Album review by John Powell
Plenty of intensity drives Greene Street, the all-instrumental masterwork of the Brad Hammonds Group. Brad himself is on guitars and writes all the songs. Add in Will Matina on cello, Jason Dimatteo, Mathias Kunzli on percussion, and Nick Russo on banjo and mandolin, and you have a group capable of Spanish-influenced jazz, French-tinged dance reels, and neo-folk spacing out.
Yet, while many of the group’s contemporaries seek the unique sounds and the otherworldly arrangements, here all songs are kept airy and beautiful; no guitar solo swirls off into elevator music, no melody sounds rehashed or cheesy. It’s some of the best-crafted music of its kind.
The title track starts everything off. Brad is an exquisite guitar player, hitting harmonics and noodling his way into this funky rhythmic bounce of a song. Totally organic sounding, the song is heavy enough to dance to, which is impressive for an acoustic group without a drum kit.
“Stomp” sounds amazing in headphones, panned lovingly between guitar and banjo (used here with the utmost grace). Handclaps take it to the next level, elevating into a hoedown, but not hokey and not out of synch with the rest of the album. Heavy slide guitar makes the jam even groovier.
There is, in fact, no bad songs on Greene Street, a near miracle for an instrumental album; perhaps because no song is longer than three and a half minutes, some not even two. The album soars by elegantly, such as on “Chesapeake”, with cello playing the melody on the upper frets. The band tackles a hundred emotions in one song, growing quiet and meditative and then energetic, without ever feeling disjointed.
“Further East” touches on Middle Eastern arrangements, but restrained, holding on to that blitzkrieg sound that is notably Brad Hammonds Group. Down to the last track, “Summer Feel”, with its complex finger work and excellent use of layers, Greene Street is full of humor, beauty, and talent. I highly recommend this album to, well, everyone.
Bottom line: All-instrumental “folk” music of originals that instantly sound like classics.