Ban Hatton is an alternative country singer-songwriter, based in Richmond, Virginia. His sound is at once friendly, pleasant, and approachable; a combination of both his vocal style and his instrumentation. The overall effect is music that feels like a warm, welcoming hug.
Hatton cites his influences as including Bob Dylan and Tom Petty, which should straight away give you the idea that he’s big on the story-telling part part of country music. Independent artist Hatton has released two albums so far, ‘Walls’, in 2015, and ‘Over Too Easy’, in July last year.
‘Over Too Easy’, comprising ten songs, has a mature sound, with Hatton’s voice displaying an emotionality and authenticity entirely in keeping with the lyrical content of the songs. It contains a few of the tracks from ‘Walls’, including ‘Backed By The River’, ‘Brothers’, and ‘Wish I Had The Sense’, but they’ve been re-recorded and mixed differently, and fair enough, three years is a long time in music, and it’s likely Hatton’s personal style has also changed a fair deal in that time.
Possibly the three highlights on ‘Over Too Easy’ are ‘Sweet Virginia’, ‘I Can’t See’, and ‘Punch It’. The first of these, ‘Sweet Virginia’, opens up each verse sounding a lot like The Beatles version of ‘Act Naturally’, but this only lasts for a second or two, and is replaced with laptop steel guitar and violins, held together with the familiar 3/4 waltz time signature of traditional country music. I’ve grown up with the Australian country music tradition, so Hatton’s style is very familiar to me, and quite enjoyable. It’s just paced fast enough that you want to get up and dance but are also quite able to feel comfortable sitting in your chair, tapping your foot, or clicking your fingers. ‘Sweet Virginia’ feels like a tale of unrequited love; to start with it’s not certain as to whether Hatton is singing about a girl named Virginia or his home state, but by the time we get to the last verse, we realise it’s an homage to home:
I got a truck and struck out on the road
it sure is quiet when I’m alone
but sweet Virginia guides me home
(and maybe to a girl who’s stolen his heart as well)
We said earlier that Hatton is a storyteller style of songwriter, and the lyrics to ‘Sweet Virginia’ are sheer poetry. Look at the first verse for example:
I can see by the way you stare at me
that heaven is just a place you’ll never see
but I’ve been trudging up a mountain
just to see across the road
it’s times like these oh lord they’re sure nice to know
but now it’s time for me to go home
Likewise, ‘I Can’t See’, which edges into Tom Petty style alt-rock both vocally and instrumentally, is beautifully written, and could just as easily be a poem as a song:
but I can’t see through the sheets that bind my soul
I’ve got no place for me to call my own
It has a faster pace than ‘Sweet Virginia’, and follows on straight from it, which is quite a nice progression, because you go from maybe foot tapping to actually now wanting to get out onto the dance floor. ‘I Can’t See’ really feels as though it would be the perfect song to perform live.
Third of the standout tracks on this album – and to be fair it was difficult to choose just three – ‘Punch It’ is possibly the strongest of them all. The lyrics are marvellously catchy, and the instrumentals are just delightful; we’re called to mind of the sound of the old style country songs, during the prime days of the Grand Ole Opry. As we said earlier, Hatton’s sound is like that of a warm, welcoming hug, and of the tracks on this album, this is the must “huggy” of them all. It’s not outwardly positive but there is nonetheless a positive message to it, one of not letting the opinions of others get in the way of living your life the way you want it. The narrator of the song contemplates making a different life for himself to what is expected for him, and challenges anyone who wants to hitch their wagon with him to maybe think long and hard before doing so:
if I can tell you anything about the man I am
I can’t promise a thing at all
so take a swing and a miss, well you’re cutting your wrists
you might as well pack a U-Haul
Fans of Hatton’s music can catch him live over the next few weeks, as he’s performing a few live shows, mostly in Virginia. See here for tickets and further information.
If you can’t get to any of his shows, you can find Ban Hatton online on his official website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Stream and download his music on Bandcamp (where you can also get ‘Over Too Easy’ on CD and Vinyl), iTunes, SoundCloud, and Spotify.