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Hem - Funnel Cloud

Funnel Cloud


1650 West 2nd Ave.
Vancouver BC V6J 4R3

Available from the Hem online store.

A review written for the Folk and Acoustic Music Exchange
by Frank Gutch Jr.

This guy I know only through a music forum on the Internet posted a message one day about Hem's "Eveningland" CD which was headed "Buy this CD! Please!". After hearing "Funnel Cloud", the followup to that 2004 release, allow me to echo his plea, and I echo it for the sake of those who claim to really love music but say they can't find anything worth hearing. Hear it is. Something really worth hearing.

You can start with the Clannad-esque opener, We'll Meet Along the Way, which shows that Ireland is not the only country which can produce symphonic rock excellence. It is a perfect introduction to Sally Ellyson, whose voice strikes emotional daggers through the heart in its simplicity and purity. At 2:04, it seems much too short until the light acoustic guitar eases into the next track, He Came To Meet Me, a melodic coup which you might think you'd heard before except that you would certainly remember, especially as that light orchestral background rises and falls like waves lapping against the side of a boat on a warm autumn afternoon. Not California completes the introduction, Smashing Pumpkins' James Iha buoying Ellyson's soaring voice in a headrush chorus, but still with that delicate edge.

And that's just the beginning. Eleven more great tracks follow, each featuring sound bytes reminiscent of some of the best folk, rock and even modern classical works, all working alone and together in varying combinations. No, Hem does not plagiarize. They realize. They know what works for them and there's not a blessed track on this CD that doesn't work.

The overwhelming factor here is not Sally Ellyson's voice or Steve Curtis's guitar or Dan Messe's songwriting. It is the ensemble feel of each and every track, like each song was composed by everyone involved, naturally. Like they all sat down one day and one said, here's an idea and someone else said, that's cool, let's do this too, and before they knew it the song had written itself. It didn't happen that way, mind you, but it sounds like it could have.

The one thing missing here are three or four mega-compositions--- fourteen minute-plus epics which steamroll the listener in their magnificence. Then again, Hem does it in three or four minute segments and it is just as magnificent. And the really cool thing is that it feels like the songs are too short, that there should be more, so you end up listening more than you would if the epics were there because you can't quite get enough. And I love that.

There are more Hem CDs out there than the two mentioned previously: Rabbit Songs, I'm Talking With My Mouth (EP), and No Word From Tom to mention a few. Availability depends on where you go, as it usually does on the Internet, so don't take anyone's word for it. A diligent search should produce results and the results should be well worth it. That is, if those titles even approach "Funnel Cloud" on any level at all.

Buy this CD! Please!

Track List:

  • We'll Meet Along the Way
  • He Came To Meet Me
  • Not California
  • Funnel Cloud
  • Too Late To Turn Back Now
  • The Pills Stopped Working
  • Hotel Fire
  • Great Houses of New York
  • Curtains
  • Old Adam
  • The Burnt-Over District
  • Reservoir
  • I'll Dream of You Tonight
  • Almost Home
All songs composed by members of Hem in different combinations.
All songs published by Universal Polygram International.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2006, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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