Hamell on Trial – Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs

Hamell on Trial
Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs

Hamell on Trial, a.k.a. Ed Hamell, has been making music for years, but it wasn’t until he was picked up by Ani DiFranco’s Righteous Babe Records that he really began to get some much-deserved attention. The man, armed with his trusty guitar (a beat-up 1937 Gibson small body) is known for the acerbic wit, dark humor, and leftist politics that form the axis of his music. Hamell hasn’t changed this focus in the face of more exposure or for more recent developments – like the birth of his son Detroit a few years ago. However, Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs, Hamell on Trial’s latest release, channels much of this energy into the direction of fatherhood, and the impact on his music is obvious from the first track.

Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs starts out with the upbeat “Inquiring Minds,” in which Hamell tells us how he’s going to answer all those questions his kid will eventually ask about sex, drugs, and other debauchery (“I’m gonna lie!”). From the beginning, Hamell’s style is hard to pin down – despite being a guy with a guitar, folk doesn’t fit what he’s doing. Perhaps no singular label could be truly accurate as Hamell moves between the lines of genres with ease. Consider “Wheels Pt. 1” and “Wheels Pt. 2,” a duet with his son that gives some new (and funny) lyrics to “Wheels on the Bus.” I don’t remember there being a wino or a floozy on the bus, but Ed and Detroit Hamell sing a few colorful verses about these characters.

Hamell on Trial’s family life shines through on other tracks like “Mommy’s Not Talking Today,” “Father’s Advice,” and “Values.” “Father’s Advice” includes gems like, “Your grandpa and grandma drank and drank and drank, now that I’m a parent I know why. That’s just a taste of my wicked sense of humor, you’d better have one ‘til you die.” “Values” is a darkly funny look into raising a child in today’s America. Hamell ponders the little stuff like getting his kid to pick up his toys in the face of the war in Iraq, 9-11, and George W. Bush’s religious crusades.

Hamell on Trial still devotes plenty of material on Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs to things other than parenthood. “Pretty Colors” is a hilarious song about popping pills, and “Jerkin” is a tune about those long, lonely nights on the road. Beyond the purely comical songs, there is “Civil Disobedience” about Hamell and friend Jakie having a problem with authority and the over-the-top, but oh-so-fun “Coulter’s Snatch.”

Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs is a fine album offering just under an hour of great music and tons of laughs. The only problem with the disc is that Hamell on Trial really is best experienced live for the full effect of his music. Each of Hamell’s albums has been quite good, but I find they just don’t quite live up to seeing him in concert. Still, Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs is a great introduction to Hamell on Trial, and existing fan will find plenty to love here. Those tired of the current regime in the United States will also find a fresh voice in Hamell – and perhaps something to laugh about despite the seriousness of it all.