HAMMERTOWNE, HIGHWAYS & HEARTACHES
Mountain Fever Records
Impressive in many ways is the mostly band-written second recording from eastern Kentucky’s Hammertowne. You can start with their overall sound, one that is highly ordered, very clean. Banjoist Brent Pack, mandolinist Chaston Carroll, guitarists Scott Tackett and Dave Carroll, and bassist Bryan Russell together forge a smooth, even ensemble that has an engaging clarity about it. They step out and let go when need be, but never overplay. In many ways, they recall the bands of the ’70s and ’80s, back when tradition was still at the core, but when bands were adding alterations to the mix. Think of early Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver or Boone Creek, then listen to the Brent Pack/Dave Carroll original “Kayla Dear.” In Russell, Tackett, and D. Carroll, they have three fine lead singers. Russell handles the higher, more emphatic tunes. Tackett takes the warmer end. Carroll falls somewhere between. The harmonies are very good as well.
More impressive would this recording have been, however, if the tunes had been stronger. As it stands, there is an ordinariness about them. The melodies are not bad, but with a couple of exceptions (for example, the aforementioned “Kayla Dear” and “Heartaches And Pains”), they don’t really stand out. Once heard, they don’t jump easily to mind. The same is true thematically and lyrically. “Polly’s Revenge” was a reasonable concept (that of the fate of the guy who killed pretty Polly) and the prison song “Nothing Left But Time To Do” has some good moments, but too many of the rest use run-of-the-mill lines about breaking hearts in two or lots of memories back in the hills.
This is a reasonable record, well-played, well-sung and with a couple of standout tracks,”Kayla Dear” being the best. A few more memorable songs would have made it better. (Mountain Fever Records, 1177 Alum Ridge Rd., Willis, VA 24380, www.mountainfever.com.)BW