Dirk Hamilton


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Sufferupachuckle, the fourth proper release (he also recorded two self-released cassettes) since Dirk Hamilton decided to re-enter the music business in the mid-'80s, is a mature, intelligent record that gains momentum with each listening. Twenty years after his debut, You Can Sing on the Left or Bark on the Right, Hamilton's eclectic folk-rock has the same enthusiastic spirit and idiosyncratic insight that fueled that album, but with the experience that time brings. The difference is, as he writes in the liner notes, "I used to sing to change the world, now I sing to keep the world from changing me," which pretty much sums things up. Throughout, Hamilton asks the tough questions, exploring birth, death, everyday life, and "the relative health of your soul inside" with a rare wit and wisdom. Songs such as the record's centerpiece, the soulful folk ballad "Tell Me What It Is (That Keeps Us Tryin')," and the half-spoken tale "Walk on Lake George" find these answers in the simplest of things, while "Queen of the Final Dream," "Black Dog Blues," and "Whistling in the Dark" examine the complexities that cloud them. In lesser hands, such issues may come across as maudlin, pretentious, or banal, but Hamilton has always possessed a sensitivity that is never overly sentimental, as well as a sense of humor that keeps him from taking himself too seriously, and there's no way he could ever be accused of being bland. Producer Dusty Wakeman and "the Equanimity Band" match Hamilton's material punch for punch, handling his twists and turns masterfully, whether it's the rhythmic dynamics of "Black Dog Blues," "Whistling in the Dark"'s reggae feel, the country-folk "Luck," or his various unexpected stops, starts, and asides. Though it became difficult to find domestically following Core Record's bankruptcy soon after its release, Sufferupachuckle is worth hunting down and spending some time with.

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