I don’t care much for albums with an inordinate amount of polish. Too often musicians working in the Americana vein will opt for glossy over authentic, but you don’t get any of that with Molly Hanmer. Her vocal and musical skills are unquestionable, but she also clearly pushes herself to dig as deep into a song as she can and isn’t afraid to put herself on the line. The opener to her Stuck in a Daydream album with the Midnight Tokers, “Take a Walk with Me”, has an unexpectedly rugged edge, but it’s mucho convincing. You can hear Hanmer’s passion boiling over in every line and the interplay between her and the band is fantastic.
That earlier mentioned authenticity comes through most strongly in the album’s third song “Fool’s Run (Different Song)”, but she expands its possibilities hitting a note of heartache any listener will appreciate. The payoff lines for this tune are just dandy and she never overplays them, just stressing the right emotional key to bring listeners deeper into the experience. “Old Number Seven” returns to territory she attacked so successfully with the album opener and she brings an additional amount of kick ass to this verging on rock. She pulls back the reins with the tender track “Love Song”, but dismiss any leanings towards cliché out of your mind – this is first class adult material with a hard won perspective and the musical acumen to back it up.
John Bird’s organ work really sets the track “Come Back” on fire and the near blues shuffle push engages you physically while the lyrics are equally potent. She conjures up a strong Dylan cover with the little known “Outlaw Blues” from his Bringing It All Back Home album and deserves major props for renovating it to her style rather than lapsing into a tired Dylan imitation. The production is a particular strong suit here as well. “Drag You Along” affected me deeply – her unflinching look at life’s hardest questions is accompanied by first class musical backing and she gives herself totally over to the lyric.
“Worker’s Lament” has a lovely retro sound thanks to its accordion, but never sounds too removed from our modern experience. The lyrics have a number of surprising turns, as well, and Hanmer embraces them from the first line, throwing herself unreservedly into even the harmony vocal parts. It’s a great track to precede the clear musical fun of “Dead Happy” and the staccato guitar work counterpoints her melodic strengths very well. We are treated to a final surprise with the last song “Mama’s in the Spirit World Now”, a song that alternates between regret and truth, and has a lean arrangement clearly fitting her emotive talents as a singer. Molly Hanmer ends Stuck in a Daydream on a graceful, challenging note and it makes for one of the more involving listening experiences I’ve enjoyed this year. Let’s hope she collaborates more with The Midnight Tokers in the near future because I’m sure they could produce more works on par or bettering this outstanding full length album.