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Norm's Reviews





NORM at TRANZAC (ended June 2001)












Who Said What about Norm Hacking's Albums

Norm Hacking Live / Cut Roses / Stubborn Ghost /
Skysongs... A Writer's Collection
One Voice: A Tribute to Norm Hacking, Vol. 1 (various artists)
Orange Cats Make the Very Best Friends (with Kirk Elliott)

updated November 28, 2002

Norm Hacking Live (1977)

... Norm's biggest talent is singing solo in concert. Indeed, by listening to his first album, Norm's warm personality is sharply reflected in his music.

Kiyoshi Funatsu, Coast to Coast Magazine
January 1980 Issue, Fukuoka, Japan


Cut Roses (1980)

Five of the tracks from Cut Roses are on Skysongs... A Writer's Collection (1996, to be reissued soon).

... On Cut Roses, Hacking's music seems to be more rhythmic than on the first album... due to the very strong backup band featuring Ken and Chris Whiteley of The Original Sloth Band, Kirk Elliott and George Meanwell of Short Turn, Ernie Smith and his Roots Revival, and others. Because of the various accompaniments the music is well refined and well played. Still you can detect the asset of eastern U.S. styles of Steve Goodman, John Prine and Jonathon Edwards...

Kiyoshi Funatsu, Coast to Coast Magazine
January 1980 Issue, Fukuoka, Japan


... Norm Hacking understands music. His own acoustic guitar work is smooth yet solid. More important than this, is the tasteful way he augments it with just the right amount of whatever kind of help he needs. Sometimes this amounts to only a pedal steel and a bass; sometimes it can mean cellos and violins or even an entire reggae band (Ernie Smith and The Roots Revival).

...Hacking's songs capture a very real slice of life. They are easy to relate to yet neither simple nor boring. They capture all the love, hate, lust and tenderness involved in just trying to get by. Hacking, like John Steinbeck, understands the depths of very simple situations and the simplicity of very complicated events. The lasting impression is that Norm Hacking is a first class song craftsman.

Richard Christy, The Whig-Standard Magazine
Kingston, Ontario, 1980

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Stubborn Ghost (1988)

Ten (all but two) of the tracks from Stubborn Ghost are on Skysongs... A Writer's Collection (1996; remastered and reissued with lyrics in 2001).

... Lyrics deal with real human issues - love, hard work, loneliness, casual liaisons, drinking, children (the album's dedicated to Hacking's 6-year-old son Ben) and family ups and downs - clearly drawn from his own experiences.

Warm and personal, Hacking's work heard is embellished by a virtual who's who of the local folk and roots music fraternity - Ron Nigrini, Jim Layeux, Tim Harrison, Chris Whiteley, David Whitten, John Sheard, Matt Zimbel and John Arpin, among others.

... A wonderful, wordy and sentimental set of songs that obviously mark Hacking's passage through some sort of mid-life crisis also testify to his resilience and poetic gifts. Title track, an account of a meeting between the grizzled, aging writer and the spirit of his childhood ambitions, is as fine a piece of songwriting as has ever been committed to vinyl.

Greg Quill, The Toronto Star, June 24, 1988


Every tune on this album is a winner and the pacing is superb... gets you hooked right away... "Video Love" is out and out hilarious... a rich baritone that seems to fill up a room... title tune stands out in a crop full of winners. Rich sense of melody with touching lyrics... a superlative effort.

Dave Gillmor, Yukon News


Eloquent and evocative... a depth of insight and humour sets these songs apart as gems. There's a sparkle to this album.

Liz Janik, Music Express


Norm Hacking's Stubborn Ghost shines with the kind of inspired honest light that comes from good songwriting.

Backed by a stellar group of local musicians and sounding uncannily like early Cat Stevens, Hacking's grizzly but melodic vocals and acoustic guitar lead the band through strong anecdotal songs of experience...

There's enough humour on this record to break the prevailing grip of introspection, and while most songs are cradled comfortably in the folds of acoustic strings, electric fretless bass and synthesizer add sparkle. This is a collection of really nice songs, ideal for quieter moments.

Kim Hughes, NOW Magazine, Toronto, July 7, 1988


A rich storytelling voice draws the listener into the web of his sensitive lyrics and compelling folk/country melodies... Stubborn Ghost oozes with quality.

Karen Hepburn, Toronto Sun

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Skysongs... A Writer's Collection
(1996; remastered and reissued in 2001)

This CD contains five tracks from Cut Roses (1980), ten from Stubborn Ghost (1988) and four recorded for this "best of" project; remastered and reissued with lyrics and full credits in 2001.

The music on Skysongs is some of the most prolific songwriting I've heard from an independent folk artist in some time... Ranging from solo acoustic performances to full band productions, this disc will take you on a fantastic journey, as seen through the eyes of the writer, through rich storytelling and excellent guitar playing.... A wonderful find and one that will put a smile on your face. It did to me.

Mike McNeill, The Sunday Times
Owen Sound, Ontario, April 21, 1996


...Skysongs can be highly recommended. Hacking has an engaging singing voice and his lyrics flow effortlessly. Young songwriters should purchase this album as an outstanding example of songwriting craftsmanship. Hacking can turn the most mundane experience into a fine song. Toronto folkies will particularly enjoy the Hacking classic, "Love at the Free Times Cafe." There are some excellent musicians and backup vocalists on the album...

Gene Wilburn, Northern Journey 2
A Guide to Canadian Folk Music on CD
Reference Press, 368 p, 1998


... Skysongs, a 19-track trove of Toronto-based Hacking's best-ever pennings pulled together from various indie releases as a debut CD.

A resident and sometimes host of just about every open stage in the region, Hacking wears his heart on his sleeve and his head in his hands, turning out deft, immaculately concise snapshots of life's winners and losers - wondering occasionally whether one might actually be the other.

And from the plaintive "Stubborn Ghost", the violin-gilded "Thunder and Lightning" to the just plain fun "Once Was Enough", Hacking's take on humankind is inspired by the knowledge that - win, lose or draw - we'll all be the butt of fate's joke in the end...

Mitch Potter, The Toronto Star, April 27, 1996


These songs, this collection, are a tribute to the writer's craft. Each one is a model of economy and precision. The story songs paint perfect images of character and plot; the love songs are heartfelt, sometimes sad, but always hopeful. Hacking sings a tribute to Steve Goodman which captures the essence of that great songwriter...

There are fun songs, reggae songs, even a Christmas song is this rich collection. The music is memorable, the lyrics more so, and the performances are outright wonderful.

David Kidney, (Skysongs)


Toronto singer / songwriter Norm Hacking has been writing, recording and performing beautifully crafted songs for 30 years... Listen to the 19 songs comprising Skysongs and you will hear first-hand Hacking's warm voice, as eloquent lyrics take flight on the wings of ear-pleasing melodies.

Robert Reid, The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo), April 6, 2002, pE7

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One Voice: A Tribute to Norm Hacking, Vol. 1
(Various artists, 2001)

A stellar group of songwriters recorded 18 of Norm Hacking's songs in the first volume of a tribute to his songcraftsmanship, and most performed at the release concert in November 2001. Click here for more info, including the list of songs and artists (linked to their own websites for more information).

... rich and varied collection... There are 18 songs on this CD, all composed by Hacking, but played and sung by a who's who of Canadian folk musicians... celebration of a master songwriter... they are well written, melodic works. They deal with universal themes of love, and loss, and stories of people trapped by both...

If you are a Norm Hacking fan and want to hear his songs done in a different way, then pick this album up. If you've never heard of Norm Hacking and crave some solid folk music, then pick this album up. If you are just a lover of good pickin' and singin' then pick this album up!

David Kidney, (One Voice)


... Despite the changing winds of trend, fashion and taste, Hacking has stayed the course, a fact that has not been lost on other artists devoted to acoustic music. The proof is in the range and diversity of the artists who contribute to ... One Voice, the first of a projected two-volume collection.

The 18-track tribute, which demonstrates how good songs lend themselves to a variety of interpretative approaches, includes contributions from Chris Whiteley, (John) Sheard, (Michael) Smith, (Ron) Nigrini, Rick Fielding, Nancy White, Jory Nash, Marianne Girard, Jim Layeux and Brenda Lewis and Tony Quarrington and others.

One nice thing about the liner notes is that they include comments from the artists explaining why they chose specific songs.

Robert Reid, The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo), April 6, 2002, pE7

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Orange Cats Make the Very Best Friends
Norm Hacking and Kirk Elliott (2002)

[Norm Hacking] is a big guy, with a big beard, and a big heart. People like him. He plays acoustic guitar and writes some of the best songs you're ever likely to hear. This time he has provided us with something you don't see much anymore... a concept album ....The songs are catchy, cute, sometimes thoughtful.... This is homey, friendly music, just right for Norm's warm cozy voice. The production is lively with a rich guitar sound... very nice. This album is not a ground-breaker -- no deep philosophy or virtuosic performances here. But if you're looking for a something to play for the kids that won't drive you up the wall, don't look any further

David Kidney, (Orange Cats)

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updated November 28, 2002