Album Review of
Folk Hero

Written by Joe Ross
October 14, 2022 - 11:01am EDT
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Following their first two highly-acclaimed albums, Wide Awake and March Through Storms, Pennsylvania-based folk-rock trio House of Hamill is now making quite a splash on the Roots Music Report’s World Music Chart with their latest release, Folk Hero. The three singing multi-instrumentalists feature rousing arrangements with fiddle, banjo, mandolin, piano and bass. Guests complement some tracks with whistles, cello, accordion, cittern, bouzouki, percussion, claps and stomps.

After opening with three lively tracks (“Superb Owl,” “In the Dark” and “Cat Bacon”), a very sweet “Ladder to the Sun” illustrates a more luminous albeit melancholic side of the band. In 3/4-time, “Canyonlands” is an alluring composition by band members Rose Baldino and Brian Buchanan, joined by Caroline Browning on bass, and guest Michael Peter Olsen on cello. The only cover on this album, “Turning Away” (written by Dougie MacLean) is carefully cultivated to lend an immediacy to its message with expressive, rhythmically enticing vocals. However, we also can’t ignore the sheer intricacy of their six-minute instrumental medley that begins with “The Sneezing Loon” and Rose Baldino’s radiant “Stone Row” on either side of “Turning Away.”      

House of Hamill’s cohesive and effervescent acoustic sound includes some fascinating stories (e.g. “The Bully of Skidmore Town”), as well as some songs (“William Taylor” and “Lord Randall”) inspired by centuries-old ballads from England or Scotland. Formed in 2015, House of Hamill has a unique knack for being able to create their own personalized signature sound with strong flavors of Celtic, folk and folk-rock. The goal with their new Folk Hero project was to exclusively record the music which they've been performing live for the last few years. Recording in a way that's faithful to the live experience,  House of Hamill, with a few guests, have very successfully captured the essence of their sonic palette – a high-energy, dynamic set with tight, intricate arrangements, thick vocal harmonies, driving rhythms, and the atmosphere and aesthetic of their live shows. (Joe Ross, Roots Music Report)