Jim Hanlon,
From the Heart
(Bog Bard, 2004)

This is proving to be a fantastic year, especially in the realm of contemporary folk music, and although I have already picked a few CDs as my favourite for the year, here I go again with another one.

This album is one that I want to shout about from the rooftops. I want to beat radio station programmers into featuring all 15 tracks and I intend to use every last one of them on my own radio show. In case you have not guessed, I love this album.

Jim Hanlon's voice is fantastic and his rich tones are ideally suited to the songs. The backing musicians too are just right.

The songs, like the title of the album, so obviously came from the heart that you cannot help but fall in love with them.

I have little information on Hanlon other than that he appears to have worked in the Middle East for a decade, away from his native Nova Scotia. This was a blessing in disguise. Absence made the heart grow fonder and made him appreciate all the more that beautiful land of his birth -- and his musical tradition. In fact, the Nova Scotia tourist board should pay him for singing so lovingly -- if at times harshly -- about a land that I would love to visit after hearing this CD over and over again.

The album opens with the title track. His mother and her love for music inspired it. Thank you, Mrs. Hanlon. The song neatly expresses the ethos of the great writer/performer: "No need to pass the hat around, no money takers will be found, at home we sing it from the heart." Yes, I know we all need the cash to live, but if songs are written just to make money, they seldom succeed.

Hanlon brings us back to the days of sail on a wonderful story-song, "Wooden Ships & Iron Men." You can feel the wind in your hair and the salt on your lips as you relive a bygone era of hard work and harder men.

He has an obvious love for the land and his people, but he is not blinkered. "Street of Your Hometown" gives us the reality of modern life. It reminds us of the loss of our small towns, our heritage and our souls, as "what used to be democracy is now dictatorship and rule."

If you saw the movie The Shipping News, you will have a head start on imagining the beautiful, sad scenes in "Harbour Town Waltz." "Small Town Fame" is a lovely song that must bring tears to the eyes of true folk-music fans. It reminds us of the great performers and songs out there who may never feature on the cover of Rolling Stone or the like. They play their music, they love the sounds, they meet the fans, they are happy and make halls full of people happy with their gifts.

Most of the tracks here come from Hanlon's pen, but he does include one song by the great Stan Rogers.

This is one of those albums that once played, will seldom leave the CD player or your mind. The songs are real, the emotion is catching and the lyrics are poetic.

by Nicky Rossiter
17 December 2005