Hamell on Trial | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Hamell on Trial

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Lots of America's best stand-up comics wield acoustic guitars, and Ed Hamell is as much comedian as musician: the 51-year-old upstate New Yorker and avowed Bill Hicks fan performs solo onstage, spouting an unadulterated rush of one-liners, rants, tunes, and stories. He fills out his sound on record, though, and for his new album, Songs for Parents Who Enjoy Drugs (Righteous Babe), producer and label boss Ani DiFranco brings the weird, adding murkily filtered vocals here, atonal electronic string distractions there, and general atmosphere to Hamell's low-life vignettes, which are always deft and never exploitative. Hamell's a family man who's 18 years sober, so both the babe in the Lexus looking to "screw somebody ugly as a mule" and the "obviously employed" neighbor banging on Hamell's apartment door ("obviously annoyed") are clearly ghosts from his past. But he's out to prove he's lost none of his winning tastelessness: the bilious "Coulter's Snatch" takes aim at reactionary wingnuts ("You take the low road / I'll take the lower road") and "Jerkin'" is his version of a love letter to his wife on the road ("I've been rubbing one out with you on my mind"). Best of all are two songs that imagine conversations between him and his toddler son. On "Values" the little nihilist rebel lectures dad on the current political landscape before declaring, "I ain't picking up my fucking toys." And on "Inquiring Minds," Hamell wonders how he'll answer his kid's eventual questions about his sordid past before reaching a considered decision: "I'm gonna lie." Gutbucket opens. Fri 4/28, 9 PM, Hideout, 1354 W. Wabansia, 773-227-4433, $10.

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