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.
Severin Theinert for
Born Lonesome – self released (2021)
You like bluegrass? You like rhythm and blues? And you like some blues and folk? Then maybe you just want to join in this with me: the debut album of Born Lonesome. A six piece bluegrass outfit from central Florida founded in 2019. Each member has been around a while, mostly in traditional bluegrass.
Band leader and lead singer Chad Spikes also engineered and recorded this record. The rest of the band includes Jimmie White on guitar, Royce Burt playing the banjo, Steve Durrwachter on fiddle, Lamont Goff playing the mandolin and finally on the bass is Claybo Varnum. Together they have not only created a ten track album of original tunes but also an individual style of it's own. Beginning on a good solid foundation of bluegrass, Chad Spikes and the band explore rhythm and blues as well as folk music. They are great storytellers and deliver straight from the heart, real life stories in their lyrics. Each song is held together by Spike's remarkable, soulful singing skills.
The record kicks off with 'White Ford Bronco', a tune about right and wrong, and learning the lesson that you don't have the right to harm someone just because he took from you. This track sets the bar for this record. You get everything you need from this collection. Exceptional singing, great chord progressions, a steady beat carried by banjo and mandolin – and captivating breaks.
Another highlight is the song 'Deacons Of Mercy' written by the bass player Claybo Varnum, who also takes on lead vocals. A true story passed down by his Grandfather about a man in church who was abusing his wife and was warned by the Deacons of the church. When he did not listen, they took away his manhood. Literally. Directly followed by a fantastic instrumental, 'Frog Strangler' written by banjo player Royce Burt, a tune that shows the skills of each band member as well as their impressive ensemble playing.
Next up is the haunting 'Apalachee Sky'. A sad but true family story about Chad Spikes' sister and niece. It truly is amazing how Spikes found the words to tell this drama. But when the mandolin takes it's break it almost makes you cry. You've got to experience this track for yourself.
The record closes with a straight on bluegrass song 'Woodville'. Good banjo driven tempo, great vocals and magnetic mandolin breaks – everything a bluegrass fan could ask for. I highly recommend the album. This is a well rehearsed team of excellent musicians with a lot of live experience and a one of a kind singer telling true life stories – that's what I call bluegrass!
Severin Theinert for