Hat Fitz & Cara RobinsonHat Fitz & Cara Robinson
Album: Do Tell
Label: Manhaton
Tracks: 10

Yeah, as the name suggests, this is a duo act. Formerly plain Hat Fitz and Cara, they released a couple of well-received CDs, of which the second, Wiley Ways, came out not all that long ago and was acclaimed in all the right quarters and for all the right reasons. Its followup rightly exhorts us to spread the gospel far and wide, a proud avowal that here's a class act, two performers who may've been thrown together by fortuitous chance but hey now, each of them knows his/her trade and together they sure means business.

The history goes that Hat Fitz, veteran (of close on two decades) "wild man" of the Australian blues scene, visited the Castlebar Blues Festival in Ireland one year and was so knocked out by Irish soul-blues singer Cara Robinson that they quickly hit it off both personally and musically and started performing and touring as a proper duo (Hatz on guitars and banjo, Cara on a battery of percussion including drumkit and washboard, as well as fife and flute). Judging by this stunning new album, the tag of musical "match made in heaven" is so appropriate.

The rather special brand of roots music they purvey is a steaming, cooking brew indeed, with a myriad of influences naturally observed and absorbed; on its own it sure can handle itself, but it still gets that extra subtle push from producer Jeff Lang (himself no mean roots-man), who helps out playing bass on the record. Lead vocals are equably shared between the two protagonists, and the earthy, growlsome, Howlin' Wolf-like tones of Hat Fitz turn out to brilliantly complement Cara's lusty, fiery and upfront stylings.

Considering the excess of scrupulously honest, raw spontaneity with which the duo put across their music, there's also a fine degree of internal and dynamic contrast that brings an intense freshness to each single track on the album. Not to mention a fantastic variety within their material (all original stuff, by the way), with standout cuts taking us from the full-on raunchy blues shout of Gotta Love (where Cara takes on the illustrious mantles of Elkie Brooks and Maggie Bell) to the rustic fiddle-and-banjo old-time of Coming Home, via the mournful, smouldering (and intensely moving) slow-burner Long Dark Cloud, the anthemic heavy-build string-section-loaded Do Tell, the shuffling funky gait of Stray Hat and the driving rockabilly of Shakedown. But the whole album is both brilliantly constructed and well-paced, and seriously exciting; a most satisfying concoction that runs rings round most blues-roots-based records that strive too hard to enact a similar vibe. Yeah, the sheer chemistry between Hat Fitz and Cara Robinson makes for a helluva team; they're a sensation, so do tell the world about it! (They're touring the UK next month, then at the Cambridge Folk Festival…)

David Kidman

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