Vango 200601

I'd seen Hoover The Dog so I knew them to be a Welsh Borders trio with a repertoire of traditional and self-penned material and a taste for appalling punning titles like American in Powys, Big Girls Blues, Baching Mad (HTD's take on Johann Sebastian) and Teletunes (similarly on Georg Philip Teleman). Yes, Scratch'n'Sniff and Distempo were certainly eclectic - but you'd expect no less from Paul Hutchinson (Belshazzar's Feast), John Hymas (a Portuguese symphony orchestra) and Tony Harris (expat Yorkshireman). I knew nothing of Belgian band Fluxus, even though they'd been around - in Belgium, presumably - for as long as HTD. The bands met in 2003 at a Czech festival, loved each other's sound and, less than a year later, first performed as a single unit at the Brosella Festival in Brussels.

The inlay describes the joint work as 'astonishingly original music'. Having heard similar phrases used previously in relation to a variety of more or less (generally less) successful fusion projects, I stifled a yawn and listened. If fusion works, it's not especially helpful to seek comparisons - so I won't, because this certainly does work. You'll get some idea if you imagine HTD's fiddle, guitar/bouzouki and accordion supplemented by the clarinet, recorder and pipes of Stefan Timmermans, Paul Garriau's hurdy-gurdies, Greet Garriau's diatonic accordion and voice (which she doesn't use often on this CD - but, when she does, the effect is dramatic) and percussion. Writing credits are shared between Hymas, the Garriaus and Toon Van Mierlo (sax, oboe, pipes). Oh, and Linda Thompson (yes, that one). Okavango is remarkable, not just for its originality, but for being released within a couple of months of being recorded and for the quite amazing quality of musicianship on what is almost entirely a live recording (with a wonderfully restrained audience).

Dave Tuxford

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This album was reviewed in Issue 67 of The Living Tradition magazine.