Lynne Hanson- Just Words review

My review of Lynne Hanson’s very strong Just Words is published at Exclaim! Thanks to my fine editors there, some extraneous words were sliced. Being somewhat fond of my words, I’m posting the unedited version here.

Lynne Hanson Just Words www.

A beautiful album of retrospection and insight, Lynne Hanson’s Just Words is much more than its unpretentious title may imply.

For the unfamiliar, Ottawa’s Lynne Hanson has been carving a niche for herself within the crowded world of folk-influenced singer-songwriters these past two decades. Most recently, she teamed with mentor and compatriot Lynn Miles for the well-regarded Heartbreak Song for the Radio of 2018.

As we wish for all, Hanson’s albums seem to improve on that which came before. This is true for Just Words, the creation of a life-time of learning, working, and living.

With a touch of Mary Chapin Carpenter’s introspective sensitivity, Hanson opens the album with the country-infused “True Blue Moon,” singing of the hopelessness of romance when under the spell of a poet. “Just Words” references the lasting hurt of the passing, whispered putdown, the hostility within families, readily applied within both social media and real life.

Hanson’s precise use of language captures our attention. She evokes the conflicting impacts of falling in love just a little too quickly within “Hemingway’s Songbird:”

“On my table there’s a cold fresh martini
crumpled papers and old cigarette;
I spend my days pouring my life onto the pages
tales of lost love and ancient regret.”

The magic, of course, is to sustain keen listener awareness throughout the song; Hanson does this with consistency:

“These days you’ll find me down at Harry’s
It’s a dive bar where I like to pass my time;
It’s dark inside, the food ain’t much to speak of
but its peaceful and the people there are kind.”

Sometimes, that’s enough: moments of every day clarity within circumstances that appear increasingly challenging. Sober now eight years, the sensations haven’t faded for Hanson:

“I got sad songs on my mind
the broke down, heartbreak kind.
Tonight I’m drunk I’m a little bit stoned
I heard you’re doing fine.
For me it’s gonna take a little more time
I’m taking the long way home.” (from “Long Way Home”)

Produced by Jim Bryson, and featuring a venerable ‘who’s who’ of Canadian music independence (Kevin Breit, Bryson, Catherine MacLellan, Justin Rutledge, MJ Dandeneau, and Marshall Bureau, among others) Just Words is an impeccable artistic creation.

Sharing elements found within the work of Gretchen Peters, Lucinda Williams (without the jarring guitars,) and Kim Richey, Just Words will sit alongside the finest country-Americana albums one will encounter in 2020.

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