Hamilton County is a mandolin/guitar/bass trio from Maine, and “Brokedown Breakdown” is a mostly instrumental recording. To their credit, all 11 tracks are original compositions. All three players know their way around their respective instruments, with special kudos to bassist Adam Montminy. Although he’s mainly featured on a short break on the CD’s title cut, there’s no hiding in a spare acoustic trio, and his rich tone and solid time-keeping help strengthen the overall sound of the recording.
Having said that, this isn’t quite a totally satisfying album. Judging by the singing style of the one vocal track, “Borrowed Banjo Breakdown” (the singer is not credited in the liner notes), there’s a strong jamgrass influence here. Given the amazing array of redhot and creative acoustic musicians currently on the scene recording and performing, one really has to be special to be noticed. On this CD, there are just too many notquitememorable melodies and slightly-fudged licks here to make Hamilton County stand out from the crowd. It’s a shame, too, because at their best, on a number like “Suha,” composer/mandolinist Evan Chase and guitarist Bob Hamilton play deftly and cleanly over an interesting tune and varied arrangement.
There’s still a lot of potential with this group, and here’s hoping that with more attention paid to arrangement and polishing up a few clams here and there, Hamilton County could still end up turning some heads on the acoustic music circuit. (Hamilton County, 122 Emory St. #3, Portland, ME 04101, myspace/thehamiltoncounty.com.) HK