Hamell on Trial

Tough Love (Righteous Babe)

Texas Platters

Hamell on Trial

Tough Love (Righteous Babe) It's been a decade since Ed Hamell's one-man wrecking crew amassed a devoted following here in Austin during his lengthy residency at the sadly departed Electric Lounge. Here was a keen cultural observer with a big heart, a humanist punk hero armed with nothing more than an acoustic guitar and attitude to burn -- Lenny Bruce meets the Ramones. The NYC-based (and forever honorary Austinite) Hamell is back with Tough Love, and although he may have mellowed slightly, he still doesn't pull any punches. "I'm a self-righteous prick with a great big mouth, but I'm sick to death of mediocrity in life," he proclaims on "Halfway," a projectile aimed at the arrogant self-importance running amok in our shallow consumerist culture. Whether wryly invoking the Almighty on "Don't Kill" ("I thought I etched this in stone?"), tenderly recalling the tragedy of Matthew Shepard in "Hail," or copping Bo Diddley on "Oughta Go Around," Hamell's scathing wit slices with the precision of a scalpel, yet hits home with the weight of a sledgehammer. The music is as rambunctious as ever, chock-full of sly, melodic hooks. As he reminds us on "Downs" -- "Almost died in a car accident, they cut me from the wreck" -- we recently came all too close to losing his impassioned voice. Tough Love is a life-affirming reminder of just how dear that voice is. (Hamell on Trial opens for Ani DiFranco at the Backyard Tuesday, Oct. 14.)

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