Dust Bowl Roots
HOTCHA! | Dust Bowl Roots Songs For The New Depression


Whether planned or not, the release of HOTCHA!’s debut, subtitled Songs For The New Depression, couldn’t have come at a better time. With the news all bad and the economy in a tailspin, songs that address the very real human concerns of simple survival in a harsh world seem timely indeed.

HOTCHA! is a duo, with Beverly Kreller contributing accordion, bodhran, and various percussive effects (one mustn’t forget the kazoo or the mouth trumpet!). Guitarist Howard Druckman also handles harmonica, and both contribute vocals, with Kreller taking most leads. They’re augmented on this outing by a number of friends who contribute various strings, handclaps, and foot-stomps.

The material here is a collection of new and old, with the duo’s originals sounding both old-fashioned and timeless, fitting seamlessly into a play list that includes an Irving Berlin composition (“My Walking Stick”) a Louis Armstrong tune ("Ol’ Man Mose") and a surprising twist on the Patsy Cline classic, “Walkin’ After Midnight.”

Indeed, any of the originals (most co-written by Kreller and Druckman) could easily have been resurrected from an earlier age, though some are as relevant as today’s headlines; “Mines Went Down”, deals with closures and the human misery that results when a livelihood disappears, and “Bitter Years” is a bittersweet look at the pain that lingers when love is lost. Others are note-perfect period pieces, including “Hey Little Waterboy” and “Sweet Miss Sally,” the former a railroad work chant, the latter a darkly ominous murder ballad with a surprisingly bright arrangement. Additional covers include a rousing “Jesus On The Mainline,” a ragtime rip through “T’Ain’t What You Do,” and a ‘bonus’ “Catfish John”.

Nothing here is too slick and polished; it’s front-porch music, folk music, and both Kreller and Druckman sound like talented but very real people. There’s a loose, first-take feel to proceedings and technical limitations are easily overlooked in favour of the duo’s genuine enthusiasm and infectious energy. They’re having fun — just listen to Kreller’s clucking on “Ol Man Mose,” or the free-spirited kazoo solo that follows, and try not to smile …! Or take “Foie Gras (Dance Of The Fatted Ducks)”, a romping ditty that sounds as though it’s been plucked straight from the farm. Kreller and Druckman understand that the only sensible response to hard times is laughter, good company, and doing the best we can with what we’ve got. And if time’s all you’ve got to spend, listening to HOTCHA! is a fine way to spend it …!

by John Taylor May 2009

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John Taylor
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