Album review: John Wort Hannam – Acres of Elbow Room

‘Acres of Elbow Room’ is the 7th album from Alberta singer/songwriter John Wort Hannam. It’s an album filled with beautiful songwriting drawn from life lessons, fatherhood, love troubles and bouts of depression. Hannam’s folk/roots music has that simple quality that makes it feel like an old friend is recalling his life with a guitar in his hands.

John Wort Hannam left a teaching job in 2001, and lived off his savings for 10 months while writing his first songs. These would make up his first record, ‘Pocketful of Holes’, that would be released two years later. Along the way, the singer/songwriter picked up a JUNO nomination, a Canadian Folk Music Award for Best Album of the Year, a CBC Galaxie Rising Star Award, a Kerrville Texas New Folk win, and numerous Western Canadian Music Award and Canadian Folk Music Award nominations. Through this journey, he kept refining his songwriting skills, culminating in this collection of songs, his most polished record yet.

Hannam’s music is simple, in the sense that he does exactly what’s right for the songs. The production is clean, and the instruments support his voice well. Stylistically, the album stays pretty consistent, until the last 3 songs start flirting more openly with country; it’s a natural extension that helps the record finish strongly. He’s got a bit of a Tom Cochrane vibe going on at times, especially in the more upbeat songs, but it’d be unfair to deny that he has his own voice.

‘Key of D minor’, a song about Hannam’s battle with depression, is a poignant highlight on an album full of intimate moments. In it, he calls D minor “the lonesomest of keys”; Spinal Tap called it “the saddest of keys. Clearly no one’s having fun when singing in that key, but in Hannam’s hands, it makes for beautiful music.


‘I Believe’ sums up John Wort Hannam pretty well: “All I need is my old D80, and the songs that it brings. / I believe in a Martin guitar. I believe in words on a page. / Revolution is but a song away.” Hannam has transformed hardship and joy alike into beautiful music on this record. Let’s hope the songs keep flowing from his trusted old guitar.Singer/songwriter John Wort Hannam shines with his album ‘Acres of Elbow Room’, a soulful collection of folk/country songs.

John Wort Hannam will tour Ontario and Canada starting October 23rd. He will play Casa del Popolo (4873 St-Laurent) in Montreal on November 1st before wrapping up in Ottawa the next day. Tickets for his Montreal show are on sale here. Students get a sweet deal, and you save a few dollars by buying in advance.

Jean-Frederic Vachon
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