Album Reviews

Ha Ha Tonka

Artist:     Ha Ha Tonka

Album:     Heart-Shaped Mountain

Label:     Bloodshot Records

Release Date:     03/10/2017

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Released on Bloodshot Records, Heart-Shaped Mountain embodies a vivacious upbeat folk drive tied directly to Ha Ha Tonka’s rugged Ozark roots. Blending Southern blues rock with enthralling folk harmonies, Ha Ha Tonka creates an album that is both gritty and pretty.

“Race to the Bottom” starts off the disc with a palpable energy. Speedy synchronizing electric guitars and an accelerating sonic heartbeat scuttle by. “You’re going down, down, down, down, down,” the vocals taunt, until an instrumental collision takes over in a display of triumph at the end. Next track “Everything” is a nostalgia-laced heartstring-tugger. Following beautifully descriptive memories is the catchy chorus with harmonizing vocals, sweetly climbing guitar, and accelerating drum kicks. “Everything that’s happened in your life, I hope it was everything you thought it would be, everything you thought it would be. A picture of the past and the future that you see, Is it everything that you thought it would be?” You can just imagine the vintage photograph slideshow in the background.

“All With You” traverses from nostalgia to a hope for the future. This joyous love ballad is strewn with layers of harmonies, guitar hooks, and percussive melodies. The instruments mold into a beautiful folk symphony, highlighted by a Family and Friends-esque vocal conglomeration. “Tonight I’m telling secrets you already knew. I know I’m gonna show off, that’s just what I do. And I just might, I just might, be able to prove I wanna see it all, all with you,” the first verse leads into a powerful, group chorus.

The inspiration for the title of the disc comes from fourth track “Going That Way,” which includes some good ‘ol bluegrass rhythms, organ lines, and stomp-worthy bass. Just wait for the instrumental solo. “I got a chance to make amends up on a Heart-Shaped Mountain,” leads into an escalating call-and-response that will have you dancing in no time.

The groovy intro to “Land Beyond” is another noteworthy moment, dotted with subtle moving bass, vibrant keys, and wailing guitar reverb. Another standout track is “The Party,” which showcases the true lyrical prowess of Ha Ha Tonka. What seems to be a universal notion- “Why do we always seem to be the last ones here at the party?”- is broken down into very real and raw personal life moments that leave you with a gut-wrenching pang.

 

You know you broke every law in Arkansas when you move into the next track, before you realize livin’, it ain’t easy. Heart-Shaped Mountain then wraps up with the deep bass and honky-tonk piano of a moonlit mountain ballad named after a famous Colorado peak. “Telluride” leaves us off with the truest taste of the mountain music roots of Ha Ha Tonka.

—Kalyn Oyer

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