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Album Review

There's something deliciously twisted about A Hawk and a Hacksaw. They subvert the music they love even as they celebrate it. The opening cut, "No Rest for the Wicked," is a prime example. From lowly beginnings somewhere in the Balkans it becomes a full-on Balkan brass band workout, before dropping into a curious minor-key section, then roaring back as if they were Taraf de Haïdouks. "Mana Thel Enan Andra" mixes Greece and Turkey with its serpentine bouzouki line. If this were just an album of Balkan music, that would be ample, since it's so finely played. But they mix things up with their strong New Mexican roots, and so "Española Kano" crosses continents, with Mexican brass bouncing into Serbia to enjoy a circle dance, and the title cut could just as easily be a mariachi piece as anything from the former Yugoslavia. And that's the joy here. "Üsküdar" is a perfect example. It's a tune that's crossed and been adopted by so many cultures that it's soaked in different identities, much like the band itself. They've come a long way from founder Jeremy Barnes' early experimentations. The deliberately lo-fi recording only adds to the atmosphere (everything was recorded to two-track), and the fact that it doesn't comfortably sit in any pigeonhole only enhances its appeal (quite what, for instance, do you do with the ache of "Lajtha Lassu"?). It's an album of glorious madness and melody, played not only with skill, but with real passion.


Formed: Albuquerque, NM

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Originally started by former Neutral Milk Hotel drummer Jeremy Barnes, A Hawk and a Hacksaw released its self-titled debut, on which Barnes played all the instruments and which explored 20th century American music, in 2004 on Leaf Records. The next year, after enlisting help from tuba player Mark Weaver, trumpeter Dan Clucas, and violinist Heather Trost, Barnes and the band issued Darkness at Noon, which was recorded in the U.K. and in Barnes' native Albuquerque, New Mexico, and delved into both...
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Cervantine, A Hawk and a Hacksaw
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