Hanna McEuen, self-titled CD
Hanna McEuen includes: Jaime Hanna (acoustic, electric, baritone guitars, mandolin, harmonica), and Jonathan McEuen (Acoustic, electric, resonator guitar, mandolin, banjo); and additional musicians include: Greg Morrow (drums), Glenn Worf (bass), Dan Dugmore (pedal steel guitar), Gordon Mote (piano, keyboards, B-3, organ), Kenny Greenberg (electric guitar), Gabe Witcher (fiddle tracks 3, 6, 7, 12), and Phil Salazar (fiddle on track 12)
Talk about history. This duo is first cousins who grew up playing music together in their shared hometown of Evergreen, Colorado. So, what, you say? Well, their mothers are twins (Rae and Kae) who both married founding members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Jeff Hanna and John McEuen. For the past 40 years, Jaime Hanna and Jonathan McEuen's fathers have been performing together.
Jonathan McEuen started performing at age 7 at his father's annual Rocky Mountain Opry show at Red Rocks. He continued performing with his father at bluegrass festivals, playing the lone electric guitar and singing, while fronting his own bands on the side. McEuen was drawn to learning acoustic guitar because of the influences of his years playing electric guitar with his father.
He nearly was chosen for the Britney and Kevin years of Mickey Mouse Club, but was denied because he couldn't tap dance. Hey, you still have your hair, right? And, you play damn well!
Jaime Hanna was originally a drummer. But, the movie Crossroads got him hooked on guitar, which he was obsessed with at age 14. After high school, he moved to Nashville. Dwight Yoakam's songs were a catalyst for Hanna's own burning desire to write songs. He then met Raul Malo, lead singer of The Mavericks, who became a songwriting partner. Eventually The Mavericks hired Hanna as their harmony, rhythm guitar, and percussionist.
In the meantime, Hanna and McEuen would get together as often as possible to play together, which at some points was as infrequent as an annual jam session. Then, in 2001, the elder Hanna and McEuen called upon Jaime and Jonathan to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's release of Will The Circle Be Unbroken with the release of the third album in the series – Circle III. Jaime and Jonathan would record Lowlands for the album. The song took off, and the two were popping up all over late night talk show land, and they formed their own group together. They play well off of each other, and when you hear their music, you'll see what I mean.
There's something special about the younger Hanna and McEuen. While they look like they were plucked right out of the 1950s, their music resonates. Their singing seems to touch a chord in a very strong, positive way. It's strikingly good and solid and pleasant. They are accomplished guitarists, and it's not just talk. The produced it on their own with James Stroud. Excellent work, great musicians used throughout the CD. I'm no country bumpkin or fan, for that matter. But, you drew me in on this one, guys.
Well-written lyrics. They say a lot without spelling it all out for me. I like that. There's great chemistry and balance between the two cousins in their music.
My favorites are Fool Around, End Of Me, and Rock And A Heartache. Here's the lowdown on a select handful:
Food Around, [Jaime Hanna, Alan Miller]
Nothing typical about this country song. They're good. You just need to listen to understand. And, that piano.
Read Between The Lies, [Jaime Hanna, Jonathan McEuen, Alan Miller]
They slow it up a bit here, because she's probably cheating; maybe that's why the girl is so distant and changing the subject. I'm all for giving musicians credit for their contributions, and generally it's underwhelming or overkill on the callouts. Here, they tell you who's playing that harmonica, and even that is special.
End Of Me, [Jaime Hanna, Dennis Britt, Alan Miller]
End of Me is catchy.
Rock And A Heartache, [Jaime Hanna, Dennis Britt, Alan Miller]
Different, catchy. Upbeat.