It’s been sunny all day in Dublin City, something of a surprise, given the awful weather that has been drowning our mood recently. However, the return of Mr. Sun is most welcome, especially with Music Festival season just around the corner and the focus is very much on getting prepared for weekends of fun around the country and abroad.
Hannah Aldridge slips into Ireland for a short tour, in the middle of all this madness, to play a series of stripped-down acoustic gigs and spread the word around her increasing media profile, both here and in America, where she is seen as one of the most accomplished songwriters and performers among a peer group of talented artists that are currently gaining a degree of momentum and traction.
She is joined tonight by her Swedish guitar player, Gustav Sjódin, who fronts a band that often play on Hannah’s European tour dates; Jetbone, has a growing reputation and is described as being "the most hard -working band in Sweden". Gustav plays with an easy, fluent style that compliments the rhythmic tempo of Hannah and together they dove tail nicely around each other and the song arrangements to deliver a strong dynamic.
Playing two sets in a performance that lasts over 90 minutes, Hannah brings an honesty and enthusiasm to her craft where nothing is held back and she performs with great confidence and a relaxed demeanour that has everyone on her side from the outset. She has a powerful, soulful voice and sings with great passion, range and nuance. Her guitar prowess is very evident when she plays solo and delivers some wonderful performances.
Her father, legendary song-writer Walt Aldridge joins her for a couple of songs and his witty stories around Modern Day Bonnie and Clyde and (There's) No Gettin' Over Me are graced with a light touch. He worked for 17 years at Fame Recording Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, as a producer, songwriter and back-up musician. It was a nice feeling to have someone of his status in the small Vintage Room and the intimate surroundings of the gig added greatly to the overall relaxed atmosphere.
Hannah played a cover of Ruby (David Rawlings), off mike, with just 2 voices and a guitar blending into the dimming light, as the gig progressed and evening descended. Another song written by her Dad, Yankee Bank, is a real joy and has a natural groove – I can hear the spirit of Levon Helm & the original Band in there, giving it the full treatment!
She plays Some Ghosts, Born To Be Broken and Rails To Ride, none of which have appeared yet on a studio album, proving that this artist has plenty more aces up her sleeve. A new song, The Fall, that Hannah wrote with Ben Glover is also given a debut and it sounds really interesting on first airing. Glover has written with Gretchen Peters and Mary Gauthier, among others, while his growing reputation as a song-writer and performing artist in Nashville gathers pace.The good news is that some of these songs appear on her new release, Live in Black & White, which has just surfaced and is well worth your time and money!
Her last studio album, Gold Rush, gets the main focus, with the inclusion of six songs - Aftermath, Burning Down Birmingham, No Heart Left Behind, Lace, I Know Too Much and the title track, all getting an airing. It’s great to hear these songs stripped down to simple acoustic arrangements and you can really appreciate the craftsmanship that has gone into their construction. The inclusion of Lonesome from the first album is a real treat and one of the highlights, among many.
Hopefully on her next visit to our shores she will have a greater media attention on her skilfully structured and keenly observed songs on the human condition and all our failings in life and love.
Review and photograph by Paul McGee