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Brett Barest Previews Vilai Harrington & the Hamptones New Album Release

Listen to The New Release

When I first met Vilai Harrington he was new to the Upstate and just beginning to find his place in the local music scene. He struck me as a talented singer songwriter who would fit in nicely in Greenville’s music community and I really enjoyed seeing him perform live. Watching him over the last years, I have to say that Vilai has evolved and improved more than any other artist I can think of over that same time span. I have, on more than one occasion, seen a Vilai Harrington set and witnessed a totally different artist than I remembered from past performances and it really has been a pleasure to watch.

Imagine my delight, then, when a Google Drive folder containing Vilai’s new album arrived in my messages a little over a week in advance of its official release this Friday.

The new EP, Sandhill Shaman, is an incredible next step in the evolution of Vilai Harrington & the Hamptones, a fact he credits to an updated lineup and greater contributions from each of his bandmates. The increased collaboration resulted in five songs that run the gamut of the musical spectrum, something that Vilai “just happened” despite it feeling as if it was by design. The first two tracks – the title track and “See You or I Won’t” are the most modern rock sounding songs I have heard from the traditional folk sound I have come to expect from Vilai over the years. He returns to his roots, however, with the old time country sound of “Hole in my Heart” and a “callback track” in “Trial and Error”. The album closes with a twist on John Prine’s “Paradise” delivered in a far darker package than Prine could ever be capable of.

All of this comes together for an eclectic collection of music from one of the Upstate’s most interesting artists. Whether he is retelling an old classic in his own voice on “Paradise” or confronting friends’ battles with addiction, depression, and suicide on “See You or I Won’t” Vilai has you hanging on every word. I am not sure if a five song EP is long enough to call a masterpiece but this album makes a damn good argument for such praise.

Listen to Sandhill Shaman EP

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