Richard Stapledon of Lancashire Wakes
reviews One Man Hand by Tony HallWhen 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.