by Karla Ash
It’s gotten to the point where incomprehensible lyrics are now the mainstream in pop music. A quick trip to any Top-40 station will quickly unload more gibberish than a truckload of lost high-school notebooks. Clarity is a precious resource in rock & roll these days, and lucky for us there is part of a new generation of musicians such as Blair Hansen (http://www.blairhansen.com) who value the raw power of the written word.
“Find your future in my eyes,” sings Hansen on “Listen.” That unguarded sense of romanticism is too rare in contemporary music, and listening to Hansen humming such well-written verses is a bracing tonic to often tortured eardrums. Hansen uses the traditional singer/songwriter framework – vocals at the front of the mix, acoustic guitars, and a dash of electric riffing and piano for flavor. It’s not on the cutting edge, but that’s not the point. Records such as these are supposed to reflect the heart of the artist and not their appetite for creative experimentation.
The packaging and production on Smile take a slick, major-label approach; however, there’s nothing corporate about the songs themselves. This is real music, a down-to-Earth collection of observations and shared feelings, from the gentle mourning of “Dance My Way” to the social commentary of “Colors” to the melancholy of “Silver Platter.” Hansen handles the varied subject matter with equal emotion and a strong sense of what works melodically.