On “Cold Chicago,” the lead single from Humming House’s self-titled debut, frontman Justin Wade Tam sings from the perspective of his prized, 100-year old parlor guitar and theorizes about the instrument’s extended stays in Seattle, San Diego, Nashville, St. Louis and the title city.
Despite the reflective tone of the lyrics, the band’s grins are palpable amid the track’s joyous tangle of arpeggios and slides. Humming House play communal gypsy folk music, best experienced from front porches and park gazebos.
Backhanded as that might sound, I don’t mean to imply Humming House flounders in the studio. This is a fun, promising debut from a band that, despite being very proud of its Nashville roots, sounds more apiece with string-crazed North Carolina outfits like The Avett Brothers, Bowerbirds and the Carolina Chocolate Drops.
In fact, opener “Gypsy Django” could easily pass for a Ramseur-era Avetts outtake. The song is a tribute to “gypsy jazz” legend Django Reinhardt– replete with handclaps, hums and zydeco flourishes. Elsewhere, the band offer winning glimpses into their quirky, adventurous side on the driving, rockabilly stomp “Stop Me Still” and the singing saw-laden “Mrs. Wurley.”
Though the second half of Humming House loses some momentum thanks to a series of lovely but unmemorable ballads, the group rebounds on closer “Young Enough to Try.” Here, sneering, nervy verses give way to a jangly, anthemic chorus about overcoming inhibition.
There isn’t anything particularly novel about Humming House. But charisma goes a long way, and the band approaches their worn ideas with a giddy enthusiasm that’s both infectious and grin-inducing.