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Rabbit Songs

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Album Review

Quoted as wanting to make a record "we could love the rest of our lives," Hem spent a year on this collection. The idea was to combine their love of traditional American music with the lushness of the occasional 18-piece orchestra, a good choice considering the sweet, crystalline quality of the vocal work by lead singer Sally Ellyson. Ellyson had never sung professionally before, but answered an ad in The Village Voice with a cassette of lullabies she'd recorded for a friend's child, and the set begins with a snippet of what was on that tape — a few lines unaccompanied from the traditional "Lord, Blow the Moon Out Please." Her voice, untarnished, as it may have been by spending nights on end singing in smoky bars, was worth waiting for. Rabbit Songs' sound is lyrical, melodic, and pure. It was recorded in the old-fashioned, non-digital manner and that devotion to tradition is apparent in each song, whether in simple and sparse arrangements or full of strings and glockenspiel. The songs, which speak of devotion, loss, and voyeurism, don't try to sound old — they just have an effortlessly timeless appeal. "Betting on Trains," with its simple ebb and flow, is particularly lovely; "When I Was Drinking" speaks knowingly of disappointment, the effects of which are punctuated by swirling pedal steel; and "Horsey" swoons along to the old-time violin work of Carol Sharar like a relic from the past.

Biography

Formed: 1999 in New York, NY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The genesis of the New York-based folk outfit Hem goes back to 1999, when songwriter Dan Messe teamed up with producer/engineer Gary Maurer (who had worked with artists such as Jon Spencer, Luna, Fountains of Wayne, and James Iha). The two wanted to make a record that would explore their interests in traditional American music while draping it in contemporary stylings. They enlisted friend Steve Curtis (guitar, mandolin) and, needing a singer, placed an ad in The Village Voice. After receiving...
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Rabbit Songs, Hem
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