What is it about blind musicians that makes them so dang good at their craft? Doc Watson. Ray Charles. O’Carolan. Stevie Wonder. I could go on, but I won’t. The Old Blind Dogs can still see pretty well, they’re not that old yet–but they are surely among the best folk bands in the world, and certainly the best in Scotland, in my humble opinion.
Their 13th album, called Room With a View, came out earlier this year. It’s their first studio recording in six years and the first to feature the brillant percussion work of Donald Hay. This record displays a perfect balance of new sounds and ancient melody, with a sweet mix of studio effects and earthy tradition. While they keep their bedrock of Scots trad, with plenty of strathspeys, jigs, and reels, they range abroad as well, with music from France, the States, and Ireland. Old Blind Dogs are founding member Jonny Hardie on fiddle and vocals; Aaron Jones on bouzouki, cittern, guitar, vocals; crazy man Ali Hutton on pipes, whistles, vocals; and the aforementioned Donald Hay on percussion and vocals.
The first set on the album is a cracking, techno-charged set of reels that includes the American oldtime fiddle tune Sandy Boys, often called the National Anthem of West Virginia among my friends. Below is a sample, along with a song sung by Aaron Jones (the James Taylor of Scotland) called Ring on Her Hand, AKA Maid of Norway. The arranged marriages of old provide poignant fodder for songs of unrequited love and broken hearts. Enjoy!
LISTEN: A Ring on Her Hand
LISTEN: Bunker Hill