by Gene Marrano
At age 45, Charlie Hamill says he’s been a music man all his life, playing a number of instruments with a variety of collaborators. Now some of that musical history has been recorded for posterity on a new album, “Late Night at Hamills,” which features many of the musical friends Hamill has gathered over the years.
Hamill, a Roanoke area native who also lived in Charlotte and Austin, Texas for a while (“five of the best years of my life”) working on his musical chops, can also be found on occasion down in Key West, plying his trade as a musician. “Late Night” features a wide variety of pop music; one might hear tunes that sound like they are influenced by the likes of Lenny Kravitz, or even Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
Among the guest artists: Roanoke Civic Center General Manager Robyn Schon, a Rock n’ Roller herself who supplies some of the harmony vocals. Hamill wrote or co-wrote all of the tunes on what is a very listenable album. “I grew up in the ‘70’s,” explains Hamill, “and a lot of black music was my influence – the soul of Stevie Wonder and The Commodores, that type of stuff.” Then rock became a focal point, moving Hamill from the drum set to the guitar, where he’s been ever since.
Hamill has made his living for the past 15 years in Roanoke as a musician, appearing solo, in trios and in cover bands, working in original tunes where he can. Late Night at Hamills, which comes from the Charlie Hamill Group, is his fourth album of original music. His first was back in 1991, when Hamill was attending the Full Sail School in Florida for music production. Hamill recorded Late Night at his home studio before having it mastered elsewhere.
A pretty happy childhood “didn’t lend itself to deep lyric writing,” notes Hamill – not much in the way of blues anyway – but life’s journey, including the loss of friends along the way, has provided that background. “The lyrics started getting a little more introspective and deeper,” said Hamill, who recently earned a culinary arts degree at Virginia Western and plans to also operate a mobile food wagon at local events, starting this summer.
Indeed, the ballad Love You took Hamill 26 years to write, following the death of a girl he became involved with as a teenager before going off to college. She died in a car accident a year after he met her. He had already lost his father and a sister: “Loss had become a prominent theme in my high school years. But that was the one that pushed me over the cliff, because it was also romantic love.”
Dealing with loss is the only way to get through life, according to Hamill, “or it will never be done. This album was cathartic for me in a lot of ways.” Jayna Bird does the lead vocals on Love You.
Hamill was also a+
big Beatles fan growing up and has appreciated them more as the years have gone by. “[They are] big influences on me.” The album Revolver was a turning point for Hamill – and the record where The Beatles left much of their pop background behind. Steely Dan, Van Halen and Jeff Beck are also “huge” influences on Hamill, who likes to “rock hard” but employ “catchy hooks” at the same time. He’s not a big fan of music that has been released over the past 10-15 years. “If that makes me sound old and archaic I’ll take that,” he chuckles.
Jason Hill, from local favorites the Pop Rivets, appears on several tracks; Schon sings on the single “About My Love,” which deals with people that romanticize a past relationship. “Chump Luv Sucker” addresses current communication techniques – and how they can isolate people from each other.
Late Night at Hamills is available at Cdbaby.com, iTunes, Amazon.com and other online music stores; see Hamill’s Facebook page as well of charliehamillgroup.com. Fret Mill Music, Kelly’s Music and Tinnell’s are also selling the album. Hamill will put together some touring dates to support the new release. “I wrote a record of music I wanted to listen to,” said Hamill, “because I can’t find anything that I really do want to listen to that’s new.”