Arts & Culture

Musician Lynne Hanson on Uneven Ground

“You are intensely fragile” — this abrupt assessment from a fan came after a show in Belgium, but Lynne Hanson wasn’t taken aback by the sudden sizing up.

The kind of insta-intimacy that comes from people queuing up in the post-performance line can seem jarring, but for Hanson, it’s a sign that people have connected with her lyrics and with the contrasting gruffness and vulnerability that the Ottawa singer-songwriter puts across while on stage. 

“There are two sides of me,” she says, “that rockin’ side and that introspective side.”

For her forthcoming album, Uneven Ground, expected in April 2017, she’ll weave that duality together with plenty of bluesy, gritty musical textures and her sooty, sensual singing simmering just above.

The key to capturing that vibe depends heavily on having a strong producer. When preparing for the album, Hanson cast about and discovered that Scott Nolan, a great American songwriter from Winnipeg, also works as a producer. She went west for a few weeks to get the tracks down with him.

Over Skype a few days into her sojourn in Winnipeg, she plays me the rough mixes. “There’s something about going somewhere else,” she says as she cues up the tunes. “It gives me the freedom to be a little less conservative and to take more chances than if I had stayed in the same place.”

She plays the bluesiest, rip-roaringest tracks of the bunch, including “Carry Me Home,” a saloon-like tune with grit, swing, dirty grooves, and contrasting plinky piano lines; it’s a hypnotic swirl of light and dark. The song “Gotta Have Rain,” co-written with Lynn Miles, takes the listener to a similar space. As Hanson explains, it’s about how “the highest highs bring the lowest lows.”

Those juxtapositions will give the Crossroads Jazz Series band plenty to work with on Jan. 14, 2017. Hanson is playing the concept show in the NAC Studio as part of a series that sees the NAC’s Roddy Ellias (bass), John Geggie (double bass), Greg Ritchie (drums), and Petr Cancura (saxophone) reinterpreting singer-songwriters’ work with a jazz twist and plenty of onstage improvisation.

Hanson, who was exposed to a lot of jazz music in her formative years, says it’s the most excited she’s been for a concept show. “From when we rehearse to the live show, it’s different every time.”