Boomkat Product Review:
A Hawk and a Hacksaw (the collaborative duo of Jeremy Barnes and Heather Toth) are a band that have never truly managed to convince me. Indeed their collection of Eastern European-influenced folk music has always excited a certain part of my musical brain, but across a whole album they've rarely held my attention for the duration. Occasionally it just becomes slightly too zany, slightly too clever for its own good (something I could equally attribute to Barnes' old band Neutral Milk Hotel) and while I have the utmost respect for them I don't find myself going back again and again. Here, however is where it all changes and finally (for me at least) they have reached that place where I feel they've always intended to go. That place was Hungary and in Budapest at a music shop of all places the duo met up with a handful of Hungarian folk musicians; the Hun Hangar Ensemble was born and A Hawk and a Hacksaw suddenly had the backing they needed to make the record of their dreams, true Eastern European folk music. It works too, it really works - coming across like a less-indie friendly Beirut this is foot stomping, smoky back room goodness, the sort of music you can imagine being lapped up by the old man in the corner as he puffs on a pipe and sips a glass of home-made plum schnapps (go to Hungary and you'll know what I'm on about) and guzzles fish soup. The instrumentation is sublime too, you can hear that these guys just know exactly what they're doing - we have cymbalom, taragoto, accordion, Hungarian bagpipes, fiddle and all sorts of other instruments thrown into the mix to create a veritable circus of Eastern European sound, and far from coming across as the cynical exercise in replication that this could have been, it sounds well developed and more importantly - fun. The musicians sound like they're having a whale of a time, and this is in essence a party record, a party record with soul of course, we're not talking 'the best of Trance hits 23', but something you can play loud and drink copious amounts of alcohol to. As if all this isn't enough, those kind folks over at Leaf have also managed to drop in a DVD introducing us to the whole Hawk and a Hacksaw 'thing', which is a rather nice bonus. More like this please! Highly recommended.