Hedgepig, Second Sight (Hedgepig, 2000)
Hedgepig, Third Rock (Arpeggio Music, 2006)
Hamish the hedgehog, who lives here in the Green Man building, knows that he's very, very good at sleeping. Better than even the cats here. Well, and making sure we feed him lots of fresh crickets when he's awake. How a hedgehog named Hamish came to be here is a wee bit of a mystery at this date, but records kept by the Archivist here suggest that there's been a hedgehog in residence for centuries now. Certainly the staff has learned to look carefully when sitting, mostly in the kitchen, where he's commonly found, for fear of getting an arse full of quills from a disgruntled creature. And leaving one's tea with cream on a low table oft times results in the tea being lapped up by Hamish who afterwards, no surprise, waddles off to find a place to sleep. Hamish knows a good thing when he sees it!
So I was delighted when two recordings by a group called Hedgepig came in the post this past fortnight as that turned out to be a good thing as well. (Hedgehogs, politicos, and musicians have much in common. What I won't say.) On its very lovely website, Hedgepig says it is a a lively Celtic folk-rock band rooted in the Scottish and Irish tradition' which I'd say fits what we review rather well. And any band which names itself after a young hedgehog is welcome at Green Man!
Their biography on the Hedgepig website says of them this:
Celtic folk rock band Hedgepig was formed in Cambridge in 1993 by 'Frayed Knot' boys Steve White and Steve Matthews; swiftly joined by Mark Lemon (of 'Pagan Billy'). Over the years they have rocked their way through virtually every pub in the city and seen a number of band members come and go (and come back again . . .).
The current line up is Steve White on vocals and guitar, Mark Lemon on fiddle and vocals, Rosie Eade on vocals, saxophone and whistle, Jim Gair on bass, David Hicks on drums, djembe, bodhran and violin, Steve Matthews on mandolin and bodhran and Phil Godfrey on the sound desk.
Hedgepig are firmly rooted in the ‘rocking up’ of traditional folk, from Scottish battle songs and whiz fingered fiddle tunes to sing-along sea shanties and Irish ballads. Then Rosie joined in 2001 bringing an enthusiastic flair for writing songs (such as 'Mirror' and 'The Fire') for the band, complementing the artistic spark of Mark and his infamous 'Driver Jack'.
Now 'twas Michael Jones of our staff that coined FHL (Faster Harder Louder) to describe the sound of Rook, a Celtic rock band that disbanded before actually officially releasing any recordings. I'm not jesting -- they sent a demo to Green Man and promptly broke up when the fiddler went off in search of... oh, never mind. Hedgepig, unlike Rook, after a mere thirteen years of playing music seems likely to be around for a while to come! Of course, the real test is how are they as a band judged against other Celtic rock groups?Are they FHL? Do they know their trad material as well, as say, the Horslips did? (any group that can do 'Planxty Tom Judge' which is known better as 'Carolan's Frolic', as they did on their Drive The Cold Winter Away recording, is definitely ground in the trad idiom rather well.) Or they as good as the Mollys on such standards as 'Lanigan's Ball'? Can they do a set of tunes that'd make our Neverending Session musicians nod with approval?
I'd say so. It's certainly some of the better Celtic rock groups I've heard. they can play their instruments, sing rather well, and they certainly are FHL.
Just check out the set on Second Sight of "Growling Old Man/Growling Old Woman/The Long Note'/ The first reels have been around long enough that they have, according to The Session, these names (I'm not jesting!): The Disputant, Disputeuse, Growling Old Man And Cackling Old Woman, Growling Old Man And Grumbling Old Woman, The Growling Old Man And The Cackling Old Lady, The Growling Old Man And The Grumbling Old Woman, The Growling Old Man And Woman, The Growling Old Man, Growly Old Man And Grumbly Old Woman, Grumbling And Growling Old Man And Woman, LA Disputeuse, La Marmotteuse, Le Bonhomme Et La Bonne Femme Chicaneux, The Old Man And The Old Woman. Hedgepig plays it with both respect and just a bit of sly irreverence! Same lovely craftsmanship holds true on ' Drowsey Maggie/Lannigans Ball' is jazzed up just 'nough for you to realize that it 'tisn't being done by some boring old buggers who would rather be getting a pint instead of playing this bleedin' music one 'gain. (Dirty big pints of Guinness are good, very good. Playing music well is good too. Doin' both is a perfect way to spend time)
Third Rock is even better leading off with a cover of 'Molly Bond' that's far better than the cover done by the Oysterband. Why? Because it is narrated (sung) by both Molly and your love who shot her. Rosie Eade, the red haired coleen who sings here and plays sax, adds a needed sense of what the poor swan felt. Her sax playing adds a lively note to a song that's far too bleak when the Oysterband does it. (It's the only song they do that makes want to slit me wrists metaphorically speaking.) That song segues rather nicely into 'Knight Rode In' which has Rosie playing her pennywhistle quite amazingly. Sweet Queen Mab, what an amazing affair!
I've been trying to think of what band this recording reminded me of while I was setting in the Green Man Pub 'aving a few pints. ( I said pints were good.) Do you rememberThe Morrigan? Brendan Foreman said, and I'd say it holds true of Hedgepig, that 'The Morrigan [know] the right mixture of rock and reel [and] even when they try to be traditional, they give a very pleasing contemporary edge to the music.' Particularly on this album, they sound like The Morrigan, a very good in me opinion. Even their penned material such as 'Driver JAck' riff off trad material as the rune they use is the same one Steeleye Span uses on 'Black Legged Miner'.
If you like this sort of music and I do, I'd say you should hear them. If you only like the stuff done by those boring old buggers who would rather be getting a pint instead of playing this bleedin' Celtic music one 'gain, well, don't bother reading me reviews 'gain as we've nothin' in common. But if you like your music with a not terribly trad attitude, lots of verve, and a bit of percussion done loud, go get these recordings now! And after you listen to them, join me in the Green Man Pub for a few pints and we'll talk 'bout Hedgepig. First round's on me.