by Geno Thackara
Humming House is all about bringing things together. They came from all across the country and ended up based in the musical melting pot of Nashville. Come to a show and you’ll hear folk, bluegrass, blues, pop/soul and southern Americana showing its rich Irish roots (and occasional touches of punk or hip-hop aren’t off the table either). The songs can be elegantly simple or complex and sophisticated, though the trickiness never makes it difficult. There’s always a hook to follow or a beat to dance to. Most importantly, they’re always looking for that direct connection that only comes from sharing the experience live.
They were in fine rollicking form at the Tin Angel on Friday with a poetic ballad one minute and an irresistible singalong the next. The group’s mastermind Justin Wade Tam is just as much at home playing call-and-answer with the audience or staying out of the way to let the others carry things along; Leslie Rodriguez can sound angelic with a love song or downright sultry singing the blues. The others add violin, upright bass, intricate mandolin or beatboxing as the mood hits, or maybe just drop all the instruments for a lovely passage in five-part voice harmony. There was a good attentive audience as well – a decent size for the cozy room and as enthusiastically bouncy as people could get with about 7.3 inches of breathing space each – and the place felt full of friends old and new. Some of them got direct hellos from the stage and some apparently got to hear things they’d requested via Twitter.
The band still can’t seem to contain their excitement about last March’s new album Revelries, launching right into things with its punchy opener “Run with Me,” closing with the joyous “Great Divide” and spreading almost all the other songs through the set in between. They’re also not sitting idle by any means, so they asked if we’d be guinea pigs for testing some even newer songs they haven’t recorded yet. (“Good-looking guinea pigs,” Tam quickly added as an almost-convincing afterthought.) These included a fond reminiscence about London based around some laid-back ukulele – because what’s more essentially British than that? – and a lovely upbeat number that seemed just perfect for beach season. They also threw in about half of their debut album including their longtime staple “Gypsy Django” for a rowdy encore, and still managed to squeeze in tunes from the likes of the Jackson Five, Susan Tedeschi, Willie Nelson and Justin Timberlake.
Just about the only thing missing was a square-dance polka. But who knows? Maybe the next album will have one of those as well, and at the rate they seem to be going, another one next year might not be unreasonable to hope for. I for one can’t wait to find out.