Hilary Hawke is, whether she knows it or not, a member of the weird folk movement, which is a rather daunting crew at times but always capable of forcing the listener to sit down and mutter "Whoa, I didn't know you could do that!". This is alt-bluegrass, a progressive blend of trad, folk, off-kilter rock, and pop. Hawke sings and plays clarinet, acoustic guitar, and a banjo that's getting her attention, and her band appears to be basically a trio (her, percussionist Brian Geltner, and bassist Mike Brown) with a few sit-ins plopped down here and there (of note is Brion Snyder's organ work on Heaven).
Down the Road kicks up its heels and tosses in Kari Groff's fiddle for good measure. Hawke has the voice of a hills woman who came down for a festival and the chance to swing out for a bit before returning to tend the brood of kids back home. Rosy Nolan's backing vocals reinforce that impression, the neighbor who practices with her across the fence, the two women salt-of-the-earthily unflappable. More than once, I was reminded of Devendra Banhart and the provocative bands Howard Wuelfing has been purveying, especially in cuts like So Real, which seem to blend Spire That In The Sunset Rise with Joan Baez and the Band.
Hilary Hawke isn't your average composer, there's something in her head that's just not normal, thank goodness, and listening to Goodwill is going to make you one of those travelers who gets caught by the strange refrains slipping out past the tentflap, drawing ears thenceward…and then body, like sailor to siren, stupefied and enchanted, unable to look back, wondering what starstreamed unorthodoxy might possibly be erupting here. By the time you figure it out, you're a part of the pack.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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