Hannah Shira Naiman – The Wheels Won’t Go
Some singers just sing but there are some vocalists that take their music to another level by adding personality to the composition. Hannah Shira Naiman (banjo, gourd banjo, hambone, fiddle, vocals) does this on her inspired delivery on the title cut “The Wheels Won’t Go,” with her percussive additions & vocal spray of notes with bright banjo instrumentation. She splashes her notes & illuminates the melody. The lyrics are penetrating in their simplicity & the string tone of Hannah’s voice. A momentary escape into a melodic world.
The Wheels Won’t Go (Drops Oct 7–Independent) is Hannah’s 3rd full solo LP. This was produced by Ken Whiteley (electric guitar/lap steel/bass harmonica). Much of it’s based on traditional-folk arrangements & bluegrass with a modernized vocal texture. It’s filled with well-propelled energy, a veritable musical expose.
The suppleness of Ms. Naiman’s tone is ideal for songs with this type of earthiness. But she also encompasses the adrenaline rush of show tunes & rollicking children’s songs. She has an Emmylou Harris traditional basis, a playful Broadway performer’s charm & Joni Mitchell-type children’s foundation (“Little Black Train”). She polishes it all & makes it interesting with old-fashioned natural sound effects that keep the 11-cuts all established & picturesque.
The Canadian-born Hannah is worldly in her musical inception of square dance calling & all the influential ambitious Americana artistry & corn-pone that makes this genre sparkling & fun. Hannah knows how to balance the pace of her collection & sings her ballads with poignancy & honest emotion derived equally from Appalachia as well as the hills of Scotland & Ireland.
Musicians – Abigail Lapell (harmony vocals), Arnie Naiman (acoustic guitar), Brian Kobayakawa (bass), Don Kerr & Gary Craig (drums), Nathan Smith (fiddle/voice), Olivia Esther (French horn) & William Carn (trombone/horn arrangements).
At no time does Ms. Naiman’s music sound novelty-based or spun off from folk music silliness. Hannah has a distinguished original showcase with her repertoire. It seems there are a few young musicians & vocalists who manage to capture a time long since passed & they don’t just sing it, play it, or perform it. They preserve it. Hannah does this with ease & maintains her entertaining value as she presents a piece of musical history through her musical artistry.
Some songs sound happy but do indeed deal with heavy subjects — with post-partum depression (“Caroline Collins”). Her diversity & choice of song topics comes impressively attired.
Highlights – “The Wheels Won’t Go,” “The Grouse,” “Rosieta Gal,” the Carter Family’s “Little Black Train,” “Mary O’Matansie,” “Vinegar Pie” (produced remotely by Don Kerr), “Hartman’s Delight” (an instrumental).
Image courtesy of Ramo & Hannah’s website. CD @ https://hannahshiranaiman.com/