KIT HAWES & AARON CATLOW – The Fox (Big Badger Records BBRCD006)

The FoxKit Hawes and Aaron Catlow are two-fifths of Bristol band Sheelanagig and The Fox is their first recorded exploration of their music as a guitar/violin duo. Their parent band is well-known for its pan-European influences and they can’t quite escape that – Aaron’s ‘Peddler’s Leg’ is a high-energy instrumental – but they try to stick to their British roots.

The opening track is ‘The Fighter’, written by Kit. It’s set in a fairground boxing booth but the twist is that challenger is female and what’s more she wins her bout. There may be a story there but Kit doesn’t let on and leaves us with the message that “winning don’t come cheap” but it’s worth the pain if it confounds expectations. Next come a pair of traditional songs, ‘John Barleycorn’ and the title track. Both are played fairly straight and I couldn’t help but reflect how out of date ‘The Fox’ is – around here you can’t drive at night without seeing a fox or two out scavenging and there’s no need for them to go to town at all. Both songs are well done but I am a bit disappointed at such safe choices.

‘Crossfire’, also by Kit, is the album’s political song, short and bitter, and that’s followed by ‘Lofoten’, a part traditional, part original instrumental again drawing on the Sheelanagig heritage. ‘Country Blues’ is a departure and, although it’s labelled traditional it feels like an assemblage of verses; certainly some it comes from Dock Boggs and some from Ralph Stanley. The final song, ‘All On A Day’, takes us back to the mythical rural idyll inhabited by the fighter of the first track – here Robin O’Ribbons and Kindling Kate are heading for the woods and definitely up to no good.

The Fox is a nice mixture of simplicity and complexity. There are just two voices and two instruments, no guests and no multi-tracked overdubs. The execution is simple but some of the music, particularly the instrumental tracks are complex enough for anyone.

Dai Jeffries

Artists’ website:

‘The Fighter’ live: