By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
By Courtney Harrell
By Kyra Scrimgeour
After promising to secure the instruments, an emergency crew cut the roof off the car, helicoptered Hamell to an emergency room and told him he might never walk again. "For some reason, I wasn't buying it," Hamell says. "I was in intensive care for a week, then sent home. I recuperated for nine months after that. I'm kind of in pain all the time. But not on stage; I get that adrenaline going through me, so that's pretty good."
Hamell's ordeal is immortalized in an ode to painkillers called "Downs," one of the many highlights on last year's Tough Love, released on Ani DiFranco's Righteous Babe imprint. Other standouts include a colorful road-trip entry ("95 South"), a caustic tune written from God's point of view ("Don't Kill"), and "Hail," a tender ballad in which slain cross-dresser Teena Brandon, punk martyr Brian Deneke and hate-crime victim Matthew Shepard all meet happily in the afterlife. DiFranco, a longtime supporter, not only guests on Tough Love, but introduced Hamell to a new fan base.
"You're in a good situation with Ani, because she picks her openers," Hamell points out. "And her fans love her and trust her. Her crowd isn't just all lesbians. There's also this kind of weird hybrid now that's like this political punk-hippie. They're almost like what the MC5 fans were in Detroit in '68."
Motor City madness takes a back seat on Hamell's upcoming batch of songs -- though, like his one-man play, The Payoff, the result won't be officially unveiled until spring 2005.
"The last record, I almost died. Then 9/11 happened, and then my son was born," Hamell says. "So there were all these variables of mortality, and it became much heavier than it started out to be. I'm trying to make the next one a little lighter. I've been telling my wife, ŒHey, I'm making a techno record,' and she doesn't hear it. But there's some beats and some loops like the Clash's Combat Rock, you know? It's my German art phase."
Spoken like a true one-man-acoustic-punk-kraut-rock something-or-other.