Sure, one can call Hem traditionalists, with their seemingly soul-mate marriage of loamy folk and country roots with a cinematic chamber music sensibility. But within the roar and crackle of much of today's modern music, Hem has forged a genuine alternative that sounds like no one else, save perhaps for the Cowboy Junkies, who feel like hallucinogenic kind bud alongside Hem's even more narcotic ambiance.

Hem's exquisitely beautiful music is matched by the honeyed pipes of singer Sally Ellyson and songs that sometimes take deliciously surprising thematic leaps, such as the evocatively titled "Great Houses of New York," which details a failed relationship in a frame-by-frame montage of simple yet vivid images, or the title song with its pungent last line: "Change the way you see." And that's just what Hem does. Over what's now three albums (and another worthy collection of odds and sods), Hem's piquant melodies and evocative mental vistas beg a change in the way you listen, and yes, even see.

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Rob Patterson

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