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Hank Stone’s ‘Rough Folk’

Acoustic purists will shun the eccentric arrangements and rough production aesthetic of this disc. Other listeners will find it both piquant and poignant. Synthesised bass and vibraphones juxtaposed with screaming blues harp, and intensely emotional singing, works just fine. It’s this last that’s crucial; Hank has put in a compelling and highly energetic performance on each and every one of these tunes. It makes for a CD both effective and colourful, but well, ‘rough’. There’s almost a ‘Lennon solo album’ treatment on many of these songs, often signified by the use of delay and (mild) eq filtering on the voice itself. Occasionally what sounds like the nasal piezo quack sound of a guitar recorded direct from an under saddle pick-up threads unattractively through a mix. But the important thing is that there’s space for the songs and the singer to shine (perhaps in part due to the lack of percussion let alone drumset), and many lovely touches in the arrangements. One favourite being ‘Delaware’ where Hank delivers the lovely line ‘a seagull gives us his disconsolate cry,’ then echoes it with his own voice, then (after taking the whole track right ‘down’) with a guitar flourish, followed by another similar figure only this time on a piano that then blossoms into full out instrumental blowing somehow evocative of the sky and landscapes being described. A bucolic paean to nature and natural living. Another highlight is the Steve Reich/West African influenced bass driven groove of the thoroughly affecting ‘I Need Help Lord’, replete with overblown flute reminiscent of Chris Wood in his Traffic years or the Fula Flute sound of SeneGambia. This isn’t the only cut to dabble in ‘World’ music feels; ‘Blue Crayon’ features coruscating unison lines reminiscent of Mexico or the Dominican Republic. This disc has been a long time coming, and it’s a labour of love, and was well worth the making, and well worth your owning.