Dubl Handi - Brian Geltner and Hilary Hawke - ‘Up Like The Clouds’(January 25, 2013)
So this album arrives from a duo called Dubl Handi – a name to get your attention for a start. As old (and some not so old) guys know, the Dubl Handi is a washboard made by The Columbus Washboard Company - famous for their double-sided washboards still in production today. One side corrugated for tough-washing the other ‘wavy’ for finer fabrics.
OK back to the album – this Dubl Handi is Brian Geltner and Hilary Hawke, and with their album ‘Up Like The Clouds’ they’ve produced a scintillating take on traditional and contemporary Appalachian Americana. Ranging widely through the songs of banjo virtuosos and folk singers such as Uncle Dave Macon, Earl Scruggs, Ola Belle Reed, Karen Dalton and Roscoe Holcomb to the modern-day works of Tony Trischka and Brad Leftwich, they add their own edge and instrumentation to spice-up some fine tunes.
Hilary grabs your ear with her consummate banjo and vocal skills while Brian excels with washboard (predictably), razor-sharp drumming, percussion and marxophone plus the ‘not-so-traditional’ electric guitar and mellotron. It’s a combination that fits together so well you end up with a seamless, faultless product that fits like a glove. From the zip and fire of toe-tapping songs like ‘Shout Little Lula’ and ‘C’mon Buddy’ through the gentle ‘New River Train’ and tender ‘Undone In Sorrow’ (complete with sombre trombone) to the blistering banjo and drum driven ‘Shortnin’ Bread’ there’s a symbiosis between the musicians that you have to hear to really understand.
This album could serve as an aural history of the less-travelled roads of American folk and at the same time a guide to the continued growth of its Appalachian roots. ‘Up Like The Clouds’ both secures songs that might otherwise fade from memory and acts as a signpost for future American folk. Musicians joining Brian and Hilary are Zara Bode (vocals) Ross Martin (guitar) Sam Kulik (trombone, tuba) and Gary Levitt (vocals).
Reviewer: Tom Franks