Album Review

The Schramms are hardly one of the flashier bands to ever step into a recording studio, and many would consider Dave Schramm's voice -- a craggy Midwestern twang -- to be something of an acquired taste, so the prospect of an acoustic Dave Schramm solo album that strips back his songs to just a voice and a guitar is not destined to be a crowd-pleaser. But if Hammer and Nails wasn't designed to win over converts, it might make a fan or two of anyone willing to give it a listen. Schramm's songs have rarely sounded warmer or more approachable, and he's assembled a bunch of winners here, including both new stuff and remakes of tunes from his previous albums. "The Way Some People Die" first popped up on Yo La Tengo's Ride the Tiger (it was also re-recorded for the Schramms' Walk to Delphi), and it remains a sad and powerful examination of the psychology that makes a tragedy like the Columbine Massacre possible, and "Funeral Song" is a lovely Emily Dickinson poem set to a spare but evocative melody that also appeared on Rock, Paper, Scissors, Dynamite. (Schramm also borrowed one song from Hammer and Nails, "Mailbox," for his next full-band effort, 2000's 100 Questions.) Elsewhere, the title song is a poignant remembrance of Townes Van Zandt, "Ragle Gumm" and "Lambent Lullaby" are a pair of effective instrumentals, and the arrangements (acoustic guitars with subtle keyboard and harmonica overdubs) are spare but also show off the melodic strength of Schramm's songwriting. Hammer and Nails is a minor offering from Dave Schramm, but there are some major pleasures to be found in it.
Mark Deming, Rovi

Track Listing

  1. Hammer and Nails
  2. From a Word
  3. The Way Some People Die
  4. Speak Louder Than
  5. Turning Away the Prodigal
  6. Mailbox
  7. Lambent Lullaby
  8. Dusty Sun
  9. Funeral Song
  10. Ragle Gumm