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Lynne Hanson: Icecream in November

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Lynne Hanson – Ice Cream In November

Panda Cave – 22 April 2022

Lynne Hanson‘s ninth studio album ‘Ice Cream In November‘ was recorded with guitarist Blair Michael Hogan, who co-wrote the bulk of the songs. It finds the Canadian songstress pushing her musical boundaries still further beyond the Americana sound that’s characterised most of her career, incorporating synthesisers, guitar pads, and electronic drum tracks.  However, long-standing fans should not have palpitations; the core of her music remains very much part and parcel of what has earned her such a large following.

Indeed, it kicks off with a flurry of surf guitar twang and galloping rockabilly drums on Shadowland, where the narrator declares herself  “a snake oil hustler/With nowhere left to hide/Just a lonely little wrangler/Trying to hitch a ride” and serves up a  pessimistic view of humanity that “We’re all animals/Packed into this cage/Scratching and clawing/And sleeping off the rage” heading for destruction (“Can you feel the ocean rising/It just might pull us in/Well I think we’re gonna need a bigger boat/Cause I can’t swim”).

Things take a swing swerve with the self-deprecating Hip Like Cohen (“I was such a great dancer/when I was three/The glory days of my infant phase/The time before reality/Introduced me to the concept/There was a ceiling to being me”), with its wry reflection on back in the day when she and her friends were “Sipping sidecars while posing/Lining up to be seen/Proud to be postmodern/Without really knowing what that means” while now she’s more chilled and taking life as it comes (“These days I buy vinyl/It makes the songs sound smooth/I sit and listen on my flowered couch/When I’m in the mood/Embracing every moment/Not thinking all the time/A path is just a road I walk/I’m not looking for any signs”).

Bringing the tempo down, accompanied by tinkling piano, the title track is a lovely metaphor for loneliness on another song about seeking not to be noticed (“Beauty queens/That no one remembers/Dancing across the screen/A plastic dream machine/Screaming look at me”), searching to find who you are (“Catching waves/In Northern Nebraska/Or maybe Alaska/With tattoos and clever tees/Wondering silently/Is this really me… I wanna be a mystery/All cliches and misery”) but ending up alone (“Why do they always leave me”).

She knows how to put her own spin on a love song (“I liked being alone till I met you”), resonator guitar back in the frame for 100 Mile Wind which taps into the allure of the live fast die young bad boy (“Mamma said/’That boy’s soul is black/Drop him and run/And don’t you ever look back’/But what’s a girl to do”) as she sketches what could easily be a screenplay to a noir romance (“I was your Bonnie you were my Clyde/Turns out you were just too dark inside/Some days I think it even scared you…You were the end of the road/My doorway to hell/I left a piece behind/In your deep dark well…Now I put words on a page/Cause they don’t talk back/It’s one way street/And I like it like that/Ashes to ashes fade to black”).

An emotionally burned, wearied piano ballad Orion’s Belt, is a familiar end of a relationship number (“My world came crashing down/The moment that I found out/You weren’t coming back around”), but again seen through her particular lens as she draws on astronomy for her imagery where the universe of life is “just a highway for space gamblers/Las Vegas to the Gods/Endless neon lights and double Dippers/Just a place to play the odds” and wondering if ignorance is bliss or you would still roll the dice if you knew how they would ultimately fall (“Would I be better off not knowing/Just how much I’d miss (you)/Would I still open up that door/If I’d have known the final score”).

She gets bluesy for the slow and swampy red dirt Birds Without A Feather that extends both the speck in the cosmos (“Tiny little driftwood torn from the tree/Floating up and down in this great big sea”) and the gambling (“Place a dollar on right/Place a dollar on wrong/Hedge that bet now/Won’t be long”) metaphors with yet more talk of nasty little secrets,  dirty little lies rising waters and living on borrowed time.

Given Texicana desert flavours, Dominoes is another song about love falling apart (“Hearts like dominos/Lined up in a row/They all fall down”) with a cynical view on romance (“Turns out lovers and leavers look the same in the dark”), the description of the unfaithful lover as “A mix of Beale street wild and Fifth avenue class/Kind Of Blue and just a little pretentious” sounding like a voiceover to some Raymond Chandler adaptation.

On In On A Wing, she, or at least the ‘she’ of the songs, remains feisty (“I take my whiskey straight no ice/I like to cross the line/And I never take advice/I’ve got one weird cat/And an army of tattoos”), but at this point (“I’m always making plans/But they never seem to hatch”), it’s almost like desperation sets in (“I’d jump a tall, tall building/Dance like Fred Astaire/I’d race a speeding train/Just to show how much I care/I’d write poems on a page/Make proclamations in the dark”) but it seems “No matter what I do/It always seems to fall apart”. It’s like the Eeyore twin of To Make You Feel My Love.

Things don’t improve, while a musically friskier swagger, One Of Those Days playfully sums up something we’ve all experienced where hell’s on the warpath. Nothing goes right from the moment you burn the toast (“It started with a phone call/Boss said don’t bother coming in/You’ve been replaced by a bot named Sally/It wasn’t even seven am/Next up was a text/Said there’s something you really need to see/It’s a photo of my boyfriend kissing someone else/I think he’s been lying to me”).

Hogan’s baritone guitar returning, the first of two numbers written with MJ Dandeneau, Puzzle Pieces is about how you need to let go “of might have beens/Midnight bargains/And broken friendships” if you want to move on but are unable to rearrange the pieces because “it’s a cruel cruel world/When it don’t turn out like you want it to be”. The second, the vibraphone-tinted Le Bon Moment, is actually sung in French (with an appropriate musical flavour). Still, despite the positive title, it turns out to be yet more heartbreak (“your pure words convinced me/I was so sure/but where are you”).

It ends with This Heart Of Mine, at which point you shouldn’t be expecting the sun to shine through the clouds even if there’s an acceptance of sorts (“Everything has an end/You can always start over/But you can’t always be friends”). However, this time it’s the narrator doing the leaving (“I stepped out for coffee/And a quick Sunday drive/Now I’m eighteen hours in/Well baby I guess I lied”) pre-empting how it’s all going to end (“some things won’t ever change/Like one and one is two/Some things were meant to be/And then there’s me and you”), the lyric winding up in a  saloon where she shows she knows how to play those country classics (“So I drink to remember/That its time I forget”) even if the jukebox hasn’t got anything “Sad enough to make Hank Williams cry”.

Steeped in sorrow, loss, heartache and misery it may be, but Hanson’s knowing way with a tongue-in-cheek lyric and a melody line that hooks you in, it’s also an absolute joy to wallow in; she’s hip like Cohen indeed.

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