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Tuesday May 30, 2017
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The Hummingbirds

 

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fresh and full of strong emotions, and they find simple and effective ways of situating their songs in the present. One of the best is "Cry on the Freeway," a waltz, sparsely accompanied with mandolin, about when it's "time to cry on the freeway, all the way home." "Six ninety-six is full of its tricks/Bending and winding its way through the sprawl," Wood sings. "Well, I'm screaming my head off, like a lone Rolling Stone, cryin' on the freeway, all the way home." With vivid economy, the basic barroom emotion of the classic honky-tonker is transferred to the world of younger clubhoppers.

Each Hummingbirds song is a carefully assembled unit, with sparingly applied rock guitar textures grafted onto old two-step and waltz rhythms in such a way as to highlight the idea of the song. At Top of the Park last summer, and again at Conor O'Neill's a few weeks ago, I heard the Hummingbirds expanding their range, both instrumentally and

lyrically. The TOP show showcased several of their new songs. "Nebraska Snow" is a more detailed and resonant portrait than they've done up to this point, of a woman left alone in a midwestern winter, "mixing Mai Tais in a blender, reading postcards sent from San Diego." "Where can you go in Nebraska snow, when you can't see the road up ahead?" she worries. "I don't think I can remember/A time I felt so cold."

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