Hannah Wicklund is a young lady from the USA who started playing in a band around the age of 9! She is now 21 or 22 and sounds older due to the quality and depth of her voice along with her excellent guitar work. (Are bands getting younger or am I actually just an old fart? On second thoughts please don’t answer that!)
This self-titled album is the first “official” release that is readily available to buy, the other two being recorded when she was still at school. It would appear from listening to her album, all original self-penned songs, that her tastes are a lot older than she is, even having a hint of classic jazz, especially at times vocally. The 10 songs are quite varied with no two songs sounding the same. Yes, they are rooted in the blues but different aspects of it. The Steppin Stones as a band are a 3-piece, but from what I have read, as the album was recorded over a year ago the band to tour soon in the UK now has a different bassist and drummer.
Opener “Bomb Through The Breeze” is a foot-stomper, with a slow quite funky bluesy riff on the verses but an upbeat chorus along with a 70s Rolling Stones feel and a couple of touches of early Led Zeppelin. Plenty of wah-wah pedal effects on the solo as well. It gets better on each listen as well which is pleasing. “Ghost” the next track up is moodier, a haunting vocal (rather appropriately) but with a sweet chorus. There are also some keyboards in the mix here as well.
“Looking Glass” almost heads into country territory due to its tone and the vocal delivery in places. It builds up into a likeable chorus with her vocals a mix of power and vulnerability. It has a heart full of soul (as someone once sang). The guitar solo is more rock in style adding that extra touch of variety to a very good song. “Mama Said” sounds quite a simple little song, with plenty of space in the verses musically allowing her voice to shine leading into the choruses. There is a late 60s feel to the song with a hint of Fleetwood Mac along with a strong chorus and a juicy little guitar solo near the end.
Continuing with the theme of variation, she and the band go a bit funky for the next song “On The Road”, a track which in parts would have suited a 1970s movie soundtrack. From there it goes more sultry in the form of “Crushin” where the vocals on the verses are sung quieter and in a seductive tone but the choruses are belted out lively. Once again the mix of vocal styles is used to great effect.
“Strawberry Moon” is perhaps my personal favorite track on the album. It does hint a bit mind you to “Life Without You” by Stevie Ray Vaughan. I love everything about it, the melody, the lyrics the full vibe. There is lots of soul in this blues number and she sings with such fragility without losing any of that power that she has. I cannot go past this song without playing it a second time before moving on. Love it.
“Too Close To You” is a rockier number that heads into indie rock territory. Guitar based but poppy. It is an upbeat number and moves along at a pace that matches the speed of the romance or passion in the song lyrics. “Meet You Again” is possibly her best vocal work here. The song goes through a few changes of rhythm and styles and is the heaviest song here allowing her to flex her chords and show the extent of her power.
Last track is an acoustic piece which reminds me of something but I can’t remember what. It is the song which I think would make the most effective single (with the way the charts work these days) as it is folk/pop. If this was given to someone like Pink or Lady GaGa who are well known and everywhere this would be a hit, pure and simple! The song called strangely “Shadowboxes And Porcelain Faces” is about modern-day social media stereotyping. It isn’t real folks. It is what I would call a “great wee song”, gentle acoustic and an emotional vocal that worms its way into your heart. A very good ending to the album.
If this is the quality of material at 21 or 22 then this lady (and her band) has a hell of a future in front of her. For a debut album (officially) this shows great promise whilst actually being a fine album with plenty of variety.
Soon to be on tour in the UK as a part of a 3 band bill (sadly not Scotland hurrumph) catch her if you can!
out now on Strawberry Moon Records.
UK Tour Dates:
October 3 Live Rooms Chester
October 4 Rebellion Manchester
October 5 The Flapper Birmingham
October 6 Waterfront Studio Norwich
October 8 Cluny Newcastle
October 9 Lending Room Leeds
October 10 Exchange Bristol
October 11 O2 Academy Islington