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THE CHAIR - The Road To Hammer Junkie

THE CHAIR - The Road To Hammer Junkie
Folky Gibbon Records FGCD023

Sometimes the most pleasurable musical adventures commence with happy accidents – in my own case the sharp 2mins 22secs of Love Me Do crackling through the static and Pat Boone mush of Radio Luxembourg in late ’62, later realising that this was from a rather good local combo that I could go and check out live. 14 years later, a whaat’s that!? experience in the HMV shop and hearing Michael Franks’ Popsicle Toes being played over their speakers started a life-long affection for the smooth jazz icon. Well here’s another enlightenment for me and perhaps for you too? Straplined as ‘stomp music from Orkney’, this 8-piece, formerly Lazy Boy Chair and lineage from 2004, truly will “take you up, spin you round and lift you up right off the ground.”

The world got its first introduction to them on 2008’s Huinka and this joyous five-years-in-making album builds on the acclaim accorded to that debut making the rubric for the follow-up one of carnivorous energy allied to an endearing sense of merriment.

With a line up that includes drums, guest basses, with accordion, fiddles and frets, their cues come from Scots bands that have blazed a trail for revved and spiced-up traditional interpretations and own compositions, but rather than a simple emulation, The Chair’s aural landscape is an organic, tactile panorama teasing out the melodies - experimental, challenging, with plenty of light and shade. The fluid lope of Furmiston Ruby before the tempo lifts off being a case in point. That’s not to say that flat-out, heads down attack doesn’t show its face, the heart-leaping, raw power of the Hup Set is one of many covering that base. These are no leaden grooves - there’s something interesting going on here. Beautifully packaged (read the note about a track listings hiccup on their website!) with artwork and design concept worthy of a major label, this is a compelling and triumphant release which places them firmly at the vanguard of where-it’s-at.

“File under Folk/Celtic” the digipak may say, but such pigeon-holing can’t begin to describe the fusion of styles and the energy at work here. I doubt that I’ll hear anything more richly rewarding this year. Kaboom!

PS: Where or what is Hammer Junkie? We must be told!

Clive Pownceby

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This album was reviewed in Issue 96 of The Living Tradition magazine.