Peter Himmelman is one of the best guitarists and singer/songwriters to emerge from the American new wave scene of the early '80s. He's literate, acerbic, and prolific, qualities that have made other artists of the day like Paul Weller and the Violent Femmes' Gordon Gano household names. Despite his share of rave reviews, success in placing tunes on shows like Judging Amy and Bones, and work writing TV soundtrack music, he's remained under the radar of the mainstream press. The Mystery and the Hum probably won't change that, but anyone who likes finely crafted rock & roll played with passion and sung with deadly conviction will find much to like here. Seeking to capture the immediacy of a live gig, Himmelman wrote these 13 tracks in two weeks and recorded them in two days. Himmelman was joined in the studio by drummer Billy Thommes and bass player Jim Anton, both known for their work with bluesman Jonny Lang, and the result is another collection of tough, straight-from-the-heart blues-rock. As usual, Himmelman pulls no punches as he lays out his visions of life's darker moments. "Don't Give a Damn" is a country-tinged blues that takes a dim view of male-female relationships, with Himmelman telling a woman friend that "everybody loves you when you don't give a damn." Himmelman shows off his acoustic style on "Georgia Clay," a parched desolate blues that flirts with mortality, lost love, and limitation, while "Medicine" is a tough honky tonk tune with killer slide guitar work. The ambivalent lyric could be about any kind of drug, licit or illegal, that promises the relief it never delivers. Rockers like "Motel Room in Davenport," "This Lifeboat's on Fire" (which tips its hat to Dylan's "This Wheel's on Fire"), and "Sit Tight" showcase Himmelman's razor-sharp guitar playing along with a snarky outlook on life leavened by occasional flashes of stygian humor.
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AllMusic Review by j. poet