Hamell On Trial – The Happiest Man In The World
Difficult to know what to make of Ed Hamell. He’s an intelligent and articulate singer-songwriter, at something of a rarely-considered midpoint between Steve Earle’s rootsy gnarl and the dextrous storytelling of The Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle. At his best, he’s kinda thrilling – take the intro to Artist In America, which uses little more than the American songbook’s best-known titles to set the scene, illustrating how artistry can be as much about reinterpretation and reconfiguration as originality. But then there’s the likes of Mom’s Hot, where the pathos and romance of the song’s central tenet (a light-hearted approach to beauty’s subjectivity) is undermined by the cartoonishly irritating delivery. Tricky.
For the most part, it’s just Ed and his acoustic, strummed with punkish ferocity, but things get interesting when he experiments a little: programmed beats and groove-drunk brass motifs lend colour and character. All gold this ain’t – still, it’s hard to get mad at a guy with such good intentions.