Alberta singer-songwriter John Wort Hannam has just released his eighth album called Long Haul. Over the years, accolades for John have included a Juno Award nomination, a Canadian Folk Music Award for Contemporary Album of the Year, and a Kerrville New Folk win. The recognition is well-deserved, and the new album will surely lead to more of it.
Very good songwriters show us, in powerful ways, how they process the range of experiences life throws at us, both good and bad. They let us inside. Very good singers are able to convey emotions tied to those experiences through an ineffable quality in their voices. John Wort Hannam is a very good singer-songwriter.
The eleven tracks on Long Haul are impressive for how much of life they cover. The title track is about personal growth and what is important in life.
“Hurry Up Kid” is ostensibly about wanting to meet a child yet to be born, but really about understanding how fast everything will go once the baby is born, and how disconcerting that can be.
“Old Friend” addresses missing someone who has died. “What I Know Now” touches on what we could have done differently along the way, and what we would say to our younger selves. “Other Side of the Curve” is about being there for others; “Round and Round” is an imaginary conversation with a grandfather who has died, hoping to learn if challenges back in the day provide guidance for the present, but also knowing the advice will not be forthcoming. “Young at Heart” is a lovely prayer for all good things to be delivered unto us, including that we die young at heart at a ripe old age.
There are four cuts on Long Haul that have not yet been mentioned, though they are every bit as important to the overall feel of the album. These tracks make it clear that though John Wort Hamman knows life has many challenges and worries, there is also a lot of fun to be had and humour in observing the world around us. Life is many things.
“Wonderful Things” is about what you’d think: the wonderful things in life like a devoted girlfriend. “Beautiful Mess” is a great John Prine-like ditty on the clutter that can surround our lives. “Meat Draw” is a laugh-out-loud song about a lottery at the Legion, with a line “the most small-town thing you ever saw.” And finally, “Twilight Diner,” which is clearly written by someone who has spent a lot of time in late-night diners with the kind of characters that congregate there.
The final thing to be said about this album concerns the high level of musicianship. With tasteful pedal steel guitar, fiddle, hot guitar licks, organ, and supporting vocal harmony, it’s clear some of the best people were pulled together to make this album happen. A talented cast and tight by any measure.
If you like compelling story-telling put to beautiful vocals and music, you will enjoy this album.