Matt Hannah – Dreamland
Dreamland is a ten song album from Minneapolis headquartered singer/songwriter Matt Hannah. This second album from Hannah, following up his 2014 release Let the Lonely Fade, should raise Hannah to a place of preeminence among his contemporaries. The album doesn’t aim to be merely some memorable hodgepodge of different songs but, instead, is threaded together by a loose concept that seems almost novelistic in intent. The production presents all of Hannah’s songs in excellent fidelity and captures significant details that a less professional job would have missed while the album’s running order seems perfectly arranged. Hannah has really went the extra mile here; Dreamland more than reaffirms the talents on display during his debut, but takes a step further towards something with the potential to endure posterity’s judgment.
He opens it up with a strong title track. Hannah’s acoustic guitar work is one of the album’s consistent strengths and the basis of all his songwriting, but the title track is one of its best illustrations. It’s joined at critical junctures by wonderfully atmospheric pedal steel guitar playing that perfectly complements Hannah’s playing. “Broken Hearts & Broken Bones” kicks off with some hard-edged, clipped acoustic guitar before the full band comes in. It never gets too heavy handed, but the song has a nice stomp to it and swings like a mother. “Dandelion” is much more of a solo performance than the preceding songs, but Hannah is a more than capable musician who can pick up a tune single-handedly and carry it to its completion. It’s his best character portrait on the album and the lyrics are full of delicately rendered details that will engage listener’s imaginations. “Banks of the Mississippi” has some electric guitar making low-key contributions near the end, but much of the song is dominated by Hannah’s acoustic guitar.
The guitar means a lot to the song “Set Free”. The lyrical content is quite exceptional and Hannah really makes it go thanks to his energetic, but tempered, delivery, but it’s the instrumental break and resulting guitar solo that really seals the deal for this song. “The Night is My Home” has minimal accompaniment from other instruments except for a very light of touch of keyboards in the background. The center of the performance is Hannah’s voice and guitar playing. It has a tender touch that makes the most of the song’s melody without ever making things too precious. “Different Kind of Light” is a song with intelligent lyrics and a dynamic arrangement gradually scaling upwards in terms of musical intensity. These are the sort of dramatic shifts we usually associate with rock songs; Hannah makes excellent use of these turns to enhance what might have otherwise been a more delicate track. The final blast of blues on Dreamland comes with the steel guitar opening of “Gone”. This is, in some ways, the album’s most commercial track and has a strong musical and lyrical hook to draw listeners in. Dreamland is one of the young year’s best releases and transcends musical labels.
9 out of 10 stars