Monday, June 30, 2014

Album Review: Hannah Aldridge, "Razor Wire"

For many artists, their debut album is a labor of love, the realization of many years of hard work and long miles on the road plying their trade from bar to bar and town to town.  Some debut albums really stand out from the crowd and are a good indication of the potential staying power of the artist.  Such is the case with "Razor Wire" (Trodden Black Entertainment) by Hannah Aldridge.

Co-writing nine of the ten tracks on the album, Ms. Aldridge takes us on a journey through her young life so far.  Kicking off with the feisty "You Ain't Worth The Fight", the listener knows right away that this lady doesn't put up with crap from anyone.  The character in "Old Ghost" is a woman that many of us, male or female, can relate to when finding your way through the beginnings of certain new relationships.  

Two of the darkest tunes on the album are also among the best written.  The title track, "Razor Wire," could be the among the bravest songs I've ever heard written and recorded.  A stark piece of truthful storytelling, one can really sense the place of vulnerability that Hannah was feeling both in her life and at the time of writing.  This young lady really put her heart on her sleeve with this track and it is a true highlight of the album.  When you have a song as melancholy and dark as "Razor Wire", the only thing you can do is follow it up with something darker and more melancholy.  A tale of life on death row, "Parchman" fits the bill in spades.  I don't think I have to tell you that a story about life on death row doesn't end particularly well.

The feisty side of Hannah Aldridge makes its return with the rockin' "Howlin' Bones" and a tremendous cover of Jason Isbell's "Try."  Both songs present an opportunity for Hannah to stretch out her impressive vocal range, as well as matching her up with Isbell's backing band, The 400 Unit for "Try."  Lyrically, this song fits in well with the overall dark theme of the album, with its contemplation of trying to control an individual.

The final three songs on the album complete Hannah's open book that has brought her to this point in her life.  "Black and White" draws on her life experience in her native Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and ties in to her present as she sings a verse inspired by her young son.  "Lie Like You Love Me" is a tale of longing for and needing an old flame if only for one night at a time, followed by the inevitable morning-after-regret.  This tune is a straight ahead country song and highlights the diverse performing styles of Hannah and the talented musicians playing on this album.  "Lonesome" is a beautifully written and performed song that reflects the time of her parents divorce.  It's a stripped down semi-closing number, with just Hannah and her guitar once again leaving herself out in the open and inviting the world to listen to her story.  An acoustic version of "Razor Wire" is the real closer of the album, appearing as a 'hidden track' after "Lonesome."

For a debut effort, Hannah Aldridge has created a stand-out album that should signal the beginning of a long career for this young lady.  Described by Hannah as 'Dark Americana', it's tough to argue with that assessment.  The topics on the album are certainly dark in nature, but along with this darkness, there appears to be an overall sense of reflection and vulnerability. This album truly is a brave project, one that Ms. Aldridge can be very proud of. What's more exciting is, this is only the beginning.  We will be hearing from Hannah Aldridge for a very long time and I can't wait to hear the next chapter from this gifted singer-songwriter. 

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