Kris Hansen's Lefthand Band
Despite living in a world that is seemingly rotating off it's axis and just plain miserable, there are, believe it or not, many reasons to give thanks. You just have to look for them. Kris Hansen, for one, doesn't have to look real far. The local musician, songwriter, and engineer nearly lost his life after being struck by a brain aneurysm in 2001. Leading up to that tragedy, Hansen had been working in the music business for over a dozen years. But the aneurysm figuratively crippled him. In fact, when something like that happens, most folks would have to kiss everything and everybody goodbye. But Hansen defied death; somehow, he's lived to tell about it. Actually, he spends more time singing about it. Since the episode, Hansen has experienced an artistic rebirth, a burst of creativity, as if he's trying to make up for all the writing time he's missed. His debut, Kris Hansen's Left Hand Band, features 18 songs written in the aftermath of the aneurysm. A thing of beauty, filled to the gills with ideas and hooks and melodies and meaning. It's a musical jacquard of styles, from breezy, jazzy, and psyche pop to folk, roots, and classic rock. Sonic touchstones include John Lennon, Paul Westerberg, the Mekons, Levon Helm, Richard Thompson, and Robyn Hitchcock, which should give you some indication of where his heart is at. It's a jubilant celebration of sound, with feelgood vibes and lots of sprightly plucking. The wistful instrumental "Ghosts," the anthemic love song "About Her," and the whimsical Brian Wilson-inspired closer "Laugh and Get Bored" are but a few of the many highlights worth mentioning. Hansen's accompaniment - Bob Giusti on drums (who contributes the Beatlesy "Catastrophe Ragtime"), George Dussault (who weighs in with the quirky "Opus in L minor"), Jon Tierney, and Tara Hansen - provides colorful support. As a result, there is not only a warm emotional undercurrent on Left Hand Band, there's some solid musical chops backing it all up. Pick up a copy. It's a plain ol' blast, not to mention a miracle this baby even got made. ====================================================================================================================== Kris Hansen shows courage, poetry on CD. (BY G.W. MERCURE) I ran into Kris Hansen, without the Left Hand Band, not long ago at Tazza Caffe. A stranger to me, I bummed a cigarette from him and found he looked familiar. Before too long, we established that we had been classmates at School One in the nineties and that he was pretty dedicated to music these days. Right away, taking in the bird's-nest beard, sand dune locks and world-weary gravitas, I knew his music must be good. He looked like he'd just made his way across the Mojave Desert after having stayed in Venice Beach a day too long. He looked like every poet worth his salt should look: liked he'd lived a number of lives. In reality, he has lived at least two. Hansen is a nimble songwriter, a courageous poet and a musician who deftly manipulates all of the tools at his disposal, from Beatles-esque chordal harmonies to arena-rock guitars. As a singer, Hansen is understated and restrained, and possesses the stately elegance of Smiths-era Morrissey. Musically, the Left Hand Band is, at it's heart, a stripped down alt-country version of Depeche Mode or The Alarm, comprised of singer-guitarist Hansen, drummer Bob Giusti, and George Dussault, who plays 'everything else.' Lyrically, their eponymous album is a refracted meditation on mortality; rich with paranoid shifts in context and meaning that would make Paul Celan jealous, wordplay ('Woody Allen Poe!'), and love songs with a bare, crisp simplicity. The duty of a poet is to make for your eyes and ears what can only be seen or heard by the heart; to give to you in it's purest form an experience you have not had, or have had and couldn't explain. From "The Song They All Wanted": 'The calmest way I could explain this to you/ would be to pluck it out of air and then show it to you.' "The Song They All Wanted" is one of several works here that will remain with you, a smartly arranged reflection with a sinister guitar lick peeking around it's shoulder. On 1 and 7, the gravity of the human condition is gaining, the atmosphere heating up. An inversion of Chuck Berry's Thirty Days, here there's nothing at the end of the calendar but a mournful flamenco guitar and a ghostly Doo-Wop refrain: '...And this is my death, dizzy I lay down but up/ I'll frown, I'm around, seven more days and I'll meet god.'Or will he? The album's masterpiece, "Ebola," builds the tension. It's a funereal march behind a cello and a violin, a long, theatrical answer to Bohemian Rhapsody in which the narrator must answer a question, finally and completely: 'You never see and don't, the mask that you have bound/Don't you want to die with your conscience clean/Why don't you believe in anything' I wouldn't share a pup tent with a poet who doesn't know that we are nothing without our myths, that they are our meaning and our measure. But I haven't known too many who have dealt with those myths as directly as has Hansen. From the magnificent "Bastar": 'Granted it was pure but there will never be a cure/And forever was the myth I was looking for.' Kris Hansen's "Left Hand Band" is not a downer. There are serious songs on serious subjects, proclamations of devotion, of faith, of love, of fidelity. And there is the shadow that pushed open the door and found Hansen not ready to go. But there are also whammy bars, slide guitars, barnyard animals, lounge acts, chain saws, hysterical gang vocals, plinking mandolins, country fried guitar licks, banjos, hand claps and a hidden track. This is the joyous music you make to be sure that the next time that door opens, many years on, you won't regret some chance you didn't take, some gas you left in the tank, some cards you left face down on the table. This is the music of a courageous poet.