Hoist your pint of ale, saunter up to the bar, and enjoy the sounds of flutes, violins, mandolins, acoustic guitars, keyboards, and assorted percussion on Glass Hammer’s tribute to J.R.R. Tolkien, The Middle Earth Album. The band was real clever with this one, as the album actually comes across just like a host of Tolkien characters sitting in a pub, getting drunk and singing songs of dragons, trolls, elves, maidens, and towers. There is much audience participation, clapping, and sing-along going on, which gives the whole recording a very warm, live feel, and a must for any fan of the great author’s work.
One of the highlights is the song “The Old Troll and the Maiden”, a catchy sing-along that one could imagine would be a smash at any drunken happy hour (well, at least in Middle Earth that is!) Most of the songs tell a great story, and while the mainly acoustic nature and numerous jigs are quite different for a Glass Hammer album, it’s quite invigorating to hear something like this these days, and brings back memories of vintage Jethro Tull, The Strawbs, Gryphon, and Gentle Giant. You could tell Steve Babb, Fred Schendel, and the many guest singers had a blast doing this, as it really permeates each song resulting in a real “fun” vibe throughout. The wild thing is, after listening to this CD a few times, you can really picture this as the actual soundtrack to “The Lord of the Rings” film, or at least picture a scene in the movie where the lead characters are all sitting around, drinking, singing and dancing. “The Ballad of Balin Longbeard” with its rollicking mandolin, violin, flutes, and hand clapping, would make for a wondrous get together with Gandalf, Bilbo, and the rest of the Middle Earth gang. Don’t believe me-grab a listen to The Middle Earth Album and judge for yourself.