John Wort Hannam sings a happy song
Being a late bloomer can have its advantages. Perspective and patience have certainly paid off for John Wort Hannam, who launches his third disc, Two-Bit Suit, this weekend. "I taught school for years," says Hannam, "but I always loved the act of singing. I’d been in a choir as a youngster, but left that behind in my adult life. I saw Billy Bragg on TV one day, singing "Which Side Are You On," and a light bulb went off. I started listening to Stan Rogers and Steve Earle and realized that’s what I wanted to do... so I started going to open stages to sing." Not being able to play an instrument was an impediment, so Hannam learned a couple of guitar chords and wrote songs that fit his playing ability. The songs soon had people paying attention. Hannam won the 2004 Calgary Folk Music Festival songwriting competition, the 2005 Dig Your Roots Songwriting Competition, and the 2005 CBC Galaxie "Rising Star Award." Along the way he’s been favourably compared to Gordon Lightfoot and had his first two recordings acclaimed as unqualified successes by writers, broadcasters, and fans. Billed as a "blue collar" writer and singer, Hannam’s moving songs are filled with stories of "everyman," small towns, and farms. These days he’s making the effort to point out that, while his songs may reflect country realities, he’s not exactly living on the back 40. "I live in Ft. McLeod. My songs are drawn from stories I read in the paper and hear on the radio. I try to write whole songs because if I put a fragment down, I’ll never pick up the thread. That’s why driving works for me as a songwriter." The 11 original songs on "Two-Bit Suit" are road-tested. "Most of them are a year or two old. On my first record I was playing bars and put that live show on record; the second disc was laid back, maybe too laid back, and reflected the material I was playing in folk clubs and concerts. This time around I’m trying to find a balance." He’s hit the nail squarely on the head. The mix of ballads and more uptempo songs showcases the soul of Hannams’ songwriting and his strong vocal talent. "I worked with great musicians and producer Steve Dawson in Vancouver and even had [mandolinist] John Reischmann sit in on a couple of tracks. Steve gave me the benefit of his experience but let me make the record sound the way I wanted it to. "Look, this stuff is never going to be on MuchMusic," sums up Hannam, "But I have to say that for the time and energy I’ve invested, I’m happy. I just want to write and sing and hopefully make a living at it."