Three decades down the line from their debut, mainstays of folk scene make an impressive statement.
It’s good to check in on this group once in a while to see that the Celtic rock stalwarts not only still demonstrate the same robustness they bristled with at the turn of the century but also further their creative streak, geographical expanse and stylistic grip on all things folk. Free to stalk the stages again, post-lockdowns, Lief Sorbye’s ensemble deliver an international tour de force where “Going Home” should signal the return to his Scandinavian roots and trace his music back to Albion rather than relocate songs to American soil – only there’s a twist at the album’s tail end, and quite a few unexpected delights thrown in for the listener’s utmost pleasure.
That’s why the band don’t take time to build momentum and immediately set their remote guests reeling with live staple “Mrs. Preston’s Favorite” – deliberately stumbling at the traditional tune’s start before hitting the collective’s instrumental stride and letting riffs cut mandolin filigree to usher in the snippers of other melodies. Such an approach, applied across the entire record, renders it riveting, so when vocals arrive on the scene to serve up an arresting reading of Roger McGuinn’s “Jolly Roger” for a contrast, revealing the platter’s profound depth in the safety net of fiddle and organ, which rage to the groove of bodhrán until guitar soars for a solo, one’s psyche is ready to fathom this scope. As a result, the electric charge of “Hjemreise” – the offering’s title track whose Norwegian lyrics are pierced by Nikolay Georgiev’s six strings, as are the Swedish lines Lee Corbie-Wells has woven into the heaviosity of murder ballad “De Två Systrarna” – is bound to strike a chord with the hardest of hearts.
However, if the frivolous Norse dance embedded in “The Optimist” will be briefly taken to the Caribbean once the band’s second co-founder Adolfo Lazo’s drums go off on a tangent, Lief-penned “Dream Morris” is riding a rustic vibe, whereas “Shepherd’s Daughter” and “The Devil And The Farmer” – both are bolstered with co-producer Robert Berry‘s ivories – elevate ancient belligerence to contemporary standards of heroic epos. And although the voices on the recently resurrected “Dark Lover” – originally found on the ensemble’s album of a 30-years vintage – shape a gloomy anthem, it’s the finale of “Pål Sine Høner” that ultimately steals the show by melding a harmonica on a children’s ditty and leading the number through a translucent fusion lace to the Mississippi Delta to land on the blues to great effect.
Coming home has never felt better.