Colin Andrews of Whats Afoot
reviews One Man Hand by Tony HallThink 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.