Hannah White & The Nordic Connections
This has been an album we've been expectantly waiting for ever since Hannah White wowed us with a criminally short support set at the Green Note. On the night she said that she rarely played solo and that her normal band were based in the Nordics, the results of their collective endeavours are to be found in this album and it is a splendid fusion.
There are a few things to note from the off, this is very much recorded live, and eschews anything digital, in fact you'll clearly hear the band say something promising at the end of what was quite clearly an excellent take, this has resulted in a incredibly rich warm sound. The other thing of note is that with Hannah there are no limits on what she'll share in a song, if you didn't know much about her before starting to listen to this record you certainly will by the time you finish.
The opening track "Never Get Along" immediately introduces us to that overall sound, an organ sound to die for, pedal steel to the fore and great rhythm section, and also to the frank and honest world of Hannah White. A song written about the father of her son who she split from when the baby was 5 months old, he's now in his late teens. There is a retelling of their collective early history "we were young and we were wrong does it really matter now?". It contains an incredibly open admission, "I will love you till the day I die" and that although they can do many things, they can "Never Get Along", This kind of openness only seems to work well in country songs and the bridge sees a special vocal performance from Hannah that is simply pure country.
"Start Again" has the feel of a church spiritual about it and gives us further insight in to what makes Hannah the person she is. starting as a slow guitar ballad with the opening admission "I'm not one to hold on to a wrong someones done - no I move on". It's such a refreshing view on life it stands out, and is followed by another positive way of thinking "I don't let the past into my tomorrow cos i would sooner trust love than lose again". Such stirring words are met with a stirring rise in the volume of the band, as she sings "I've never found forgiveness hard"
This is as Christian in outlook as any hymn and on the repetition of the line "I will hold the hand of friendship out it doesn't matter if that hand has hurt me" there is almost a choir like backing. The song then rises in key giving that euphoric feel backed by the power of the organ.
In a complete change of pace "City Beats" has an infectious toe tapping beat to it that is hard to resist. With exceptional drumming this is almost a latin soundscape fused with a country twang and quite unlike anything i've ever heard, in a good way i hasten to add!
"Pay Me A Compliment" could not be more Nashville if Lee Ann Womack stepped up to provide the vocals, Life is looking grim when you are forced to reflect "Pay me a compliment cos I'm tired and I want one and the mirrors unkind since my beauty has gone". Similarly there is the need for "some tenderness" and "some kindness" for someone who "can't take anymore" With a suitably downbeat pedal steel guitar solo there is no sign if the request is ever met and it paints a distressing picture.
From there it is straight into the funky rock and roll of "Gotta Work Harder" based around the lead guitar riff - it's a completely different Hannah, Changing about two thirds of the way into a slow blues section with an appropriately bluesy guitar solo before kicking the pace back into a rock and roller again, this is an absolute hoot and fantastic - it finishes with a cry of "Oh Man" from either the band or the production booth - they know what magic they have just created.
The order of the songs has been very deliberately chosen, for from the knockabout frenzy of the previous track we come to "My Father", a song both honest and unflinching in its detail while at the same time painting an incredibly tender portrait of an undoubtedly flawed individual. It is something of an emotional roller coaster ride that never lets up. To reveal the contents would spoil it for the listener but take it from #TEAMw21 this is certainly a song you should hear.
This is an album that musically takes us on a number of diverting and rewarding journeys, it also reveals Hannah to be the possessor of a voice at ease in a number of styles from classic country through to soul while at the same time not forgetting her natural UK roots.