Friday, February 06, 2009

Music You Should Know: Hiram Ring - Breathe Deep

I've long been touting Lancaster as a city with a vibrant and growing music scene. There are so many talented musicians and bands in the area, and as a result I have hopes that the local music scene is going to really blow up someday. When I first began working in Central PA, one of the first musicians I met was Hiram Ring. In addition to being an incredibly nice guy, Hiram is an unassuming, yet extremely talented singer/songwriter. 

This Saturday night Hiram will be releasing his first full-length CD, Breathe Deep, at a special CD release party at Building Character in Lancaster (details below). The new disc is distinctly Hiram, but features a wide variety of styles and sounds. His song writing has matured and there are some really sweet tunes on here, as the disc explores humanity and our pilgrimage here on earth.

On Breathe Deep, Hiram takes us on a journey, one both personal and universal. He leads off with the laid back, "Go From Here," a nice introduction to Hiram and his talents, with his unique voice leading the way over an understated instrumental backdrop. You can almost picture yourself sitting by a campfire while Hiram strums his guitar across from you, raising the specter of uncertainty, "I don't know where I go from here, there's a feeling in me it's not very clear." 

One of the most endearing traits of Hiram's music is his voice. Sweet, yet slightly gravelly, with a touch of frailty. You know you are listening to someone very well aware of his humanity, and not interested in putting on airs and pretensions.

Next up is perhaps my favorite tune on the disc, the more upbeat "Play Switch," featuring the African rhythms Hiram would've heard growing up in Ghana. Various African drums and percussion instruments provide the beat, while an accordion and distant trumpet round out the sound, all layered underneath his guitar. Lyrically, the song speaks of his search for home, with references to his time both in Africa and here in the states. 

Hiram also adds a touch of understated funk to his music; more subtly on "Chasing Shadows" with harmonica dancing around his voice and guitar, while the  sweet, unmistakable sounds of a Hammond B3 provide the backdrop for "Living Water,"  heading into "Voices." Here he continues giving voice to that gnawing inside of all of us: "I've got voices crawling round in my head, I've got skeletons lying in my bed, under the sheets - they won't leave me."

One song that is sure to garner attention, and melt the hearts of female listeners, is "One Girl For Me," a love song to his future wife, whom he has yet to meet. There is already a music video for this song, shot locally by Ryan Mast of Unitheo:

Hiram hits a jazzier, loungey note with the title track, "Breathe Deep," a perfect song for these cold winter days, showing off the talents of his jazz trio, featuring Mike Bitts on upright bass and pianist Matt Monticchio. Then on "Eternity," Hiram mines the depths of life and relationships, and the always intertwined realms of faith and love.

In "I am Not a Thief," a song born out of his time in Afghanistan, Ring looks in the mirror for a period of self-examination, coming to grips with his humanity and need for something more than this life offers: "I'm a thief, I'm a murderer, I'm a blind man, I'm diseased."

 A journey in a car provides the backdrop for his next examination of life in "Steer Into the Curve," one of the more straightforward singer/songwriter tunes on the disc.

Hiram rounds the corner and nears the finish line with the quiet and ethereal "Will I Ever," then heads right into the closing song, "I'm On a Journey," which pretty much sums up the overriding theme of the album.

Hiram Ring is equally comfortable with just an acoustic guitar or performing with a full band, and this CD provides a nice mix of his many sounds. At times, his music reminds me of Pierce Pettis, or even another friend of mine, Jason Gray (two artists you should definitely checkout). You can hear several of the songs on Hiram's website, which also hosts a few videos. You can also become a fan of Hiram on Facebook

While I've discussed the music on this CD, I would be remiss if I didn't mention the incredible artwork and packaging created for Hiram by Ned Bustard of World's End Images.  

Hope to see you all at the CD release party, this Saturday night (February 7th) on the 300 block of North Queen Street in Lancaster at Building Character. Local indie-rock band, Trash and Glory will be opening at 7pm. There is a $15 cover charge that includes a copy of the new CD (though $5 for those entering who don't want to purchase the CD.) And if you can't make it, you can purchase the CD from Hiram or download it on iTunes.


Andi said...

Indeed, here is a man I should know. I thought I was up on the Lancaster scene, but apparently not. I'll plan to make it tomorrow - how can I not when you compare him to one of my favorites, Pierce Petis?


Ken said...

It's only a loose comparison, and mostly on the music side, not they voice. Though I think there is a similar depth of lyrics.