Hannah Wicklund & The Steppin Stones

2019

The difficulties faced by new artists trying to make their names must be onerous, but are hardly helped by promotional material, which leaves them with an impossible task. The press release for this album, which seems to have been released in the USA at the start of 2018, states that one track (‘Looking Glass’) “resurrects specters (sic) of Hendrix and Joplin”; really?! I mean, come on, give the girl half a chance!

All I knew in advance of this CD’s arrival was that Hannah had recently played on Joe Bonamassa’s Blues Cruise (which suggested that I might expect some Blues or Blues/Rock) and that she is about to tour as part of Planet Rock’s Roadstars package with Piston and Gorilla Riot (which suggested something heavier). In practice, to these ears, there’s a whole lot more Rock than Blues and some of it is fairly heavy.

The band sounds like a classic power trio line-up of guitar (Hannah), bass and drums, but her bandmates get no mention in the press release; online searching, including in the artist’s own website, also failed to identify them. The leader herself has been playing since the age of eight, gigging since she was thirteen, and has now reached the ripe old age of twenty-two. I think it’s entirely understandable if she’s still trying to find her own voice and comparisons with the likes of Joplin hardly do her any favours.

The music itself is pretty full-on from the outset; ‘Bomb Through The Breeze’, which was the album’s first single, is about dealing with someone who is too loud by being louder still! ‘Ghost’ is about “the fury of loneliness”, while ‘Looking Glass’, as previously mentioned, signally fails to evoke either Jimi or Janis.

‘Mama Said’ calms things a bit and reminded me a little of Waddy Wachtel’s guitar work with Stevie Nicks, while ‘On The Road’ perhaps has a hint of Sheryl Crow about the vocal. ‘Crushin’ then ramps up the volume again and ‘Strawberry Moon’ is described as having “power ballad intensity”; that feeling continues through ‘Too Close To You’ and ‘Meet You Again’.

The acoustic closer ‘Shadow Boxes And Porcelain Faces’, which is the latest single apparently, was, for me, the album’s best track; the volume elsewhere is rather relentless and I wonder whether Shadow Boxes might have appeared earlier in the track listing to break things up a little.

Those who might want to judge for themselves how much of the recent PR hype is justified, can catch Hannah in London when the Roadstars package rolls into Islington Academy on Friday 11th October.

Bomb Through The Breeze; Ghost; Looking Glass; Mama Said; On The Road; Crushin; Strawberry Moon; Too Close To You; Meet You Again; Shadow Boxes And Porcelain Faces.

Gary Smith

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