by Dylan Naumann
The sounds of Hank Williams, The Carter Family, Bob Dylan, and Jimmie Rodgers were ever-so vibrantly pleasing the airways during the 1960s. Those artists, and many others, were inspiring all walks of life, from the most remote rural areas to big cities, from international pathways to conference rooms, and even the family room. The restless creativity from that era sparked influence that contained intensity, timbre, and homemade resonance from the compelling vehicle we know as Folk/Americana. In the small, rocky town of Titusville, PA, a young man was capturing the Folk resonance that had been creating ripples along the nation. That young man was Mike Hamilton.
Mike Hamilton has been playing music around the D.C area and beyond for decades. Venturing out on solo tours in the beginning of his career, he eventually put together some bands along the way. The obsession of actually playing music started in high school. Mike formed a band then to simply play and write music. This high school band was only the beginning. In the 70s he went out for his first solo tour – embarking on a journey to expose his originality to anyone that would listen. During that time, his music was heavily influenced by the likes of Joni Mitchell, The Eagles, The Band, Jefferson Airplane, and John Prine. Playing clubs, festivals, concerts, and special events, Mike had some gigs that were glamorous and some not-so glamorous; he played them all. During the tour, he was actually given the nickname “Mr. Energy” for his high-octane solo performances. In 1978, Mike moved to Washington, D.C. to further his musical endeavors. Without wasting any time, Mike formed the group Desire, which eventually morphed into the group No Doubt Crypto. No Doubt Crypto recorded an album of all original music. During this time, Mike formed a music publishing company called Joe Bag O’ Donuts under BMI.
After being kept busy with his past endeavors, Mike was finally able to learn how to engineer and record his own music in the 80s. He got an opportunity to work for Roar Production Studios in Columbia, MD, and because of his experience recording his own music and other artists in the mid-Atlantic region, he became one of their chief engineers. He founded his own production company during that time, BigHouse Productions. Fast forward a couple decades later to 2003, when Mike opened Mission Road studio, where he records his own music and produces other regional acts.
When No Doubt Crypto disbanded, Mike resumed his solo career, but not before he started to play bass and sing vocals for the Blues Attitude and Torchers. From 1995 to 2013, his solo career took off, especially in the studio. Mike recorded four albums during that time, all consisting of original material. The array of genres represented on his solo albums is quite impressive. From Folk, Bluegrass, Celtic, Rock, Reggae, and Country, Mike has explored a plethora of musical styles that have defined him as a musician.
From 2014 on, Mike has been playing with The Mike and Mel Hamilton Band. The band was formed for the sole purpose of creating and performing original music. A blend of country, rock, a little reggae, and of course folk, best describes The Mike and Mel Hamilton Band. Their songs portray a variety of emotions and topics: the worlds troubles and challenges, love and tribulations, or that long-lost love that got away from you. Luckily for Mike, one of his loves has been right by his side for decades (and I’m not talking about music). That would be his love for his wife – Melinda. Melinda met Mike around 1981 and their love hasn’t slowed down one bit. Melinda has been on all of Mike’s solo albums, played in No Doubt Crypto, and currently plays in The Mike and Mel Hamilton Band. The instrumentation she brings to the band creates a unique flavor in the music. That flavor is brought about by her use of everything from synthesizers to an octave mandolin. But where Melinda really shines is in her vocal ability. She creates harmonies that radiate with passion. The other members of the band also bring their vocal chords into the mix, creating a resonance that would make anyone sing along.
Tim Owens (bass and vocals) has played with Mike and Mel in the past in No Doubt Crypto. This has forged a relationship among the three that seems unbreakable. Tim shows tremendous strength not just as a bass player and vocalist but as a songwriter, too. He has been writing since the 90s, including the album “Looking Ahead, Moving Along,” which was released in 1998. He plays an integral role in The Mike and Mel Hamilton Band as a bass player and a songwriter (“Where Are You”). Dexter Keane (drums and vocals) adds strength to the vocal dexterity that’s already established within the group with his warm back-up vocals. But when he isn’t singing, he is laying down that pocket on the kit. His experience as a drummer has landed him gigs at Caribbean festivals around the world, drumming and singing for the number one reggae band on the East Coast, The Uprising. Dexter has recorded with Mike Hamilton for over twenty-five years.
Dylan Naumann is a freelance musician, composer, writer, and improviser. Born and raised in Towson, Maryland, he’s currently finishing up his degree from Towson University for jazz commercial performance. He enjoys wondering around town, from local venue to venue, trying to find the inspiring sounds from local artists.
Flow-bending artist aSanTIS discusses art, culture, and whether sound can solve the world’s problems in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
My interview with Amy Santis aka aSanTIS began in the most unexpected way. The Maryland-based flow-bending artist and lyrical storyteller came prepared to engage in conversation around questions I had posed – and she also brought one or two of her own thoughtful prompts based on her curiosities around my view of learning.
This practice of taking in her surroundings deeply through observation and inquiry has come naturally to aSanTIS ever since she was a young child. In terms of her early starts in music, she notes that she began as a discerning listener. “Just listening to music from my mom, on the radio, just being a consumer in the world of sound. But I think mainly, my mom has always loved dancing and listening to music, so that was sort of like second nature. We play music at gatherings, we play music in the car, and these songs are sort of like diaries that take us into a specific place.”
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