Hanna-McEuen gets roots from another group

By PAULETTE FLOWERS Published:

Recipe for a country duo: Take founding members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and have them marry twin sisters. Then put their kids in the recording studio and turn them loose.

That's what you have with new country act Hanna-McEuen. Jaime Hanna is the son of Jeff Hanna and wife Rae, while Jonathan McEuen is the son of John McEuen and Rae's twin sister, Kae. So not only did Jaime and Jonathan grow up around musical fathers, they also always lived near each other and hung out like first cousins do.

At age 2, Jonathan got his family's attention when they heard him singing along to a song on the radio. By age 7, he was performing in his father's annual Rocky Mountain Opry show in Colorado. He even showed early talent as an actor and, while still in elementary school, landed the lead role in a high-school production of "The King and I." By age 12, he was under contract to appear in "The Mickey Mouse Club" (that was during the Britney Spears/Christina Aguilera years), then had the contract canceled because he couldn't tap dance. But he sure could play guitar, and he began appearing frequently with his dad, as well as continuing to play with his cousin Jaime.

Jaime, on the other hand, started out playing drums, but soon switched to guitar as well. He also began writing songs. After moving to Nashville to work with his dad, it was Jaime's songwriting that brought him to the attention of The Mavericks' Raul Malo. The two not only began to write together, but Jaime soon found himself working as harmony, rhythm guitar and percussion guy.

Then came the 2002 Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album "Will the Circle Be Unbroken III," on which Jaime and Jonathan cut "The Lowlands" with their famous dads. "I don't think anyone in the band thought it would be anything more than a special moment," Jaime says. Jonathan adds: "Kind of an 'aww' moment for the dads. I guess they thought it would be cool to get the boys in and see what happened."

What happened was that the video of "The Lowlands" took off and brought the duo to the attention of Music Row. They weren't just "Jeff and John's boys" anymore, but instead a star team in the making.

Through the years, the two had gotten together regularly to record Jaime's songs, and they now realized they already had the better part of an album recorded. Soon they found themselves flooded with offers for a record deal.

That album, "Hanna-McEuen," was released back in the fall, and it's definitely a keeper. The guys had a hand in writing 11 of the 12 songs, which range from the bouncy opener, "Fool Around," to the bittersweet "Read Between the Lies," to the brokenhearted "Something Like a Broken Heart," to the banjo-driven "Wild Eyes of Love."

Jaime Hanna and Jonathan McEuen may have grown up in the shadows of their superstar fathers, but their debut album shows they've got more than what it takes all by themselves.

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