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Old Blind Dogs, a four piece band from the North East of Scotland, are quite young really. They were formed, in February 1990, by Buzzby McMillan, bass player with Aberdeen band Mabel Meldrum's and Jonny Hardy ace fiddler, flautist and guitar thrasher. The rest of the line up is Ian Benzie on guitar and vocals and percussionist Davy Cattanach. With the exception of limited edition cassette, New Tricks, is the bands debut album.

And what an album it is! Most of the material is traditional but given the Old Blind Dogs treatment.

From the swamps of Aberdeenshire comes a foot tapping Cajun version of the Back O'Bennachie. Compare this with their re-working of that hoary old chestnut The Bonnie Lass O Fyvie. Hackneyed to death by successions of shortbread tin musicians, it has been given a new lease of life.

I thought I detected the influence of Dick Gaughan in the vocal work of Ian Benzie particularly on "The Bonnie Banks O'Fordie" and Burn's "Song for Autumn". Reference to the sleeve notes confirmed that both songs were based on versions by Gaughan but Benzie's voice is less nasal and the diction is clearer.

The arrangement for The Wee Wee German Lairdie, a satirical song about the Hanovarian, King George I, is interesting to say the least. Only percussion instruments are used to produce this fast moving almost staccato sound. Could this be Celtic Rap?

The tunes, of which there are four sets, are what really grabbed my attention. A haunting arrangement of Monaghan's Jig that made the wee hairs on the back of my neck stand up. The J&B reel is played as a slow air and then The Bonawe Highlanders provides a change in tempo and takes the set to a rousing crescendo. Then there's The Ferret Set with a blistering rendition of the tune dedicated to Andy Renwick's favourite rodent.

The rights of Man/Bedlam Boys is my favourite track. It's just such a magic arrangement. I'm not even going to try to analyse or explain it I'm just going to listen to it again. Buy the album and make you're own mind up.

Old Blind Dogs are a young band influenced by many styles of music. With the exception of the songs which are unashamedly based on Gaughan versions, the various influences appear only temptingly and fleetingly. Old Blind Dogs sound is innovative, exciting and original. With them the traditional is alive and well and moving towards the 21st Century.

Hugh Taylor

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This album was reviewed in Issue 1 of The Living Tradition magazine.