Album Review | OBD Music | Review by Marc Higgins | Stars: 4/5
From first sight of the digi-pack sleeve this is clearly a considered album. A sense of timelessness and a sense of place seeps though everything. There is a playfulness through the presentation of the album, did the title suggest the sleeve or did the sleeve suggest the title, either way it works. A postcard from a magical and musical place. The landscape, the surreal sense of ancient but modern, the prog rock album cover juxtaposition of the parlour chairs, the hearth and the heather, the little touches of humour, the whisky label lettering and the weathered feel it all works together, like a cypher the clues are there, you know what it is before you play it and it does not disappoint. With nine tracks it might at first feel like a short album, an afterthought. But the tracks are slow builders, given time to breathe and mature, like a fine single malt. Part way through a track the walls melt, the front room fades away, till all that remains, like the Cheshire Cat’s grin, is the hearth and your arm chair. Suddenly you are sat in that landscape with the music blowing through the gorse. Track one is nearly six minutes of slowly building Celtic Music, but it is twisted by the band’s recent American travels with some decidedly Appalachian fiddle playing. “A Ring on Her Hand opens with a beautiful bubbling sound, sampled pipes? treated whistles?, think interlude from Terry Riley. The whole track is a perfect blend of vocals and layered guitar an understated rhythm with some heavenly pipe playing. “Newe” is an exercise in restraint. Pipes and whistles swirl, with all the breaths and burrs of the player punctuating the tune over another masterfully understated delicate rhythm. The intensity and pace of the playing builds through the track, ending in a gloriously furious fiddle part. This music gets in your synapses like wind in the wires and before you know it your feet and fingers are not your own. There is a wonderful sense of space around the guitar part in “The Earl O March’s Daughter. Like John Renbourn’s playing, it’s the air between as much as the notes themselves. Old Blind Dogs have a wonderful way to subtly layer vocals, that is used to great effect to accent and emphasise on this track and on “Warlike Lads of Russia” and “A Ring on Her Hand”. It’s not showy virtuosity, it always serves the song and the atmosphere, but it is quietly perfect, a smoothly blended whole. “Sawney Bean” is another hybrid, infectious traditional music, but the staccato guitar and rhythms recalls riding the rails across an endless Mid West prairie. “Gavottes Des Montagnes” features a gloriously dark phased acid folk fiddle, a brooding intro to a captivating pipes and fiddle duet. Again to these ears the pipes drift towards becoming bubbling electronic keyboards, illustrating that fine music has no boundaries. The final set of tunes “Died and Gone” starts slowly with layers of plucked strings, fiddle and pipes, it all feels effortless, but like a zen brush painting everything is in the right place. Again like “Newe” the tempo and intensity builds, pauses in the playing like gear changes. You know this is going to be amazing live. While the ruined hearth might be hard to source, listeners are recommended to find a comfortable chair, their own glass of what almost certainly isn’t cold tea or honey and lemon and get lost in the music of Old Blind Dogs. All that’s missing is a fireside hound.