Sunday, July 30, 2006

Hem, No Word From Tom

No Word From Tom


For all the over-35s who've been bitching to me lately that there's no good, new music out there: I offer you Hem. Of course, the New York group's latest, No Word From Tom, is heavy on old material, from a gorgeous, mandolin-embellished live version of "Tennessee Waltz" to a heartfelt "Rainy Night in Georgia" to a moody, Cowboy Junkies-ish version of R.E.M.'s "So. Central Rain." Sally Ellyson and company are even credible on an earnest reading of Fountains of Wayne's "Radiation Vibe."

But the brief opening track is the real grabber: Ellyson's a cappella reading of "All the Pretty Horses." This is classy, contemplative listening, a good bridge for newbies to albums like Hem's debut, Rabbit Songs (a live version of that album's "Idle" is included). Boomers who cling to notions like melody and beauty will love it, and if the kiddies catch on, maybe we can bridge that growing generation gap. Just remember: If you throw that disc into my yard, I'm keeping it.

By Pamela Murray Winters

Harp, Mar/Apr 2006

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