Photo By JR Goleno
Hannah Aldridge with Arlo McKinley & The Lonesome Sound, Jordan Dean
June 7, 2014
Southgate House Revival, 111 E 6th St, Newport, KY
$8 adv, $10 dos, Buy Tickets
8pm doors, 9pm show
HANNAH ALDRIDGE’s “RAZOR WIRE” (MAY 13, 2014/Trodden Black Entertainment), was produced by Chris Mara and recorded at Welcome to 1979 studio in Nashville. The album features 9 originals plus Hannah’s haunting re-imagining of fellow Shoals’ native Jason Isbell’s “Try”. Joining Hannah in the studio are Andrew Sovine – electric & acoustic guitars/lap steel, Brad Pemberton – drums & percussion, Lane Baker – bass/background vocals, Andrew Higley – keyboards/saw, James LeBlanc – background vocals & Dylan LeBlanc – background vocals/lead guitar on “Lie Like You Love Me”. On “Try”, Hannah is backed by Isbell’s band – the 400 Unit — Derry DeBorja (Keyboards), Jimbo Hart (bass), Chad Gamble (drums) and Sadler Vaden (guitar). “Try”, was mixed by Jimmy Nutt.
“Dark Americana,” is how the daughter of Muscle Shoals’ royalty describes the ghostly, unflinching, sometimes gritty tales that separate her 10-song RAZOR WIRE collection from the mainstream. The title song –reprised as an acoustic “bonus” at CD’s end — is evidence of how this daughter of Shoals’ tunesmith and icon, Walt Aldridge uses her stark poetic soul to visit life’s dark corners. The song is a lust-and-melancholy retelling of the day she took her wedding ring to a pawn shop and then “was sitting around in a bar with a guy I met there. It’s 100 percent real.” While in some ways the song — the arms and bed of the barfly is eventual salve for love lost — is reminiscent of classic country standards about marital heartache and sexual healing, it demonstrates the raw musical texture and lyrics flavoring her entire album.Hannah’s song “Black and White,” is inspired by her 6-year-old son, Jackson (named for musical hero Jackson Browne). “I have a picture of my little boy, Jackson, in black-and-white. He’s playing guitar and smiling. I wish I could go back to those black-and-white days, when a box of rocks beneath the bed was cause for joy,” she says. Then there is “Lie Like You Love Me,” a sort of “For the Good Times” song of sex that’s flavored with imagery of addiction: “I miss you like morphine straight to my veins.” “Howlin’ Bones” is an angry declaration of independence. “You thought I was a dirty scoundrel, but you’ve done cross the devil now,” she proclaims in the song she says set the mood for her raw Nashville analogue sessions…”nobody is going to tell me what to say.” “Lonesome,” RAZOR WIRE’s final track (save for the title song’s reprise) — a bitter mood piece about her parents’ divorce – not only explains her against-the-grain musical quest but closes the album out in appropriate melancholia. “I can’t put my finger on it, I don’t who’s to blame, but the one thing that I’m sure of is lonesome goes both ways”.
HANNAH ALDRIDGE, 26, is steeped in the music both of Nashville and Muscle Shoals, the two cities where she was raised as her father — a Muscle Shoals legend as well as a much-honored Nashville songwriter, musician and producer – plied his craft. Her musical youth was spent being trained to be a classical pianist. She didn’t begin writing songs until, as a 21-year-old sound-engineering student at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, TN she took a songwriting class as an elective. “I literally thought we were going to learn how to write songs,” she says. After discovering students were expected already to have written songs, she turned to her dad for help. “I found out it really wasn’t that hard: It’s just saying things that are true and making them rhyme,” says the young woman who began her performing career at Nashville’s most famous singer-songwriter venue, The Bluebird Café, after she was among students chosen to represent MTSU in a showcase. “It was so wild: I had gotten picked out of all those people who wanted to be songwriters.” She sang her entire three-song catalog that night. Two years later, Hannah signed a publishing deal after her song “Lonesome” was featured on the “Hart of Dixie” television series. “That song has been a launching pad for me,” she says.
There is stark contradiction between the “real” and loving Hannah and the hard-loved, almost-fictitious character she becomes when writing songs trekking through life’s darkly carnal sides. The real Hannah, a striking 5-foot-11 blonde, smiles frequently, affably when discussing her music and her life. The mention of her son, sparks a generous gleam in her deep green eyes. “My character is someone who will kill somebody, get high. This person is an outlaw and is also somebody that understands the difference between good and bad. My character is someone who says ‘this is not right, but I’m doing it anyway.’…I would never ride a motorcycle, but you know she would,” says Hannah, putting a fingertip on the cheek of the hard blonde in the cover photo..
The girl on the album cover, in her mind and in her lyrics, does all of the above and much more as she drags the soft-spoken “real Hannah” out of her out of her everyday existence and into the musty magnolia darkness where characters question the darker side of life. “People expect girls to be more refined. But I’ve been to rehab, got sober, been married, divorced, had a kid when I wasn’t married, went to college all the way as a single mom.”
In the end, the album is where the “dark” Hannah and the sweetly profound young mother mingle. “This album is about learning to be a grownup, learning to face the world alone. It’s about being brave enough to look people in the eye and just say ‘This is who I am — imperfections and all.’”
And that’s just what she does. And the listener is the beneficiary.