DAVID HANNERS is one of the few former oilfield roughnecks you’ll meet who has a Pulitzer Prize. His songs are known for their vibrant storytelling, and he brings his characters to life in a way reminiscent of John Prine, Bill Morrissey and Steve Earle.
That storytelling was one of the reasons his first record, Nothingtown, was named a Critic’s Year-end Top Ten selection by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. That record was followed by the 2009 release, The Traveler’s Burden.
The Traveler’s Burden gained a number of good reviews, but few sum up the album as well as music critic and author Jim Walsh, who wrote for MinnPost.com that the record is “like Townes Van Zandt doing Nebraska.”
In 2014, he released There Are No Secrets in This Town, again earning acclaim. The album of 11 songs inspired by an oral history interview of a Depression-era madam in Indiana, “plays out like a musical version of a McMurtry novel,” wrote Terry Paul Roland, a featured contributor to No Depression. Critic Mark Bennett of the Terre Haute Tribune Star called it “authentic, sparse prairie-folk.”
David grew up in Casey, a town of 2,700 in East Central Illinois. It is a farming community and while an outsider may see it as little more than corn and soybean fields, it is an area with a history of literature and music. Drive 20 minutes to the east and you’ll see where James Jones wrote “From Here to Eternity.” Drive 20 minutes south of town and you’ll find the hometown of folk legend Burl Ives. Most of David’s songs take place in his native Midwest, but he also draws on Texas, where he lived for 17 years.
And, yes, David has a Pulitzer Prize (1989, Explanatory Journalism) and he spent most of his life working as a newspaper reporter. He now lives in Kuwait, where his wife, Sharon, teaches.
David is a winner of the Minnesota Folk Festival’s “New Folk” songwriting competition. Other artists have recognized his work; in 2010, famed photographer Wing Young Huie selected David’s “The Ballad of Mohamed Saleh” for the soundtrack of his groundbreaking University Avenue Project. David’s songs have also been featured at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of Laura Lundgren-Smith’s play “Digging Up the Boys,” a work about three trapped coal miners set in the 1930s South.
David has opened for national touring acts such as Tom Paxton, Bill Staines, Ellis Paul, Garnet Rogers and others.