AMERICANA REVIEW: Hannah White and The Nordic Connections

LifeInASong_UK

A bread factory in Bergen isn’t perhaps where you’d expect to find classic country music but that’s where London based Hannah White made her recent release. The location explains the Nordic Connections, White’s top notch Americana band.

Hannah White, husband Kieron Marshall & The Nordic Connections recorded the album live and in analogue which certainly adds to its appeal but there is a bang up to date message in some of the lyrics. Her social conscience, very much a feature of previous release ‘Elephant Eye’ is back.

Opener ‘ Never Get Along’ is where White’s versatile voice seems to be most at home, in a sumptuous country vibe.

Most direct lyrically is ‘My Father’ which White sings in a voice that quavers with sorrow for her own father who, a literary man, nevertheless had a few brushes with the law. But who can listen to this without feeling sympathy for someone whose honourable aspiration of wanting to build a home for his family were crushed by poverty? Though sadness is the dominant emotion White manages to convey her anger at how society punishes such people. “When my father passed away/ He didn’t leave enough to pay/For his funeral and grave/It cost more than we could save”.

Dolly Parton comes to mind in ‘Start Again’, not just sonically but in the theme of forgiveness and trying harder to make things better. Surrounded by her Nordics White builds up into a crescendo of hope. The pedal steel alone is a tear-jerker. The relentless pace of ‘Gotta Work Harder’ only underscores the message that if you want stuff you’ve got to start young and keep hard at it. Marshall’s slide solo adds urgency to what is really a complete rejection of such blatant materialism.

‘Like We’ve Always Done’ is a ballad that evokes the folky side of Emmylou Harris. It is also another great example of how White and her band so complement each other. It must have been a big factory as this song in particular has so much space.

Not a country name but Bo Diddley is all over ‘City Beats’ as White and the band fire up a hot R&B beat. The banjo is the Americana link while Marshall’s guitars and the Nordic Connections swirl around filling every nook and cranny, just like all those buildings they sing about.

A huge shout-out goes to HP Gunderson on pedal steel and guitars, keyboardist Lars Hammersland, Oyvend Storli Hoel on bass and Ole Ludvig Krüger on drums, banjo and guitar. Hannah White & The Nordic Connections have made a record that may have been made in Bergen, Norway but belongs in Nashville, Tennessee.

Lyndon Bolton

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