Matt Hannah “Dreamland” (Gamine Records, 2017)

Matt Hannah’s Dreamland is an album of roots-tinged rock, with just enough pedal steel, upright bass and accordion to make it rock that bit easier, and that’s appropriate as the title song, and album opener, explains.  Here Hannah contrasts two sleep states, a pair of dreamlands – the one of his youth where he’d rock out all night with a band and then sleep until the afternoon, and the one he has now – where the listless drifting life with a band has been swapped for the steady life with just one woman.  There’s contentment here “We have more peace in just one night / Than we thought a lifetime could hold” but, wouldn’t you know it?, there’s still some lingering attachment to the old life “sometimes it’s hard, it ain’t like we planned”.  There’s something of a pattern that emerges across the album, a running theme of loss and the attempt to identify a counterbalancing gain which is done with variable levels of success. Dandelion reflects on “a hard road / it wasn’t your choice” but see’s that today is, maybe, better “when I’m at your side we can take anything”.  That’s a protective thought – but when it comes up again on Broken Hearts and Broken Bones the turn of phrase is worrying – is there a slightly smug paternalistic sense to “you were a mess before you came to me”, and if there is does it get fully cancelled out by the self-critical confession that “sometimes I think I’ve got it figured out / Other times I’m filled with doubt” ?

Set Free rumbles with confidence, waltzing down the road of a new born day – the pedal steel light and expansive, the twelve-string guitar jangling. A mood of optimism also shines through the finger-picked The Night is my Home, with Matt Hannah glorying in traversing the desert by night, dazzled by stars and bouyed by a newfound sense of wonder.

There’s much to enjoy on this album, that counteracts the occasional flat track or lyrical stumble – no pedant can hear a line like “It don’t snow in California” without raising the proverbial eyebrow and muttering “tough luck for anyone heading to the ski-resorts”. Overall though it’s a fine album, and a solid second release from Matt Hannah.

Author: Jonathan Aird

Sure, I could climb high in a tree, or go to Skye on my holiday. I could be happy. All I really want is the excitement of first hearing The Byrds, the amazement of decades of Dylan's music, or the thrill of seeing a band like The Long Ryders live. That's not much to ask, is it?

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