The Hackles

REVIEW: The Hackles “What a Beautiful Thing I Have Made”


The Hackles – What a Beautiful Thing I Have Made

This set by Oregon’s The Hackles is their 3rd LP & their 11-cuts are infused with a sense of intimacy & a dash of tension. They explore themes like longing, regret & how not everything in life can be controlled. More accurately it’s about coping, conformity & making peace with reality.

The musical endeavor’s a bit experimental folk sweetened with harmony, reed instruments & strings. The music can be intense but there’s a valid enjoyment curve to each performance.

The 43-minute showcase What a Beautiful Thing I Have Made (Drops April 7–Jealous Butcher Records) has melodies that may sound faintly familiar but that’s just a lofty detail since the performance is smooth as silk & the vocals are warm, rural with all the traditional sincerity & presence of Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, or Suzanne Cox of the Cox Family. This is evident in the catchy “Damn the Word,” a cousin to the Buddy Miller-sounding “Chalk” (written by Julie Miller). But this Hackles tune is still a delight.

The Hackles

The arrangements keep the material dependent on feeling rather than flash. The vocal mix gently flows with a laid-back Prayer Boat style. The addition of violin in “James’ Drink” is downy & supple. “Angela,” is lyrically intriguing. It tells a wonderfully woven story with more Halli violin sawing & potent Kati lead vocals.

The music is more dependent on old traditional tuneful flavors & almost sounds like Appalachian folk since it’s filled with melodic breezes & sweet honeysuckle harmony. The Hackles never sound old-fashioned despite some fleet-fingered antique sound on select tunes. The recording has clarity.

Lyrics are distinctive & creative as in “Birdcage.” The opening line – “your smile was shining like a dime in the Indiana moonlight, kicking shotgun shells in a ring around the fire…” Someone’s getting clever. On this, the music is a little darker but deliciously descriptive.

A clarinet opens “Pictures of Elvis” with light-touch vocals & convincing instrumentation. While not as commercial as old Spanky & Our Gang or Mamas & Papas, The Hackles do suggest they could lean that way if necessary. Intensity? That comes with “Alligators,” which skates across the Dead Can Dance landscape.

The Hackles

This music won’t shake anxieties or move feet on the dance floor. It’s a thinking man’s showcase with lively & imaginative songs. Invariably some moments will remind one of The McGarrigle Sisters or the Roches (without the eccentricities).

The Hackles are Luke Ydstie (vocals/electric guitar/piano/baritone guitar/bass/keys/ukulele/lap steel guitar/Rhodes/Hammond organ/octave mandolin), Kati Claborn (vocals/guitar/banjo/12-string acoustic guitar/baritone guitar/clarinet/melodica/mountain dulcimer/Hammond organ/percussion/harmony vocals) & Halli Anderson (vocals/violin/harmony vocals) & are joined by Dave Jorgensen & Bart Budwig (trumpet), Dan Hunt (drums/percussion), Ian Krist (vibraphone), Olaf Ydstie & Cooper Trail (drums) & Justin Ringle (alto horn).

Highlights – “Damn the Word,” “Angela,” “Birdcage,” “Pictures of Elvis” “First Time For Everything” & “Water For Your Bedside.”

Color images courtesy Justin Ringle.

CD & song samples @ &

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