Joe Sundell – The Hat Thief

A word of advice from Sonic Breakfast this morning for all hat wearers – Should you ever be at a party with Joe Sundell you might want to keep an eye on your hat. Better still, keep it on your head unless you want to be walking home, bleary eyed and smelling of last nights excesses, with your pate exposed to the elements.

Joe has a mighty fine new album out (you can find it at his website), titled ‘The Hat Thief’ and I thought I’d ask him why he called it that:-

“I had a show in Kansas City at a place called Davey’s Uptown Ramber Club. It was one of these nights where there are like five bands on the bill and no one knows each other, but this one actually turned out pretty well, fans crossed over and got into the the bands they hadn’t necessarily come to see, and I hit it off with a couple of the other groups and we decided to all go hang out at the house of one of the local groups (I guess I won’t name names here). You know what happens next, lotsa drinking, music making, and all that good stuff and everybody wound up crashing in various uncomfortable places like the floor. Well the next morning I woke up super early, everybody was still asleep and as I was taking off I saw this hat lying around. I had lost my hat the night before (I always wear a hat) and I thoughtlessly picked up this hat and wore it out. Didn’t hear anything about it until I was going back to play at the same club in Kansas City some months later and started to get the word out, and that’s when I discovered that KC was “abuzz” (in the words of one of my friends there) with the news that I had stolen a certain drummers hat. He was not happy about it as I guess I would’ve expected if I had thought about it. I gave the hat back and things worked out, sort of, although those guys aren’t too fond of me, again as I guess you would expect since I stole something that belonged to one of them.

Now as I was putting out the album and thinking about a title, I thought about what the album represented to me. For me, it’s all about this character who’s struggling to find his way in the world and who at times doesn’t even think the world is worth saving. He’s had bad luck with love, he’s down on his luck, but he’s still hoping for that chance at redemption. It’s sort of like my ultimate starving miserable misunderstood artist album. Not without worth, but I had to recognize at some point that in real life, being that character wasn’t really working for me. It may have been who I was at the time, but I just can’t go through life that way. So finishing the album and reflecting on all that, naming it “The Hat Thief” was a way for me to encapsulate that notion that it was time to move on. I guess the incident with stealing the hat was also sort of representative of that person who just doesn’t give a shit about making a good life for himself, so it made sense in that way as well.”

And so it seems that Joe is now a reformed hat thief. He’s also another of these hard working, incredibly talented musicians that we’re often featuring on Sonic Breakfast. I’ve been listening to ‘The Hat Thief’ a fair bit since Joe appeared on my radar. It’s an album that’s firmly rooted in Americana but one that draws influence from the array of genres within; we get out and out country, a jazzy swing thing, a bit of blues and some rock n’roll as the album twists and turns.

That character who’s down on his luck is clearly identifiable within the album but he’s not so morose that it makes for an uncomfortable listen. There’s a definite strand of quirky, positive humour and hope running through. ‘Mr Z’ and ‘All My Life’ are the opening and closing tracks. They’re pretty representative of the journey the album takes you on.


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