Thorbjørn Risager - Too Many Roads
I have been told by some big names in the blues that Scandinavia is the place to go for the real thing. The part of the world where the good stuff is played with the right intention and feel by all the local bands, and the music matters more than the style or fame. On the evidence of the new album from Thorbjørn RIsager, Too Many Roads, I’m inclined to believe them.
Now, saying that the blues is played properly in that area implies that it’s all old school and decidedly traditional, rooted and tied to the old ways of doing things, but that really isn’t the case. If it was then we’d all be listening to blues exclusively played on acoustic instruments by itinerant musicians, and really the blues, even in it’s traditional forms, has been subject to the forces of evolution. There has always been a thread that ties together the real stuff, and intangible bond that honours the old without slavishly copying it. That’s what this album has, a bond with the past combined with an uncanny talent for finding just the right amount of modernisation to keep it relevant.
Thorbjørn’s voice is the first of the instrument that strikes you. it’s deep and rich, dripping with emotion and with a delivery that owes more to Tom Waits than BB King it’s employed in a direct and emotive fashion. He’s backed by a band that, as you may expect, combine tightness with a real sense of what the blues is, displaying lots of the lopsided pendulum swing that makes out a great blues rhythm section and some virtuosic performances that match their leaders ability for direct emotional connection. It’s a big sounding band, with horns, keys and guitars all to the fore, but all deftly not treading on each other’s toes and therefore forming a textural landscape that rewards repeated listens.
The modernity comes in the textures, buried in there are touches of synth bass, and a crossing of genres in the guitars that combine the delta and Chicago into something new and unexplored to the best of my knowledge. The upshot is an eerie familiarity, but an utter freshness. It seems right. It’s like you were always expecting this to happen and now it has you’re left confused by the fact it hasn’t before. It’s a natty trick, and no-one ids going to find themselves offended by this, or feeling bored by the derivativeness of the music on off.
This is an easy album to recommend, if people can keep modernising the blues in a way that doesn’t throw away the traditions, or end up with heavy rock getting the wrong label then the future is assured. I just wish more people were as able to do it as well Mr Risager.