) follows next and is led by Barnes' accordion. Quick paced and fun, the song hurries along and is fleshed out with upright bass and the cimbalom. Probably. Anyway it sounds like a detuned piano and it clatters away to good effect. The rest of the songs are based around traditional melodies, the highlight of which is Serbian Cocek. Dominated by trumpets and drums it conjures images of a funky marching band walking through a small village and bringing everyone out to dance.

 

Romainan Hora and Bulgar is a live recording with Barnes' doing his usual thing of playing the accordion, drums and percussion all at the same time. (The DVD opens with him getting his sleigh bell hat mended in France.) Ihabibi opens with trumpet and drums and, as with much of A Hawk's output, manages to sound both Eastern European and Mariachi-esque at the same time. After a minute or two tuba, violin, bass and accordion all join in. It's a good fun song and, as with many of the traditional songs, sounds best being blasted out of the speakers.

 

Vajdaszentivany, whilst being a bugger to spell, is also a sweet little tune for the cimbalom and so sounds a little like a prepared piano playing a folk song. I'm reliably informed, by the way, that a cimbalom is a stringed instrument like a zither. The strings are played with two hammers, one of which is often covered in felt to give differing sound qualities. So there you go. Oriental Hora opens with violin before an oompah sounding backing joins in. Over time more instruments join the throng though the pace remains pretty funereal. The final track is one for the purists – Dudanotak is made up of traditional Hungarian bagpipe melodies and if that's for you then all well and good, I suppose. Actually, it's fine, especially when the drumming kicks in.

 

All in all then it's another good album from A Hawk and A Hacksaw. If anything I think it is an improvement on the last 'proper' album, The Way the Wind Blows, which was at times at little too insistent. What we have here is the product of a joyous meeting between like-minded travellers. Let's hope it is the first of many.

 

Words: Chris Dawson.