Music

Review: Ashley Hamilton & The Lonely Hearts “Act One” EP

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When I buy an album I sit down in a dark room, put on my headphones, close my eyes and listen to it start to finish. I give it one chance and I either love it or I simply delete it. I listened to this EP start to finish 5 times in a row. While that, in and of itself, should tell you how I feel about this EP, I will take it upon myself to take you an a written journey as I share with you an explanation of just why I couldn’t stop listening to this awesome EP.

One caveat before I begin. Since my very first recolection of listening to music, I have always listened to it as a musical composition – this includes the vocals. I’ve always listened to the vocals as an instrument and never paid attention to what the songs were about. To this day, I couldn’t repeat more than a chorus to any song – including ones I’ve been listening to for 40 years.

 

Technical Exploration

I loved the “sound” of this entire EP. The way the kick drum, snare drum and crash symbols were treated, the intimate yet environmental characteristics brought out of the acoustic guitar tracks, the natural sounds of the vocal tracks & the spatial characteristics given to each part of each song all lend themselves to serving the delightful songs as well as to serving the listener. So much so in fact, I found myself enjoying the sound of the EP as much as I did the music itself. The engineers & producers did an awesome job and obviously had great talent both in terms of technical aptitude and great musicians to work with. It must have been a treat for all parties involved to work with such talent.

 

Ah, the Music!

There are two tracks that I can’t get out of my head though I truly enjoy all of them. The one that sticks out the most for me is “S’ All Good”. The song gets me in from the very first note (beautiful-voiced, harmonious backup singers singing a melodic structure) immediately followed up a guitar track ( 2 guitars, one on the left and one on the right balancing the relationship) in a call-and-response type partnership which quickly takes you down a relaxed path with a pleasing creatively placed harmonica leading to the first verse which starts to with a confident, strong and yet pleasingly vulnerable voice of Ashley. In a few short bars, the stage was beautifully set and the listener properly prepared for a wonderful performance. The rest of the song only gets better.

In the 2nd part of the bridge in “S’ All Good”, Ashley has a direct call-and-response component where he and a fabulous female vocalist named Jamie Wyatt (follow her on twitter at @jaimewyattmusic) have a dialog back and forth (awesomely placed opposite each other in the soundstage). Though may be passed over by those not critically listening, this is an awesome part. The sound, positioning, timing and melodic structure just pop.

The other song I simply can’t get out of my mind – “Ovaltine”. Aside from a melodic structure that I sill can’t get out my head (it’s a damn catchy song!), I drew an immediate liking to the bridge when I was transported back to my childhood. It wasn’t just because my grandma always gave us kids Ovaltine when we visited her on Sunday afternoons. She had an 8-track player (did I loose some of you here) and in it she always had a Jerry Reed tape. If you were a Jerry Reed fan, you will understand what I mean. Suffice to say, this song is just full of all sorts a great stuff. Now that I think of it, I may have to go out and buy some Ovaltine.

The fact I specifically call out two songs that stick out in my head the most doesn’t take anything away from the other delights on the EP. “Oh Baby”, “Lifetime” and “Half of It” are all equally wonderful works of art. Each showcasing amazing talent, emotional outpouring by each and every musician and equally by the technical folks that put it all together.

 

A Few Words of Ashley Hamilton’s Voice

Ashley simply has an awesome voice as was so eloquently demonstrated so well in each & every song on this EP. A tremendous amount of emotion, control, range and simple gut-feeling is obviously behind every note he sings. His transitions, timing, dynamic range, tonal qualities and just his natural voice all lend themselves to a truly great outpouring of vocal excellence. It always a treat to hear a the real voice of a truly great vocalist. I could easily listen to any of his songs acapella-style.

 

Summary

I LOVE this EP. The writing, the arrangements, the instrumentation, the mixing and the awesome vocals – all of which take me on an incredible journey each & very time I hear them. And that, in my book, is what music is all about.

My hats off to Ashley Hamilton and the Lonely Hearts – job well done.

JJS – fan for life!

 

PS – I hadn’t heard of Ashley Hamilton until I came across the TV show “Stewarts & Hamiltons” (Sundays, 9/8c on E!). That show is solely responsible for an additional artist residing on my iPhone (and that’s a relatively small community).

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