There are few things better for resetting your mood and decompressing than a drive through rural Texas. But if you live 1,000 miles away and any road trip for you these days means wrangling two kids fighting over one iPad in the back seat, the next best thing might be spinning Wesley Hannah’s new album Brand New Love Potion. It may not have any of the sights, but most certainly captures all the sounds of rural Texas as an unflinchingly traditional country record with songs that take you from dot to dot on the Texas music map, feeding your imagination with the stories, and your soul with its sounds.
Country music at its most elemental roots exists on back porches, at county dance halls, and in local honky tonks, with the same folks you live and work with comprising the entertainment. Even when country music makes it to the arena level, the best of it always captures that intimate and local feeling. As an engineer in the oil and gas industry, Wesley Hanna has to scratch and claw to find the time to write, sing, and perform these days. Perhaps it’s more precious to him because of that, and the passion he has for the music comes through in the 10 songs of this album.
A query to Saving Country Music headquarters from Wesley Hanna presented himself more as a songwriter than anything. But what immediately smacks you right across the face like a wet fish is Hannah’s stellar singing voice, which was tooled by the country music Gods to render good country music in the old school Texas style. The warbles, moans, and twang are all here, while a spirited steel guitar adds just the right accompaniment for songs about soured relationships and Texas road trips. Along with being like a travelogue, this album proves few write and sing a good heartbreak song like Wesley Hanna.
This is one of those albums where some of the songs are so good, you would swear they must be covers. The opening title track sells you on Wesley Hannah within the first 15 seconds. “Back to the Honky Tonks” is an idea that’s been done in a dozen country songs before, but perhaps nobody has done it better than Hannah does here. “Texas Road Trip” and “Concho Pearl” are perfect examples of how to use geography in songwriting to favorable results. And “The Waltz” is just a stellar country song, plain and simple.
Maybe the quality of the songs starts to give out a little bit towards the end of this album. “Gulf Coast Moon” leans a little too Kenny Chesney for what works for Wesley Hanna, and the more Outlaw approach to “Creek Don’t Rise” also doesn’t compliment Hanna’s voice and writing as well as the more traditional-sounding songs. But the album ends on a high note, with the super traditional and true-to-life “Well Digger’s Lament” ripped straight from the pages of Wesley Hannah’s life story.
Originally from the small east Texas town of Magnolia, Wesley Hanna started playing guitar at 17, and like Robert Earl Keen and Lyle Lovett before him, began playing country music while attending Texas A&M University. He formed a band and recorded an album, but come graduation time, it all dissolved. Now he’s just trying to fit making a little country music between his full-time commitments working on oil wells.
Brand New Love Potion is anything but amateur though. Well-written, sung, produced and performed, this local guy now living in Fort Worth deserves national attention for a great country music effort superior to many of the full-time national names packing out arenas.
1 3/4 Guns Up (8/10)