Since their eponymous debut album two years ago, Hò-Rò have expanded to a six-piece with Paul Martin and DC Macmillan joining Calum MacPhail, Lucy Doogan, Sean Cousins and Crisdean MacDonald. Thus we have the cunningly titled Hex. The band talk about the melding of six musical styles but really it’s about two factions: pipes, accordion, fiddle and whistles on the one side with guitar, keyboards and drums on the other.
On the instrumentals Hò-Rò manage to be tight and wild at one and the same time. The short opener, ‘Hex’, could be a dance tune in one of these new-fangled urban styles if it continued for longer but it segues into ‘Muc’ which is more like a traditional tune set but I know no more. The first song is ‘Walk The Road’ sung by Lucy. It sounds traditional the way Hò-Rò handle it but it’s actually by Kate Rusby. You begin to realise that this album isn’t as conventional as you might have thought. ‘The Pup’ is another big tune set followed by Damien O’Kane’s ‘Raven’s Wing’, a powerful song about alcoholism.
Then comes ‘Nuggets’, possibly the star of the show. It begins, for a few bars at least, like a disco track until Calum piles in with finger-breaking accordion. Then the rhythm changes as Lucy’s fiddle comes in followed a magnificent, but far too short, guitar interjection from Sean. ‘Big Dog Collections’ begins with a field recording into another whirlwind instrumental set – I think I recognise one of the tunes but I’m not sure.
‘Muinntir Mo Ghràidh’ is a gentle song by Sandy Rankin, a distant relative of Lucy’s, sung over a piano-led accompaniment – a contrasting low-key moment and a nice back-story. ‘Mornington’ is another high-energy instrumental follow by the funkiest ‘Puirt-A-Beul’ you could wish to hear. Finally, we have an initially quite restrained take on Findlay Macdonald’s ‘Elliot Finn Macdonald’ which allows everyone to showcase – it feels like a perfect set closer to me.
I feel like I say this an awful lot but here we have another fine young Scottish band who are interpreting traditional music their way.
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‘Elliot Finn’ – official video: