Rockin’ ’n’ writin’

Don Hammontree’s Baptized in Formaldehyde
By BOB GULLA  |  April 10, 2008
donno3inside
A PICARESQUE JOURNEY: The author with his other means of expression.

Fall River artiste Don Hammontree has done his share of recording, with a couple of solo discs out since debuting in 2003. In 2005 he issued something of a departure with The Mumbai EP, a hybrid work suffused with both rock and the sounds of India. Back then, growing up near Chicago’s Devon Avenue, the nation’s center for Indo-American commerce, Don was taken by the sights and sounds of that ethnic group. “As time went on,” he told me back in ’05, “I became more and more fascinated by Indian culture.” He started writing rock and roll songs inspired by Bollywood starlets, and even recruited some ethnic musicians to help him execute the sounds he heard in his head. We’re not sure what his next album will reflect in terms of departures and influences; it’s not due til later this year. But in the meantime, Hammontree has published a book to sate his creative appetite.
 
The writing of Baptized In Formaldehyde began in earnest in the early ’90s, when Hammontree had just moved to Fall River from Chicago. Initially, he wrote religiously and edited the pages rigorously. But life and music interrupted the publishing process and he set it aside. Recently, though, a peek at the work he’d done revealed it was in “pretty decent” shape, so he dusted it off and took one more fresh whack at it. He decided to release the book through self-publishing.
 
Baptized In Formaldehyde follows Chicagoan Steve Schuller, a college graduate who can’t find employment in his field of radio broadcasting — he’s a left-wing nut given to ranting — and instead slaves away on a Lake Michigan cruise boat for minimum wage. At night he eases his workaday frustrations with his dysfunctional thrash band, Formalde¬hyde Baptism. From this framework, Hammontree takes his character on a picaresque journey, presented as a journal of sorts, and marked by frank situations, perceptive detail, and colorful dialogue. In fact, Hammontree lets his characters do most of the talking, with a voice-driven plot that’s pretty riveting. Hammontree, a journalist and photographer in addition to being a musician, has an artistic eye that many rockers, current and former, will identify with.
 
You can catch Don on Friday (the 11th) at Cafe Zog, 239 Wickenden Street, Providence, where he’ll be singing beginning at 8 pm. On April 17, Don is hosting a book signing from 10 pm to midnight the Belmont Club at 34 Franklin Street in Fall River. Books will be on sale for just $10. Find more out about Baptized In Formaldehyde at myspace.com/baptizedinformaldehyde.

Not kids' stuff
On Saturday, April 12 at 8 pm, the Blackstone River Theatre brings BILL HARLEY AND KEITH MUNSLOW together for “IDs Required,” a show for adults. Both artists have made names for themselves in the children’s music market, with Harley even winning Grammys with his recent kids’ CDs. But the duo will have the opportunity to break free of those toddler constraints, play to the older, hairier folks, and maybe even cuss a little, backed by drummer Johnny Cote and bassist Bryan Rizzuto.
 
Incidentally, Bill and Keith go back a long way as collaborators, which should make their appearance together comfortable and fun. They’ve shared songwriting credits and have made appearances on each other’s recordings. But live is where it’s at with both of these artists, and adults-only is what you’ll get this Saturday. The show is $12 in advance. For reservations and information, call BRT at 401.725.9272.

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