By: Bill Clifford
Often, a songwriter's catalyst comes from their past. Tom Hamilton found the inspiration for his latest songs in the music he was reared on, classic artists such as Merle Haggard, John Prine, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. These new songs, however, don't resemble the electronic tinged art rock he'd been recording with the progressive leaning Brothers Past. Instead, they are acoustic pop songs, the first of which he wrote, "American Babies," gives its name to Hamilton's new band and its eponymous debut.
Hamilton recorded American Babies (SCI Fidelity) with a stellar cast of musicians, including his bass playing brother Jim and drummer Joe Russo (Benevento/Russo Duo). Aron Magner (The Disco Biscuits) added piano on several tracks while guitarist Scott Metzger (RANA, Particle) joined the band later. Musically speaking, there is lush, organic instrumentation including piano, organ, vibraphone, Mellotron, violin and cello. But, given the aforementioned list of inspirations, American Babies is not the rueful country jaunt one might expect. Rather, it's a warm, earthy trip up the Pacific Coast Highway reminiscent of The Beach Boys or The Eagles.
Opener "Invite Your Friends" is a bubbly, radio friendly ode to a lover and the protagonist wants to share that love with his partner's friends. Vibraphone mixes with spry steel and acoustic guitars. The mood and tone darken on "Swimming At Night," a somber take on being unafraid of a watery grave. The previously mentioned "American Babies" features a rich string section and a trio of female vocalists on the chorus. Magner's exquisite piano plays well against Hamilton's acoustic guitar and the bevy of voices in the chorus, and the final verse swells to a stunning crescendo.
Two of the CDs strongest songs fall at the center. "Brooklyn Bridge" runs on an upbeat and fast tempo, driven by stark acoustic guitar and abundant strings, with added steel guitar flourishes. It's one of the most rock-oriented songs with thumping bass and drums and a dual electric guitar solo. Lyrically, it's an epic love song to a wild and eccentric femme fatal. "Floating" is much more of an acoustic rocker with vibraphone and backing female vocals. It's a lovely ditty that begs for radio play. Closer "Never Be Loved Like This Again" is a gorgeous dirge filled out by Hamilton's boisterous vocals, acoustic strums, Magner's elegant piano and somber cello.
American Babies was originally released independently, but is now seeing wider distribution and re-release thanks to SCI Fidelity . Fans shouldn't be fooled by the labels' jam roots or the plethora of progressive talent that fills out the line-up since this music is far more straight ahead, stunning heartland pop. The indefinite hiatus of Brothers Past has given way to the beautiful, graceful music of American Babies, which deserves to be heard, nurtured and allowed to evolve.
JamBase | Brooklyn
Go See Live Music!