Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Norway or the Highway

Tom Russell's The Man from God Knows Where is a must have for all and it features a couple of Norwegian singers, Sondre Bratland and Kari Bremnes. Thanks to the miracle of eMusic, I recently started exploring their original Norwegian catalogues. I no speakee the Norskee and the lyrics are usually the main focus for me but I find I like their voices, delivery and the music so much I can’t stop listening.

Norwegian folk is not a million miles removed from the rhythms of, say, Celtic (memo: look that up) so it’s familiar enough to be immediately accessible and of course they just love their American country. Every roots/blues/country/folk mailing list I’ve ever been on has a high percentage of Scandinavians who have an encyclopedic knowledge of every B side and backing band line up change, as well as the most awesome collection of bootlegs and rarities. Want to find that only known copy of a 1983 college radio Steve Forbert interview? Ask a Swede.

Kirkelig Kulturverksted (translates as "Christian Arts Workshop" apparently,) the label The Man From ... is on, turned up on eMusic recently which allowed me to go to town. First I checked out Bratland and Bremnes since those were the names I knew. And then a whole heap of other albums were added including the " Norsk" series. Norwegian tributes to Hank Williams, Kris Kristofferson, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.

Hank Williams Norsk
(at eMusic. at KKV. ) features Sondre Bratland, Vibeke Saugestad, Jonas Fjeld and Gunn Heidi Larsen and is currently my favourite, although there is much goodness on the others. On Hank, they stick pretty close to traditional sounds -- and when the lyrics are in a foreign language, you can really hear the simple beauty in familiar melodies. Sondre Bratland's "Eg Er Einsam Med Min Gråt" (I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry) in particular lingers. I don't know what "Styla Lada" means but its definitely the tune of "Jambalaya" and Gunn Heidi Larsen's icy crisp voice could cut glass. The spoken word track "Folk Med Knuste Blikk" (Men with Broken Hearts, I believe) loses a bit through the language barrier but, hey, that's my fault not theirs.

It's legally digitally downloadable from the above sources, although through the KKV its DRM'd and locked to Windows Media (which leaves out me on a Mac). If you object to downloading (FXH!), good luck finding a hard copy.

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