CD & Performance Reviews of Area Musicians
More than a year ago, I approached Glenn Hamilton and asked him about the buzz in town that had him recording a CD of his own songs. He graciously confirmed that he had been testing the waters of local studios and studio musicians, but that, ultimately, he wanted to wait to record until the timing was just right. That time is now. Having assembled a powerhouse band and selected a group of engineering and production ears who know Hamilton’s music and how it should sound, Skyline Sessions has come to be. This final product is, without hesitation, the most respectable record I have listened to in months. Rarely do I gravitate to a CD upon first listen as I did with this release.
If Hamilton were to speak on this record, you might recognize his as the voice that can be heard every day on WRVV-FM 97.3. However, when not on the air, Glenn Hamilton’s Carolina gets up. A lover of times when songs were about something, Hamilton has taken this record to its ultimate level and displayed its character throughout. These songs shelter themselves in the truth of their own spirit; the magnitude of their attraction is born of serene simplicity. What is found on this record is the kind of simplicity that inspires kids to listen to a James Taylor or a Neil Young and make them want to play music. While balanced and varying, Hamilton has not attempted to play something for everyone. Instead, this record stays in a vein that is most true to itself. The lyrical choices on this record are not time specific and will be as rich in 20 years as they are now.
As the first two songs on the CD begin, the depth of the recording band shines. The percussive magic of Rej Troup (The Martini Bros.) on drums is a steady pulse throughout the disc that presents this record in fine form without calling direct attention to itself. In the second track (my personal favorite), "11:11," Hamilton’s voice stands very tall in the mix. In a vein similar to fellow successful Carolinian Edwin McCain, Hamilton delivers a delicate and powerful treatment of every word. In addition, his use of Mandolin in this mix is particularly pleasing.
The track, "It’s About Now," may be the most eclectic song on the record. Sporting a back-beat that presents itself as being a hybrid between Rhythm and Blues and salsa, this track covers further ground without loosing the identity of the disc’s totality.
Jackson Browne and Tom Petty are also two-tenths responsible for how endearing this record sounds. Having written the tracks "These Days" and "Southern Accents" respectively, the offerings are a great fit. While not the two strongest tracks on this album, they are enough in the vein of Hamilton’s original crafts to be a welcome accompaniment to his work.
The middle section of this record is consistently varying but true. "Such A Shame" boasts a distinctly American electric-pop guitar riff throughout. It is, perhaps more than most others on this record, a pop tune. It is a stick in your head, Bernie Taupin-like song that gives great movement and pace to a record that shines because of both its ballads and what more and more folks are referring to as "singer-songwriter" music qualities.
The class lyric on the record? "The serenity washes over me and carries my soul away, to the shores of South Carolina." When I heard it for the first time, I knew that I would not be giving this record back. The passage is from the song "Arrogantly Shabby."
While this record is very distinctly not country, it is the music from times past in our rich American experience that no longer gets made. My guess is that there is no referencing medium present today that would know how to classify the works of CSN, Bob Dylan, or Phil Ochs, for example. I presume that, like Lyle Lovett, they might get called country, though there is no tear in their beer. Glenn Hamilton’s music is such a tribute to an American tradition that got lost or misplaced over the years. While we may be thankful that many of the social issues that gave way to the songs that defined that tradition have disappeared, we might be equally thankful that the form is not forgotten. It is a wonderful thing to listen to a record that never once makes you think of what its hit-single video might look like. Instead,Skyline Sessions stands as testimonial to the notion that well-crafted works of music can still take you to different place than where you were before.