"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:
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:
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.
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