Paul Hatem’s breezy new album When I Get Old is the folk album you’ve been waiting for. There’s something innately sunny about When I Get Old that makes it perfect for driving around on a warm summer evening. Hatem has been quietly revitalizing folk for most of his adult life, using his envious songwriting skills to tell stories. For a long time Hatem’s writings were for his own enjoyment, he’d occasionally perform at local venues to a loyal audience and in the Family Folk Chorale in the Boston area. When I Get Old is a refreshing reminder of the power of good writing and how folk music cuts straight to the core. Every song on this album is personal and deeply felt making for a easy listening experience. Hatem’s melodies are simple but captivating often highlighting his song’s themes and his warm inviting voice.
Hatem isn’t afraid to draw from his life experiences when he’s songwriting. Instead, he embraces his memories, thoughts, and feelings with compassion. There is an undeniable through line of honesty in When I Get Old that makes Hatem’s songs feel familiar. He isn’t afraid to honestly look at his life and talk about what he was really going through, which is why Folk has always been one of my favorite genre’s. The more honest, personal, and truthful you can be the better. Hatem often sings about his childhood on When I Get Old but he also sings about his experiences, relationships, and observations. His honesty and sense of humor gives each track a lighthearted aura that makes you start to sway to the beat. What struck me about When I Get Old as an album, is the feeling of nostalgia it emits. It often feels like Hatem is telling you a story about his life or is inviting you along to reminisce with him. He makes the personal feel universal as he reflects on what he’s seen in his youth and what he’s learned since then.
I appreciate the production on When I Get Old for allowing Hatem to lean into his vocals. Each melody supports his voice and his lyrics without taking away from the depth of his sentiments. Hatem’s producers were able to tap into the essence of each track without losing any depth of feeling by having too many instruments get in the way. Hatem’s lyrics are so raw and personal that you need to hear him expressing how he truly felt, that’s what really amplifies his songwriting skills. Tracks like “When I Get Old” and “Knuckleheads” employ melodies and techniques from classic rock and blues making them even more compelling and cinematic. “I Wish Mom Would Come” is my favorite track off of When I Get Old because it encompasses the essence of the album the most and showcases Hatem’s poetic writing.
While most of the tracks on When I Get Old features Hatem and his acoustic guitar, he isn’t afraid to experiment with his sound. His tenor voice is at the forefront of all the songs, which is a refreshing change in a world where so many songs are often weighed down by chaotic melodies or heavy drumbeats. Hatem has the same atmospheric quality as Tim Buckley and Neil Young but he incorporates techniques from rock, country, and blues into his songs, giving each song an identity of its own. When I Get Old consists of 12 tracks that flow into each other effortlessly. There are no musical outliers or subject matters that feel out of place. I found myself feeling like I was watching a movie that Hatem was scoring throughout the album. Hatem’s writing style immerses you into a story, making each song feel like a unique artistic experience.