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Featured Album Review

Migrants – self released (2021)

Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra

 

Let me put it straight right from the beginning: This is a beautiful record.

This is not strictly bluegrass of course. Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra is an eight piece ensemble from Norway and they intermingle anglo-saxon folk, American Appalachian old-time music and Norwegian folklore. Each musician contributes what he or she does best and with all the passion they have for creating this distinctive music. The Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra is from Oslo, Norway. They are Rebekka Nilsson – vocals, Joakim Borgen – mandolin, Ole Engrav – guitar, Magnus Eriksrud – banjo, Moa Meinich – fiddle, Jonas Olsen – upright bass, Emil Brattested – dobro and Sjur Marqvardsen – accordion. They’ve said in an interview that they “had to make up their own style since they were not born and raised in Appalachia with this music in their blood.” And that's exactly what they did. They've already pulled attention with remarkable live performances and have almost 30K followers on their YouTube channel. Having gained some fame for their well chosen cover songs such as 'Señor' by Bob Dylan or the classic 'Wayfaring Stranger'.

On this debut record ten out of the twelve tracks are original songs. With this unique cross-over between European folk music and bluegrass tradition. As poignant musically as lyrically written and delivered. And they're bold enough to start the record with a mid-tempo waltz in a minor key. The beautiful song 'Heaven And Hell'. It is like a road map for the record with it's 'Purgatory' intro. It combines a Western American feeling with European harmonies, great musicianship carried by a dobro, and excellent vocals. While it's not exactly high-lonesome, has an almost eastern European melancholy to it. Next is the banjo driven 'Smokey Mountain Railway' which combines classic bluegrass with a sort of French folklore. It has a pleasing pace and chord-progression with absolutely stunning harmony vocals. And – like every other track on the record – instrumentally on point. The breaks seem to present new twists into additional musical heritage at every turn.

Surely one of my favorites, is the heartbreaking 'Take Me Away'. It's hard to describe, maybe because by now we have to admit that the Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra has created it's very own sound and style. This gentle melody is carried by Rebekka Nilsson's breathtaking and powerful voice, first only accompanied by banjo and a little dobro, until it climbs up to the chorus with full back-up harmony vocals, almost like a full church choir. The track 'My Heart And Soul (On Love)' also touches just enough on Jazz without going too far down the rabbit hole.

One of the covers is the modern country classic ‘All My Tears' by Julie Miller. It threw me back to the Emmylou Harris' version from 1995. This arrangement fits Rebekka's crystal clear vocals so well – it’s haunting. This track showcases the artistry of this band because they know exactly what is better left un-played.

What more can I say about this remarkable record? It is very well recorded and engineered. Every musician pours all of their heart into the dynamic arrangements. Even the artwork is mentionable: much like the album, it's subtle and elegant. It leaves me mesmerized upon listening, amazed at what my ears have witnessed. A great record by a bunch of great musicians from Europe's cold north. So, watch out for the 'Hayde Bluegrass Orchestra' from Norway. This is just the beginning.

Reviewed by:
Severin Theinert for
Uncut Grass
April 2021

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