A Review of the John Wort Hannam CD
"Two Bit Suit"
"Two Bit Suit"
John Wort Hannam
This review is written by Kevin McCarthy, 9/07
Education's loss is our gain. Former teacher John Wort Hannam
released his third CD in April of this year and he is a shining example
that the musical contributions of our neighbors to the north--Fred Eaglesmith, James Keelaghan, the Brothers Rogers and others--are continuing unabated.
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In this effort, Hannam primarily portrays dreamers, those of the small 'd'. His
musical world is populated with farmers, miners and truckers--salt-of-the-earth types-- coming up short in scope and vision but
certainly not effort. They see the love of a woman or possibly a move
elsewhere to start anew and the like as their elusive saviour, while
stubbornly putting one foot in front of the other in reach of their
Most fail but then that's the backbone of the most compelling narratives.
There are no 'skip over' cuts contained here. However, in a
gun-to-the-head, pick-only-three songs exercise, the ones that
resonated the most for this listener were "10,000 Acres," "Infantryman"
and "At First Light."
The first portrays a rueful farmer enduring whatever it takes--and
that's a lot in this tune--to keep his promise of keeping the family
farm together even if it means a cleaving with the
human love of his life. It begins:
"Well I ain't a man of many words"Infantryman" plaintively depicts a father greeting his soldier son,
arriving home in a casket. There's no politics here--it's a
straightforward presentation of the grief at losing a child.
At times, I have none
I know that there are smarter men
and many more handsome
But I take pride in what I've done
though it may not be grand..."
With "At First Light," Hannam precisely draws all the elements
together--words, vocals, music and rhythm--in a tangible portraiture of
home and love, or what passes as such, as twin incentives in completing a journey. This is a cut
that could easily be classified as spanning the folk, Americana and
In "Sweet Sweet Rose," Hannam leaves open the possibility of his protagonist securing love. The opening lines:
"Well I've fallen behind and I've fallen thruIn some ways, "Sweet Sweet Rose is counterpart to "Desperado," one of the famous offerings of The Eagles.
I've fallen to pieces a time or two
And I've fallen victim to words that weren't true
I've fallen from grace, now I've fallen for you..."
"Black As Coal" provides this matter-of-fact first verse:
"He had a heart of gold and silver hair
Plus these classic lines from "National Hotel" absolutely require
a mention. Singing of a hotel having seen better days and now shut
down, Hannam sings of the clientele:
nerves of steel and an iron stare
but thirty years of mining takes it's toll
For a small town boy there ain't much in store
You do what your father did before
Light your lamp and down you go..."
"...Deadbeats and dealers, debutantes and drunks
It's shortchanging Hannam and overlooking the dues he surely paid along
the way but he comes off as a natural songwriter, someone who seemingly
has little problem compiling verses and marrying them to music. Such
is never easy but the most talented make it appear so.
Poets, pimps, preachers, pretty boys and punks..."
Call the songs here blue collar music--working with one's hands but
leading with the heart. Those populating the music are not the highly
cultured and cultivated but hurt and bleed like anyone else, always
with limited options. But call them extraordinary in their ordinariness.
Hannam's matches his writing with vocals that are engaging--a deep inviting drawl. He has something to say and says it well.
This is a must-have CD based on this simple yet reliable test: the
required in producing this review was nil. It wrote itself as if some
sort of joyful dictation. The best music, like film, books and
paintings, all do that for reviewers.
"Two Bit Suit" will shortchange no one.
- 10,000 Acres
- Two-Bit Suit
- Sweet Sweet Rose
- Damn It Guinivere
- Digger's Lament
- Black As Coal
- National Hotel
- At First Light
- Wrecking Ball
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