Hat Check Girl—Cold Smoke

2018, Gallway Bay Music


Cold Smoke was inspired by a friend who suggested that Peter Gallway and Annie Gallup write a song that was character driven, historic and melodic. It was a seminal suggestion, giving rise to an album of outstanding songs, stories in time with their narrators becoming fully formed as we listen. The first song, “Enola Gay,” is told from the point of view of a soldier looking back on his time assigned to the Quartermaster at the air base the Enola Gay flew from. He was not directly involved with the hand-to-hand island-to-island fighting in the Pacific, but he remembers how he felt, missing his family and his sons, and prays for “…all of the children who duck under their desks.” Another story from that era is “Lisa Blue,” in which a little girl struggles to accept that her dog was recruited for the K-9 corps in WWII. The Triangle Shirtwaist tragedy is told from the point of view of an Irish girl working there with her mother for thirteen cents an hour. The Celtic melody is as bright as the story is dark. In “Letters,” a soldier in Vietnam exchanges letters with his girl back home. As they write what they are feeling in the moment—snapshots of feelings, immediate and compelling—we get a sense of how difficult it will be to reconcile their experiences when he gets home. Although Gallup and Gallway each bring a distinct voice to their collaboration, they share a passion for expressing subtle emotions in poetically crafted lyrics. By grounding these personal and particular stories in specific moments in history, the listener gains a deeper connection to what the characters are feeling. As usual, the duo creates a sound that is at once rich and sparse, making the most of their mastery of various instruments including guitar, dobro, lap steel, accordion, banjo and mandolin. Deirdre Wood Becher’s fiddle is a lovely addition. Although Gallup and Gallway never seem to be at a loss for inspiration (regularly releasing solo projects in addition to their work as Hat Check Girl), their friend’s suggestion has given them a trove of subject matter worthy of their considerable talent. —Michael Devlin

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