The Traveler's Burden
Released December 19, 2009
Pulitzer Prize-winning songwriter David Hanners mines a lot of territory for the 12 songs on his new release, The Traveler’s Burden, but at their core, the songs share a common thread: The people in them are survivors. “Some of the people in these songs make the right choices and wind up OK, but some make the right choices and things turn out badly. Others just start out doing the wrong thing. I’ve known all of these people,” David said.
There are a variety of stories on The Traveler’s Burden. There are the tormented protagonists of the title track and “When My Demons and I Come Home.” There’s the haunting murder ballad “The Price Was Too Much to Pay,” which sounds like it could’ve been written a century ago. Yet there is the modern outlaw’s lament of “Westfield Blues,” the story of a out-of-work factory hand running a meth lab on the Illinois prairie. David never strays too far from his rural roots witness the tale of his hometown in “13-Year Cicadas” but he also ventures into urban territory for “The Ballad of Mohamed Saleh,” the true story of a Somali immigrant who fled the anarchy of his homeland only to die from senseless violence in the city streets of his new home in Minnesota. The songs aren’t all gloom-and-doom, though. “The Red-winged Blackbird’s Tale” is an upbeat reminder that true love can be found.
Rich storytelling has always been a hallmark of David’s songs, and The Traveler’s Burden carries on that tradition. It is the kind of writing you might expect from a journalist whose honors include a Pulitizer and first-place in the Minnesota Folk Festival’s “New Folk” songwriting competition. His 2004 album, Nothingtown, was a Critic's Year-end Top Ten selection by the Minneapolis Star Tribune (Nothingtown “simultaneously ruined my life, and changed it all at the same time,” one critic wrote) and reviewers have compared his writing favorably with John Prine, Bill Morrissey and Steve Earle.
The Traveler’s Burden was produced and engineered by Richard Lee, who also plays violin on several of the tracks. Lonnie Knight and Bob Nordquist two great songwriters in their own right lent their talents on guitar and harmonica, respectively. The record also features Jon Olson on bass, Daniel Zamzow on cello, Tod O’Donoghue on fiddlesticks and Nemo on oud. Amy Brockman (Wild Raspberries) lends some great harmonies.