From left

Hannam a hoot in finale

North Island Concert Society closes out season with John Wort Hannam show.

A review by

J.R. Rardon

PORT HARDY—John Wort Hannam could probably make it as a comic if he decided to give up his day job.

Oh, wait — he’s already given up his day job.

And the North Island Concert Society was the beneficiary Saturday night as the teacher-turned-songwriter led his three-piece combo through a compendium of prairie roots at the Civic Centre.

The show, which closed out the concert society’s 16th season, drew a modest audience. But that just added to the intimate approach of Hannam, who seemed as comfortable on stage as he would be strumming on a back porch with friends.

A songwriter from the storytelling mode, Hannam doesn’t limit the stories to the length of the song. Between numbers, he shares what appear to be snippets of stand-up comedy, in a novel form of introduction to each song.

He also possesses a comic’s knack — possibly crafted during his time standing in front of classes of schoolchildren — of interacting with the audience.

When a woman in the crowd said she attended the same university as Hannam, he asked in which years she was there.

“Hold on,” she answered. “I have to count.”

“So I guess you didn’t study math at university,” he shot back without a pause.

But the music was the draw, and Hannam delivered. He sings of love, loss and loneliness, of small towns and big dreams, of smoky clubs and wide-open prairies.

With the aid of Tyson Maiko on double bass and multi-instrumentalist John Ellis on mandolin, dobro and guitar, Hannam covered the full range of sonic possibilities.

From country-rock stomper to blues-tinged shuffle, from hillbilly waltz to spare ballad, it all clicked with the audience on this night.

The show was opened by Coal Harbour’s Erin Junkala, a young woman with the old voice of a gin-joint veteran. Her alternately smoky and gravely vocals are ideally suited for the mix of blues-oriented original and cover songs she shared.

 

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