This year Ed Hamell is finding a younger audience for his improbably loud acoustic guitar and impishly profane rant-songs. The Uncluded, a duo composed of singer-songwriter Kimya Dawson and rapper Aesop Rock, picked his one-man act Hamell on Trial to support their current tour. Hamell's delivery tends toward the frantic and nasal, so he'll sound at home opening for the deceptively jolly-voiced Dawson and the cryptic, thick-voiced Aesop when they visit the High Noon Saloon on June 29.
Even though Hamell and Dawson make a lot of sense on a tour together, it's probably the first time he has shared the stage with a rapper. And his eccentricity is not quite the same as that found on the Uncluded's recent debut, Hokey Fright. In contrast to Aesop and Dawson, Hamell takes a blunt-force approach to song, delivering his tunes in a mix of melody and tirade while attacking a battered old guitar. In addition to touring, he's preparing a new narrative stage show and an album for New West Records. He fielded some questions before his stop in Madison.
You've been taking your son along on tour lately. Does he get to hear "Inquiring Minds," your song about lying to your kids about drugs and sex?
We'll probably hit some amusement parks or water parks. But he comes up and tells a few jokes onstage, and promotes his YouTube channel. It's motels and swimming pools and meeting people. He doesn't interpret any of it as a hardship. He's heard it all. I'm sure he could do the song, but also, I've been sober for 25 years. He's a very modern kid.
One staple of your live show is telling the origin story of your old Gibson acoustic. Do you still have it?
Yes. I'm way, ridiculously, stupidly dependent on that guitar. It's kind of like an old pair of shoes: We're very comfortable with one another.
In touring with the Uncluded, what have your interactions with Aesop Rock been like?
Up until the death of Biggie Smalls, I listened to a lot of rap, so I'd forgotten how much I'd listened to. So we talk about it a lot. I did listen to [Aesop Rock's] stuff, and I really love it. He's a real gentle soul. He loves writing, but I think he's a little uncomfortable with the performing aspect of it.
It's funny because these will be shows where everyone's voice sticks out like a sore thumb.
I think you're right. I take no offense; I wear it as a badge of honor. What is the common thing? It's words. Some of the crowds are as young as 14. But it's all words. The voices aren't normal, and there's a possibility that I'm being over-optimistic, but I think people are tired of normal voices. There's plenty of that, and they can find it anywhere. So if you are a bit idiosyncratic, it can really work to your advantage.