Rant & Roll might be the best approximation of Hamell On Trial’s odd little universe. The title of this 2008 album closely mirror’s Ed Hamell’s style: wordy, poetic rants set to a rock-and-roll beat. Longtime Austinites might remember Hamell for his residency at the Electric Lounge in the ’90s, but that’s just part of his unwieldy story. Hailing from Syracuse, NY, Hamell discarded his band in favor of an acoustic guitar and spiked his folk flavorings with a little punk-rock spirit. Comic, spoken-word observations accompany his acoustic hammering, covering politics, religion, and the absurdity of daily life. The tragedies in Hamell’s own life often lead to some pretty potent projects. His divorce in 2008 prompted a song per day, collected on Hamell’s YouTube channel (it’s at 534 songs and counting).
Hamell’s dark wit is laced with a joy that’s pretty infectious. He stopped by our Studio 1A in support of 2014’s Happiest Man In The World, and it’d be easy to assume that title is somewhat tongue-in-cheek. But in performing the title track, it became clear that Hamell is at least partly serious. His bank account is depleted, but he takes stock in his friends, “barely employed” but “maintaining their integrity.” For Ed Hamell–an artist who’s kept at it for two-and-a-half decades, who’s toured the world, maintaining his own integrity in a brutal business–that’s enough to be satisfied. Watch a live performance of “Gods At Odds” and download “Happiest Man In The World” in the player below.