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Issue 1088

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Review

Hat Fitz & Cara Robinson: Do Tell (Manhaton Records)

Hat Fitz & Cara CD cover pic

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UK release date 02.06.2014

I love these two. Their last album, 2012âs âWiley Waysâ was a revelation. So natural and honest, as is this one. Both produced by Aussie roots star Jeff Lang. A real cut above the rest when it comes to folk-blues records too.

The main difference I suppose, is this one has slightly better songs and maybe more balls about it. A collection of 10 originals, three written by Hat Fitz on his own and the rest by the couple, who are indeed a married couple in life.

Aussie guitarist and singer Hat Fitz met Irish singer Cara Robinson a few years back when he was touring Ireland. In some bar, he was advised by the locals to go check out a âwonderful singer.â He did and fell in love with the voice and the woman. But it wasnâ t exactly love at first sightâ¦.he danced with her a little too energetically on that first meeting, picked her up and smashed her into a column!

The album kicks off in fine style with some strong vocal from Cara on âFriday Night,â and atmospheric playing from Hat Fitz. He sings lead on the second track in, âStray Hatâ, and gives us some tasty gob iron licks too. I love the way they nail a groove and do not mess about with it. As my old pal AB, Adrian Byron Burns taught me almost 30 years ago, the trick is to find the groove and nail it. They do that alright.

Cara proves what a great singer she is, with the soul blues belter âGotta Love,â where she channels the likes of Janice Joplin and even Elkie Brooks, in her great Vinegar Joe days. Cara also puts me in mind of Colleen Rennison of the fab new Canadian band No Sinner. She is a very experienced singer, having sung backing vocals for the likes Jamiroquai and Corrine Bailey-Rae on tours of USA and Europe. She has some pipes, thatâs for sure and I just love that back of the throat growl here. Hat Fitz provides a concrete foundation with some beautiful slide playing.

The title track, âDo Tell,â slows things down a tad, and melds his voice on lead with some bottom end of the register guitar riffs, and tells the unusual story of a mobile beer fridge that has been with its owner since 1963, and is signed by many beer drinkers. (I suspect this is actually a car!) You can hear the blues references in his playing, but there are a myriad of flavours coming from those fingers and those guitars, and Iâd suspect the man studies lots of world music and takes his lead from other instruments and voices, as well as from other guitarists around the planet. Thereâs some Asian and oriental influences shining out of this one on guitar. Itâs impressive stuff and builds into an epic. One day these two should front a 40-piece orchestra and bring on guests from around the world on strange and interesting instruments, and those who like Cara, have use of a unique instrument in the voice.

âLong Dark Cloud,â strips things back and again Hat Fitz charge on lead vocal, and a Tom Waits style vibe. Itâs pretty good stuff too. He controls his vocal and pulls back on the aggression and the urgency, and it works well. The guitar sound slightly out of tune to my ears, and Iâll get shot for that remark, but I am being honest. It doesnât detract though and even adds to the feel of the track. It is a beautiful song, beautifully sung.

Thereâs the thing. There are roots duos out there doing similar stuff, but none get the FEEL and the honesty that these two seem to have in spades. So natural, so innate and a perfect fit together, you could cut the chemistry with a knife. I am so, so, so looking forward to seeing them live sometime, and I am pretty sure theyâd be a sensational addition to any festival stage, big or small. On the subject of festivals, Hat Fitz has a record 18 straight appearances at Byron Bayâs east Coast Blues and Roots Festival. He now spends about four months a year touting Europe from his native Australia. The pair tour here in June and July, for many dates including an appearance at the Cambridge Folk Festival.

Sheâs backâ¦.on âExcuse Me,â an 100MPH blues rocker with drums, bass and harp blazing away with Caraâs sassy vocal on top. Nice song but over too fast at 2.09. I really like the stuff they sing together, their harmonies shouldnât work, with his deep, scary growl and her sweet soul and sometime throaty grit, but flipping heck it does. No more so than on the penultimate track âShakedown.â
Hat Fitz plays guitars and banjo on the CD, Cara plays drums, percussion, fife, flue and acoustic guitar, Jeff Lang on bass, Anita Quayle cello on the title track, Jason Bunn on viola and fiddle on âDo tell,â and âStray hat.â Alison Ferrer sings BVs on âFriday Night.â The CD was recorded in Melbourne, Australia.

They have that old time sound, but relevant. But class, talent and doing something for the sheer love of the music never goes out of fashion, does it? This album - their third together - should further establish the duo as artists who will continue to grow, to get better and deliver timeless and exciting music. Spread the wordâ¦â¦Yeah, do tell.
Words SIMON REDLEY

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