It's not very often that Rocks Off gets to know an artist we review personally. But as we stumbled out of the Texas heat one Friday night and into Avant Garden, we asked the bartender who the artist was being played - he smiled and replied coolly, "Well, me." A man who could make a decent drink and play a mean electric guitar - it just couldn't be true. Thankfully, it was. On his debut EP, A Fine Time, Chase Hamblin shows he is a jack of all trades, playing the majority of instruments himself. Hamblin's branch of the rock and roll tree was planted by the Beatles, but thankfully A Fine Time is no a carbon copy. Hamblin's airy vocals take listeners on a journey to a world not unlike the one we currently reside in; the difference, however, lies within the people. The title track is by far the best. It's a cheery tune that makes Hamblin almost seem like the Music Man has come to town to warn children and adults about the issues going on in today's society. Although it follows a typical strategy - use cheery music to contrast the sadness of the lyrics - it's a well-defined composition that skillfully employs various instruments. And putting the jovial melodies aside, Hamblin raises a lot of good questions about the world around us. By contrast, "We're Gonna Make It" is a pretty love song, but that's all it is. Nothing too exceptional, it's probably the worst place to be as a musician - not memorable enough to be loved or hated, just forgettable. That may sound a bit harsh, but it by no means brings the EP down. The other songs more than make up it. All things considered, A Fine Time is an admirable first attempt. Hamblin has hit the mark, and all he can do from here is go up. With Sideshow Tramps, 9 p.m. tonight at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, 713-529-9899 or www.continentalclub.com/Houston.html. $10 cover includes a copy of the EP.
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