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Roots troubadors at Arden Saturday

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Apr 02, 2014 06:00 am

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  • GUTHRIE STYLE – John Wort Hannam's music blends the conscientiousness of Arlo Guthrie with the modern day qualities of the more genteel sounding Burl Ives.
    GUTHRIE STYLE – John Wort Hannam's music blends the conscientiousness of Arlo Guthrie with the modern day qualities of the more genteel sounding Burl Ives.
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  • SCOTTISH-IRISH – The Edmonton-based Juno nominated Maria Dunn weaves her Scottish-Irish heritage into the country-bluegrass-folk melodies so distinctive to the prairies.
    SCOTTISH-IRISH – The Edmonton-based Juno nominated Maria Dunn weaves her Scottish-Irish heritage into the country-bluegrass-folk melodies so distinctive to the prairies.

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Maria Dunn and John Wort Hannam
Saturday, April 5 at 7:30 p.m.
Arden Theatre
5 St. Anne Street
Tickets: $28. Call 780-459-1542 or purchase online at ticketmaster.ca

Two of Alberta’s busiest roots troubadours are slinging their guitars and heading to the Arden Theatre this coming Saturday.

John Wort Hannam and Maria Dunn, two incredible Alberta storytellers, have developed a vigorous following with their songs relating to the dignity of humankind, the duplicity of man and the compassionate longing for a home.

The Edmonton-based Juno nominated Dunn weaves her Scottish-Irish heritage into the country-bluegrass-folk melodies so distinctive to the prairies.

Compared to the great Woody Guthrie for her instinctive social awareness, she also brings a Joan Baez inner poise and personal peace to her songs.

Her fifth album, Piece by Piece, was inspired by Edmonton’s historical GWG factory where immigrant women from every stripe worked long hours sewing garments.

“I’m very much drawn to women’s stories. The stories of women sewing at GWG were not the kind of stories that made headlines or were glamorous. Yet they were the story of everyone – parents who loved their children and wanted to make a better life for them, and developed a sense of community with other women,” Dunn said.

A social activist and true preserver of the folk music legacy, Dunn has kept a close eye on Alberta’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee. And she believes music brings people together and heals.

“They’re (songs) important in building understanding and compassion for each other. And if we can connect to stories, we can gain insight and feel empathy and that’s the way we need to go. Through truth and reconciliation, we need to build more compassion.”

Dunn’s next project is a salute to Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani peace activist shot in the head by the Taliban for advocating education rights for girls.

In the meantime, Dunn will play a 50-minute set at the Arden backed by Jeremiah McDade (whistles, sax and guitar), his sister Shannon Johnson (violin) and Keith Rempel (upright bass, harmonica).

For a performer who is uncomfortable with interviews, John Wort Hannam was delightfully loquacious and genial about Dunn.

They are friends and have performed at Edmonton folk clubs together several times and were on a double bill together at the Kennedy Centre.

“We’re both politically in the same spectrum and we both have a passion for stories about people that are forgotten,” Wort Hannam noted.

The Fort Macleod resident’s music blends the conscientiousness of Arlo Guthrie with the modern day qualities of the more genteel-sounding Burl Ives.

A teacher turned singer-songwriter, Wort Hannam released his fifth independent album in 2012. For Brambles and Thorns, he partnered with Lethbridge producer-roots rocker Leroy Stagger to create a “live off the floor” album.

Whether it was the fact that Brambles was recorded in Stagger’s basement studio or that it was his fifth recording, Wort Hannam said, “I finally get it. I understand the process of recording.”

Wort Hannam’s songs are traditionally based around stripped down narratives, moments in a character’s life that are forever locked in time.

“This album is an experiment sonically with different sounds and tempos. It has drums and electric bass. It’s meatier. It’s a bigger, fuller sound. I wanted to make a record that is John but is still within the envelope pushing the boundaries.”

Even the song titles lend a blue-collar vibe – names such as Damn Tattoo, Dickson’s Slough and Ain’t Lonesome Enough.

Come Saturday, Wort Hannam opens the concert with the support team of Tyson Maiko (upright bass) and John Ellis (piano, guitar, dobro, mandolin).


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