Here’s an unexpected treat. Guitarist Aadal and his band mostly studied at the University of Agder in Southern Norway but their hearts seem to lie much further West. The album is named after the home of Fender guitars, and Aadal restricts his instruments to an old Strat and a Telecaster.
The rest of the band is André Kassen on tenor saxophone, Ole-Bjørn Talstad on piano, pump organ and synth, Anders Hofstad Sørås on pedal steel and lap steel, Audun Ramo on acoustic bass and Gunnar Sæter on drums.
The Border opens the album with a dark-hued but strongly melodic slice of Americana which has a most impressive finale of slowly building drum thunder beneath cathartic saxophone; the title track continues and broadens the American road movie soundtrack feel, saxophone, piano and guitar providing the decoration above a buoyant cushion of steel guitar, bass and drums.
The two-part Signs adds a minimalist touch and a dramatic scale which veers towards the epic end of anthemic before pulling back to stately, sad piano with subtle sax overtones. Purgatory sounds a little like Sting’s Fields Of Gold but we won’t hold that against it. Besides, it quickly morphs into a hymn-like saxophone tune before returning to the first theme with renewed stately vigour.
Aadal is a generous and almost over-democratic leader – often his playing is in the shadows. Perhaps he is happy to have conceived the overall sound with compositions and arrangments – and this is all strongly arranged music. Sumptuous too, both in its rich harmonies and in the warm and enveloping recording.
Aadal acknowledges the influence of Bill Frisell and Mark Knopfler, and the country leanings of the former and the grander musical landscape of the latter can both be heard, as well as hints of Calexico, but the Aadal band has succeeded – perhaps its that marvellous Norwegian sense of distance – in making something new and fresh from world-weary and much worked over base materials.
Here’s a taste with a live version of Purgatory:
Categories: CD review