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Gavin Atkin of EDS

reviews One Man Hand by Tony Hall

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.