By Carson Ellis
For the Stettler Independent
Stettler Variety Showcase (SVS) opened its 2023-24 season with a performance by John Wort Hannam.
Taking place at the Community Hall, ticket holders enjoyed a complete evening with dinner before Hannam and his band took to the stage.
The Lethbridge resident shared the story of the first time he ever played in Stettler when he was hired to perform at a house concert. The most unique thing about the home of his hosts, Ed and Beth Lynes, was that while he has played in homes built on hills, he had never played in a home built in a hill. Hannam continued that he was excited to be playing in Stettler, finally. The Showcase Committee had previously booked him on two other occasions, but due to COVID, those dates were cancelled.
Hannam, who came to Canada when he was 8, taught for several years but quit teaching in early 2000 to become a songwriter.
Since that time Hannam, who says you’re not in Southern Alberta “….until you pass the Dairy Queen in Claresholm,” has released 7 albums and received a JUNO nomination in addition to awards and nominations on both sides of the border.
Hannam is the 2023 Canadian Folk Music Awards Solo Artist of the Year and the winner of the Folk Music Awards Contemporary Album of the Year.
Between songs, Hannam shared stories of his life, many of which inspired the songs he performed. This included a song inspired by 24-hour roadside dinners and being thankful for what he had during COVID, after his (then) 8-year-old son pointed some out.
The subjects of his music range from ‘Hurry up Kid,’ about how eager he as a parent was for his son to be born contrasted with how he doesn’t want his son to grow up too fast, to the small-town tradition of Legion Meat draws. After playing ‘Meat Draw’ Hannam then held a meat draw for a package of bacon, drawing a ticket number from a jar and awarding an audience member accordingly.
Hannam also talked about losing his voice, and the self-reflection he found himself going through when both Western and Alternative medicine didn’t seem to help. He said that of the different ways he identifies himself, the singer was one of them and that he realized he had to take care of himself physically and mentally if he wished to continue.
From songs ranging from meat draws to parenting to 24-hour dinners to being a member of the church of the Tall Grass, Hannam’s range of subject matter is extensive. He entertained audiences with his ability to tell stories in song and spoken word.
Tickets to the rest of the SVS season can be purchased at Grate Kitchen Shoppe on Main Street.
Next up is the brass quintet Buzz Brass, taking to the stage of the Stettler Performing Arts Centre on Dec. 3.