Hannah Aldridge, the daughter of celebrated Muscle Shoals and Nashville producer and songwriter James Walton ‘Walt’ Aldridge, draws on the roots of her musical raising to sterling effect on her debut album Razor Wire, a tight and gritty collection of southern drawled songs she terms ‘Dark Americana’ that draw deeply on her own life.
The latter’s particularly true of the slow waltzing title track, an account of the need for human connection that recalls the night she pawned her wedding ring (she’d done marriage, divorce and rehab by the time she was 26) and then went home with a guy she met in the bar. Indeed, marital disaster seems to be part of the bloodline, the album’s tenderly bittersweet acoustic closer Lonesome a reflection on her parents’ own divorce, veined with the worldly wise wisdom that “the one thing that I’m sure of is lonesome goes both ways”.
She’s an interesting contradiction, at once both vulnerable and ballsy. The former’s in striking evidence on the slow country soul waltzer Lie Like You Love Me with its smouldering need for emotional and physical connection as, joined by Dylan LeBlanc on backing and guitar, she sings “I miss you like morphine straight to my veins” and, a song about holding on to memories, Black And White’s organ backed recollection of her first kiss “in the Church of Christ parking lot praying that we wouldn’t get caught” and the tree where she buried her first dog.
By contrast, the latter’s up front on the swaggering kiss off You Ain’t Worth the Fight and Howlin’ Bones where, abetted by Andrew Sovine’s bluesy, guitar churning, she warns “you’ve done cross the devil now”.
But if these paint a picture of the artist, or at least her musical femme fatale alter-ego, she also steps outside her own skin for one of the album’s most memorable numbers, Parchman, an emotionally complex first person narrative about a death row inmate that soars on lap steel wings.
There’s one cover here too, a ramped up, throaty slow burn, sexually heated, coiled rock version of the Try by fellow Shoals native Jason Isbell on which she’s actually backed by his own band, the 400 Unit. Given the way they work together, Isbell should check the terms of his contractual agreement with them.
Topped off with an acoustic reprise of the title track that lends weight to the Lucinda comparisons she’s received, this marks an impressive entry into what promises to be a career on which to keep a close eye.
Review by: Mike Davies
17 – Harrogate, Blues Cafe Bar
18 – London, The Good Ship, Kilburn
19 – London, The Fiddler’s Elbow, Camden
20 – Liverpool, The Zanzibar Club
21 – Nottingham, The Guitar Bar at Hotel Deux
22 – Southampton, The Talking Heads
24 – Leicester, The Musician
25 – Oxford, Albion Beatnik Bookstore (with Olly Wills (The Epstein) & Ags Connolly)
26 – Matlock Bath, Derbyshire, The Fishpond
27 – Clun, Shropshire, The White Horse Inn
28 – Grayshott, nr. Haslemere, Grayshott Village Hall (with Maz O’Connor)
Released on TroddenBlack Entertainment, Jun 16