DIG available now. CD available 1/10/2020.
The passion of youth and the power of tradition come together in On My Way, the roots-folk-blues flavored debut EP from singer-songwriter Molly Hanmer. Few millennials spent their high school years listening to Bob Dylan, but there isn’t much about Molly that is average. A guitar virtuoso, she picked up a guitar for the first time at age 7, and reached for a harmonica at 15, inspired by her lifelong musical hero.
Hanmer's passion for a wide variety of artists and styles, combined with her preternatural maturity, give her music a depth and complexity one rarely finds in an artist so young. You may be pulled in first by the upbeat tempo, but you'll stay for the grit.
As one hears the opening strains of the lively fiddle on "On My Way," the title track, one can’t help but succumb to a feeling of joy and aliveness. Listen closely and you'll find it's a joy tempered with angst, and peppered with the fear of taking risks and having regrets. As Hanmer ponders leaving her beloved San Francisco for L.A., she’s excited but also fearful. Is it the right move? It's the awareness of time passing, though, that ultimately lights the fire that gets her moving.
Time is pressing on me always on my back
his hand upon my shoulder, his breath upon my neck And I can't seem to keep up no matter how I try
stuck inside my own shoes as the world it rolls on by
While the Jackie Greene-influenced "On My Way" finds its origins in folk and bluegrass, the haunting “Little Song,” is an alternative folk-rock ballad inspired in part by bands like Green Day, with a theme at once personal but also questioning the nature of love. "City Spring,” the jewel in the crown, is pure Americana, and continues the theme of self-reflection. Like "Little Song," it merges personal and universal themes. “It’s a letter I wrote to myself but also something I wanted to share with others because I think the tendency not to ask for help is so common.” As in most of her work, it’s filled with the nature metaphors Hanmer finds inspiring. In this song she reminds herself that while finding her place in the world is a solitary pursuit, trying to carry the world alone on her shoulders is foolish:
"I'm sorry son,
you can't carry everyone,
no the world isn't yours alone to bear.
And don't think for a moment
you have that right,
the world is something to share."
The haunting “Gunman,” reminiscent of Dylan tunes like “North Country Blues,” was inspired by Hanmer’s reaction to the Sandy Hook school shooting. Sorrowful and dark, featuring Benjamin Brown’s gritty slide guitar, the song reflects somberly on such tragedies. The gunman here is no aberration, but a reflection of society, “his legacy an ode to our [collective] madness .” Never forgetting the horror, the song is punctuated with the jarring refrain, “it’s one, two three, 12 for you, one for me,” referring to the shooter killing others first, then himself.
The EP concludes with the achingly beautiful, “One Last Time,” a tender lullaby featuring Hanmer’s deft finger-picking and mournful, rich vocal. Using stunning imagery she implores her lover to come to bed one last time and to "kiss me soft as morning sun dusts us off, and so delay the misery of future days."
It is with this masterful collection, more powerful on each repeat listening, that Molly Hanmer arrives on the Americana scene, a prolific songwriter and dynamic presence certain to make her mark. It must not be missed.
1. On My Way
2. Little Song
3. City Spring
5. One Last Time