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HANNAH ALDRIDGE: From Muscle Shoals to the Rocking Queen of Gothic Country

Brought up steeped in the music scene in Muscle Shoals Alabama, Hannah Aldridge gives you reason to expect she’d understand what makes music tick. From Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett through The Doobie Brothers and The Rolling Stones to the Drive-By Truckers and many many more, Fame Studios in Muscle Shoals has seen anyone and everyone in American music.

Hannah’s father Walt is a renowned songwriter and session musician and a major part of the Muscle Shoals music scene, working in recording sessions at Fame Studios and writing hit tunes for the likes of Conway Twitty and Reba McEntire. Much of her childhood was spent hanging around a recording studio with Travis Tritt or The Allman Brothers or anyone else who came to record. But surprisingly this daughter of Muscle Shoals didn’t actually pick up a guitar until she was in her twenties, when a songwriting course in college for academic credit forced Hannah to take both her writing and playing seriously for the first time.


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Razor Wire




That awakened something in her, and a future in music beckoned. A few live shows, and the realization that audiences were happy to listen to her songs and stories took hold. Hanna’s first hesitant steps towards recording her songs, a couple of EPs titled Wanderer and Unplugged And Unravelled, finally led to her debut album Razor Wire.

Razor Wire is a remarkably mature sounding album, by turns reflective and world weary about some aspects of life, yet able to address those issues with a full-throated roar from a voice that feels like it can look right into your soul.

There’s a melancholy, atmospheric edge to much of the material whether in the three chords and the truth lament of ‘Lie Like You Love Me’, or reflecting on her parent’s divorce in ‘Lonesome’.

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‘Parchman’ is about a woman on death row for the murder of her abusive husband, and it showcases both a talent for writing words that resonate, and a voice that can make them really matter and stir the emotions. It’s a song that has struck a chord with audiences all over the world.

Taylor Swift didn’t invent break up songs, and ‘Old Ghost’ and ‘You Ain’t Worth The Fight’ show all the anguish involved in the subject. But they contain a dark, cynical edge that really adds some depth.


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The Queen of Gothic Country



What makes the quality of Razor Wire a little surprising are the circumstances surrounding its recording.

“I didn’t know what I was doing,” she says. “It was a really hard record to get out because I had previously, written and recorded ‘Born To Be Broken’. That recorded down at Muscle Shoals with a bunch of cool people, but we could never release it for legal reasons. So I went in and basically wrote Razor Wire within a matter of maybe a month. I just crammed all of those songs out as fast as I could crank them out!”

As Hannah’s reputation grew on the back of the album release, the press started looking for ways to describe her. When one journalist came up with “The Queen Of Muscle Shoals” that didn’t feel right, so Hannah decided to redirect them to something that felt true to her.

“People just kind of wanted to put me in some kind of box initially and nobody could ever figure out what that box was. And they just started making things up,” she explains. “I think gothic country is a more interesting term to me than saying ‘I do Americana or I do country music.’ People say, what kind of music do you do? And I say gothic country.”

The Queen Of Gothic Country does have a nice ring to it!


“As Dark As I Wanna Be …”


Being unique has its downsides, though. In an era when many small labels specialize in one genre or another, anyone that doesn’t fit neatly into the right marketing box is seen as a problem. Which explains how after working through these issues for a while, Hannah has released her recent output through the exquisitely named Swedish metal label Icons Creating Evil Art.



Metal and Country/Americana may seem like strange bedfellows, but with a label content to give her total creative freedom, Hannah is very happy with the partnership.

“I thought, ‘There has to be some sort of label out there that’s gonna let me be as weird and dark as I wanna be,'” she reflects. “Somehow I found that label. The thing about Icons is that if I say any American or country artist’s name to them, they have no idea who they are. That’s very cool to me, because they’re not trying to make me into something that already exists in their mind. They just let me be as weird as I can possibly wanna be and as dark as I wanna be.”


“I Wanted to Travel and See the World …”


With Razor Wire under her belt to increase Hannah’s profile, the live work really started in earnest, and an attraction to the old troubadour lifestyle developed. Totally at home in front of an audience solo with her acoustic guitar, with another musician, or with a full band, she spends much of her life on the road and has developed a following in parts of Europe.

“I wondered what would happen if I just got on a plane and took my guitar overseas and started playing,” she says. “I guess it was dumb. I was just naive and stupid enough to do it, and so I did it. I wanted to travel and see the world. I thought maybe playing music was a way to do that.”

There’s business sense in this fiercely independent artist too, though

“I looked at it from a business perspective and started to realize how much ass-kissing I was gonna have to do to get the people that I needed on board in the US. And I just wasn’t willing to do it,” she says. “I didn’t wanna have to jump through all those hoops and gatekeepers and stuff.”

Aldridge says it’s turned out about the way she thought it would if she worked hard enough. “You create kind of your own success if you go to the places where it’s not such a struggle. And then in the back end of it, people in the US want me to come play shows.”

Three years and many gigs later, Gold Rush was the follow up to Razor Wire. The sophomore album shows Hannah in confident mode, happy to spread her wings and show that she has many strings on her bow.


Myths, Monsters and a Grammy Winner



In ‘Dark Hearted Woman’, a tale imagining she was turned into a vampire, she explores her love of myths and monsters, while ‘Lace’ is an exquisite, sexy exploration of demon possession with multi-layered lines such as ‘Hold me like a heathen’.

These were co-written with Grammy winning country royalty Ashley McBryde, who also co-wrote the album’s title track, a much more reflective take on disillusionment. And there’s still plenty of melancholy to luxuriate in here in ‘The Irony Of Love’ and ‘Living On Lonely’

2019’s  Live In Black And White was a recording of a London show with a plethora of special guests. It was a great way to sum up the Hannah Aldridge experience up to that point, but then Covid intervened and brought the touring to an enforced halt.

Staring at the walls and trapped in one place with a TV full of people discussing the pandemic ad nauseam, Hannah found it impossible to see any way she could add anything meaningful to that discourse as a songwriter. For that reason, her next album, Dream Of America, contained songs she wrote from other people’s perspectives. For example, the album’s title comes from pondering what was on the minds of people in the waters around the Titanic as it sank and they looked up at the cold skies and realized their dreams were out of reach.


Dream of America



Recorded in a long-distance collaboration with Australian Lachlan Bryan, Dream‘s theatrical bent makes this a very atmospheric album and shows how her songwriting developed and changed over time, the dark edge seeping through the notes in a cinematic way in ‘Dorero’ and ‘The Great Divide’.

‘The Fall’ is a standout moment, a beautifully poignant duet with Ben Glover. An unexpected, dreamy cover of Talking Heads ‘Psycho Killer’ is another, but the overall effect is one of an artist growing and changing and finding a spellbinding kind of creativity.

There’s a follow up to Dream Of America in the works, with a plan to relocate to write a new record, then work in person with the team she made Dream with to record it–this time without a pandemic to stop them from getting in the same room together.


Razor Wire: The Tenth Anniversary Edition


The next item in Hannah’s collaboration with Icons Creating Evil Art is a 10th anniversary edition of Razor Wire, followed by a tour celebrating the decade since a young Hannah Aldridge first got to showcase her songwriting and performance abilities in a full album format.

One of the bonus tracks on the anniversary edition is ‘Yankee Bank’, a song about a Confederate Civil War soldier taking his revenge on the Union. Written by Walt Aldridge, it’s proudly displayed by his daughter on the album reissue.

“Re-releasing Razor Wire has been a really cathartic experience,” she says. “I am ten years older and wiser and that record was written out of complete desperation and rawness, a devastation that I was living in a couple of different ways. That person was in her early twenties and willing to write all that stuff down and have the confidence when really no one else did to say, ‘I’m gonna go play these songs all over the world.’  Every night that I go out on stage and play these songs,  I feel those songs like the day that I wrote them. I feel really proud of the person who wrote that record.”

The ‘Razor Wire’ 10th anniversary tour will take her to Spain, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, the UK and more before returning to the US.


All Photos: Michelle Fredericks

This interview was lightly edited for clarity. 




Author Bio:


Ian Sutherland is a music-mad Scotsman. He has been buying music and going to gigs for more than four decades. Ian has always found a way to be around music, be it promoting, DJing or getting beers in for the band.

Over the last decade, Ian has been reviewing albums and live shows as well as interviewing musicians, primarily for rock and metal websites. But his ever widening tastes see him finding new and talented artists in many genres.



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