Is Sweden the new Appalachia - more deep dark Americana from the land of the midnight sun? If you take a few male performers who have been at the vanguard of the Americana movement, Will Oldham, Richard Buckner, Sam Beam and David Pajo, merge them together in Sweden, and this is pretty much what you’d get. Like Nicolai Dunger, Kjellvander has completely assimilated his influences and is able to make music that is to some extent the equal of them. ‘Homewood Rolling Soldier’ is Pajo like, albeit a rockier version, but the phrasing is similar and the celebration of traditional forms with reverence but also playfulness is there too, not forgetting some excellent guitar work. Here and there are touches that show what a good student he is; ‘Allelujah’ uses the barest guitar and bass with the addition of the saw to provide what at first hearing is like an operatic chorus wailing away in the background akin to a wounded Viking maiden calling to her warrior mate. The heavy vocal inertia and the faint baritone tremor you associate with Buckner characterise ‘Broken Wheels,’ on which he lays down the same kind of asphalt for his voice to travel on, always thick with gravel, always undulating with emotion. The songs tell stories and mostly eschew the verse/chorus/verse format in favour of blank verse, the poetry coming from the vocals themselves and the imagery rather than by the structure: ‘Oh Night’ with its arcane phrasing recalls Oldham - ‘bedew your tongue’ or ‘Gone is mourning, gone is whoring out the door’ could be the Bonnie Prince himself. However, the rich stew of strings mark this as something altogether different. The inventive use of unusual instrumentation often pays off the spinet on ‘Deliverance’, horns on ‘Polish Daughter’ or pump organ on ‘At the Rapids’ - all are well placed and sympathetically used, the latter breathing life to the chilly song. Excellent throughout and rising to the challenges he sets himself, file alongside Dunger and the other new Scandicana artists.
David Cowling | URL