L.A.-based Kristy Hanson is an American singer-songwriter who was born on June 16th, 1981 in Cleveland, Ohio. Hanson’s love of music can be traced back to her childhood when she first recorded herself on a Fisher-Price tape recorder. She first performed in school as well as in All-State choirs and would be studying voice by the time she turned 12.
Initially influenced by such artists as Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell, Hanson was soon learning to play guitar and while still a high school student Hanson began playing live in coffeehouses and bookstores. Upon graduating, she attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Here she would continue to work on her music playing at various venues in Ann Arbor.
It would also be here that she would meet her future bass player and husband, Mike Chiaburu. (She would soon form numerous groups with Chiaburu and even record an EP with him.) Despite a busy class schedule and live gigs, she would manage to write, record and release her 2001 13-track debut disc Half the Moon.
A mere two years later (2003) Hanson put out her next recording, She’s Been Waiting. This CD featured Hanson (guitar/vocals), Chiaburu (bass), Todd Waters (drums), Russell Klenetsky (drums, percussion), Jeff Enderton (guitar ear-candy), Karl Shymanovitz (piano) and Justin Keyes and Leslie Hill (boy vocals). Hanson is also backed by The Chick Orchestra which includes: Alisa Horn (cello), Katie Overfield (viola), Jocelyn Frank (Oboe) and Carrie Thorson (flute).
This short, six-track release includes such noteworthy folk-pop tracks as the empathetic title track “She’s Been Waiting” which focuses on a woman who has not had a relationship for quite some time. This is highlighted by Chiaburu’s bass work and foreshadows other exceptional cuts such as “Can’t Go Back” which features a tight arrangement and some worthy vocal work by Hanson. There’s also “Alone on The Playground” which includes exceptional work by the aforementioned The Chick Orchestra and“Take It Back” which might have been a successful single.
Hanson graduated from U of M in 2004 with degrees in English Language and Literature. Her recent experiences solidified her urge to go to California and she would soon relocate to Los Angeles to further pursue her fledgling career in music. In 2006 her work would be included on a compilation disc, The Females On Fire CD 2 which focused on the talents of almost three dozen different woman artists from across the globe.
The next year would witness the release of her 2007 CD Already Gone. This 10 track recording would run under half an hour but would include nothing but her personal brand of folk music. Highlights here include the title track, “Already Gone” (no relation to the Eagles tune), the fan favorite “Peace Of Mind” and would include some memorable work by Chiaburu on upright bass. Why this album would include “Swansong” is unknown since truly Hanson had just begun to flex her musical muscles.
Naturally, Hanson would not forget the importance of playing live. She would continue to perform across the country and even do a 20-show tour in 2008. (To date, her local gigs have included such hot spots as Hotel Café, The Key Club and The Viper Room.)
2010 saw Hanson release yet another album, the twelve-track Into the Quiet. As always, Hanson takes the lead on acoustic guitar and vocals and is expertly backed by Chiaburu on (electric) bass. For this particular set of songs, she also brings in Timothy Young on guitar and keyboards, Aaron Sterling on drums and Peter Adams on keyboards.
While it is true that the material here includes elements from a few different genres– pop-rock, folk, alt-country and folk-rock—it is something to be commended as demonstrating some versatility not criticized as a cause of confusion. In truth, what Hanson is doing is blending her influences to create a mix of alt-country and folk-rock. The lead-in “Second Fiddle” is an upbeat example of Hanson’s desire to write something that people can enjoy.
“Alone Now”, “Do it Again” and “Off the Ground” (not the McCartney tune) quickly follow here. They are all fine examples of Hanson’s ability to draw you in with her vocals and surprisingly sharp guitar work. They demonstrate an everyman (or in this case everywoman) sensibility that proves her ability to write songs that are both personal and yet universal.
“Wrong Way” is another one of the better, upbeat cuts here. Her vocals on this track flow easily and yet the song is still compelling and—just like on the other cuts—the backing musicians avoid overwhelming Hanson but instead compliment and support her.
“Crazy”, “Crawl” and “Too Much” lead one into the other. While one critic felt Hanson’s music here is often “too self-conscious to sound genuine”, the truth is that this simply reveals Hanson’s humanity and her willingness to put herself out there in an attempt to make memorable music. While one might suggest her lyrics were specifically written to fit the alt-country genre, it is more likely that she was simply speaking from the heart when she sat down to write.
“No One” is next. This is perhaps prerequisite slow dance number. Still, while not unexpected the song certainly doesn’t disappoint. Of course a bonus to Hanson including a slower track is that it gives her a more obvious moment to demonstrate her singing talents.
The last block of songs here is “Dig”, “Ohio” and “Into the Quiet”. “Dig” is solid enough but unfortunately precedes “Ohio” which, of course, is one of those excellent “look back on life” songs that all true singer-songwriters must one day tackle. For the honest effort alone, it must be considered one of the better tracks on the disc.
Hanson isn’t afraid to reveal a bit of her soul in her creativity. The album contains some nice harmonic moments as well as some catchy hooks. The title track, “Into the Quiet” is also the closing cut. Initially the placement may be questionable but it’s actually appropriate because once Hanson closes this song she leaves her listeners nowhere else to go but into the quiet.
Hanson continues to play across the country and promotes other indie artists as a member of Indiegrrl and was recently the monthly featured artist for Women of Substance Radio. More recently Hanson just completed co-writing a new tune with Morgan Karr and is presently co-writing songs with Kim DiVine. In fact, Hanson said: “She’s asked me to sing with her again, this time at her Hotel Cafe show on Wednesday, July 20th. The show gets underway at 9:00 pm and I’ll be backing her up on a few of her lovely songs.” Backing DiVine to the contrary, Hanson truly plays “Second Fiddle” to “No One”.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.