It’s not often that I respond strongly to musicians that are just clearly having a great time. It’s not that I don’t like fun music, but I more often lean towards the other end of the spectrum, be it blues, rock, metal, indie or just heartbreaking songs regardless of genre. I’m just that kind of guy, I guess. But it’s hard to talk about Humming House without talking about fun, which is ultimately what their aptly titled album, Revelries (due out on March 24th), delivers in a tight 11 song package.
Lead vocalist Justin Wade Tam sounds like a long lost Avett brother and that’s not meant as anything but a compliment. Just like the Avett Brothers, this house of humming is filled with an energy and overall exuberance that it can barely contain. It’s downright infectious. You will quickly answer the call to “Run With Me” from the opener and find yourself stomping along from the start. And it just goes on from there across “The Great Divide,” with a certain warmth and organic familiarity that you will somehow find yourself singing along to at first listen. This is no accident because overall, Humming House is a live band and that comes through clearly in this album, through the songs themselves thanks to the production by Mitch Dane that doesn’t let any gimmicks get in the way of the atmosphere.
Too often when an album is said to capture a band’s live feel, the result is somewhat sloppy and raw, and while that can be great, it’s not the case here. This is a very clean sounding album. Throughout the album, in addition to Tam’s guitar, Bobby Chase’s fiddle and Josh Wolak’s mandolin bring together Irish and American folk traditions, while Ben Jones’ bass grounds the whole affair.
“Fly On (Forever is Better With You)” is just a sweet love song that should be big at weddings soon enough. It’s such a simple song with no delusions of grandeur, that it never comes off as anything but heartfelt and authentic. The subtle harmonies between Wade and Leslie Rodriguez could almost tell this love story even if they were singing gibberish, really. I honestly can’t stop listening to this song which I recently had the pleasure of hearing live. It speaks volumes that a band I had never heard of, who does amazing live covers, can capture me completely with original material.
Speaking of Leslie, this is her first studio album with band after joining them for the live album Party! which included several of the tracks on Revelries. Here, the subtleties of her range are more clearly demonstrated in her harmonies as well as the way she burns through solo tracks like the slow cooking, bluesy “Nuts, Bolts and Screws” that builds to a full on country stomp before letting her loose so you know she means business. And she continues to smolder on the gothic “This Hell Where We Belong” and jazz infused “I’m a Bird.”
At the end of the day, this is not necessarily a groundbreaking album, but that’s exactly what makes it good. It’s not a redefinition of the genre. The ambition here is clearly focused on creating good music. These are good songs played well, without pretension. What makes it outstanding is how well, as whole, it captures the spirit of the band. I’ll be pushing this album on everyone this year. And if you are ever near a Humming House show, do not miss it.