HemlockHotel is an Ottawa, Canada trio made up of Rod Leggett, Dan Leduc and Mark Pare. They describe their music as weaving “folk, rock and country music together.” It is; more broadly, if you like Americana rock and appreciate skillful songwriting. You’ll find their eponymous seven-track debut a treat.
HemlockHotel grabs us right away with “Choosing You.” They combine the beat plus guitar on the “ands” with an engaging melody, and you’re hooked. The production shines here, too: there are terrific vocal harmonies and a nice build into the finish. They set the bar high at the start.
“America” is next with its Bo Diddley beat, acoustic guitar and some down-home harmonica. HemlockHotel nails the genre perfectly. The electric guitar rips some sus4-chords and slams some open-string-based riffs, as if John Mellencamp had Keith Richards as a guest player. Plus they add a little tambourine on the chorus, so “America” could fit on a modern country radio station, if they don’t mind a touch of Canadian grit on their airwaves.
Turning their eyes northward, we have “Dear Rebecca.” Here the band touches on the plight of Albertan oil drillers who are separated from their families, touchingly told as a husband’s letter home to his wife. There’s a lovely melody (especially the chorus) and a solid guitar solo.
HemlockHotel outdoes themselves on “Secret Way (Remembering).” It starts as a slower groove with lots of space; the band builds us into a spectacular chorus underpinned by arpeggiated guitar and countermelody. How spectacular is it? Put it this way: the band builds us up, we know what chord change is coming, we want it so badly, and when we get it, pow! Endorphins flow. Wow.
But wait, there’s more. HemlockHotel launches into the swinging triplet ballad “Fool For You” next. The songwriting shines here: there’s a long verse, then a frothy pre-chorus buildup into a short, punchy chorus. It’s terrific. Leggett’s vocals on the second verse, beautifully set against backing oohs, may be his best work on the album.
“Sugar Tree” and “Paper Bag Princess” close out the album. I’d describe them, too, but I’m out of superlatives. What a debut!
We are dedicated to informing the public about the different types of independent music that is available for your listening pleasure as well as giving the artist a professional critique from a seasoned music geek. We critique a wide variety of niche genres like experimental, IDM, electronic, ambient, shoegaze and much more.
Are you one of our faithful visitors who enjoys our website? Like us on Facebook