Canadian Hanson’s 2014 album, River Of Sand, was a riveting exploration of Southern music somewhat akin to the mood and atmosphere of Roseanne Cash’s hymn to the Mississippi on The South and The River. For 7 Deadly Spins Hanson has honed in on a particular theme of Southern music, the murder ballad. Her seven tales here are soaked in sin and blood, true confessions and lack of redemption all feature while the music is dark and alluring.
Shifting from languid, guitar heavy brooding to sparse finger picked and bare boned storytelling Hanson evokes a mood that would fit perfectly into the TV series True Detective. Her characters are caught up in modern morality tales, some are cold and calculating, others victims of circumstance. Black Widow is musical story telling of the highest order, the protagonist described perfectly in the opening lines, “Raven hair, long green dress, red lined lips, rose tattoo above her breast.” Married five times with “husbands who drop like flies” the widow is celebrated with a slinky Southern groove, the band shuffling along like an upbeat Handsome Family as she deals with husband number six. Wonderful stuff.
The album opens with the Tom Waits’ like blues of Gravedigger (complete with hammered anvil and swirling organ) and a mood is immediately conjured. Hanson is deadpan, her vocals dispassionate as befits a killer as she lays out her C.V.
Water’s Edge is as sludge filled as the Mississippi, gutbucket guitar bellowing as a husband is buried on the tide line. Hanson sings “He knocked me down, he got me to my knees. Shot of courage, kitchen knife, two timing man I took his life. He broke my heart so I made him bleed.” Her image, “Tattered dress, bloody hands, dirt covers my wedding band” says it all. My Mama Said is a death row confession, church bells tolling as Hanson inhabits the mind of a cold killer in the shadow of the gallows, a fate foretold by her mother. Cecil Hotel is the starkest song here, simple guitar and a forlorn horn motif highlight the spare existence of a god fearin’ farmer on the run after killing the rapacious landlord, bereft of family and waiting to be caught.
The last two songs up the ante in terms of the music, moving into blues boogie territory with Hanson exclaiming like a sixties Dylan on First One’s Free while Run Johnny Run is a fine swampy Ry Cooder like escapade but both are a bit of a letdown after the magnificence of the previous songs. Overall 7 Deadly Spins posts notice that Ms. Hanson is on a bit of a roll and is definitely not to be messed with.