Hamell on Trial

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Hamell on Trial
Hamell on Trial performing at World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, in May 2009
Hamell on Trial performing at World Cafe Live, Philadelphia, in May 2009
Background information
OriginNew York City
GenresPunk rock, anti-folk
Years active1989–present
LabelsRighteous Babe

Edward James "Ed" Hamell, performing as Hamell on Trial, is an American punk rock, anti-folk, spoken word musician, described by Righteous Babe Records as "loud, fast music informed by politics, passion, energy and intelligence, played by a guy with a sharp tongue and a wicked sense of humor".[1]


Born in Syracuse, New York, Hamell spent years as a member of many bands before venturing into the realm of the solo singer-songwriter. He finally got his big break when he moved to Austin, Texas and earned a residency at first the Chicago House and then the Electric Lounge.[2]

Since then, he has released a number of albums on various labels, including Mercury Records, his own DiY label Such-A-Punch Media, and Righteous Babe Records, the label started by his longtime supporter and frequent touring companion, Ani Difranco. Ed has a son named Detroit, born in 2002. Detroit performed on Ed's album "The Happiest Man in the World".[3] Hamell was seriously injured in a car accident in May 2000, but recovered from head and spinal injuries to release the album Ed's Not Dead: Hamell Comes Alive the following year. His touring covers the US, Europe, Scandinavia and Australia.

In 2008, with the breakup of his 22-year marriage, Hamell wrote a song a day for a year and posted a video of it on his YouTube channel hamelltv. It is now over 450 songs.

In 2014 Hamell signed to New West Records and released "The Happiest Man in the World". He began production on a one-man show with the same title based on the album and the demise of his marriage to be world premiered at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2014.

In 2017, Hamell released his second album for New West Records, "Tackle Box." In August of that year, Hamell streamed a selection of songs performed live at monuments around Washington, DC, in a series collectively called "Hamell Takes DC."

In 2018, Hamell composed the music and lyrics for the Columbus, Ohio based Shadowbox Live's play F#(K Cancer: The Musical.


Hamell addresses poignant and controversial issues, but with a comic edge. Known for rapid and powerful strumming on his heavily amplified 1937 Gibson L-00 acoustic guitar, Hamell's musical styling is as far from traditional folk music as it is from the typical drum-heavy electric guitar ridden sounds of traditional punk music. "Hamell’s signature sound comes from his strumming with maximum aggression, tight to the bridge, which lends a metallic ring to a sustained and percussive low-end rumble," writes Randal Doane, in a profile in Harper's. "Hamell also plays slide guitar lines sweetly drenched with the timbre and phrasing of his musical forebears of the Mississippi Delta. 'I’m a Libra,' he told me last fall, over coffee. 'I need the balance.'"[4]

His sound and composition is comparable to that of the Velvet Underground. Live performances also include extended jokes and comic anecdotes between songs, demonstrating Hamell's respect for the stand-up comedy of Bill Hicks, who is celebrated in the closing tracks of Hamell's album Choochtown.


Awards and honors[edit]

May 2007 – inducted into the SAMMY (Syracuse Area Music Awards) Hall of Fame
Aug 2007 – Herald Angel Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
May 2009 – Conveyor Awards of Excellence for Best Story Telling – Non-Theatrical & Best Musical Moments at the Cincinnati Fringe Festival
July 2009 – Directors' Award at the Capital Fringe Festival

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hamell on Trial". Righteousbabe.com.
  2. ^ Proefrock, Stacia. "Hamell on Trial Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  3. ^ Horowitz, Hal (February 27, 2014). "Hamell On Trial: The Happiest Man in the World". American Songwriter. Retrieved December 8, 2014.
  4. ^ Doane, Randal. "Images of America in Rock and Roll Portraits by Hamell on Trial". Harper's blog. Retrieved November 17, 2019.

External links[edit]