Album Review : Hannah Aldridge : Razor Wire

When asked to describe her music, Hannah Aldridge calls her debut record, Razor Wire, a slice of “Dark Americana”, a term she coined to attempt to explain to others what she played. Call it whatever you want, the music on Razor Wire is phenomenal, sliding easily into heart broken folk ballads as well as straight out blues rockers that Aldridge uses to showcase the influential  sound of her famous hometown of Muscle Shoals.

When I spoke to Aldridge a few months ago on the podcast she said that she carefully chose the studio band for their ability to adapt to the songs without having much direction from her. That trust she gave the assembled crew of Delaney Baker on bass, Brad Pemberton (Ryan Adams and The Cardinals) on drums, Andrew Higley (Ben Folds) on keyboards, and Andrew Sovine on electric guitar, teamed with their talents provide a solid bedrock for her gut wrenching songs while still avoiding the over thought production of a band too familiar with one another. Many of the songs had never been played for anyone else at all prior to the recording sessions so the musicians were free to add what they felt the songs called for, and the results are amazing.

The first thing that stands out about Hannah is her hauntingly beautiful vocals, especially on tracks such as “Howling Bones” a not so veiled threat to an ex-lover. The next thing to jump out at you about Aldridge is absolute lack of fear in her writing. She is not afraid to lay it all on the line for the listener, which is where the darkness in her music comes from. She is not one to write songs about butterflies and roses, but a night of liquor and a one night stand following a nasty divorce is not at all off limits and is the story contained in the album’s title track.

It seems so often that female singers are trapped by what they are “supposed” to write and sing about, Aldridge smashes that idea with every line she sings like “I miss you like morphine straight to my veins” . That line opens the ballad, “Lie Like Love Me”, a desperate plea for one more night where the truth is conveniently ignored for the sake of one’s pleasure.

While most of the record was recorded and mixed at producer, Chris Mara’s  Welcome to 1979 Studios in Nashville, Aldridge went home so to speak for her cover of fellow Muscle Shoals native, Jason Isbell’s “Try”. Not only did she bring Isbell’s backing band The 400 Unit to play on the song, but she tracked down Jimmy Nutt,who mixed the original version of the song. With strict instructions to mix Aldridge’s take on the song exactly as it was done on Sirens of the Ditch, Nutt’s  final product is flawless with Hannah’s vocals lending a whole new point of view to the track.

Debuts records are always interesting because so often they are the culmination of many years of songwriting and life experience. In this case Aldridge has been writing for a relatively short time and to be able to put out such a fine product like Razor Wire makes me even more interested in how the rest of her career will go. But for now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves and just enjoy the amazing songs and performances on an album that pulls no punches emotionally and a singer who has the same convictions.

The album is available on Amazon here: Razor Wire [Explicit]

You can learn more about Hannah on here site : www.Hannah-Aldridge.com

And here is the official video for my favorite track on the record, “Howling Bones”

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