Wednesday, May 27, 2009

HOTCHA! -- Dust Bowl Roots: Songs for the New Depression

Dust Bowl Ballads: Songs for the New Depression

This album by HOTCHA! – the Toronto-based duo of singer-songwriter-accordionist Beverly Kreller and singer-songwriter-guitarist Howard Druckman – does a really fine job of evoking the music of the Great Depression by combining period pieces like Louis Armstrong’s “Ol’ Man Mose” with very cool in-the-tradition originals like “Mines Went Down,” a lament for the devastation wrecked on miners’ lives when the mines close down that’s very effectively set to a Gene Krupa-like drum pattern.

HOTCHA!’s original songs are very well crafted. You can almost feel the dry, dusty heat in “Hey Little Waterboy,” the slow, small town pace-of-life in “Harlan’s Porch,” and the desperation that leads to evil deeds in “Sweet Miss Sally.”

A couple of the covers, “Walkin’ After Midnight,” a hit for Patsy Cline, and “Catfish John,” a ‘70s tune that’s been done by the Grateful Dead and a lot of bluegrass bands, date from decades after the Depression, but they don’t sound at all out-of-place here.

This music doesn’t seem like it’s from Toronto – there’s more of a rural, American southwest feel to it – but I wouldn’t be surprised if Kreller and Druckman have listened to the stuff Toronto’s Original Sloth Band was putting out back in the 1970s. HOTCHA’s approach to the vintage tunes sometimes reminds me of the Sloths.

Dust Bowl Roots: Songs for the New Depression seems especially timely coming, as it does, in these tough economic times.

-Mike Regenstreif

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