Back around 2001, it must have been, Miles Hunt from The Wonderstuff told me to come and see a new American singer-songwriter at The Borderline in London with him. To be honest, my heart sank – with the mental image of yet another dreary troubadour plucking lifelessly at the strings of an acoustic guitar while sat on a stool and warbling about man’s inhumanity to man. How wrong can you be?
That night I witnessed perhaps the sharpest, loudest, funniest, most breathtaking solo show it has been my privilege to witness. Ever. A badass wisecracking tough-talking bald-headed forty year old with a 1937 Gibson L-00 and a huge Fender amp walked briskly up to the mic. He proceeded to unleash a full-on sonic assault of music, stories and sardonic humour that held the entire audience captivated and left us baying for more.
That night I joined Henry Rollins, Ani Di Franco, Kimya Dawson – and of course Miles himself – as a rabid fan of Hamell On Trial. The man himself kindly recorded the above (admittedly much quieter) session version of his stage classic There Is A God for me the following year. Ed Hamell‘s back catalogue dates back to 1995 and though not all of it has the razor edge and sledgehammer impact of his live shows, I’d particularly recommend checking out the title track of his landmark album Choochtown – which you can hear on Spotify.
Anyway, fast forward 11 years and Hamell On Trial has a new deal with New West Records – home to Richard Thompson, John Hiatt, Steve Earle, Tom Morello and Kris Kristofferson among others. His new 8-track EP Ed Hamell Is The Happiest Man Alive is produced by The Butcher Bros and features collaborations with Kimya and Ani among others. It’s released digitally on January 14th, and Ed will be flying from New York to be special guest at my own one-off London concert on January 12th as well as on my 6 Music radio show the following Saturday, January 19th .
And if you’re a solo performer yourself, don’t miss his headline UK tour next month. A night watching Hamell On Trial is like a masterclass in How It Should Be Done. Dates so far include London, Leeds, Hull, Cardiff, Glasgow, Dublin, Cork and Dundalk – you’ll find the full list at hamellontour.co.uk