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Hamell On Trial

+ {Ed Hamell}

A pivotal figure in the anti-folk movement in late 80s New York, Ed Hamell (born October 1, 1954, Syracuse, NY) – musician, poet, journalist, storyteller and anarchist – has racked up quite a discography in recent years, beginning as early back as 1989 when he issued the low-key LP CON VICTION {*6}. There were no signs of his primitive power-folk here as his Big Apple drawl and heavy CBGBs attitude were summoned up through `Another Liar’, the rockabilly-esque `Because You Should’ and the slow honky-tonkin’ of `No Tradin’’.
Ed subsequently moved back to Austin, Texas and set up a residency in the thriving folk cafe Electric Lounge where he deliberately annoyed patrons (who were used to the more gentle folk-rock) by playing grinding post-new wave on an acoustic guitar and blurting out rather offensive lyrics in his half-sung, half-spoken drawl.
In 1994, HAMELL had accumulated a growing fanbase and people were starting to see the humorous side of his anti-folk-punk shenanigans. He duly signed with Austin’s Doolittle imprint and issued his sophomore set BIG AS LIFE (1996) {*5}, an album that saw Mercury Records take an interest when they re-released it shortly afterwards. THE CHORD IS MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD (1997) {*7} was delivered a year later and saw HAMELL recruit a full band for what was to become his first real rock outing. Amongst the nods to The STOOGES and The VELVET UNDERGROUND, he also relaxed his punk-rock credentials and wrote a touching song in ode to the first BEATLE, er, entitled… `John Lennon’.
A brief hiatus followed before HAMELL issued his first concept album CHOOCHTOWN (2000) {*7}. Telling the integrated stories of various characters including `Joe Brush’, `Uncle Morris’, `Judy’ and, of course… Chooch, this was Ed at his anti-folk, acoustic chugging, bile-bating narrative best. Opener `Go Fuck Yourself’ was a Travis Bickle-inspired psychotic death letter/poem to pathetic males everywhere, whilst `Bill Hicks’ paid tribute to the late, great comedian.
A live album followed entitled ED’S NOT DEAD: HAMELL COMES ALIVE (2001) {*6} – the title referred to an almost fatal car crash the singer was involved in – and featured a very worthy finale rendition of JOHNNY CASH’s `Folsom Prison Blues’; it was clear Ed’s stint as support to ANI DiFRANCO (his Righteous Babe label boss) was paying off in terms of credibility at least.
Two years later, and after a stint of column writing for the UK’s Uncut magazine, HAMELL issued the brilliant TOUGH LOVE (2003) {*8}, a record that achieved cult status for his sardonic wit and lyrical prowess on the title track, etc. (his backing rhythm section were Glenn Danni and Eddie Stratton). Inspired by the birth of his wee boy, Detroit, anti-folk hero HAMELL delivered his own way of punk protest via fifth set SONGS FOR PARENTS WHO ENJOY DRUGS (2006) {*6}; TERRORISM OF EVERYDAY LIFE (2008) was an official stand-up/solo concert/music set recorded in front of a favourable audience in Edinburgh, Scotland; re-credited to a solo ED HAMELL as RANT & ROLL {*8}, a truly side-splitting affair that was hardly folk – f**k was not dead by any stretch of the imagination. You have been warned. His intentional low-profile was still pleasing his loyal fanbase; you can download any of his most recent “365 songs a year” (one a day) project from his website.
2014’s THE HAPPIEST MAN IN THE WORLD {*6} was HAMELL ON TRIAL’s swipe at the economy, culture and morose social inequality. `Richard’s Got A Job’, `Whores’ and `Jennifer’s Strippin’ Again’, perfect examples of his satirical and sarcastic mind-set.
© MC Strong 2011/GFD2 // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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