Dubbed by some as Canada's Queen of America, singer-songwriter Lynne Hanson has won numerous Canadian awards in the folk category and "Just Words" is her seventh studio album. She makes a concerted effort to be edgier, enlisting producer Jim Bryson. For reference points, it's rather easy to point to Mary Chapin Carpenter and Kim Richey or to Lucinda Williams or Mary Gauthier on the bluesy material. She does touch on lots of bases here, opening with the country-flavored Carpenter-like "True Blue Moon," the single, with Hanson singing about being hopelessly smitten as if under a spell before segueing to the slow burning, guitar-driven "Hearts Fade." Right away, we get a distinctive stylistic shift.
Like many, Hanson sings of relationships, retrospection and lessons learned. A standout track, "Long Way Home" brings in some subtle walking blues, has some haunting imagery and leaves the listener on the edge of every word - "just the echo of my feet/rattling down the street/as I walk across the bones of this skeleton town." "Just Words" references the lasting hurt of the passing, whispered putdown, verbal bullying against a dense backdrop of distorted guitars (Kevin Breit is one of Canada's best).
As Hanson speaks to these issues, sobriety in "Long Way Home" and the power of words in the title track, she remains optimistic too. The Lucinda-like heavy blues march of "Higher Ground" speaks to forgiveness -"what I learned you wanna get to heaven, gotta take the higher ground." "Clean Slate," with its pure as a stream ethereal backdrop, exposes vulnerability and ultimately leads to acceptance. Prince Edward Island singer-songwriter Catherine McLellan harmonizes on both.
"Such a Random Thing" lightens the mood while the bluesy "Lollipops and Roses" is an offhand discourse on mortality. The theme appears in "Every Minute In Between" and even more succinctly in "Hemingway's Songbird" as Hanson sings of deep contemplation -" I spend my days pouring my life onto the pages, tales of lost love and ancient regret." "Would You Still," another blues, concludes the proceedings with a rhetorical question to a former lover as the instruments dance crazily around her lyrics.
Hanson is as good a singer-songwriter as any in a release filled with terrific songs.