Hoots and Roots - Life and Death

Brian Morton, The Wire

Created in concert and subsequently in a pitch-dark studio, this is a superb, all too brief grafting together of concert material from Guelph almost  ten years ago with further playing from drummer Ken Hyder’s home studio six years later.

He’s one half of the duo; the other is Maggie Nicols, singing and tapdancing and bringing a sensibility that draws on her father’s Highland Gaelic heritage and sets it against Hyder’s Lowland gene stock (don’t dismiss these cultural differences as parochial). What emerges, over just 20 minutes, is a profound, witty, often scouringly moving meditation not just on life and death, but also light and dark, compliance and resistance, movement and stillness, almost any pair of human dichotomies you care to mention.

Nicols’s almost bardic singing is balanced with a plain-spoken directness, while Hyder’s wilder flights – vocal as well as percussive – have a similar grounding; there’s an almost military cadence to some of his figures which offsets the shamanic intensity of the whole.

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