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Paul Hatem Releases New Music

“It was sometime last summer when I was almost seven; mom and dad said they wanted another baby. They saved a little money, they put their minds together; I don’t know what went wrong, but we got Simon.” Talk about a way to start your debut album, Paul Hatem! This opening jam-band rock track, titled “Simon,” beckons listeners into When I Get Old, and if you like what you hear, there’s plenty more of it to be found. Inhabiting a fast and loose writing style to complement the throwback jam-band performances where most songs on When I Get Old dwell, Hatem brings a sense of fluidity to his debut that few can accomplish even when several albums into their career.


“Hot Day in the City” is a sweaty blues track that practically forces you to tape your toe in time; there are some knockout guitar licks and a fun harmonica part that put listeners deep in the blues headspace. “I Think of You” brings in a more orchestral approach to complement Hatem’s guitar, and the lyrics will destroy you as a clarinet melts your heart. “In every shadow on the street, I see that my shadow walks alone; I’ll stay out all night and all night I’ll try not to think about you…” There’s a deep yearning and a sense of organic sadness that gives this ballad its punch.

Hatem doesn’t dwell in the sorrow for too long, though, as “Geese” is a much more upbeat addition — a fairly simple lyrical structure tracks the progress of time and how it affects everything from kids and geese to old folks and the seasons. Title track “When I Get Old” is a tongue-in-cheek jazzy romp about all of the things Hatem wants to do when he gets old; there’s a whimsical clarinet in the ensemble here, too, and with the positivity exuding from the track it makes sense as to why the album was named after this song.

“I Wish Mom Would Come” is an earnest, soft ballad about kids waiting for their mom after swim practice; it’s a simple enough song but the production, especially on the chorus, makes this track another standout on the album. “Hot Summer Nights” is the most nostalgic song on the project as it chronicles the reckless abandon that came with youthful summer nights and childhood homes, and how memories of seeing your peers grow out of adolescence can slowly lose themselves as you age. It’s a touching moment on the album as the song wraps up on a sing-along chorus.

“Knuckleheads” is maybe the most inconsequential song on the album as it gives a punk structure to Hatem’s Americana style, and it is a good break from the sincere stuff as it gives the heavier songs a little more oomph as a result. “Pancakes, Bacon and Eggs” is another fun, modest addition to When I Get Old as it functions as an archive of Hatem’s favorite meal and the places he enjoyed eating it. “About You” is another sincere break-up track that feels like the complementary half of “I Think of You,” though this time around Hatem has ditched the orchestra and woodwinds for steel guitars. “The Dead” ponders life’s great questions from the other side, debating “death after life” and whether or not the dead debate “the meaning of death.”


When I Get Old closes out on the somber track “You Were the Mountains.” The composition does feel earned in its place as a gorgeous album closer — compiled of several vocal harmonies and vocal tracks, they all weave in and out of one another amongst acoustic and steel guitars. The odyssey Paul Hatem takes listeners on is a rare thing to experience in contemporary folk music, but when you’re on the other side reflecting, you can’t feel anything but immense gratitude. Truly, When I Get Old is an exemplary album.

Mindy McCall



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