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MC Hansen MC Hansen
Album: From Whitehorse to the Crow's Nest
Label: Sentimental
Tracks: 10

As frontman with Danish outfit The Sentimentals, Hansen has released collaborative albums with Ana Egge, Jonathan Byrd and Vanessa Peters and also served as the live backing band for Gurf Morlix. But he also has his own career and this marks the third studio recording (albeit the last one was a triple set) of what he terms Scandicana. Variously recorded in Nashville, Austin, Toronto and Copenhagen, it features the band's drummer, Jacob Chano, on four of the tracks alongside various sesssioners, among them fiddle player John Showman (Toronto and Austin),upright bassist Mike Bub and fiddler Matt Combs (Nashville) and fellow Dane Nikolaj Wolf . Egge, herself of Danish extraction although born in South Dakota and based in Brooklyn (and for whom Hansen wrote "He's A Killer Now"), also figures on two numbers.

A generally reflective affair, the album opens with "Cigarette", a number about a musician trying to write a song for his daughter's wedding, the suggestion being that he's not invited to the wedding. A theme of family continues into the banjo and fiddle accompanied "He Was A Young Father", the story of a man leaving his wife and child to join the Alaskan gold rush only, it would seem, to be killed in an avalanche.

Despite the upbeat sprightly setting of "Sparrow", the lyrics are still in shadow as the sight of a sparrow on his patio sparks the narrator into considering the nature and existence of God and whether having built his home in some godforsaken land his castle is founded on sand, closing ominously on a warning to beware of life's hawks.

Again featuring Chris Coole on banjo, the lazily chugging, part-spoken, Appalachian-textured "With Any Luck" is more optimistic, the singer remembering his grandfather making the most of what life offered him and trying to live up to him.

Midway through comes the album's stand out track, "The Ring", a five minute song about domestic abuse ("the shadow of five fingers round her arm") and its eventual bloody fall out, followed in turn by the bluesy, choppy percussive rhythm of "In My Neighbourhood", a paean to the simple life built, like the chicken coop, with your own hands.

Egge makes her first appearance duetting on the dreamily romantic, cosmic shuffle and metaphorical "Said The River To The Sea" with Hansen on high strung guitar and Chano adding harmonium. From here, things strip back for the tender, and again part-spoken, reverie that, Combs on fiddle, is the folksy coloured, chorus-tumbling "My East Nashville Dream (For Carina)". "White Trash Baby Blues" has even less instrumentation, simply guitar, harmonica and birds singing on a presumably personal recollection of a childhood crush, "the queen of my hometown" and of meeting her again by chance later down the line, the memory of how he was too shy to ask her to dance on the Graduation Day still vivid, poignantly undercut by the closing line "I'm pretty sure she didn't remember my name."

Featuring Egge on harmony and mandolin, the album ends on another autobiographical note (and another image of water as life) with the gentle love song shuffle of "Shallow Water Rolling Hills", another reflection of childhood, home, summers past, his father and, linking to the earlier track, mention of wife Carina and their daughter. It's a gorgeous ending to an understated, sometimes dark, but ultimately affirming album about family, the heart and the roots we set down.

Mike Davies