HAM1
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HAM1

| INDIE

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Band Americana Pop

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Sep
05
HAM1 @ Caledonia

Athens, Georgia, USA

Athens, Georgia, USA

Jul
17
HAM1 @ Radio Radio

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Jul
16
HAM1 @ Al's Bar

Lexington, Kentucky, USA

Lexington, Kentucky, USA

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It took a couple of years for their impact to be fully felt, but once the Velvet Underground connected there was simply no stopping the spread of the band's influence. By the early 1970s, the VU were an underground staple. By the early 80s, sounding like the Velvet Underground was a virtual cottage industry. Jonathan Richman. The Dream Syndicate. The Feelies. The Vulgar Boatmen. Galaxie 500. The Violent Femmes. All these acts and many, many more owe pretty much everything to the Velvet Underground.

We can add Ham1 to the list, too. Ham1 was formed by Athens, Georgia schoolteacher Jim Willingham and a few buddies that happened to be around, including Chris Sugiuchi from Willingham's former band the Prince Rondavels. Maybe that explains why The Captain's Table seems such a casual yet eminently enjoyable affair. It's got no pretensions whatsoever, coming off a bit like a refreshing blast of an opening act when you get to the club a little too early for the headliner.

It's this loose, almost unfinished quality that helps the disc stay afloat, despite the fact that Ham1 telegraphs pretty much all it's going to say, musically, in the first track "Clown-Shoed Feet", which runs well under a minute. Frenetic strumming and brushed (but still oddly forceful) drums are joined by a blurt of horns in a pop dronerific embrace before inevitably fuzzing out à la Eno (another early VU adherent). The rest of the disc is basically variations on the same.

That's not to say there aren't some nice surprises and subtle change-ups to be found. If "Hare Lipped Bust" perfectly recalls prime college rock jangle, "Saluki" takes a successful turn toward surf-informed garage rock. "How Can You Watch T.V. With A Dead Person?" hails from the Lee Hazelwood school of atmospheric twang, with a touch of dreaming, drifting psychedelic listlessness. The concluding title track crunches together all these slightly different sides of the band into a good approximation of prime Elephant 6 lo-fi indulgence.

What certainly helps Ham1 rise slightly above the pull of the anonymous VU-derived indie-rock black hole is that Willingham and Sugiuchi both sing with a tad more warmth than Lou Reed and his descendents. They also try just hard enough to tell that they care about their craft, but not too much that they actually think many people will care quite as much. It's as if they know the band won't change the world, recognizing in the end that their efforts are, in the best sense, a bit if a goof.

So, yes, it's totally redundant music, adding absolutely nothing new to the lexicon and doing absolutely nothing that thousands of flash in the pan (or worse) bands haven't done before. What makes Ham1 better than a lot of them is their shambling modesty, which gives the impression these are the kind of guys for whom getting together to make a racket now and then constitutes the bulk of the fun, and getting people to listen is just gravy.

-Joshua Klein, January 14, 2008


- Pitchfork Media Inc.


Jim Willingham’s second album as HAM1 is, like the first, an attic of recovered ephemera: disparate ideas, props, and characters, and a world of influences. When I was in Athens in August, on the hottest days of the year, I trudged uphill toward a place to find lunch while a homeless man walked beside me, and we complained about the heat. I didn’t think anything of it, but on my last day in town, while trying to snap a few last-minute photos, he appeared again beside me, this time excitedly talking about how he was going to apply for a job and thought he might really get it, acting as though we were old friends. I told him that it was nice that the heat had finally abated. For some reason, HAM1 reminds me of those two encounters, and like the cluttered antique store up the road with the painted E.T. portrait on the wall and the rabbit lamp, and drinking cheap PBR’s way too early in the day. Yes, as a Flagpole review of The Captain’s Table put it, HAM1 does perfectly reflect Athens. But what that review doesn’t emphasize is that it also means Willingham has a try-anything, appropriate-anything attitude toward his music. He seems to be rummaging through that attic and attaching every random piece to his sculpture, and it’s striking that the end result holds together as a single vision.

The result is an album which might remind you, in a song, of R.E.M. (“Hare Lipped Bust”) or, so help me, Man or Astro-Man? (on the surf-guitar instrumental “Saluki”), although their friends the Summer Hymns might be a more frequent comparison. All of it has a Southern-flavored twang. Standouts include the atmospheric, subtly haunting “White Rat,” and “Hubcap Frisbees,” which describes a shattering revelation (or a break-up) through immediate, visceral, and strange images, rather than feelings. “Methmouth,” the simplest song, is a singalong to a fundamentally disconnected conversation. (”How’s it going?” “Not much.” “What’s going on?” “Pretty good.”)

It helps that his lyrics have a Charles Bukowskiesque, earthy surrealism. Willingham’s a poet, and the lyrics, printed in the booklet, read from one song to the next like a single poem. “Two wet dogs jump a puddled curb/next to a broken umbrella/turned inside out, like a dead bird.” “And the man with the sunken chest/selling flowers on the corner/wearing a t-shirt that said/‘I am not a Moonie!’” “A cup full of lies/it’s gonna make you die/unlessin’ you can fool/your very worst vice.” And “These words don’t have a home/they can’t make it in another poem.” That explanation summarizes all of The Captain’s Table: it’s a collection of words that couldn’t go anywhere else. They’re images glimpsed from a porch, and encountered on an Athens sidewalk in the heat, talking to strangers like they were old friends.

I should mention who’s on this. Willingham’s band includes The Olivia Tremor Control’s Eric Harris (drums), and Chris Sugiuchi (trombone, bass) and Jacob Morris (cello, bass). There are guest stars, including OTC’s and Pipes You See, Pipes You Don’t’s Pete Erchick (keyboard) and pre-eminent Athens songwriter Liz Durrett (backing vocals). So you know it sounds fantastic. It’s available from Orange Twin Records.

- Optical Atlas


Ham 1
THE CAPTAIN'S TABLE- (ORANGE TWIN)- Ok, I dug this guy Jim Willingham’s debut cd from last year and now he’s back to offer us a 2nd dose and not sure if his students are driving him to drink or what (he’s a teacher) but Willingham has come up with his 2nd batch of highly listenable songs. This thing is all over the map, from lo-fi coughs to the whole Barnun n’ Bailey trip to something that reminded me of a Man or Astroman? outtake. “Methmouth’ sounds like a somber (drunk ) salute to a lost friend …well, at least until the spacey part kicks in then you’re not sure what to think while you can almost dance to “Hare Lipped Bust.” I think Ennio Morricone is a big influence too so having said all of that Jim, I’m gonna call your Principal and demand a raise for you. How ‘bout that? Side note note; I have never seen a picture of Willingham but for some reason I picture him having really bushy red hair, a beard and glasses. Don’t ask me where that came from because I have no idea. - Daggerzine.com


This is an except from a recent article on Vic Chesnutt in Flagpole Magazine:

This week's 40 Watt performance is a collaborative affair that Chesnutt's referring to as "Three on the Tree." Rather than rely on Canadians this time around, Chesnutt's looking a little closer to home. Athens' own Liz Durrett opens the show (she is Chesnutt's niece), and the local darlings of Ham1 both perform a set of their own material and act as the backing band for both Durrett and Chesnutt.

The gang has been shooting out of Athens on brief regional jaunts over the past several weekends, and Ham1 main man Jim Willingham reports that the shows have been going swimmingly. "I think it's an ideal setting for Vic's stuff," he says. "Sometimes we get a little loud and do some sections of noisy rock that are really up our alley."

This group effort snowballed from a gig at the 40 Watt last year; Durrett asked Ham1 to back her up when she played at the club's Christmas party, and she added her talents to some of the band's songs.

"It was just so much fun, it was one of our best shows," says Willingham. Durrett and Ham1 played a few more shows together. "We had the summer off since most of us are teachers, so we decided to go out on the road since we were kind of inexperienced with touring, and we asked Liz to come out with us and kinda Wonder Twin our powers."

Chesnutt was at that 40 Watt Christmas party as well, and was impressed with the interplay between Durrett and Ham1. "They sounded great, real good," he says. "They really brought out the best in each other." Chesnutt ended up playing a show in Ham1 trombonist-bassist Chris Sugiuchi's back yard accompanied by Sugiuchi and Ham1 drummer Eric Harris (formerly of Olivia Tremor Control). "Eric and Chris and Vic had become buddies from living on the same street and talking about cars," says Willingham.

The disparate elements came together late this past summer when Chesnutt expressed an interest in playing more shows, and the Chesnutt/ Durrett/ Ham1 combo evolved.

"Everything came together beautifully," says Willingham. "I think it's a little more of a traditional Vic lineup. Brushed drum and regular drums with Eric's sort-of-sloppy jazz style. I'm playing acoustic guitar, but with distortion and vibrato. It's an antique-y sound that works well, a little '50s sound with Liz's textured guitar… It's kind of regal and cool sounding."

This week's show also serves as a release party for Ham1's sophomore album The Captain's Table.

-Chris Hassiotis - Flagpole Magazine


Ham1

The idea of pop music is many things to many people, but to local Athens band Ham1, it's all about getting a solid foundation and building from there. Vocalist and guitarist Jim Willingham has much more to offer from his personal stash of building blocks.
"Isn't pop music just good music?," he says.

The casual musical friendship that begat Ham1 emerged from Chris Sugiuchi (trombone, bass, voice), and Willingham's first band, The Prince Rondavels. Forged from their mutual admiration of spaghetti westerns, Hawaiian steel guitar, The Velvet Underground, Lawrence Welk, surf, garage rock, country, as well as their relaxed dispositions, Ham1 began to take shape as a stitching together of all kinds of pop touchstones.

"After The Prince Rondavels folded, Chris and I added Jacob Morris on cello, keys, bass and Eric Harris on drums, and occasionally ukulele," says Willingham. "It started to rock more and more, but we still have retained the original dynamics we were going for - we kept playing with brushes, an acoustic guitar, horns and cello. Nowadays the brushes sometimes thunder chaotically, and the acoustic guitar makes waves of feedback and tremolo. But I like to think that it still retains our original vision."

The band's latest effort, The Captain's Table, illustrates the inclusiveness of that vision, retaining the softer dynamic the band started out with. The amalgam of beautiful piano harmonies, haunting cellos, complex arrangements, jangly garage guitars, and dirty, heavy bass tone makes this album sound like someone put the best of the Summer of Love and the best outlaw country music into a blender and added something illegal to the mix.

Influenced by everything from old movie soundtracks and The Subsonics to coffee and Derek Almstead, Ham1's songwriting process is a hyper-exacting one. As Sugiuchi describes it, "Jim usually comes in with a melody and words. We then decide instrumentation and arrangements. It gets a little hot sometimes because we all have strong opinions. Consensus is reached by appeasement, attrition, or deception."

Recorded and engineered by Andy Baker (of Producto fame), the CD marks a decidedly more polished shift since the band's self-titled debut. The band has developed its eclectic sound by recruiting musicians with various influences and musical backgrounds, from Elephant 6 vets to collaborators with Mother Jackson.

"I think we're all lifers," says Willngham. "It's the same with the other guys. God willing, we'll all be senior citizens in bands. Maybe we'll go back to playing hard rock again at that point!"

As lifers, the group has put its roots down in the fertile soil of Athens. It was in Athens that the band was able to solidify and expand their diverse style. Willingham and Sugiuchi even settled into jobs there teaching at public schools.

"Athens is the first town that I ever felt really comfortable in," says Willingham. "It's an oasis of open-minded, friendly people. People love art, music, food, and movies. You can go downtown in your pajamas and no one cares."

Fortunately for the rest of the region, Ham1 will be leaving their quiet hamlet to embark upon a Southeastern tour in support of their newest album with Liz Durrett and Vic Chesnutt in support of The Captain's Table.

-Charley Lee - Southeast Performer Magazine


Discography

HAM1/HAM1- self released in 2005

HAM1/The Captain's Table- released on Orange Twin, November 2007

Both disks have received airplay nationwide on college/alternative radio as well as on Sirius Satellite Radio's Left of Center program.

Photos

Bio

Ham1 are hardcore vintage heads hailing from Athens, GA who cull their enthusiasm for old school everything (music, cars, guitars, long-lost America) into their craft. Ham1 features the incomparable Eric Harris (Olivia Tremor Control) on percussion, Theremin and any other device which may strike his fancy. Ham1's lyrics showcase the idiosyncratic observations of lead singer/guitarist Jim Willingham, his frenetic fretwork spanning the spectrum of surf rock, indie pop and spaghetti western instrumentals. Ham1's arrangements are embellished by the mournful thrum of Jacob Morris' cello, filigreed with the flourish of his at times eerie keys. Ham1 is propelled by the singular saunter of Chris Sugiuchi’s bass, the burnished blasts of his trombone bronzing selected compositions. Ham1 recently released the four year old band’s second album, the Captain's Table, on Orange Twin Records in November 2007.