Silence/Resource Records CD SRSCD 4722
Medieval Swedish blues through the looking glass
Call me slow, but I listened to this CD three times and read the liner notes
twice before I realized that it was a blues record. Yeah, I know what you're
saying, three Willie Dixon tunes and "Folsom Prison Blues" ought to be a
tip-off, but I guess the tramporgel, mungiga and munspel threw me for a loop.
And sure, comparisons to blues masters like Brave Combo and those "Mexican
Radio" guys, Wall of Voodoo, should have made it obvious, right? What can I
say? It took me awhile, but it finally hit me like a lead sackpipa.
This is blues echoing out of some parallel universe. This record could be what
would happen if you somehow traveled back in time and described the blues to a
primitive Finno-Ugric tribe using only sign language who then decided to put on
a farewell concert for you before you left. Wow. So long, and thanks for all
These guys manage to manipulate everything at once - instrumentation, tone,
intonation, rhythm and arrangements - but it's still the blues. They use
instruments and sounds I can't identify lurking way out at the ragged edge of
western tunings, but it hangs together and rings true. Take "Let's Work
Together" for an interstellar example. Wilbert Harrison's original had a bouncy
rhythm and a simple la-la-la major key melody. Urban Turban sing the same song,
but modalize and twist the melody into something more sinister. Which
hemisphere is Sweden in anyway?
But do they mean it? Flip open the CD case and have a good stare at the Urban
Turban boys while you're listening. Are they barely managing straight faces, or
is that simply what you look like after six months in the dark above the arctic
circle? Hard to tell. They might be toying with us, but I don't think so. If
they are, they did a hell of a job, and they never let it slip. I have to
admit, though, every once in a while, just as I start really relaxing, really
enjoying the record, I get a creepy feeling that the whole thing is some kind
of exquisite Swedish joke. Like lutefisk.
Nevertheless, there is some fantastic playing and arranging to be appreciated
on this record. No flaming, phasers-on-stun guitar solos, but terrific fiddle
parts and plucked instrument work, sublime background vocals (especially on
"Knock on Wood") and everything locking in perfectly. If you listen closely
through headphones, you'll hear layers and layers of instruments on each side
playing almost the same line in almost the same key. Slide in some thick, rich
syrupy vocals an octave lower than you'd expect, and add a spray of tinkling,
sproinging, creaking, rattling, thumping and chattering. Don't forget the
wheezing. All the sounds of the blues at once, done in a Swedish accent.
Be sure to check out the parenthetical tunes listed after five of the ten cuts.
As far as I can tell, they call out little slices of original themes that
Bryngelsson (mostly) managed to work into what would normally be a solo
section. My favorite is the Dan Hicks on helium section at 1:30 in Hendrix's
"Voodoo Child" titled "Bergspolka." The only thing I can't figure out is what
happens at 54 seconds into "Wang Dang Doodle." Where's the "Ravparty"? Could be
something that missed the typographic boat crossing the Atlantic. (They do
credit "Folsom Prison Blues" to one J. Chash, after all.) And who is this J.
Finneran, the guy credited with the version of "Knock On Wood" covered here? It
isn't Eddie Floyd's song, for sure.
If you're expecting white guys reading down a few 12-bars in blackface, forget
it. This is as real as it gets. If you don't concentrate, you can be lulled off
into hurdy-gurdy-ville and then get your neck twisted when they snap you back
with a chorus. These guys may have their tongues planted waist deep in each
other's figurative cheeks, but this stuff is solid. I hear more every time I
listen to it. I say let's get 'em over here and put them on a bill with NRBQ.
They'd be unstoppable. What else do they do like this in Sweden? -- Jason Staczek
Glenn Brooks says... Folks who consider themselves blues fans may
very well hate this
CD, or at least deny its bluesness. But, to me, there is more real blues
feeling here than in the hundreds of shuffle boogie
guitar/guitar/bass/drums/vocals bands making interchangeable CDs that
constitute the pale underbelly of the Great Blues Revival of the 1990's. The
blues used to be flexible enough to include half each of country, folk, big
band, R'n'B, and jazz. Robert Cray, what hath ye wrought?
How to get it
You could try the Silence Records web shop. Good luck.
Peter Bryngelsson, vocals, mandolin, melodica, guitar, keyboard, bass, cumbuz,
vevlira, tramporgel; Pelle Lindström, vocals, munspel; many others on various
Produced by Peter Bryngelsson and Pelle Henricsson. 1994 release. (41:50)
Rollin' and Tumblin'
Knock On Wood
Wang Dang Doodle
Let's Work Together
That's All Right Mama
300 Pounds of Joy
Folsom Prison Blues
Hoochie Coochie Man