Huck and the Handsome Fee: demo

Sometimes, when tangled in the thicket of some intractable, slowly dying metaphor, or struggling to find something vaguely interesting to say about the latest landfill indie from four floppy-haired plonkers from Faringdon, I do wonder-what am  I getting out of this? The work is unpaid, it costs quite a lot in precious free time, and there’s always the possibility of a sustained campaign of internet abuse from fans of bands that haven’t fared so well in these pages (all right, I actually quite enjoy those).

And then I remember: I have  the opportunity to watch bad bands become good (Bear in the Air), good bands become great (Stornoway), and I have the enjoyment of finding unknown gems lurking in the middle of an inauspicious Thursday bill at the Jericho, Bully, Cellar or Wheatsheaf (Libelula, Minor Coles, Schnauser of recentish vintage) .

And there’s more: we reviewers get the rather delicious opportunity to push talented musicians about. We told The Scholars to stop sounding like Editors: they’re doing it. We told Stornoway to ditch their rag-week jape songs if they wanted to make it: they did and they did.

Oh, and we told Tamara Parsons-Baker to get a band. If you remember, the closest Oxford has to Grace Slick was suffering from a mismatch between the soaring rhetorical power of her voice and the paltry inoffensiveness of her acoustic guitar backing. Instead of sulking and grumpily posting on the comments board (as more than a few of her fans were happy to do-some of them make President Ahmadinejad  look like Rabbi Lionel Blue), she clearly took it on board, and her involvement with Huck and the Handsome Fee has proved wonderfully synergistic.We should be on ten percent.

Huck himself, rather improbably, is the ex-bassist of stoner rock monsters Sextodecimo, but in this incarnation he is part sensitive folk crooner and part Fred Schneider-style circus ringmaster. This latter side comes out on standout track ‘Passion Man’ in which he and Tamara channel the boy/girl call-and-answer style of the B-52s with amazing brio.  The song itself is a campy, grooving joy, with funny, gently subversive lyrics (‘What About Jesus? Well, he’ll never please us’), absurdly danceable drumming, a clean guitar riff that sounds like David Byrne trying to outfunk James Brown and two singers who are clearly having the time of their lives. Good Stuff? Bloody marvellous, more like.

‘The Fall’ opens with a ‘Taxman’-style count-off before Parsons-Baker and Huck launch into a brooding, minimalist torch ballad replete with poetically sour musings about love gone wrong. All nature seems out of joint in lines like the following:

‘The birds were never our friends, though we shared the sun with them’.

‘Jason’ shares the same, downbeat, D. Gwalia-tries-to-cheer-up-Nick Cave-and-fails style, and this one, though pretty and heartfelt, and with a drowsily hypnotic guitar pick, could do with a trim or two, coming in at a somewhat portly six minutes.

Huck and Tamara are both good singers, but I hope that in the future the latter is given the odd solo number, as they are a bit of an odd couple, especially on the ballads. He is tremulous and sometimes approximate, she is limpid and crystalline and the more obviously sellable vocalist. However they decide to play it in the future, the band is classy and mature, the songs are compelling, and reports of the live show oscillate between the approving and the  rapturous. See them soon. And you can sign me up for another couple of years.

Huck and the Handsome Fee Myspace

  • http://davidmurphyreviews.blogspot.com david

    “Mackinnon invents Stornoway shocker”

    Interesting read. You also got Tamaras anem right, which helps *blush*

  • Joederville

    Fuck me, those opening paragraphs are probably the most arrogant thing I’ve read in ages. Absurd.

    Good one Huck and the Fee though. Even if getting good reviews on here feels increasingly like getting felt up by a crooked priest.

  • http://davidmurphyreviews.blogspot.com david

    Err, at the risk of ruining the cabinet integrity, I’m afraid I have to agree with Joe. It does sound like a needy cross between moaning and boasting in the intro, Colin. But, then again, it’s kind of fun, which is what this whole business is all about.

    Meet you in the vestry in 20 minutes, Joe?

  • http://myspace.com/huckmusic Huck

    nice one, colin. i think this might be the first review we’ve had for our myspace tracks, and we could hardly ask for a more enthusiastic response.

    you’re right about ‘jason'; in fact we haven’t played it much recently because we’re thinking about how to give the song a boot up the arse.

    no comment on oxford bands’ advisory role.


  • colinmackinnon

    Hi Huck,

    Glad you enjoyed the write-up-some superb songs-my muso mate thinks the two downbeat songs are your best by far!

    Couple of things about the opening paras:

    1) Hot Friday, lovely bottle of London Pride down me, feeling a bit puckish. Of course the acts involved make their own decisions about their artistic directions!

    2) Nevertheless, I hope that our opinions feed into artists’ work a little bit. Otherwise, ‘constructive criticism’ would be completely futile. Although we are principally writing for disinterested observers/ gig-goers/internet surfers, if the band agree with us about strengths and weaknesses, so much the better!

  • http://davidmurphyreviews.blogspot.com david

    Haha, I never thought of that! He’s got you there, Joe: you were the one asking for “constructive criticism” (I think – it was quite a while ago), and if reviewers are going to do that then you’re tacitly admitting they know best, & that musicians should set store by their opinions.

    The “bored deity dabbles from the lip of Olympus” tone of the review surprised me a bit, but it got us talking, which is all that really matters.

  • http://myspace.com/huckmusic Huck

    can’t we all just GET ALONG?

    seriously, though, the intimate details of the artist-critic dynamic are mysterious indeed…

    no harm done.


  • http://davidmurphyreviews.blogspot.com david

    Stop being so positive, it’ll kill your creativity! It’s also not so much fun, of course.

    Hucks’s next release: “Cum By Yar” B/W “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing”

  • http://myspace.com/huckmusic Huck


  • http://davidmurphyreviews.blogspot.com david

    I asked for that!

  • Joederville

    I set store by the opinions of the reviewers who give me good reviews, and the others are cunts. This is the way it works.

    Anyone in a band who eagerly scans the music press desperate for constructive criticism is a DWEEB. We want praise and validation and QUOTES.

  • http://davidmurphyreviews.blogspot.com david

    “Borderville are absolutely brilliant”. You can use that one, Joe, but only if you credit it on all promotion to “A Cunt”.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thejoechapman Joe

    It does look like the first 4 paragraphs are about Colin massaging his own ego. Where’s the review?

  • http://davidmurphyreviews.blogspot.com david

    Well, I agree with you, Joe, as I said, but the review is clearly there, in the next 4 paragraphs. I think it’s a perfectly reasonable review, you just have to take a small detour into Mackinnon world before you reach it.

  • Ronan

    Pah, we told Stornoway to ditch the silly songs before you, so nyer, nyer, nyer. I demand some royalties!

    Tamara does got a great voice but I’d say Laima Bite is far closer to Grace Slick than her. In my constructively critical (not to say cuntish) opinion.

  • http://www.gappytooth.com gappy

    Good singers the pair of them, but neither of them sound any bloody thing like Grace Slick, you pair of freaks.

  • http://www.smilex.co.uk leesmilex

    is it just me or does the word ‘cunt’ get used a bit excessively on this site?! said as a fan of bad language!
    – tipper christian of the lee-rmc

  • http://myspace.com/huckmusic Huck

    i’m often told i have grace slick’s thighs

  • Jay

    It really does say something when its easier to read the comments below the review than it is to stomach the piece itself.

    im going to assume this is a good review because I cant bring myself to read past the first few paragraphs.

    its nice to see Oxbands maintaining the 4 mentions of Stornaway (from Oxford dontcha know!)per page as well….long may that continue.


  • http://davidmurphyreviews.blogspot.com david

    “is it just me or does the word ‘cunt’ get used a bit excessively on this site?!” Lee

    Not when you consider how many cunts there are round here.

  • Beaver Fuel

    I have an idea, how about every review just be a boring statement of the facts, with no attempt to engage the reader at all? In fact, when it comes to gig reviews why not just print a tracklist with attendance figures for each set?

    For fuck’s sake.

  • http://www.gappytooth.com gappy

    “when it comes to gig reviews why not just print attendance figures”

    I’d pay a reviewer to erase the fact that I was ever at BF gigs, I have a reputation to uphold here.

  • http://myspace.com/huckmusic Huck

    hey guys can we get back to the point which is how i awesome i am thanks

  • Alex

    Maybe everyone vaguely interested in the Oxford music scene could form a megaband called “Cunt”. Then there’d be no arguing about which of us are in fact cunts.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thejoechapman Joe

    That’s fair enough comment David. Yes, it needs creativity. I made a bit of a throwaway comment. Sorry.

  • http://myspace.com/huckmusic Huck


  • http://www.facebook.com/thejoechapman Joe

    Pub sounds great. Mines a Guinness. I’ll just sling these Squirrel pelts over my shoulder and be on my way.

  • http://davidmurphyreviews.blogspot.com david

    Sorry, Joe, I was getting you muddled with Joe. I think it’s probably because you’re both called Joe.

    So, I thought you were repeating yourself with your “Where’s the review?” comment, but it wasn’t you you were repeating, it was Joe. So, no woe.

    See you in The Joe’s Arms, Huck?

  • http://www.facebook.com/thejoechapman Joe

    At the last gig I played there were something like 12 or 13 bands. We all stood around eating olives, drinking Belgian beer and chatting to each other about art, in an art gallery. Hey! how come it’s safe to use the C word now then?

  • colinmackinnon

    Yeah, good point Joe. Lets cut it out ( no near pun intended!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/thejoechapman Joe

    Cut the c**t out. :)

  • http://myspace.com/huckmusic Huck

    by the way, guys, if you were to follow colin’s advice and see us soon, you should come to our u.s. tour/web site launch at the cellar on the 31st. support comes from undersmile and simon batten, with bunny eros from the original rabbit foot spasm band as dj.



  • http://myspace.com/huckmusic Huck

    new tracks plus new mixes of old tracks!