A dog is not just for Christmas. Irish musicians including Neil Hannon, Cathy Davey and Lisa Hannigan have collaborated to record a beautifully put together album full of doggie themed tracks in aid of Irish charity, Dogs in Distress. Mark Roche of The Daily Shift reviews…
A particularly special Christmas album which brings together some of Irelands most well rounded musicians to perform a 15 track masterpiece of festive cheer with a canine twist.
At first, one could mistake Oscar the Hypno-Dog as a novelty Christmas album aimed at making a profit during the festive season however, what we are given has much more depth and features some of the best performances from each of its respective artists.
In essence, Neil Hannon and Cathy Davey are joined by Lisa Hannigan, Villagers and Sharon Shannon among lesser known acts who contribute to this wonderful record. Cathy Davy is an advocate of charity, particularly towards dogs and as the press release suggests; “A dog isn’t for Christmas, but this album is!”. All proceeds of Oscar the Hypno-Dog (and other tails) will go to non-profit Irish charity, Dogs in Distress; all artists sacrificed time, recordings and royalties in order for this CD to be of the greatest benefit to the chosen charity.
Cathy Davey opens proceedings with an utterly charming rendition of ‘How Much is That Doggie In the Window?’; the song has a delightful swing in its rhythm and certainly upgrades the track from ‘novelty’ status. Following on, Lisa Hannigan, the Irish sweetheart herself is accompanied by writer/director Graham Linehan (Father Ted/IT Crowd) in a musical narrative, between dog and owner; certainly the albums peak and the most beguiling track but this cannot detract from the remainder.
Somewhat of a super group, Harry Haller and the Hooligans consist of most artists featured on the album led by troubadour, Mr Hannon; in an almost orchestral folk ensemble violins, mandolins, banjo, percussion and double bass unite with group vocals offering something reminiscent of The Band ending in a crescendo of barks. The track ‘One Ear Up, One Ear Down’ featured a full ensemble live on The Late Late Show several weeks ago, receiving marvelous applause.
Villagers, expected to release a follow up to debut record Becoming A Jackal soon contributed, ‘Casey the Wonder Dog’. The confident performance features all of the musicianship that garnered them critical acclaim; a fantastic band to create atmosphere and tell a story. David Turpin’s ‘Fur’ inspired the initial thought of recording an album following a chance attendance by Cathy Davey in which she heard the ‘doggie inspired track’; expect the same, laid-back, ambient folk-pop from this track.
David O’ Doherty, comedian and 1990, East Leinster U-14 triple jump bronze medallist injects a touching and humorous version of a track which appeared on his live album. ‘Florence Falls’ is the tale of an unruly dog and the hindsight of DOD to never truly appreciate his demeanour while we was with him *sniff*. One of the more emotional moments on the record comes from his advice: “A rubbish dog, is better, than no dog”.
The penultimate track, Sharon Shannon’s ‘Top Dog Gaffo’ is a lively reel offering “A day in the life of some rescued dogs” The video is perhaps more entertaining than the track as it features Shannon morphing into dog form and performing every day tracks such as texting and driving as a pooch. David Gray of ‘Babylon’ fame closes the album on an ambient arrangement entitled, ‘Morning Theme’ taken from his latest album Foundlings; a bit of a cop out considering there are no lyrics or any association with dogs attributed to the track.
Altogether, Oscar the Hypno-Dog is a charming record with plenty to offer not to mention the obvious charitable motive behind it’s creation. You could spend your money on a lot worse this festive season and it’s the ideal stocking filler for dog lovers and music enthusiasts alike.
Four woofs of approval