Some months ago, I happened on a posting from an artist soliciting contributions for his album pledge campaign. Intrigued by the description and by the artist, I gladly subscribed, and when the music arrived in my inbox, I was delighted that I had done so. John Wort Hannam’s recent album “Acres of Elbow Room” is a jewel of a disc, chock full of terrific songs.
John Wort Hannam has a voice that can convey regret, sorrow, joy, and love in equal measure, and his songwriting is equal to the task of bringing out all these emotions. Several of the tunes on the album are songs of regret, but he nevertheless combines the joyful – the idea that the present has its own happiness – with regret for what wasn’t and what might have been.
The album opens with the title track, an uptempo ode to the need for space and openness, “out where the dotted line turn(s) to gravel.” Even here, Hannam juxtaposes the call of the open road with the draw of those left behind in that quest. “Old Flame (New Regret),” one of the album’s highlights (insofar as it’s possible to choose!), beautifully captures that mix of feelings of meeting the love that didn’t happen, even when you’ve moved on to a new, even better love.
“Key of D Minor” provides another beautiful window into the tricky battlefield of love and depression, pairing Hannam’s plaintive singing accompanied by piano (rather than the guitar heard on the rest of the album). Even with the addition of other instruments, the focus remains on his lyrics – as they should. In a recent Facebook posting, Hannam said of this song (written when he became a new father), “I wasn’t ready to let go of everything I had built over the previous decade on the road but I also was not happy with the idea of being a “gone away” Dad. The depression that ensued is what ‘Key Of D Minor’ is all about.”
“I Believe,” another superb song, captures the joy to be found in the simpler things in life – music, family, the happiness to be found in a Martin guitar or a good pair of boots. The album’s closing track, “Day I Die,” has a surprisingly cheerful beat given the title, but it provides musings on a topic too many of us avoid – how we’ll be remembered after we’re gone.
As for this album, it should be remembered for its insightful lyrics, terrific melodies, and engaging music. Most of John Wort Hannam’s upcoming tour dates are in western Canada; if he tours east, you can be sure we’ll be up and across the border in a shot. Highly recommended.