|Whether planned or not, the release of HOTCHA!s debut, subtitled Songs For The New Depression, couldnt have come at a better time. With the news all bad and the economy in a tailspin, songs that address the very real human concerns of simple survival in a harsh world seem timely indeed.
HOTCHA! is a duo, with Beverly Kreller contributing accordion, bodhran, and various percussive effects (one mustnt forget the kazoo or the mouth trumpet!). Guitarist Howard Druckman also handles harmonica, and both contribute vocals, with Kreller taking most leads. Theyre augmented on this outing by a number of friends who contribute various strings, handclaps, and foot-stomps.
The material here is a collection of new and old, with the duos originals sounding both old-fashioned and timeless, fitting seamlessly into a play list that includes an Irving Berlin composition (My Walking Stick) a Louis Armstrong tune ("Ol Man Mose") and a surprising twist on the Patsy Cline classic, Walkin After Midnight.
Indeed, any of the originals (most co-written by Kreller and Druckman) could easily have been resurrected from an earlier age, though some are as relevant as todays headlines; Mines Went Down, deals with closures and the human misery that results when a livelihood disappears, and Bitter Years is a bittersweet look at the pain that lingers when love is lost. Others are note-perfect period pieces, including Hey Little Waterboy and Sweet Miss Sally, the former a railroad work chant, the latter a darkly ominous murder ballad with a surprisingly bright arrangement. Additional covers include a rousing Jesus On The Mainline, a ragtime rip through TAint What You Do, and a bonus Catfish John.
Nothing here is too slick and polished; its front-porch music, folk music, and both Kreller and Druckman sound like talented but very real people. Theres a loose, first-take feel to proceedings and technical limitations are easily overlooked in favour of the duos genuine enthusiasm and infectious energy. Theyre having fun just listen to Krellers clucking on Ol Man Mose, or the free-spirited kazoo solo that follows, and try not to smile
! Or take Foie Gras (Dance Of The Fatted Ducks), a romping ditty that sounds as though its been plucked straight from the farm. Kreller and Druckman understand that the only sensible response to hard times is laughter, good company, and doing the best we can with what weve got. And if times all youve got to spend, listening to HOTCHA! is a fine way to spend it
by John Taylor May 2009