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Hamell on Trial  - Tough Love

Tough Love

Hamell on Trial

Righteous Babe Records RBR033-D

Righteous Babe Records, Inc.
P.O. Box 95 Ellicott Station
Buffalo, NY 14205

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
By David Schultz
(schultz@alum.mit.edu)

"I'm a rock and roll show. Period. I love Iggy and the Stooges, Lou Reed, the MC5. Folk singers bore me. Insincerity incites me." - Ed Hamell

This pretty much sums up Ed Hamell's latest CD, Tough Love. It's not a traditional folk music album, but is more akin to the folk-punk rock attitude of Bill Bragg, Pamela Means, and Ani Difranco. In fact, it's no surprise that Hamell on Trial opened for Difranco on tour recently, as well as is now appearing on her Righteous Babe label. Difranco also sings on several tracks, as well as co-produced this album with John Leckie, Andrew "Goat" Gilchrist, Frederick Reed, and Hamell.

The album opens with a couple of the most powerful rock songs recorded recently. Don't Kill is God's message to humans:
Don't Kill, Don't Kill, Don't Kill.
There are no divinely sanctioned murders.
Who'd know better than Me?
I'm God, why didn't you hear Me?
I've been saying the same shit for centuries.

Halfway is a message to celebrities who use their sex appeal to sell their movies, the egomaniacal lead singers of rock band, and trigger-happy world leaders. The message is that they don't need to be subtle, they might as well go all the way. The final verse is for Hamell himself:
I'm a self-righteous prick, with a great big mouth.
but I'm sick to death of mediocrity and lies.
And I'm preaching to the choir, and I'm yelling down a hole,
I used to sing between the lines but then I got wise.
I mean fuck it, why go halfway?

Other highlights of the album include Hail, a tribute to hate-crime victims and what their life must be like in heaven. Downs describes the recuperation from Hamell's debilitating car accident in May 2000 and the effect of taking all the pain killers had on him ("Having a ball with the Demerol"). The psychadelic flourishes make this song sound like his version of the Beatles' Tomorrow Never Knows. Hamell's Lou Reed influences show through unabashedly in the acoustic Velvet Undergroundish All That Was Said and A Little Concerned, That's All, with the role of backup singer Nico played by Difranco on these songs. Oughta Go Around features Hamell's characteristic furious strumming on his 1937 small-bodyGibson.

Tough Love is one tight rock album. Most songs are instrumented with only the essentials (guitar, bass, and drums), but they still hit you hard in the gut. On several songs, Hamell plays all the instruments himself. If you like your music rocking, blunt, and in-your-face, Tough Love will be a regular visitor to your CD player.

Track List:

  • Don't Kill
  • Halfway
  • When Destiny Calls
  • Hail
  • 95 South
  • Downs
  • All That Was Said
  • A Little Concerned, That's All
  • Everything and Nothing
  • Tough Love
  • Dear Pete
  • There Is a God
  • First Date
  • Worry Wart
  • Oughta Go Around
  • Detroit Lullaby

Edited by David N. Pyles
(dnpyles@acousticmusic.com)

Copyright 2004, Peterborough Folk Music Society and David Schultz.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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