Hammertowne – Highways and Heartaches

Impressive in many ways is the mostly band-written second recording
from eastern Kentucky’s Hammertowne. You can start with their overall
sound, one that is highly ordered, very clean. Banjoist Brent Pack,
mandolinist Chaston Carroll, guitarists Scott Tackett and Dave Carroll,
and bassist Bryan Russell together forge a smooth, even ensemble that
has an engaging clarity about it. They step out and let go when need be,
but never overplay. In many ways, they recall the bands of the ’70s and
’80s, back when tradition was still at the core, but when bands were
adding alterations to the mix. Think of early Doyle Lawson &
Quicksilver or Boone Creek, then listen to the Brent Pack/Dave Carroll
original “Kayla Dear.” In Russell, Tackett, and D. Carroll, they have
three fine lead singers. Russell handles the higher, more emphatic
tunes. Tackett takes the warmer end. Carroll falls somewhere between.
The harmonies are very good as well.
More impressive would this
recording have been, however, if the tunes had been stronger. As it
stands, there is an ordinariness about them. The melodies are not bad,
but with a couple of exceptions (for example, the aforementioned “Kayla
Dear” and “Heartaches And Pains”), they don’t really stand out. Once
heard, they don’t jump easily to mind. The same is true thematically and
lyrically. “Polly’s Revenge” was a reasonable concept (that of the fate
of the guy who killed pretty Polly) and the prison song “Nothing Left
But Time To Do” has some good moments, but too many of the rest use
run-of-the-mill lines about breaking hearts in two or lots of memories
back in the hills.
This is a reasonable record, well-played,
well-sung and with a couple of standout tracks,”Kayla Dear” being the
best. A few more memorable songs would have made it better.

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