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Hungrytown are long-time married couple Rebecca Hall and Ken Anderson; they've both been involved in music-making for a long time and have made the long step from, respectively, torch songs and rock music to make folk music of astonishing delicacy and purity. In the process of making this long step they relocated from New York City to rural Vermont, and I guess that has helped them in the process of making their distinctive music.

          It is Rebecca Hall's voice and her songwriting that make Hungrytown what they are. She sings gently and with a pure tone that reminds me a little of mid-60s folk/pop sounds; it's the very antithesis of rock music and its attitudes. Clearly, somebody who once sang torch songs  could probably sing any-which way she wanted and so has made a very positive choice to go for this style.  Ken Anderson is responsible for the arrangements that fit around her voice and contributes some seamless harmony vocals as well as any instrument required other than Rebecca's acoustic guitar - instruments that appear so unobtrusively you barely notice what is being played a lot of the time. If Rebecca is the nightingale, singing with a voice of captivating beauty, then Ken's arrangements are a lacework of branches, a frame of natural beauty in itself.

           Rebecca's songs are a quite remarkable re-working of several centuries of folk tradition. She's certainly immersed herself completely into the whole business of how these songs are put together. Once or twice I had to check, and then check again, that this wasn't a traditional song I was hearing. In fact, there's an awful lot about this album that sounds more English than American - apart from the song The Sweetest Flower, which owes an awful lot to Robert Burns - and I suspect this English tone comes from reaching so far back into the American tradition that the two streams are rejoined.  Her subject matter is often contemporary, about relationships or about living in a tumbledown old house, but the delivery takes you back to a quieter age, without the rush and noise and intense busy-ness of our modern lives.

           Contemporary American folk music is full of people trying to evoke times gone by and there seem to be almost as many ways of doing this as there are old-timey acts. Hungrytown have a distinctive slant on this whole idea and I think the quiet beauty of their music almost sounds like a prayer for calm in a febrile world.

 

John Davy

 

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July 2018
1
American Aquarium
93 pts.
Things Change
New West
BK,TJ,JB
2
Gretchen Peters
56 pts.
Dancing With The Beast
Proper Records
ML,GF
3
Patrick Sweany
51 pts.
Ancient Noise
Nine Mile Records
FC,RK,BM,CVL,TK
4
Dave Alvin & Jimmie Dale Gilmore
47 pts.
Downey To Lubbock
Yep Roc
SP,JBO,JJC
5
Melissa Carper & Rebecca Patek
34 pts.
Brand New Old-Time Songs
Independent
 
6
Ry Cooder
33 pts.
The Prodigal Son
Perro Verde Records
DH
7
Jenny van West
32 pts.
Happiness To Burn
Independent
RST,NC
8
Brooks Williams
30 pts.
Lucky Star
Red Guitar Blue Music
 
9
Levi Parham
29 pts.
It's All Good
Continental Records
 
10
I See Hawks in LA
26 pts.
Live and Never Learn
Western Seed Records
WR
11
Rory Block
25 pts.
A Woman's Soul
Stoneyplain Records
MB,AL
12
Phil Cook
24 pts.
People Are My Drug
Thirty Tigers
LK,JD
13
Mike Aiken
23 pts.
Wayward Troubadour
Northwind Records
BP
14
Karen Jonas
22 pts.
Butter
Independent
HVB
15
Buckley
21 pts.
Las Cruzes
Rum Bar Records
 
 
John Prine
21 pts.
The Tree of Forgiveness
Oh Boy Records
 
17
Neko Case
20 pts.
Hell-on
Anti Epitha
MW
 
Sam Lewis
20 pts.
Loversity
Loversity Records
HDB
 
Verbraak Van Bijnen
20 pts.
Endless Road
CRS
HH,TV
20
Jesse Dayton
19 pts.
The Outsider
Blue Elan
LM,SZ
21
Dieter van der Westen Band
18 pts.
Me and You
Independent
 
 
Hadley McCall Thackston
18 pts.
Hadley McCall Thackston
Wolfe Island Records
CRS
 
Willie Nelson
18 pts.
Last Man Standing
Legacy
 
24
Carter Sampson
17 pts.
Lucky
Continental Song City
 
 
Tami Neilson
17 pts.
SassaFrass!
Outside Music

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