Ed Hamell, who performs under the name Hamell on Trial, managed to build a steady following for his anti-folk, punk rock-influenced acoustic music. Alternating between brash and funny, his sound has more in common with rock than the gentle folksingers of yore. Hamell on Trial got his start in upstate New York, where Hamell split from the band he was playing with and embraced the notion of playing as a solo act. After recording his 1989 debut as Hamell on Trial, Conviction, for Syracuse's Blue Wave Records, he eventually decided that a journey south might be beneficial to his musical career and relocated to Austin, Texas.
Soon after arriving in Austin, he won a steady gig playing Friday nights at the Electric Lounge. His first shows alienated the audience with his fierce attack and sarcastic tone, but he soon built a fan base that appreciated his style, and his shows began to draw more than 500 people every week. He signed a recording contract with Austin's Doolittle Records in May 1994 and released his debut album, Big as Life, soon afterwards. His performance at the South by Southwest Music Conference won him a contract with Mercury Records, which re-released his debut, as well as subsequent albums including 1997's The Chord Is Mightier Than the Sword and 2000's Choochtown.
Hamell did his part to promote these releases with his relentless touring, playing up to 250 shows per year until May 2000 when he was seriously injured in a car accident. After recovering from head and spinal injuries, he released Ed's Not Dead: Hamell Comes Alive in 2001, and could often be found playing shows near his new home in Brooklyn, New York. A collection, Mercuroyale: The Best of the Mercury Years arrived the following year, and in 2003 he struck a deal with Righteous Babe Records, the indie label founded by Ani DiFranco. Hamell on Trial's first album for Righteous Babe was Tough Love, followed in 2006 by Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs and in 2008 by The Terrorism of Everyday Life.
In 2012, Hamell turned to Kickstarter to crowdfund a new album featuring songs he'd written after giving himself an assignment to write a new tune each day. (Hamell ended up writing close to 400 songs, and posted performances of many of them on YouTube.) The campaign was successful enough that he raised $10,435, well over his $7,000 goal, and he recorded a digital EP that was expanded into a full-length album, produced in part by Phil Nicolo of the Butcher Brothers. The full-length, The Happiest Man in the World, was released by New West Records in February 2014. Hamell's tenth studio long-player, Tackle Box, was co-produced by Nicolo and released in 2017, again via New West. ~ Stacia Proefrock