Setanta - 2002 - 45 minutes

On this, their debut album, New York's Hem have lovingly crafted a collection of acoustic lullabies that wouldn't have sounded out of place during the English folk revival of the 1960s. Singer Sally Ellyson has a voice not unlike that of Fairport Convention's Sandy Denny, the similarity especially evident on 'Night Like A River' and 'Betting On Trains'.

The album opens with Ellyson singing 'Lord, Blow The Moon Out Please', an unaccompanied traditional American song. This sets the scene for an album that focuses on her pure voice, showcasing it amongst mandolin, glockenspiel and the lush sounds of an 18-piece orchestra, while the use of pedal steel, particularly on songs like 'When I was Drinking' and 'Night Like A River' adds a country element that is quintessentially American.

While occasionally veering off into MOR territory, 'Rabbit Songs' is a pleasant discovery that bodes well for Hem's future.

Caroline Hennessy

Tracklisting: Lord, Blow The Moon Out Please - When I Was Drinking - Half Acre - Burying Song - Betting For Trains - Leave Me Here - All That I'm Good For - Idle (The Rabbit Song) - Stupid Mouth Shut - Lazy Eye - Sailor - Polly's Dress - Night Like A River – The Cuckoo - Waltz – Horsey