House of Hamill: July 2022 Album of the Month




Folk Hero


Earlier in July I partook of a “Watermelon Wednesday” concert at the West Whately Chapel. The featured act was a young trio called House of Hamill. I’ve no idea why they are called that, but this ensemble consists of three superb performers: Caroline Browning (bass, harmony vocals, and mandolin); Brian Buchanan (acoustic guitar, second fiddle, banjo, foot percussion, and vocals); and Rose Baldino (first fiddle, vocals, and banjo).


If Buchanan’s name is vaguely familiar, he’s a longtime mainstay of the Canadian folk rock ensemble Enter the Haggis in which he mostly plays first fiddle and sings. House of Hamill, though, is definitely anchored by the dynamic Baldino, Buchanan’s wife. The trio is a 21st century group in more ways than one. Buchanan plays a lot in Canada, but he and Baldino live in Pennsylvania, and Browning makes her home in North Carolina. They also embody the genre-mixing penchant so prevalent these days. Their music is Celtic, but the tunes they use for songs such as “Lord Randall” and “William Taylor” are original rather than traditional and end much better for women than they do in Child ballads. (Ironically, Rose did not know much about Child ballads until we chatted!) They also do a cover of Dougie Maclean’s “Turning Away” whose tempo is accented differently than Dougie’s. In another nod to how things are done these days, the song “The Bully of Skidmore Town” is a Celtic/bluegrass hybrid.


The songs on Folk Hero, their latest recording, are solid but their instrumentals are stunners. Baldino is a dynamo on the fiddle, a delicious blend of virtuosity and attacking her instrument until it smokes. (Her style reminds me a lot of Liz Carroll.) Like a lot of Celtic fiddle tunes those of House of Hamill carry whimsical titles such as “Superb Owl,” “Cat Bacon,” and “The Sneezing Loon,” not to mention “Quarantine Reel,” which is part of the “In the Dark” set. Baldino will get your heart pumping, but then there’s the gorgeous “Canyonlands,” a reflective, and bittersweet composition. “The Stone Row” is another original that stands out.


This is a really fine album that impresses more with each listening. It’s almost as good as seeing them live, but only the latter can truly capture Baldino’s energy and the band’s synergy. You should hear what they do on stage with a cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody!”



Rob Weir

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