Hem No Word from Tom

Seven years ago, Dan Messé began weaving traditional and contemporary strands of American music to make something of his tastes and talents. Yet, after being inundated by a throng of demo tapes from eager but ill-suited vocalists, he had almost given up hope of finding someone to give voice to his vision. He begrudgingly accepted one more tape from what he assumed to be another talent impoverished singer, but what he heard humbled and moved him. A homemade, unaccompanied collection of lullabies sung by Sally Ellyson marked the end of Messé’s search for a singer and the beginning of Hem. Over the years, the music created by the now nine-piece ensemble has paired folk melodies with orchestral arrangements for a down-home sublime sound. They’ve maintained this mixture on their third and latest release, No Word from Tom, though much of the work here reflects the band’s efforts to translate the more grandiose elements of their music to the practicalities of playing a live set. Messé’s own songs sit comfortably between time-honoured classics like "All the Pretty Horses” and "The Tennessee Waltz.” Yet most of these originals have appeared in various incarnations on their previous albums. While this rehashing of songs could mean that the well has dried up for Messé, Sally’s haunting lullaby tape has proven to be great source material. One of these sleepy gems, "The Golden Day is Dying,” closes the album. It’s a ray of hope to hold, a sweet dream with which to bide the time between now and Hem’s next release. (Nettwerk)