Singer/songwriter Kris Hansen and longtime pal Bob Giusti certainly are no stranger to the local music scene, having played out and hosted scores of gigs and all-star, open-mic jam sessions for more than a dozen years as Kris Hansen's Left Hand Band, a tight-knit jazzy/folky-type trio. Their 08 self-titled debut (at CDbaby.com and iTunes) zigged and zagged across acoustic blues and roots-rock, with Hansen's pen celebrating a second chance at life after the Scituate native battled a near-fatal brain aneurysm on the eve of his 24th birthday, as well as Hansen, drummer Giusti, and bassist/engineer George Dussault all becoming dads during the recording process.
Hansen and Giusti's latest effort (with friend Richard Ribb on bass) is titled Kris Hansen's Left Hand Band Presents The Kollective, and Hansen intends to proudly roll with the Kollective moniker until further notice. "The Kollective is not a set unit but a set core with changing performers" states the website (MySpace.com/KrisHansenMusic), so who knows who or what to expect at upcoming gigs at Spogga's the Spot On Thayer (BYOB!) and the Mews Tavern in Wakefield. Mark Cutler, GROW keyboardist Matt Odabashian, and Big Jon Tierney are just a few of the folks who often lend their talents to the Kollective.
"After playing and recording for this past year, I feel like we're walking forward into something different, something more evolved," Hansen said earlier this week.
"Bob and I always found it hard to book the band because of other members' schedules, but now we've taken up the attitude that we can play with whomever we want, or even just me and Bob doing the Martin Sexton or White Stripes thing."
"I am an optimist with a pessimist's devotion to optimism" Hansen's bio states, and how can you blame the guy? Now a father of two who dodged death early on and is now renowned as one of the state's finest songwriters — not too shabby.
"Going on child number two raised my stress level while making my heart a bit bigger," Hansen said. "I guess the contrast makes for better songs."
The 10 tracks on The Kollective range from Beatles- and Dylan-inspired numbers to the heavy crush exactly midway through "Wendy Glass Eye" and nimble fretboard work on "September" and "A Retraction," two of the new cuts both are looking forward to playing out live. In the charming two-minute opener, "A Disclaimer," Hansen lands a tongue-in-cheek jab to his sunny outlook: "I know I sound like I might lose it sometimes but/Keep a little bit of sunshine on your face/I know that I might lose it." The sound and content evolves and morphs, often in the course of one song, including the downright pretty "Porphyria," inspired by the Robert Browning poem "Porphyria's Lover," which Hansen found when he was 15.
"I tried to use the classic theme and add a new edge to the music," Hansen recalls. "I'd never done anything like that."
The duo report they are well into work on another disc slated for a "late fall" release, and the freshly-inspired tandem remain intent on crafting new tunes while performing live through the summer.
"I am always trying to teach myself how to play new things or invent some new chord, and out of that desire I am always writing music, and Bob is always writing lyrics," Hansen told me.
After hearing The Kollective debut, one might be stumped as to accurately describe (or pigeonhole) the overall sound. "Just serve the song, not the genre," Giusti declared. Hansen confidently elaborated.
"I can tell you what we're not — we're not a one-trick pony," he said. "We're like a movie without the obvious visual. If the truth had many faces, we'd be Lon Chaney. People who come to our shows will have a window into our lives and feel welcomed as our company," Hansen said.
As for the much-ballyhooed lack of live venues for local acts, veteran drummer Bob Giusti just doesn't see it.
"We don't have any complaints," he said. "You've got to make your own scene. You have to give people something to leave their couch and home theater set-up for."