by Sandor Slomovits
The only time I've seen Trina Hamlin perform live was last summer in Glen Arbor, near Traverse City. It was an outdoor concert on a hot, humid, muggy night, and she walked onstage barefoot. Given the unpredictable nature of spring in Michigan, it may be too cold for her to do that when she returns to the Ark this month. But then maybe she's always that informal and relaxed. One of the photos on her most recent CD, Living on Love, features a shot of her bare left foot stepping on a guitar effects pedal.
The picture might also be an expression of one of the central elements of Hamlin's live shows, her sense of humor. (The cover of the CD shows her, head thrown back, laughing uproariously.) Though her songs are for the most part not humorous, Hamlin's comic timing on her between-songs patter is as solid as her musical sense of rhythm. The night I saw her, she regaled us with, among other droll yarns, a long running gag about her summer touring in a van with a tomato plant that didn't set fruit, because of a lack of cross-pollination.
There is, however, no lack of cross-pollination in Hamlin's music. Though she hails from Minnesota which she insisted, tongue in cheek, was a hotbed, if not the birthplace, of the blues her voice, singing style and songwriting are colorful hybrids that sprout from blues, rock, jazz, and a number of other contemporary idioms but are uniquely Hamlin. She can go from gutsy blues belting to long, jazzy, vibratoless horn tones, and then roll in a warm vibrato at will.
She sings mostly her own well-crafted, beautifully arranged love songs, but her covers of classics like Linda Ronstadt's "You're No Good" or Paul McCartney's "Oh! Darling" can stand proudly next to the originals.
You can't talk about Hamlin for long before you have to say something about her harmonica playing. One of the
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