THE HACKLES – What A Beautiful Thing I Have Made (Jealous Butcher Records JB 223)

What A Beautiful Thing I have MadeTrajectory – the Collins dictionary defines this as “The trajectory of a moving object is the path that it follows as it moves.”  It’s often applied to fast moving objects such as bullets or rockets. The Saturn Five rockets had three stages – the first lifting the crew about 42 miles, the second stage carrying them close to orbit and the third stage putting them into orbit and then out toward the moon. In my lifetime, this has been probably the most visible example of the importance of getting trajectory right, a fraction of a degree out at the wrong time and you miss the moon completely.

Collins has a second definition “The trajectory of something such as a person’s career is the course that it follows over time.”  Like Saturn Five, it’s really helpful if it keeps going upwards. Unlike Saturn Five it’s rare that this happens in life.

On June 1st, The Hackles release their third album.  My colleague Mike Davies described their first two albums thus: “Whereas the debut was a sparse, sitting-room affair largely constructed around guitar and banjo, this [second album], co-produced with Adam Selzer, pulls out all the stops with guest musicians and instruments that now include drums, organ, pedal steel, accordion, fiddle, clarinet and ukulele in service of the couple’s magnificent harmonies”. With this third album, What a Beautiful Thing I Have Made, the initial Hackles duo of Katie Claborn and Luke Ydstie have become a trio through the addition of Halli Anderson, predominantly on violin and harmony vocals. To my ear the new album is, again, better still. It’s a great trajectory for The Hackles to be on.

There are eleven tracks, the playing is enviable as you’d expect from their previous work, and the instrumentation ranges beyond the core guitar, banjo and violin of the three principals to create a wider sound – from drums/percussion through most of the album to, say, the smoothness of ‘James’ Drink’ with the use of clarinet.

Overall, there is, then, quality playing and arrangements; there are eleven very listenable songs; but above all what draws you into The Hackles is the singing: the three vocalists have a different timbre – listen to Claborn on ‘Angela’, Ydstie on the title track and Anderson on ‘Birdcage’ to give a feel of the three lead styles – but, from the catchy opening track, ‘Damn The Word’ to the more thoughtful closing ‘First Time For Everything’, their voices merge on harmony vocals as though they were melting into each other.

I may be the first to point out that The Hackles trajectory is consistently upwards, but I don’t imagine that I’ll be the only one to point out that the new album is, indeed a thing of beauty.

It is though.

The band have recently been on a tour of the UK and got some great reviews – dates for a 2024 tour are already being lined up.

Mike Wistow

Artists’ website:

‘Damn The Word’ – live: