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Sleeve Notes for One Man Hand by Tony Hall

One Man HandTony Hall is the master of playing distinctive, quintessentially English style two-row melodeon.

This is Tony's first album for a long time.


All the songs and tunes on this album are played on Hohner Melodeons  cheap(ish), factory made and basic  but Tony prefers their more earthy pubby sound. The melodeons are all old instruments and the clicking sound of the keys reflects their age. The tunes were all recorded as performances with no overdubs or double tracking even though at times it seems so. Tonys Norfolk motto is -  Why dew suffin the easy way, if theres a bludda sight harder way to dew it!

Mel Howley  said in The Living Tradition in 1996:
Tony Hall is the master of playing distinctive, quintessentially English style two-row melodeon strongly rhythmic base lines which underpin the essentially simple tune, which is then worked and re-worked, developing the possibilities and ranging freely around the buttons pulling out chordal progressions and combinations which show Tonys deep understanding of the two-row box and defy the limitations that other players seem to find with it.

This is still true of Tonys playing today.

Track Notes

1 The Abbott's Bromley Horn Dance
(trad. English)

About 40 years ago, in the 70s, I found myself standing (staggering) at night in Thaxted, Essex and still can't remember why I was there! I witnessed a strange group of dancers, each holding a stag's head mask before his face, doing a stately dance, accompanied by a most haunting tune on a solo fiddle. To me, this is the most beautiful and moving tune from the English tradition (apparently nicked by the Thaxted lot from its home in Abbott's Bromley, Staffs).

2 Julia Gates' Waltz
(Pete Shaw)

Written by one of Folk music's great unsung heroes, my mate Pete Shaw of Peterborough, as a tribute to a blind and deaf girl, Julia Gates, who was able to dance to Pete's band tunes by contact with other dancers and sensing vibrations from the dance floor. She became pregnant and her story was featured in a TV documentary. In 2003, Julia was the first blind and deaf person to complete the London Marathon.

3 Down on the Hard
(Tony Hall)

DON'T put a rude connotation on 'hard'! It's a hard area (cobbles or concrete), where boats are hauled up out of the water.

4 Jimmy Shand's March, Miss Elspeth Campbell

'Norfolkised' version but I did my best.

5 Big Bend Gal
(Shelor family c. 1927)

Shelor family from Patrick County, Virginia, USA. I found it in a CD attached to cartoonist Robert Crumb's book 'Heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country'.

6 The Minneola Rag

From a CD of the East Texas Serenaders (circa 1927-37). The proper third part was too difficult for me so I bluffed it!

7 Binder Twyne
(Tony Hall)

8 Lord Haddo's Favourite

9 Strange Fruit
(David Margolick)

This is the most searing indictment of the treatment of black people in the Southern States particularly from the Klu Klux Clan. My own version is loosely based on the singing of Billy Holliday (about 1930). A Norfolk bloke shouldn't do it - but I did.

10 The Beccles Stomp
(Tony Hall)

A tune in the New Orleans jazz style. It show how its possible to get a bluesy effect on the 2-row box.

11 Rocky Mountain Tune
(trad.)/ Bless your Beautiful Hide (from 7 Brides for 7 Brothers film)

The first tune is from a Jimmy Shand (Rocky Mountain Medley) and the second the tune of Howard Keel's song from the film. Well why not??

12 Kitty the Handsome Cat
(Trad. Irish)

I heard this first in the 1960s at the King's Head folk Club, Islington, sung by an English regular at the club. It was his only song I learnt the words about 27 years later.

13 The New May Moon
(trad. English)

14 The Enigma of the Southwold Tide
(Tony Hall)

I was brought up a few miles from Southwold, on Suffolk's coast famous for its beauty AND Adnams bitter! I wrote this a few years ago after a good session on the latter. I believe its the most boring song ever written.

15 Anne's Waltz
(Bob McQuillen)

A lively waltz by Bob McQuillen, a wonderful tunesmith and squeezeboxer of New England, USA. I call him the king of waltzes.

16 The Flowers of Manchester
(trad. English)

(Tony thinks this is the name but...) Although simple, to my mind, Morris tunes have a strength and beauty to equal any others. As in great classical themes, there is great potential for harmonies.

17 The Haddock Song
(Tony Hall)

A tribute to the wonderful smoke houses along our Norfolk/Suffolk Coast.

18 Con Cassidy's Jig
(C Cassidy)

I learnt this from Alisdair Cameron, esteemed member of my Von Krapp Family Band in Norfolk. Con Cassidy was a terrific Donegal Fiddler.