Molly Hanmer and The Midnight Tokers offer a lively, rich take on the Americana tradition with the release Stuck in a Daydream while avoiding any hints of imitation or filler. The dozen songs included on the release range from surprisingly punky minimalist arrangements into outright blues and singer/songwriter fare pared down to the essentials and never chancing self indulgence. Hanmer has experienced a number of personal struggles in her recent history and we hear some of that invested in these songs, but her melodic gifts work exceptionally well with the Midnight Tokers and never risk dragging down a listener’s mood.
The aforementioned rugged punk energy is apparent with the album’s first tune. “Take a Walk With Me” fits in well with the album’s overarching Americana vibe, but it also rampages more than you’d expect and has the added bonus of bringing that musical energy together with a singer who can more than carry a tune. One of my personal favorites on the release, “Fool’s Run (Different Song)” has some knowing bitterness running through its lyrics, but the music is quite soulful and melodic and you can’t help but be impressed by how thoroughly Hanmer inhabits the lyric.
The authoritative drumming bringing “Old Number Seven” to life is soon joined with some jagged electric guitar, but John Bird’s keyboard work is very effective as well. The straight forward charge of the material contrasts well with the upper register qualities of Hanmer’s voice and her relish tackling the words is palpable. The starkly titled “Love Song” promises delicacy and delivers. The melody present in the guitar is quite nice, but Hanmer punctuates it with a deeply felt vocal enveloped with just enough smoke to lend it added atmosphere. It makes for quite a moment on the release and proves she and The Midnight Tokers are aiming for a broad based stylistic plate with this release.
The trio of tracks beginning with the album’s title song, rolling through the blues drenched “Come Back”, and concluding with an improbable Dylan cover of “Outlaw Blues” is another highlight on the release. The title song is cut from similar acoustic cloth as the earlier “Love Son”, albeit spiked with some other elements, while “Come Back” introduces some fiery organ playing from Bird and “Outlaw Blues” sounds gloriously off the cuff. “Dead Happy”, the album’s second to last track, revisits the organ with spectacular results and the musical playfulness emanating from the track will win over many. Stuck in a Daydream is an unusually vibrant work, never treating retro elements like butterflies pinned under glass but, instead, refurbishing these sounds for a new day and generation. Hanmer is more than just a good singer; she lives the drama and fun of these songs for us vividly and the band more than complements her inspired take on the album’s twelve songs. If you love Americana and blues with its own identity, you will find yourself revisiting this album on a regular basis without any measurable disappointment. It’s a real winner.