Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ham1 Go On and On and On...

Through the last half-decade or so, Jim Willingham's ever-expanding canon-of-song has become somewhat of an Athens, Georgia institution; in that rough interval, he and his band Ham1 have performed extensively amid the vaunted downtown music scene, toured a good bit, and recorded no fewer than four full-length albums that both reflect and expand upon that locale's long-noted proclivity toward idiosyncratic narrative and a psychedelicized instrumental approach to fleshing elemental chord changes into full-blooded songs. Ham1's newest offering, Let's Go On and On and On and On With HAM1 somehow miraculously manages to expand on both of those factors simultaneously, a phenomenon attributable to fresh directions taken in the realms of the studio and in the development of the band's sonic palette, song-per-song.

Let's Go On and On and On and On With HAM1 finds the band reveling in sonic expansion a-plenty - in fact, there are three instrumentals across the record, all unified by the notion that they conjure some mythic day when Bob Wills drunkenly discovers a Big Muff. However, Ham1's calling card remains wholly intact: Willingham's affable, affecting delivery of his character-driven narratives.

As with any fully-felt folk-song, the main mode of emotional communication here are the lyrics and vocals, and Willingham speaks, intones and imparts his like an advising, wide-eyed friend beside you on a barstool might; think of a somewhat-southern-fried Jonathan Richman with his arm amiably around you on the porch, or a more-with-it Pip Proud overdubbing his vocals over a long-lost Guided-by-Voices track, and you're getting there. The inherent tension brought to bear between Willingham's heart-bravely-on-sleeve tendency toward vocal openhandedness and the swirling complexities of the ensemble playing and production gives the record its rarefied blend of sunlight and shade that makes for repeated, rewarding listening -- and allows Let's Go On and On and On and On With HAM1 to stand as a brash progression not only for the band itself, but for the skewed and celebrated psych-pop of Athens, Georgia.

Download: Ghost Loop

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