No Word from Tom
First Appeared in The Music Box, February 2006, Volume 13, #2
Written by John Metzger
Itís atypical for a band with just two albums under its belt to debut on a new label by issuing an odds-and-sods collection of demos, live recordings, cover songs, and outtakes. Itís rarer still that the outing actually works. Such is the case, however, with No Word from Tom, an 18-track set that lovingly traces the brief but sonorously rich history of the Brooklyn-based ensemble Hem. The opening a cappella rendering of All the Pretty Horses, which was excerpted from front woman Sally Ellysonís audition tape, immediately establishes a hushed ambience for the affair, and although the outfit adorns its material ó which includes covers of R.E.M.ís So. Central Rain and Fountains of Wayneís Radiation Vibe ó with everything from mandolin and pedal steel to violin and glockenspiel, its music barely rises above a whisper. Of particular note is its ethereal treatment of Tony Joe Whiteís Rainy Night in Georgia, which effortlessly demonstrates just how mighty the groupís alchemical connection is. Content to exude a quiet, devastating sadness, Hem frequently challenges the listener to pay attention to the subtlety of its arrangements, and fortunately, the big payoff comes in the form of the emotional depth and poetic beauty of its sojourns.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box