Hannah Dasher isn’t simply an up-and-coming country singer; she’s also an entertainer. Like country greats Dolly, Reba, and Wynonna, Dasher has cultivated a charming and witty musical persona that looks to country music history. The big hair, the bell-bottomed jumpsuit, the cool swagger – all of this is a careful and canny construct that informs the excellent songs on the short collection, The Half Record.
Raised on a diet of 1990s country music, The Half Record is a joyful, nostalgic tribute to the country music that played on the radio. Though a distinct original, there are affectionate pokes at Reba, Lorrie Morgan, and Pam Tillis. We’re talking crunchy guitars, two-step beats, and sassy vocals. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable affair and points to a fantastic future full-length LP if she chooses to release one.
The album’s witty title, The Half Record, refers to the brevity of this release: five lean songs, each about three minutes. The humor in the title also reflects Dasher’s clever lyrics too. Having a hand in penning four of the five tracks, Dasher imbues the faster songs with a winking, sardonic joie de vivre.
The opening track is a hearty toast to red-state values and vivacious self-confidence. Over a strumming electric guitar, Dasher belts out her strong beliefs as well as her pride and faith. With infectious good humor, she professes to love freedom, prayer, and supporting ‘Made in the USA’. But she also admits to smoking even if she concedes it’s trashy, and joyfully asserts that she “ain’t for everybody / but I don’t try to be”. Country music has a long history of strong, opinionated women declaring their individuality, and “You’re Gonna Love Me” is a fun and smart example of that trope.
The other feisty number on The Half Record, “Left Right” is a cautionary tale in which Dasher scolds a wishy-washy guy who either needs to piss or get off the pot. She warns the guy that he needs to get his “shit together”, or he’ll be “left right now”. Over a strutting electric guitar, she acts as a wise sage, helping the dumdum in the song figure out what he wants; expectedly, the song’s lyrics – and Dasher’s performance – are funny and shrewd.
The raucous songs on The Half Record are fantastic, but Dasher also shows a sensitive side with the EP’s slower numbers. “Shoes” is a lovely, empathetic ballad that is generous in its humanity, as she sings about understanding an estranged lover’s distance. And again, she does something really ingenious with the lyrics, turning the cliché of putting oneself in someone else’s shoes by singing, “If I was in your shoes, baby, I’d come running back to me”, expressing a desire for reconciliation.
On the stirring “Girls Call the Shots”, Dasher sings of age-old dynamics between guys who fall head-over-heels in love with girls. It’s a gentle take on the battle of sexes, and the sexual politics lean into some traditional gender roles. Still, as with the other songs on this set, the clever wordplay is pretty fantastic, the catchy chorus thoughtfully summing up that “Guys buy the drinks, girls call the shots.”
Hannah Dasher is a unique talent, and The Half Record is a too-short vehicle for her estimable gifts. Her sense of humor and grace makes the songs spirited and elegant. And her gregarious and winning persona makes her an appealing and entertaining artist.