John Wort Hannam – Long Haul
John Wort Hannam – Long Haul
Format: CD – LP – Digital
Label: Black Hen Music
Release date: October 15, 2021
Melodic, topical and enduring
When John Wort Hannam started to write songs for ‘Long Haul’, his 8th album and the follow-up to 2018’s ‘Acres of Elbow Room’, he had no particular theme in mind. Locked down in the early days of the pandemic, random ideas began to coalesce and eleven songs later, a unified collection emerged. With narratives that trace small victories earned through faith, resilience and humour, the songs on ‘Long Haul’ reach beyond our current sense of isolation to share a sense of gratitude for what we have, and grief for what we have lost.
Balancing personal and universal concerns, the songs on Long Haul offer intimate reflections of everyday life and experience – an area that has not always been the source of Hannam’s inspiration. “I’ve become more comfortable writing about myself than I ever was in the past. When I first started, I thought there was nothing interesting in my own life, so I relied on my imagination to create songs. I’ve realized that the things that I experience are meaningful because they’re relatable. I don’t need a crazy, drunken, bound for the jailhouse kind of life to write good songs.”
‘Long Haul’ is just that: an album of very good songs. The title track, written to celebrate Hannam’s two-plus decades making music while balancing touring, marriage, and parenthood, is a reminder that there are no instant solutions in life, and that the race doesn’t always go to the swift. ‘Hurry Up Kid’ is a father’s exploration of the ephemeral nature of youth and the relentless passage of time. The sense of loss that tinges many of the tracks finds its clearest expression in ‘Other Side of the Curve’, which is in many ways the defining song of the album. Written after talking with a friend who was enduring lockdown thousands of miles away from the people she loved, Hannam looked at his own situation and realized how lucky he was to have a close family to isolate with.
Hannam’s long time fans might be surprised by songs like ‘Meat Draw’ and ‘Beautiful Mess’ a humorous duet with Shaela Miller that fits comfortably alongside country classics like ‘Jackson’ or ‘In Spite of Ourselves’. “Those are the types of things I would never have written about when I first started out. All of my early songs were serious and somber, but I’ve discovered that it’s actually really rewarding and difficult to write a funny song.”
After writing/settling on the songs, the next challenge was to get them recorded, which was not an easy proposition during a global pandemic. The only option was to create the album remotely. Thankfully, John and his long time producer, Steve Dawson had formed a natural chemistry over the pair of records they had previously crafted together, and once they got down to work, the thousands of miles separating Lethbridge, Alberta from Nashville seemed to disappear.
Intuitive accompaniment from Black Hen regulars Gary Craig (drums), Jeremy Holmes (bass) and Chris Gestrin (keyboards) laid the foundation for ‘Long Haul‘s warm and spontaneous sound. Memorable performances from Dawson (guitar/strings) and John Prine alumnus, Fats Kaplin (mandolin, fiddle, banjo and accordion) added a special chemistry to the mix, resulting in the best sounding record of Hannam’s career.
“Long Haul is a reflection on my life up to this point, and for the first time I think that my songs perfectly encapsulate the truth of where I’m at as an artist and a person. Life is short. Time is passing and I don’t want to spend it wishing that things were any different than they are.”
01. Long Haul (3:32)
02. Hurry Up Kid (3:37)
03. Wonderful Things (3:00)
04. Beautiful Mess (feat. Shaela Miller) (3:34)
05. Old Friend (3:46)
06. What I Know Now (4:50)
07. Meat Draw (2:56)
08. Twilight Diner (4.01)
09. Other Side of the Curve (3:23)
10. Round & Round* (3:41)
11. Young at Heart (3:33)
All songs by John Wort Hannam except ‘Beautiful Mess’, by John Wort Hannam & Jon Martin & Twilight Diner, by John Wort Hannam, T. Buckley & Don Henry
*not on vinyl LP