An Anthem for Post-Summer from Hem

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Hem is a Brooklyn, N.Y., band whose ranks occasionally swell from four core members to an 8- or 9-piece ensemble, including pedal steel, glockenspiel and violin. The title of their third studio album, Funnel Cloud, implies dark skies — but it's more of a goodbye kiss to the summer season.


It may be early in the season but football means fall is right around the corner and our music reviewer, Meredith Ochs, has found a soundtrack to usher in autumn. It's from a band called Hem and while their new album Funnel Cloud implies dark skies, she says it's really more of a goodbye kiss to the summer season.

MEREDITH OCHS: Hem's new CD is the sound of summer turning to fall, the first chill cutting through a gentle breeze, bearing the slightest scent of autumn decay, trees preparing to turn shades of burnished red and gold. According to the calendar it's still summer, but the air begs to differ and so do songs like this one.


SALLY ELLYSON: (Singing) Grow straight and true. Grow straight and true. Later on the road is going to break your world in two. We'll meet along the way, I know. We'll meet along the way, I know.

OCHS: The songs on Funnel Cloud revolve around singer Sally Ellyson, but she didn't write them. Instead, Ellyson serves as the sole interpreter for Hem's three songwriters - Dan Messe, Gary Maurer and Steve Curtis.

Giving a voice to someone else's heart isn't easy, but with her pliant, bittersweet alto, Ellyson makes her bandmates' hazy tales of broken love affairs and abandoned small towns sound like they were her own.


ELLYSON: Ain't holding out for a miracle now. Just holding out for the water. Across the bridge that will carry me down to the Santa Rosa Spanish Quarter. And I know that I don't belong with you. I know the pills stopped working for me, so if you wanna set me up I'll fall on my knees and fix what I have broke.

OCHS: While this new CD from Hem is evocative of changing seasons, it also documents the evolution of the band's sound. Hem has subtly transitioned from the delicate baroque folk of their debut to the dreamy pop of their second album to the twangy soft rock of this disc.

Their songs are still meticulously composed and arranged, but they've included a hefty slice of '70s California country reminiscent of artists like the Flying Burrito Brothers and Linda Ronstadt.

And I'm counting on the little bit of left coast sunshine that dots Hem's achingly gorgeous autumnal ballads to keep me warm this year as the days grow shorter.

NORRIS: The new CD from Hem is called Funnel Cloud. Our reviewer is Meredith Ochs.

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