Thursday, October 05, 2006


By d-mac
Hem played Smith's Olde Bar last night and man it was something else. I counted ten musicians on stage, including a quite pregnant Sally Ellyson on lead vocals, co-founder and songwriter Dan Messe on keys and backup vocals, Steve Curtis on guitar, mandolin, and harmony vocals, and producer Gary Maurer on guitar, harmonica, and additional harmonies. Add a drummer, a bass player, a pedal steel guitar and dobro player, and a three-piece mini-orchestra of harp, clarinet, and violin, and you get a picture of how crowded the stage was.

I've been listening to Hem's first two albums, Rabbit Songs and Eveningland while driving my car on long road trips to Jacksonville for so long now that I've come to associate them with home. Maybe it helps that many of the songs reflect on growing up, or leaving home, or going back. Or maybe it's Sally Ellyson's lulling voice, reminiscent of a present-day Karen Carpenter, as backed by well-orchestrated, movie-score-ready instrumentation that seems to carry the lyrics along as if they were floating. It's comfort music.

Local husband and wife slash singer-songwriter duo Arlington Priest opened, accompanied by Will Robertson on upright bass and acoustic guitar. I commented to AJ that they seemed the appropriate choice to set the tone for the indie-folk, "countrypolitan" stylings to follow. I realized I may have spoken too soon though, once the second band, Sue Wilkinson, took the stage. These guys threw me for a loop. I'm not really sure how to describe their sound. Imagine a Fleetwood Mac cover band that sustains itself by playing weddings and Bar Mitzvahs in hopes that they will one day be discovered by a music director to write a hit song for some cheesy 80's chick flick (the song would be played during the credits, but not the one that comes on at the end of the movie - the one after that one, you know, when you're reading about the gaffer and the best boy and the special thanks to Mrs. Pilkington for bringing coffee and watercrest sandwiches to the set every day). Imagine that, but twenty years later.

Maybe it was due in part to the AC they had blasting upstairs at Smith's, but I had chills for the majority of the time Hem played. They played a bunch from their brand new album, Funnel Cloud, including one that Dan Messe said he wrote about his wife's TV watching habits. He explained that he was annoyed by her infatuation with those West coast pretty-folk shows like The OC and Laguna Beach, and decided to write an anti-anthem of sorts. "We're sticking our flag in Brooklyn," Messe quipped, "... or Atlanta, or wherever. Anywhere but California."

Hem - Not California

"and I'm not strong / and you're not rich / and we're not lost / where we don't live ... and it's not California here"

As a side note, AJ later lamented not being home in time to watch the new LB episode. I'm sure they'll have re-runs, buddy, but I looked up the re-cap just for you:

It's Valentines Day in Laguna Beach, which means love -- and drama -- is in the air. Kyndra and Tyler have a dinner party planned for the day of romance, but with Kyndra's latest hookup, Cameron, on the guest list, it looks like disaster is on the menu.
Sounds hawt.

Here's a video I took at the show. There's another one here as well.

"The Beautiful Sea"


Blogger header5 said...

I am sad to say I have no idea what a dobro is...What is it?

Hmm, 80s movie music. Classic.

2:04 PM, October 05, 2006  
Blogger d-mac said...

Dobro is the brand name of one of the companies that first popularized the resonator guitar, a hollow-bodied acoustic guitar with raised strings and fancy metal plates and cones in the body, that's usually played with a glass or metal slide. The name "dobro" is now associated with the type of instrument itself, rather than the particular brand (which is actually owned by Gibson now). It's like Coke or Band-Aids.

If you're interested in hearing quite possibly the best dobro player that ever was, is, or will be (according to Alison Krauss, anyway) you should check out Jerry Douglas. The dude can wail.

2:23 PM, October 05, 2006  
Blogger header5 said...

It sounds kinda twangy, if that's a word. See, you really do learn something new everyday. I was thinking it was going to be some wind instrument! Thanks! Oh, yeah, and keep the posts coming.

7:31 PM, October 05, 2006  
Blogger d-mac said...

Haha, yah... I'm pretty sure 'twangy' is a real word, and the correct one at that. Don't they use that word in Oregon too?

Don't worry though, I think you know more about dobros now than I do about ice hockey. Season opener last night, eh? Who knew?

8:12 AM, October 06, 2006  
Blogger header5 said...

Probably not a word in Oregon, but definitely when I get back to Dallas. I like that sound though...

You missed a helluva opener. You ought to check out a Thrashers game, you'd have a blast.

10:48 AM, October 06, 2006  
Blogger alannajoy said...

Good stuff D, good stuff.

9:16 AM, October 20, 2006  

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