If he were on a major label, he would surely be hailed as "the next big thing." That said, consider Ed Hamell (aka Hamell on Trial) the next "little big man." A genuinely funny guy with a social consc

If he were on a major label, he would surely be hailed as "the next big thing." That said, consider Ed Hamell (aka Hamell on Trial) the next "little big man." A genuinely funny guy with a social conscience, a loud mouth and serious songwriting cred, his punk-folk acoustic blasts are like a punchline to the establishment's groin. This, Hamell's fifth studio album and first for Righteous Babe, sees him getting some production help from label mom Ani DiFranco and various friends. He delivers rips on organized violence ("Don't Kill"), the "idiot culture" ("Halfway") and corporate culpability ("There Is a God"—a steroid-fed boogie). Then there's the traumatizingly beautiful "Hail" and the shuffle-rocker "Downs" (which references Hamell's serious 2000 car accident). The trial is over, the verdict is in: Ed Hamell is the real deal.—AZ