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John Wort Hannam releases new CD Love Lives On


Perhaps it’s the growing list of accolades, which these days includes a Juno nod, a Canadian Folk Music Award, a Galaxie Rising Star Award and a Kerrville New Folk title.
Perhaps it’s the lofty comparisons reviewers have made to Tom Russell, W.O. Mitchell and Margaret Laurence.
Whatever it is, John Wort Hannam is making music with a new-found confidence these days, and nowhere is it more evident than on “Man of God,” the signature song on his new Leeroy Stagger-produced album Love Lives On — a track that sees the one-time school teacher on the Kainai Blackfoot reserve tackling the legacy of residential schools.
Wort Hannam’s voice resonates with empathy for the parents who watched their children driven away from them, an experience he said he never could have sung about before becoming a father himself.
The Fort Macleod singer-songwriter’s stirring account earned the endorsement of Blackfoot elders John knew from his teaching days.
It’s but one jewel in a collection of gems that sees Wort Hannam drawing more than ever before on personal experience in his writing, resulting in an album that is part love songs, part road songs, and occasionally, both at the same time.
“Chasing the Song,” written for Wort Hannam’s wife after he forgot their anniversary while on tour, is a brave, humble love song about the struggles of being a road-weary performer in a relationship.
“Labrador” and “Goodnight Nova Scotia” are both love songs to places Wort Hannam adores — in part because they remind him of his Channel Islands birthplace.
And “Roll Roll Roll,” featuring sweet violin from Adrian Dolan of the Bills, is your classic toast to the troubadour’s life.
The stylistic twists and turns of the album are a product of Wort Hannam unselfconsciously following his muse. He seamlessly incorporates everything from bluegrass and old-time to country rock and Americana — all with an overarching contemporary folk feel.
Stagger keeps things fresh with flourishes of originality such as the horns on “Molly and Me” and the Celtic fiddle on “Goodnight Nova Scotia.”
The recording sessions took place over several months — lots of time for the songs to marinade — with countless notable names stopping by to contribute. Among them, Tyson Maiko ex of Gob, John Ellis of Doc Walker, Kurt Ciesla and Brady Valgardson of Corb Lund’s band, and Geoff Hilhorst of the Deep Dark Woods – as well as Yukon bluegrass musician and producer Bob Hamilton and Victoria horn and fiddle virtuoso Daniel Lapp.
Born in Jersey, Channel Islands and raised in southern Alberta, Wort Hannam earned degrees in Native American Studies and Native Education and taught Grade 9 on reserve for five years.
Wort Hannam decided he wanted to pursue a career in music after hearing Loudon Wainwright III in 1997. Since quitting his teaching job in 2002, he’s released five albums and written official songs for the 2011 Alberta Winter Games and for the 2012 100th anniversary of the Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod.
Wort Hannam won the prestigious Kerrville New Folk Award in 2007. He’s been nominated for three Western Canadian Music Awards, a North American Folk Alliance Award, and three Canadian Folk Music Awards — winning in 2010 for Contemporary Album of the Year.
Wort Hannam also earned a 2010 Juno nod for Roots and Traditional Album of the Year — Solo, and he has three times won the Grand Prize in the Calgary Folk Festival Song Competition.
Wort Hannam has performed with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra. Shindig compared him to Tom Russell. And The Record described his music as, “Songs that speak of the Prairies with the eloquence of a Sinclair Ross or a W.O. Mitchell, a Margaret Laurence or a Sharon Butala.”
Wort Hannam will support the release of Love Lives On with a 22-date cross-Canada tour that begins Oct. 2 at the Empress Theatre in Fort Macleod.