Edifice Complex and Other Urban Plans

New Urban News

Music by Melanie Hammet
CD, 2010, $10,
Review by Robert Steuteville

Folk music is a relatively noncommercial niche within the music industry. The subniche of folk dealing with planning and zoning issues is so small that, until very recently, it could not be heard with the naked ear.

That has changed thanks to Melanie Hammet, a city council member and singer-songwriter from Pine Lake, Georgia. Hammet stayed as an artist-in-residence in early 2009 in Seaside, Florida, where she was inspired to write a collection of songs. That effort recently resulted in a seven-song CD.

Any attempt to create music on the subject of urban planning is brave — the subject does not lend itself to catchy tunes. If anybody has attempted anything similar in the past, I’m unaware of it.

The songs here are generally well-executed — Hammet sings with gusto, and the harmonies and instrumentals are nicely layered. I particularly like “Where Shall We Gather,” a bluesy, upbeat tune that deals with community building. Urbanists can relate to these lyrics: “In the street or in the square everybody can be there. Where shall we gather?”

At times, the songs are a bit strained, as in “Car Tune,” when she sings of an SUV: “We don’t go to the zoo or the ballet. It likes a parking lot or the highway.” As I said, it’s a difficult subject. There are no classics on this CD, but it’s a worthwhile effort and I salute Hammet. She clearly is a woman with broad interests — music and performing, reviewing site plans, city government, and urbanism. I hope that she is brought to perform at many conferences on planning and local government. She would add flair to such events.