At times poignant, sometimes humourous, and always entertaining, John Wort Hannam is bringing his award-winning musical talents to the stage in the Redwood Meadows Community Centre Sep. 17 for a performance that promises a cure for the lockdown blues.
Peta Stuart of the Bragg Creek Performing Arts (BCPA) Society said they are excited to have Wort Hannam launch what she calls the local society’s “post-pandemic season.”
“We’re delighted to have him lead the charge,” she said.
The respected southern Alberta musician has released seven full-length recordings. The latest, “Long Haul” came out in 2021.
Wort Hannam’s accolades include a JUNO nomination, a Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Album of the Year, a CBC Galaxie Rising Star Award, a Kerrville Texas New Folk win, and numerous Western Canadian Music Award and Canadian Folk Music Award nominations.
These days, Wort Hannam has a new sound, a new band, and new songs, many of which were written over the last couple of years.
Known for weaving storytelling into his music, Wort Hannam said some of his lyrics may ring especially true and relevant to what many are feeling right now – gratitude for a return to socializing with friends, along with some grief for what was lost in the last two-plus years.
He said some observers made the assumption that the title track of the “Long Haul” was written specifically about the pandemic – but that’s not actually the case.
The song he calls his ‘COVID song’ is “The Other Side of the Curve.”
Besides that particular song, he said his whole stage experience now is coloured by the pandemic, and the lesson is one that may resonate with Joni Mitchell fans.
“A big part of me enjoying performing now is, you know, that whole thing: you don’t really know what you have ‘til it’s gone,” he said.
Wort Hannam came to realize how important performing was to him as an artist and a person over the recent periods of isolation and restriction. Performing not only defines who he is, but is also integral to the writing process.
“It’ the final stage of songwriting,” he said. “It’s the presenting part, where you go out and share the songs. And that was taken away with COVID.”
He went through a long creative drought, where he wondered what the point of writing songs was if there were no concerts to perform them. He needs the interaction with audiences to kickstart the creative process.
“I didn’t have that spark. My pen sort of dried up, but it’s starting to come back again,” he said.
Normally a solo performer, his new touring band adds energy, and is more up-tempo than what his fans are used to.
“I’m coming with a new band. It’s still narratively driven, but it’s a fuller band, so it lends itself to more up-tempo songs, so it’s big and full,” he said.
The addition of a drummer, bass player, keyboard player, and fiddler has amplified the sound, and three-part harmonies also add depth to the music.
“There’s a new attitude, that just doesn’t come across when you’re a solo or duo,” he said.
Often described as a folk-roots artist, Wort Hannam is reluctant to attach a label or niche to his musical style, partially because he said he’s not sure what “folk music” really is. But he admits he was influenced by traditional folk musicians like Woody Guthrie and Stan Rogers.
“But it’s not the music, really, it’s the storytelling,” he said. “My songs are narratively driven.”
Tickets are available online for $35 at bcpa.ca or at Ticketpro at 1-888-655-9090. Youth under 18 years old $25. Maximum 120 seats. Doors open at 7 p.m., performance at 7:30 p.m.
The Redwood Meadows Community Centre is at 1 Manyhorses Drive, in the Township of Redwood Meadows.
For information about John Wort Hannam, go to johnworthannam.com. For more information on the BCPA’s 2022-23 season, visit braggcreekperformingarts.com