Review: Canadian country musician Lynne Hanson plays at Dove Cottage in Debenham

Lynne Hanson in concert

Lynne Hanson in concert - Credit: Archant

Going back to Suffolk is always a pleasure, having spent many years in and around Hadleigh and Ipswich, it’s akin to going home.

So it’s a double pleasure as my reason to be in Suffolk is to see Lynne Hanson, the Canadian country star, perform at the Dove Cottage in Debenham.

The village of Debenham has a mix of thatched cottages, Elmsett pink houses and a landscape set for Constable’s brush.

The venue from outside looks like a cottage, from the inside, it is a cottage.

Venue capacity: approximately fifty, with plastic stackable chairs making up the seating arrangements. No alcohol, but you bring your own supplies if you wish. Gigs end at 10pm, neighbours curfew. Simple.

This the last gig of Lynne’s UK tour. She is here to promote her fourth studio album “River of Sand”, which has received critical acclaim from reviewers each side of the Atlantic.

We are sat in a busy changing room area where she tells me “I’m pleased to be playing here I know the place will be full and folks come here purely for the music so I’ve been told”. As opposed to drink at other venues I think is her coded message.

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The atmosphere is friendly and pleasant, with an expectant buzz around the place in anticipation of what should be a very good evening of country music.

Here she comes...on crutches! She has hobbled around Glasgow, Nottingham, Yorkshire, Buckinghamshire on her trusty crutches with a full length support brace on her left leg. A sports injury resulting in ligaments going south, tendons going north. All those escaping knee parts will be re-united on the surgeon’s table when she returns to her home in Ottawa, Canada.

With a counting sequence of one, two, three, she’s off.

Within the opening verse of the album’s title track, “River of Sand”, it’s apparent the venue has a top quality sound system. Location acoustics allow every word, every chord change to be heard with sublime clarity.

And before each song there is a tale, a story, a sharing. “This one is a murder song, I love murder songs”, she says playfully.

The audience laugh at the death coming their way. On this occasion the audience and performer connection is instantaneous. She is clearly having a good time: “Hell I was going home, but I think I’ll stay” she says as way of thank you to an appreciative crowd.

Hanson has control of the audience and her music.

The story telling sets up each scene before a note is played, so they know whether to get ready for hand clapping, or possible tears. Here come the tears.

“Colour my Summer’s Blue” is about the summer rain bringing back memories of a lost love… “Gonna sit here drinkin’ hoping I can sink into a merciful haze” er anyone relate to that?

I’m sure those souls in the audience struggling with their own personal turmoil would have taken solace in “This Too Shall Pass”, a gentle ballad which confronts possible suicide and the depths of depression.

“Even God don’t want to know my name” is probably as low as a person’s esteem can go.

However from somewhere there is belief. “This too shall pass” – she tells me this is the most challenging song she has written. Listen to the song, you won’t disagree.

The witching hour of 10pm has arrived all too quickly, and so ends the gig...or so we thought. Our compare Dave, whispers to the audience “It’s late, and we shouldn’t, but one more from Lynne?” he asks.

The applause at this unexpected extension is enough to turn heads in Ipswich.

So to close, really close this time, she plays “Good Intentions” a foot stomping, hand clapping tribute to a young woman who murders a trucker, intent on rape by offering her a ride.

That’s country music. If you are in the Suffolk area looking for a casual lift, I guarantee this audience won’t be stopping on their way home!

A final pluck of a D chord, “Dove Cottage thanking you for having me” she hollers. The applause subside and the gig and tour are over.

The final applause is testimony to an artist at the top of her musical game.

“River of Sand” took four years to complete. The personal nature of these eleven songs give a good indicator it’s been a hard journey along the way.

Result...special performance and a special album.

Well done to Dove Cottage, a quality music venue.

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