One Man Hand

by Tony Hall

Not Available

Tony 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.

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.
The Abbott's Bromley Horn Dance
About 40 years ago
Julia Gates' Waltz
Written by one of Folk music's great unsung heroes
Sample not available
Down on the Hard
DON'T put a rude connotation on 'hard'! It's a hard area (cobbles or concrete)
Jimmy Shand's March
Sample not available
Big Bend Gal
Shelor family from Patrick County
Sample not available
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!
Binder Twyne
Sample not available
Lord Haddo's Favourite
Sample not available
Strange Fruit
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.
Sample not available
The Beccles Stomp
A tune in the New Orleans jazz style. It show how its possible to get a bluesy effect on the 2-row box.
Sample not available
Rocky Mountain Tune
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??
Sample not available
Kitty the Handsome Cat
I heard this first in the 1960s at the King's Head folk Club
Sample not available
The New May Moon
Sample not available
The Enigma of the Southwold Tide
I was brought up a few miles from Southwold
Sample not available
Anne's Waltz
A lively waltz by Bob McQuillen
Sample not available
The Flowers of Manchester
(Tony thinks this is the name but...) Although simple
Sample not available
The Haddock Song
A tribute to the wonderful smoke houses along our Norfolk/Suffolk Coast.
Sample not available
Con Cassidy's Jig
I learnt this from Alisdair Cameron
Sample not available

Sussex Folk Diary

Vic Smith

This album by the great English eccentric is a total delight. Tony is an extremely witty man with a decidedly individual view of the world and  although there are hilarious moments on the album, he is also a fine singer

and a remarkable exponent of the melodeon. Wherever he gets his tunes or  songs from, he manages to stamp 'Norfolk' all over them.

He describes his composition 'The Enigma of the Southwold Tide' as "the most boring song ever written" but it is a total side-splitter. He has the audacity to play Duke Ellington's 'Creole Love Call' and call it 'The

Beccles Stomp' and then claim that he wrote it; he even turns on his serious side for one song and tackles the Billie Holiday classic 'Strange Fruit'.

And as you might expect there is one of those great Tony Hall cartoons on the album cover..(VS)

Shreds & Patches

Rees Wesson

Here we have the Norfolk melodeon master Tony Hall proving yet again that he has three brains and sixteen fingers. It's thirty years or so since the release of his groundbreaking album "Fieldvole Music" which changed our perception of English melodeon playing forever. Since then he has continued to charm and amaze his listeners with his quirky, cutting humour and his complete mastery of the two?row melodeon. So it's business as usual with waltzes, reels, jigs plus a smattering of jazz and blues all played with the dexterity and soul that only Mr. Hall can coax from a battered Hohner Pokerwork.

Of the instrumental items I must recommend the opening track, an eerily atmospheric version of The Abbots Bromley Horn Dance. On previous releases the songs covered have been mostly of the traditional variety but here at last are no less than four original ditties composed by the man himself. Whenever I see Tony perform it is his own songs that are the highlight of the show. Now in the privacy of my own van I can once more enjoy Bynder  Twyne - the moving story of an old man loved by the local children but eyed with suspicion as a potential sex offender by their parents, or The Enigma of the Southwold Tide - a surreal and hilarious description of this daily event (described by Tony as the most boxing song ever written!). Top song on the CD has to be The Haddock Song - a tribute to the smoke houses along the East Coast - "all I want is a ruddy great dish of that flakey, bakey haddocky fish".

Who ever would have thought that this pipe-smoking, pint-quaffing, motor-cycling, Norfolk squeeze-boxer would release a version of the Billie Holliday classic Strange Fruit- Well he has and it's brilliant. Incongruous but brilliant, just like himself.

Another first is the absence of accompanying musicians so everything you hear is Tony Hall with no overdubs. His technique is quite astonishing and I'm quite sure it will cause melodeonists throughout the land many hours of pain and anguish. How does he do it???

Of course, another aspect of the solo approach is that the particular clackiness of his chosen brand of melodeon is quite apparent. I have tried to convince him of the advantages of a superior Italian instrument but I'm afraid his reply was unprintable. Still, it all adds to the intimacy of the music. CD artwork, once again by Tony Hall and featuring the usual nutty cartoon send-up of himself plus entertaining sleeve notes. He's a talented artist in more ways than one.

A rare treat and as always, a breath of fresh air. He really is the melodeon fairy.

Folk Northwest

Derek Gifford

Mention the word melodeon to most people and you will get a whole spectrum of reactions from abject horror to comfortable familiarity. In the case of Tony Hall you are quite likely to raise a knowing smile for Tony is one of our finest and foremost exponents of that much maligned instrument. This album is an eclectic collection of tunes and songs which defies the supposed limitations of  two-row Hohner melodeons which, incidentally, is also the only type of melodeon that Tony has played for the last 50 odd years.

There is no over dubbing on this recording so you get all the clicks of the buttons reflecting the age of the instruments played and, quite rightly in my opinion, a more authentic sound. However, some folk might not agree and find the clicks a distraction.

Among the tunes there are some classics like The Abbott's Bromley Horn Dance, The Flowers of Manchester (that's the Morris tune - nothing to do with Geoff Higginbottom's classic) and Jimmy Shand's Rocky Mountain Tune which is followed by the tune of the song from the film 7 Brides for 7 Brothers called Bless Your Beautiful Hide! Like I said earlier this is an eclectic collection!

Tony hails from Norfolk and his gentle, laid back approach to his singing is evidence of his pedigree and experience.

The songs are equally esoteric and include four written by Tony the most unusual of which is Binder Twyne; who else could write about this subject I wonder? According to Tony the most boring song he's ever written is The Enigma of the Southwold Tide which reminds me of the description of English cricket (you know the one about one side being 'in' and the other 'out' then the sides that's 'out' goes 'in' etc., etc.) and leaves you in no doubt that the Southwold tide goes in and out! Funny it is, boring it's not Tony!

Equally amusing is The Haddock Song a tribute to the Norfolk's smoke houses. Well the title says it all really! Don't be misled either by the title of the Irish Kitty the Handsome Cat which is a love song about a woman not a cat.. well... I think so anyway! He also bravely tackles David Margolick's Strange Fruit immortalised by Billy Holiday and given an original slant through Tony's Norfolk accent. As he says 'A Norfolk bloke shouldn't do it - but I did.' 'And why not?' I say too!

So why not treat yourself to this unique and entertaining album available from Wild Goose or through Proper Music Distribution - see their web sites.


Brian Peters

Like many a squeezebox enthusiast, I bought Fieldvole Music in the late 1970s and have spent the intervening 30 years trying to figure out how Tony Hall does it. We're told that he "plays the two-row melodeon in a quintessentially English style", but really it's "quintessentially Tony Hall". A man for whom the term 'one-off' could have been invented, Tony is revered by some of today's most celebrated melodeon players.

Growing up in Suffolk with an inherited box and no preconceptions, Tony developed a wildly eclectic repertoire and a technique all his own. The first thing you notice is the gentleness and lyricism of his playing on antique Hohner instruments with mellow reeds but an unashamedly 'clacky' action (Tony revels in the extraneous noises, but the ear soon filters them out). The key to his style is the ability to carry more than one melodic theme simultaneously- his cartoon self-portrait shows a right hand with superabundant fingers, but at times it sounds like there's a whole extra hand playing that keyboard.

Material on this CD of unedited solo performances includes tunes from Jimmy Shand to ragtime and blues-all executed superblyand a selection of Tony's own eccentrically East Anglian songs, including the touching Binder Twyne, the bizarrely minimalist Enigma Of The Southwold Tide and the deadpan humour of Haddock Song ("Attila he started to rape and pillage, 'cos his wife couldn't find no haddock in the village..."). Best of all are the relatively simple tunes: the incorrectly-titled Farewell Manchester (NB The Flowers Of Manchester is Eric Winter's song about the Munich air disaster), Julia Gates' Waltz, Con Cassidy's Jig and The Abbott's Bromley Horn Dance. Here Tony establishes the melody before going off into all kinds of wonderful, subtle variations and counter-melodies. This is a masterclass by someone who knows his melodeons back-to-front and inside-out, and I love it.


Gavin Atkin

Tony Hall doesn't often leave his own area to perform � but he has had a huge influence on many other melodeon players nevertheless.  One reason is an impressive right-hand technique that often allows him to use descants or low harmonies to accompany a tune � he can often sound like two players, which is probably the reason for the title above.

Another reason is his left-hand technique.  Until the late 1970s the number of melodeon players who had the trick of using a two-row box's bass and chords to play runs and harmonies could be counted on one hand.  Nowadays it's almost normal to play this way, no doubt due in part to Tony's influence.  Tony Hall is very much his own player. He learned to play his instrument as a boy in Norfolk without hearing anyone else, and without knowing what traditional music might be. Unaware of what are supposed to be its limitations, he found his own ways of getting the most out of his box.

Again, when other players swapped their old Hohners for posh Italian models, Tony stuck to his Hohner boxes � their keys may make a clacking sound, but that's how he likes it.  Long-standing fans will be delighted to hear that One Man Hand is an entertaining and, at times, eccentric CD full of impressive playing. He's at the top of his game, and the tunes are amazingly varied, and include a blues, and a ragtime that sounds literally impossible, together with traditional dance tunes and some dreamy waltzes that provide Tony with plenty of space to demonstrate his special skills.

There are also some examples of what he calls his 'rough Norfolk singing'. The songs come from sources as diverse as Billie Holliday and the plantations of the American deep South, and there are also some entertaining self-penned songs that are almost cartoons set to music, which seems fitting for a man who makes his living as a cartoonist.

Whats Afoot

Colin Andrews

Think Norfolk, think melodeons, and Tony Hall is the name that comes to mind. He's one of those folk characters that always seems to have been there, providing backing to a number of prominent singers, including Maddy Prior & June Tabor, Nic Jones, and Shirley Collins. An album of his own has been long overdue, and WildGoose have come up with a real delight for those unfamiliar with his music.

Tony plays exclusively Hohner squeezeboxes, with a deep mellow earthy tone and a `clackiness' which gives a distinctive character to his playing, sounding almost like Appalachian stepping on Rocky Mountain Tune and like a crackly 78 recording on some other tracks. He does some amazing things with the melodeon, that ought not to be possible, with an uniquely personal repertoire that ranges from the strangely captivating Abbott:, Bromlev Horn Dance through a couple of modern but delightfully melodic waltzes (Julia Gates' Waltz, Anne's Waltz) to Ragtime and New Orleans jazz style (Beccles Stomp ? Tony's own composition).

While Tony is perhaps best known for his music, he is also a most entertaining singer. Again his repertoire is an idiosyncratic mix of songs which have appealed to him, from whatever source and his own compositions. Thus Strange Fruit, a song about the atrocities of the Klu Klux Klan, shares disc space with quaint and amusing selfpenned pieces such as Down On The Hard and the Haddock Song, and the tongue?in?cheek unaccompanied Enigma of the Southwold Tide, all delivered in a strong Norfolk accent.

It's evident from the recording that Tony really enjoys singing and playing, while at times gently poking fun at the folk scene and himself. He's also an accomplished cartoonist, with a `selfportrait' on the cover of the sleeve notes.

For an entertaining album that's definitely out of the ordinary I can certainly recommend this CD.


Maggie Aloore

Tony Hall has been a melodeon player for many more years than probably most people can imagine being one, and is as inventive and innovative and gentle (as well as slightly rude) as ever!

His playing allows the music to glide through the air, your mind and your soul as easily and beautifully as anything I've ever heard on the 2 row Hohner. The first track sets the scene for the more ethereal side of this CD, with a rendition of the Abbott's Bromley Horn Dance, and for those amongst us who hanker after being able to do something a bit more than an "umpah" Bass, this is an excellent one to aspire to. As Tony points out, his first song track Down On the Hard is not what you might think if you tend to be quick to spot a "Double Entendre". It actually refers to a cobbled or concrete area where boats are hauled up. Once again, if you arc wanting an example of how to use a melodeon to accompany your own singing, this is a truly lovely example : sensitive, rhythmical. and never over powering the voice.

Throughout the CD, Tony has managed great variety, not only by using a good mixture of different songs and tunes, but also by alternating the use of both of his two row Hohner melodeons (D/G and C/F). The variation that this has produced has meant that the keys used for his songs and tunes range from A Minor to F to A Major, E Minor, C, and even B Minor!!! He even plays a few in good old D and G for good measure. The Minneola Rag, which he plays in F, really does have to be heard to be believed. It's a real treasure. Tony's sleeve notes say (the proper third part was too difficult for me so I bluffed it!") All I can say is that it's jolly good bluffing!

Anyone who's caught one of Tony's performances in the last couple of years will probably have heard his song Binder Twyne and I'm sure will be glad to see this on the CD. It's typically East Anglian, and a very lovely portrait of a country character who makes toys for children out of the orange and blue nylon string that litters our countryside from time to time where it's been cut off whatever it was fastening. Quite deep Tony! If one tune stands out for me to learn, it has to be The Beccles Stomp, which is an inspired composition by Tony, getting an effortless sounding (sure it won't be when I try it!) New Orleans style blues effect. Marvellous!

It's no good ? I could rate every track but it would take the whole magazine : just buy the CD! Don't miss the chance to hear Bless Your Beautiful Hide and also a beautiful waltz by one of my favourite box players � Bob McQuillen, called. Annie's Waltz.

Thanks Tony.

Lancashire Wakes

Richard Stapledon

When I first heard Tony Hall at Whitby Folk Week about five years ago, my first impression of this affable, pipe?smoking Norfolk eccentric was

that "I could do that". His playing of elderly two?row Hohner melodeons has an initial feel of simplicity upon the first time listener, and together with Tony's natural modesty and relaxed style of presentation and humour, average melodeon players like myself do not feel like throwing our instruments into the nearest skip, as we do when we hear the likes of John Kirkpatrick.

Instead, we feel inspired and somewhat relieved that the ability gap between him and us is not that great. But he has pulled the wool over our eyes! Having played this CD through a couple of times, I reached for one of my own melodeons and soon realised that I had little hope of even coming close to replicating the man's style and skills, despite the fact that I play 'costalottis' as Tony calls them, rather than the modest Hohner boxes that he stubbornly sticks with.

You certainly don't need to be a melodeon player to enjoy and appreciate this album. If you enjoy a good mix of tunes and songs performed in a typically English ? well Norfolk ? style, you'll love this! The tracks range from beautiful and haunting tunes like The Abbott's Bromley Horn Dance and Anne's Waltz, to self penned songs such as The Haddock Song and The Enigma of the Southwold Tide, the latter being described by Tony himself as, "The most boring song ever written!" His singing style may almost make the listener think that you have put on a Sid Kipper album by mistake!

Going back to the melodeon, Tony explains in his sleeve notes that his instruments are "Cheap(ish), factory made and basic" but that he prefers their "More earthy, 'pubby' sound". One consequence is that the clicking sound of the buttons can be quite obtrusive at times, but all in all, this is a thoroughly enjoyable and refreshing album.

The Living Tradition

Paul Burgess

Tony Hall is one of the most amazing two-row melodeon players I've ever heard. A sort of melodeon Bix Beiderbecke, he taught himself the instrument at a time when it was almost unknown on the folk scene, and consequently learned ways of performing things that normally would be dismissed as "too difficult" or "not possible". He also has a wider view on music than many - music from the tradition, films and TV all feature in his repertoire, for no worse reason than that they are damn good tunes. He is a fantastic accompanist: I remember Will Atkinson playing a slow-air on the mouthorgan once, and Tony Hall accompanying him perfectly on two-row (and there's precious few could have managed that) whilst his contribution to Nic Jones's "Penguin Eggs" was a major element in the success of some of the songs.

This is his third solo album and possibly his best so far, with a super selection of varied material and beautiful playing. I was very pleased to see that several of his quirky humorous songs have been included, such as the wonderful Haddock Song, with a "middle 8" that Milligan would have been proud of. The only thing I would say is that the CD should come with a health warning - trying to imitate the deceptively beautiful and easy sounding performances here may lead to dislocated fingers!


Mike Greenwood

"THAT CD players making a funny noise," said my partner, when this album started playing.

She doesn't know Tony Hall. Some years ago, he was toting a bright, dry?tuned Italian melodeon that never suited his downhome East Anglian ethos, so it's pleasing that he's returned to the two?row Hohner. But along with the warmer sound, you do get a liberal dose of "funny noise" in the form of percussive fingerboard click?clacks and the occasional bellows wheeze. Clearly producer Doug Bailey was instructed to leave everything in and the sleeve notes exclaim pride in every track being a one?off and completely undoctored.

Coming hard on the heels of Free Reed's reissue of his 1977 debut, this is, I think, the follow?up to his 1995 second release Mr Universe. So we're not dealing with the most prolific recorder, but you do get over an hour's worth of song and tune sets to make the wait worthwhile.

The Abbotts Bromley Horn Dance, greatly suited to Tony's style, opens a true miscellany, ranging from traditional English jigs, Texan rags with a dash of Hollywood musical and a handful of his own songs. Among these, Down on the Hard and Binder Twyne exude a peculiar homespun charm that's hard to ignore.

Rock n Reel

Dai Jeffries

Younger readers may like to know that Tony Hall is regarded as an elder statesman on the folk circuit?check out your parents' old LP sleeves for proof?and I think it fair to say that he's also something of an eccentric, playing only Hohner melodeons, straight off the shelf and old enough to provide their own percussion, something that modern players and studios wouldn't allow.

That, together with his style of playing and songwriting, makes him sound a little old?fashioned, reminiscent of Bob Roberts, perhaps. A song such as 'Binder Twyne' may be predictably sentimental but only someone steeped in rural life could have written it, Equally, no one else would write a song called 'Down On The Hard' and insist that it was entirely innocent. Tony is never predictable, though, and between the lovely' Lord Haddo's Favourite' and his own composition, 'The Beccles Stomp', comes his version of 'Strange Fruit'!

He plays and sings what he enjoys and considers important and if that includes 'Bless Your Beautiful Hide', so what? I make no bones about enjoying this record ?and Tony's live performances when I get the opportunity. Four stars for fun!