Lynne Hanson: Live in Alexandria, VA

Lynne Hanson

Following our recent excursion to VA to see Allison Russell in concert, Team GDW found ourselves back in this southern state just five days later, this time to catch up with another one of our favorite Canadian artists.  Embarking upon her first international tour since being sidelined due to the pandemic (like many of her contemporaries), Ottawa, ON Americana artist Lynne Hanson returned to the live music circuit, with a stop in Alexandria to perform at ‘Concerts at The Sevareid House’ – a stunning mid-century modern home perfectly suited for Lynne’s ‘porch music with a little red dirt.’

We last caught a brief glimpse of Lynne back in the summer of 2019, during the Home County Music and Arts Festival in London, ON, where she accompanied headliner Dave Gunning on the main stage for his finale, and after professing their shared love for ‘hanging songs’ and the ‘cinematic,’ delivered a rousing performance of his track, “The Long Black Veil.” Fast forward back to the present, we were delighted to encounter Lynne once more, who, along with guitarist, co-writer, and touring companion Blair Hogan, entertained an engaged and music-starved crowd at Sevareid House with an incredible 80 minutes of music.

Following her opening track, “Hold My Breath” (released as a standalone single last September), Lynne was eager to address the room about finally being back on the road and performing. “It hasn’t been very long since we’ve been playing live shows in front of live people, and every time I play the first song, I get goosebumps,” she confessed. “It’s a weird and crazy thing. I was playing 150 shows a year and going all over the place, and it was very hard to hit stop.”  Lynne would add that she missed being around people, who often stimulated her songwriting creativity, and would share a story of her firsthand experience of being blown away by the Oklahoma wind – itself, the impetus for a new, unreleased track titled “100 Mile Wind” – one of many new tunes set to appear on her upcoming album, “Ice Cream In November,” scheduled for release on April 22nd.

Lynne Hanson

Sharing tales about coping during the pandemic, about ‘k-pop,’ and sobriety, Lynne also injected a little humor (at her own expense), with the Freudian slip of a distinct Canadian phrase. “The good thing about playing live shows again is I get a work out, changing all these guitars,” she started. “When I was home, I’d just sit on a couch, watching Netflix – I should probably not say the name out loud, Eh?”  Murmurs of “Eh” floated from the back of the room. “Oh, I said Eh! I did it. Darn it,” Lynne joked (Blair smirking too). “I have no idea that I’m doing it.”  She would also take time to discuss her most recent album, “Just Words,” and how the touring embargo meant that songs from this album had little opportunity to be shared live. Regular readers may recall that GDW contributing writer Douglas McLean declared this his favorite Canadian album in 2020, and fortunately for us, Lynne and Blair would perform a selection of tracks, including “Hearts Fade” and “Hemingway’s Songbird” from this outstanding album.  

“I have to admit up until we crossed the border, I believe there was a part of me that felt it wasn’t happening,” Lynne offered following “Hearts Fade.” “So, it was amazing to just cross the border, and I’m like, ‘here we are, we’re in America.’ And then we got to see some convoy people today.”  Having endured such protesters around the Washington beltway for over a week now, the locals in the room sympathized via laughter.  “I just thought we’d get that out of the way here,” Lynne continued. “We’re from Ottawa. I’m sorry, so sorry.”  “We got three weeks of this,” added Blair. “It’s not often we do something that influences you guys. Normally, it’s so much the other way around.”  “It was so embarrassing,” Lynne stated. “Of course, it happens before we start going out on tour. So now, we’re going to the UK and they’re gonna look at us, and we’re gonna be in France, and they’re just gonna shoot us!”  As the merriment from the room subsided, Lynne would precede the performance of “Clean Slate” with some commentary about being good neighbors, and questioning the general lack of civility over the last few years.

Lynne Hanson

Sharing the new title track from her upcoming album, the mention of ice cream quickly developed into a food-related discussion, and questions about both the Canadian and Thanksgiving traditions. “I discovered candied yams here in America,” Lynne recalled. “I was like, ‘you put marshmallows in sweet potatoes? What is wrong with you?’  And then I had them, and I’m like ‘oh yeah’.”  Another new track, “Orion’s Belt” would be performed, before Lynne turned on her comedic charm once again.  “I love to binge view. Commercials suck, and also waiting until next week also sucks, so I once watched five seasons of ‘Sons of Anarchy’ in five days,” she confessed. “It was like 60 hours of a motorcycle gang show. It was very intense.”  The crowd were drawn to her every word at this time, patiently waiting for the story to unfold. “And I’d be on the couch, and I’d be like ‘sweetheart, shall we watch another one?’ And the cat would blink twice for yes.”  The room erupted with laughter once more.  “So, I just kept going.”

And true to her words, both Lynne and Blair would indeed ‘just keep going,’ closing the evening with a strong three track succession of “River Of Sand” (from her 2014 same-titled album), the recent ‘quirky’ single, “Hip Like Cohen,” and the finale, a rip-roaring version of the surf-rock inspired (and “cinematic”) recent cut, “Shadowland” – complete with eager audience participation and some simply stellar fretwork from Blair, who had given his Telecaster a solid workout for the entire show.  Following their bows, a well-earned standing ovation convinced Lynne and Blair to stick around for an encore (no ‘leave the stage’ theatrics necessary), and after pulling the cable from her guitar, the duo sent the audience home with an outstanding unplugged version of “Gotta Have Rain.”

This incredible evening of music at Sevareid House proved the perfect climax to a Friday night, and brought some much-need relief to our knowledge of a pending blast of winter that was about to hit the east coast over the next 24 hours.  But hey, come rain or shine (or snow), it would be live music that once again provided us all a moment of enjoyment, relaxation, and escapism from the craziness going on in the world around us.  Newspapers may seek to depress us with daily coverage of Covid-19, politics, and war, but once again, such is the healing power of live music that we allow ourselves to set real-world problems on the shelf for one evening, at the very least.

Set List:

  1. Hold My Breath
  2. 100 Mile Wind (New Track)
  3. Hearts Fade
  4. Clean Slate
  5. Hemingway’s Songbird
  6. Ice Cream In November (New Track)
  7. Long Way Home
  8. This Heart Of Mine (New Track)
  9. Orion’s Belt (New Track)
  10. River Of Sand
  11. Hip Like Cohen
  12. Shadowland (New Track)

Encore:

  1. Gotta Have Rain (Unplugged)

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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