REVIEWS

The Present
Wayne Hamilton
12 tracks; 9 originals, 3 covers

Our society is one that loves clean-cut, clear and easy distinctions. We try and make everything black or white, good or bad, hot or cold. Luckily, there are some individuals who deny such conventions and follow their muse. This new CD from Wayne Hamilton is one that fits that third, often overlooked category – “other.” And I mean that in the most positive of ways.

Wayne’s new CD, The Present, is full of stories – stories of youth, love, loss and life’s simple pleasures. Some are historical ("Gettysburg"), some borrowed ("Love at the Five & Dime", "Whatshername"), some grounding and inspirational ("Lovin’ It") and some very personal ("Mama’s Music", "Stuff"). Rather than try and tell you the stories, here are some remarks about how The Present touched me. Then I’m going to encourage you to pick up a copy, because these are songs, after all, and the musical setting is as important as the stories themselves – but more about that later…

The first song that stands out is Wayne’s own composition, “Sixty One.” This is in homage to the wonders of the north woods and the pleasures to be found along Minnesota’s Highway 61. Whether you’re someone who doesn’t “get” the appeal of the North, or just in need of a reminder why people would put up with the long, frozen winters, this song offers some insights.

Wayne lets his Rock-n-Roll roots show in a few songs. “Same Old Song” is a cover of an old Holland-Dozier-Holland song, which features a wonderful Beach Boys influenced treatment, arranged and performed by Bill Scherer. There’s a nice blues groove on “Nothin' To Do with Me,” and “Mama’s Music” feels like an old doo-wop song, complete with some very nice saxophone work by Walter Chancellor and David Methner.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a cover of Nanci Griffith’s “Love at the Five and Dime.” This is a very nice, clean version, which features Vicky Emerson on harmony vocals and Matthew Fox – a fine singer-songwriter in his own right – on dobro. I don’t often see Ms. Griffith’s songs on recordings coming out of the bluegrass/songwriter folks, so I forget how wonderful her work can be.

As I mentioned above, Wayne not only has a nice collection of songs, but the musicians and variety of sounds is worth special mention. First of all, there is something for (nearly) everyone, as far as musical genres go. There is jazz influence in “Whatshername,” co-written by Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul and Mary fame, as well as in Wayne’s own “I Know.” I’ve already mentioned the Rock-n-Roll touches and, as you would expect, there’s lots of contemporary folk sound, with a fair touch of Bluegrass and country.

The musicianship is very good and quite consistent throughout. In addition to the individuals mentioned above, there are noteworthy contributions from bassist Jason Kapel on all but one cut, Joe Juliano on lead guitar, Clint Hoover on harmonica, and Peter Ostroushko on fiddle. Wayne also supplies solid rhythm guitar on all tracks. There are quite extensive notes on all musicians, as well as composer’s notes on the songs at Wayne’s web site.

Of course, the person responsible for this fine CD is the Twin Cities’ Wayne Hamilton, a member of many professional songwriting organizations and finalist in a number of contests, including the MN Folk Festival’s New Folk Songwriting Contest, the Highway 61 Folks Festival and the UNISONG International Songwriting Contest. Wayne clearly is a student of the art and is committed to writing songs that celebrate life and offer a positive take on today’s world, and that is a wonderful thing. He is also blessed with a strong, clear tenor voice, which he uses very well in all settings. Please, take a minute to surf over to waynehamilton.com, listen for yourself, and enjoy.
-- Mark Kreitzer
 

Lucky That Way
Wayne Hamilton
12 tracks, all original


Wayne's songs are like those comfortable mittens that seem...well, just right. He is the perennial traveler that has been around the country and picked up a bit of history along the way. His varied experiences on these journeys and his ability as a wordsmith make for a wide variety of well-written songs. Wayne Hamilton, the storyteller, sings songs filled with that wonderful mix of history, humor, and gentleness. Clear, up-front vocals, and the tasteful addition of a variety of instruments (banjo, fiddle...) and voices show his skill as the seasoned professional writer. While tunes such as "Qualified Reciprocation Blues" and "Cookie Lovers' Ramble" demonstrate Wayne's wit and clever lyrics, pieces such as "The Wooden Floor" shows a smooth, gentle side. Lastly, the song everyone will remember is the title cut with its memorable melody and catchy story line that all songwriters strive for. Mittens aren't included, but listeners will find an evening with Wayne Hamilton's Lucky That Way...just right.
-- Joe Schreifels, thesongcrafters.com


There's great songwriting talent around the world to be discovered and nurtured. You are definitely part of that pool.
-- Alan Roy Scott, Co-founder of UNISONG, in a letter notifying Wayne that Lucky That Way was selected by TAXI as a finalist in the 2001 UNISONG International Song Contest


The music is finely crafted and easy listening, but at root the songs of Wayne Hamilton are about story. Each song is a story simply told...one might imagine Hamilton sitting by a campfire, a small but interested group of campers listening at his knee. Hamilton's music would fit well into an easy listening format on radio. Even when it rocks, it's quiet and comfortable. The style is broad and eclectic, drawing from several genres, yet the sound is unified and cohesive. The combination of Hamilton's writing and vocal skills with the fine musicianship of his band make Lucky That Way a comfortable, enjoyable listen.
-- Bob Mackenzie, Canadian critic (Click HERE to read Bob's entire review)

 

Wayne Hamilton - An Exceptional Songwriter
Do yourself a favor and buy this CD. Wayne Hamilton is one of the most insightful lyricists around, and he supports his thoughful observations with a clear and pleasant voice. His well-designed melodies enhance and never get in the way of his consistently good lyrics. The same can be said for his backup musicians and Wayne's guitar; they support but never overpower even though it's obvious they're exceptional musicians. It's as if all are intently listening to what Wayne has to say. You will too.
-- Mike Kapel, Amazon.com

 

I know an old fella with a farm out in West Tennessee /
the gov'nor pulled up in a limo one day & said /
'Please sell your farm to me' /
well they fixed up his house, left him 40 acres /
and put up a factory /
he got 12 million bucks and with his kind of luck /
he's as happy as he can be.
So begins the title song. Like traditional country, here's a 39-minute, story-song CD with lots of guitar, friend-heavy backing vocals, hand clapping and not too loud uptempo bumpkin fun. "Looking For You" is as close to an acoustic version of a 50s doo-wop song as you'll ever find. Wayne's voice is pretty clean and clear for this 6/8 song, with guitar, bass and piano backing him up. For the older country groupies who prefer Hank to Garth, this, bud's, for you!"
-- Ben Ohmart in @NZone Magazine (www.audiogalaxy.com)


Wayne has a funny side to his music that shines through on "Cookie Lovers' Ramble"
-- Jan Best, Radio Muse (internet radio @ www.musesmuse.com)


Listening to Lucky that Way is like going back to the 60s...Wayne Hamilton, with his debut album, is a member of that generation; but he took from its music the smooth and soft rather than the jagged edge of the protest songs. These are 'good family songs,' honest and simple that make this recording a voice that stands out and far from the typical revivals and some of the new folk productions.

The arrangements [include] acoustic guitar, harmonica, a banjo [in] songs that tell of everyday life and of classic feelings. Hamilton's voice is between the country western singer and folk [singer] and brings us...an honest repertoire of songs, among which "The Wooden Floor" and "Lucky that way" stand out...

...if you wanna be dazed, listen to Lucky That Way.
-- Roberto Menabo, Bluestime.it (Italy)


...good ol' solid songwriting with a wise bit of observation...I admired the simplicity, directness and message of GENERATIONS
[cut 5 on Lucky That Way].
-- George Maida, WCVE radio, Richmond, VA


[Lucky That Way] is a great CD!
-- Steve Jerrett, KOPN radio, Columbia, MO


Wayne Hamilton's melodic sound and well-crafted lyrics make for a comforting yet fresh sound.
-- Twin Cities Music Network


One local player who is shaping up to be a candidate for "hardest-working coffeehouse musician" is Wayne Hamilton, making pretty regular appearances every weekend in one coffeehouse or another. Wayne's Southern-gentleman personality, mix of folk standards and originals and acting background captures the attention of audience members young and old.
-- Wendy V's Local Blend, acoustic music newsletter


Wayne is skilled at building a rapport with his audience...
-- www.latteacrossamerica.com