(Listen Here, 2007)
The group name under which husband-and-wife team Ken Anderson and Rebecca Hall perform, Hungrytown, has a charmingly low-keyed sound. You may think you've heard it before, but if your experience is like mine, you'll have a hard time placing it precisely, which probably means Anderson and Hall are more distinctive than you might have thought on first hearing. If Hungrytown is readily identifiable as a folk outfit, it is not one that sounds like any you've encountered recently.
On this recording they're joined here and there by some distinguished roots musicians, including two members of the Mammals (Michael Merenda and Ruth Ungar Merenda) and the bluegrass band Virginia Ramblers (who do not play bluegrass in the present instance). There's only one actual traditional song ("Sylvie," a variant of the Anglo-American "I Once Had a Sweetheart"); "One Morning in May" merely borrows the title of the old ballad. Still, their writing (Anderson-Hall's, or Hall's alone) is richly infused with traditional references and sensibilities. Though it isn't, "Weep Not for Me" could be an antique heart song A.P. Carter picked up on one of his innumerable song-collecting rambles, and it's not the only one.
Hall, who sings in a soft, sweet voice that at first exposure sounds a tad thin, and then doesn't, handles the lead vocals, affording the songs a surface airiness that conceals the emotional punch beneath. The writing is uniformly strong but always understated, the musicianship first-rate but never ostentatious. If Anderson and Hall were not the confident and capable professionals they are, Hungrytown easily could be as twee as an early 1960s folk-pop group. It's not even close, however. Just listen closely. To say nothing of the album's other virtues, the melodies alone will drive dull care away.
24 May 2008
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