Review: Nick Hans ‘The Magnolia Sessions’

‘A song could have a billion downloads on Spotify or it could live and die on a banjo on someone’s porch. It’s irrelevant. What’s relevant is how it makes us feel.’ I had a screen shot of these words on my phone, but I can’t locate the author. Sorry about that, Chief. Regardless, it seems to me that The Magnolia Sessions mastermind Dan Emery is part of a long line of music lovers with an urge to document and disseminate that hypothetical song, so that it outlives the porch. You know the ones; they range all the way from revered figures like the Lomax family, to the small army of bandcamp labels toiling thanklessly to reissue their favourite obscurities.

Nick Hans 'The Magnolia Sessions'

None of this is to imply that any of the ever-growing list of The Magnolia Sessions artists would have literally disappeared without a trace. Of course not; they have their discographies and fans, even if some of them might have to work day jobs. But to me, here on the other side of the world, they would have effectively ‘died on the porch’.

So once again I get this magical experience – gifted independent artists and their music, spontaneous and unadorned, essentially living and breathing on my front porch. Feels like I’m part of something really profound, but the only part I can play is to put down a few words about how damn good this stuff is. Speaking of which, I haven’t actually said anything about this album. The reason is that, quite frankly, I’m running out of clever ways to say: ‘This is wonderful music. You should go buy it.’ It is. You should. Anyway…

The Magnolia Sessions number five is by Nick Hans, previously of New Orleans folk outfit The Stay All Night Rounders. He’s now New Mexico-based, and, at least on this recording, a soloist, singing and playing mostly finger-picked guitar. Both voice and guitar are clear and mellow, deftly covering a variety of moods.

This is wonderful music. You should go buy it…

If you checked out The Sleeping Shaman premiere of I Ride Junk, then you’ve heard the most musically tense and dark tune on the album. Before you reach that one though, you’ll hear the elegantly fingerpicked and darkly evocative Rise And Fall, and the insistent chug and churn of Highballin’ Everywhere I Go, a hymn to drinking and carousing. There’s the melancholy waltz of Days Of Old, and the plaintive and sorrowful Pineywood Blues.

And so goes the rest of this gently poignant album: often sad, but never desolate. The quiet gloom of songs like Sister St & Burgundy and Crooked Line are backed up by a stirring a capella in I Don’t Believe, but offset by tunes that are distinctly more sunny, musically if not necessarily lyrically. When I listen to Days So Lonesome and Mexico Blues I can practically feel a cool country breeze, and it seems fitting that the album closes with a tune called Rollin’ Back Home. However the session played out in reality, it’s easy to picture Nick Hans singing ‘You best be believin’ – I’m rollin’ back home’, hitting the final chords, and striding off into the night.

This is wonderful music. You should go buy it.

Label: Anti-Corporate Music
Band Links: Twitter | Instagram

Scribed by: Rob Bryant