Ethan Hanna is from Lisburn, Northern Ireland. He’s been around for while, paying his dues as a soloist and in bands, but Welcome To The Batlands is his debut solo album. ‘Perfect’, the first single lifted from it and the second track here, is a gem of a song – superficially simple in structure but telling a story with real depth; a story that you’re allowed to piece together for yourself.
The opening track, ‘Bikes & Cars’ begins with the sound of traffic and takes us back to Ethan’s family – his father used to race motorbikes – and he tells us “I’ve got my father’s music and my mother’s heart” while indulging in so much self-mockery. The first line, “I’ve been singing out of the corner of my mouth for a while now”, is a real zinger. The fact that he cites Darkness At The Edge Of Town as his favourite album tells you some more about where he’s coming from.
Ethan doesn’t sound the way he looks. His voice sounds as though it has been marinated in cigarettes and bad whiskey for a couple of decades although you’d guess from his photograph that he’s around thirty. He carries a Telecaster which he sometimes riffs on but more often plays sparingly, filling in a few notes between vocals. That’s very much the way the album is constructed with just two supporting musicians: Michael Mormecha who plays drums, piano and guitar and joins Sonja Sleator on backing vocals.
Other top tracks include ‘Dream Last Night’ and we are led to presume that it begins at a funeral and feels embedded in the Troubles. ‘Fire’ is a love song with a twist; he’s from the wrong side of the tracks as far as her parents are concerned and you can guess that things won’t turn out too well. I like the sense of confusion that surrounds ‘Shadow City’ and the desperate melancholy of ‘Passenger Seat’ but however you look at it, Welcome To The Batlands is a superb debut album. Even towards the end, ‘Now You’re In New York’ throws up a new surprise. Spend some time with Ethan Hanna’s record and you’ll love it.
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