John Book, Music For America
This is one of the best albums of 2007, period
The description of what Christine Bougie creates is "Quirky instrumental music". I had to hear it immediately, and you know, it's instrumental music, but quirky? It depends on ones definition of "quirky", but I have to say that Hammy's Secret Life (self-released) is one of the best instrumental albums I have heard in quite some time.
Bougie is a multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, lap steel, banjo, xylophone, and a zither, and on the album she does this along with the help of her musician friends to create a collection of songs with the kind of atmosphere and asthetic that should rightfully have her doing movie scores. She plays the kind of music one would love to hear as a soundtrack on their drive out into the country, while songs such as "Hammy's Secret Life", "All At Once", and "Glow House #3" would also fit very well with surfing films.
I don't know if I would even call this "quirky jazz", although there are hints of jazz, blues, rock, and even some folk. There's a down to earth groove that is sensed throughout, and it's difficult to say if it's due to the songs or the feeling created by the musicians. It's earthy, it feels real, as if this lady and gentleman are out in a backyard, barefoot, watching the sky and playing what comes naturally. Bougie herself plays well on the instruments she handles on the album, but her lap steel guitar pulled me closer to what was going on, maybe it's that David Gilmour-esque sound that makes me see waves in slow motion, I don't know. Every now and then you'll hear a horn section, maybe a Mellotron, and the textures are very unexpected but fit in very well.
There's a down home vibe to it, and looking at the liner notes it seems some (if not all) was recorded in a home setting, away from the intimidation of something people view as professional. It's that intimacy that perhaps allows the musicians to be a bit more free in their playing, and with Bougie anchoring the ship, one tends to think she has a firm grip of the kind of music she wants to share with the world and her fans. Now, if one wants to follow the quirkiness of Hammy's Secret Life, and whether or not Hammy is the true spirit of these songs, you can do that and I'll be right behind you awaiting the next chapter. Away from that, this is one of those albums that is vinyl worthy, which means it gets the utmost respect from me. This is one of those albums that everyone needs to hear before they pass away, because life would truly be incomplete without its presence in their lives.