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Not too many bands put their future on the line as much as New York's Hem. They formed in 1999 after would-be band members answered an ad in the Village Voice placed by an aspiring female vocalist who had only recorded a tape of herself singing lullabies to a friend's child. All members of the band went bankrupt from recording and putting out their gossamer Rabbit Songs album (flying the entire band overseas to the Slovak Republic to record with the world renowned Slovak Radio Orchestra isn't a frugal endeavor). But one listen to this magnum opus and you will understand what they really did was pay for sonic perfection. What does perfection sound like? For starters singer Sally Ellyson has the kind of angelic voice that you want to lull your own children (and inner child) to sleep. The aforementioned 18-piece orchestra adds layers of classical finesse over a patchwork quilt of traditional Americana textures like fiddles, pedal steels, banjos and acoustic guitars. But it's Hem's songwriting that keeps things sounding as fresh and bright as a prairie peppered with wild purple heather. To put it more bluntly, Hem make the Cowboy Junkies sound like Motorhead.
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