As John Wort Hannam prepares to play the Pembina River Nights Festival this weekend, he's thankful for being able to take a deep breath between appearances.
It has already been a hectic summer for the Fort Macleod singer-songwriter, who is enjoying a boost in profile thanks to enthusiastic reviews of his third and most recent album, Two Bit Suit.
Produced by Steve Dawson, whose Vancouver studio has become a favoured port of call for many of our best roots artists, Two Bit Suit adds a few more side-road destinations than his previous efforts. In the words of the artist, it "is the record I've been trying to make for two or three years."
A wider range of tones and tempos is a core element of the 11-song set that finds Hannam successfully pulling at heartstrings on offerings like Dover and Infantryman, going for the opposite reaction on the title track, and producing a combination of the two in 10,000 Acres and National Hotel.
Having just performed much of Two Bit Suit at the Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas and the Stan Rogers Festival in Nova Scotia, Hannam figures he gave himself at least one advantage while in the pre-production stages of assembling material for the album.
"I had really road tested these songs so they had already gone through the changes that come with doing that," says the tunesmith, who sort of "stalked" Dawson at a Folk Alliance convention in Montreal a few years ago.
"Steve didn't want to change anything lyrically in the songs when I sent them to him. What he did was build on what was there. It made for a very easy session and I think he put a great spin on the songs."
Hannam was joined in the studio by a superb West Coast cast including pianist Chris Gestrin and mandolinist John Reischman.
He hit a nerve with a large audience last year with the spontaneously penned Infantryman, which tells of Canadian soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan.
"I wrote it on a morning I was appearing on CBC Radio with Shelagh Rogers. The paper was laying outside my hotel room door and it was around the time of Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper's ban on media coverage of the caskets coming off the planes. There was a picture of a ramp ceremony and I thought that if Canadians wanted to collectively mourn, they should be able to.
"I wrote the song and played it that morning on CBC and my e-mail was flooded with letters from soldiers and military families who appreciated it."
Hannam will likely find a spot for the song during his performance with his trio Saturday at the festival.
Hannam, Fred Eaglesmith, Clea Roddick, Come On In My Kitchen and the North Country Ramblers are some of the acts booked for Saturday night at the picturesque site.
Music at the festival kicks off tonight at 7:30 and Saturday at 12:30 p.m.