There is an ambiance to “Blue Sky Moon,” the opening instrumental track of Sweden’s Daniel Norgren’s first worldwide release – Wooh Dang (Superpuma Records).
Recording since 2007 – Daniel is not fresh out of the gate. However, for those who remember, this music is similar in approach to a fine 70’s folk-rock-singer-songwriter Shawn Phillips. He explored similar spacey folk depths such as this. Daniel’s melodies and clever effects maintain a rootsy flavor, but for selective tastes. This is not James Taylor, Leonard Cohen, or John Prine.
“The Flow,” has piano tinkling with voice manipulation but it’s performed warmly. The addition of an effective harmonica-like sound reminds me of the ingenious application of such instruments by Brian Wilson & the Beach Boys when they worked with Van Dyke Parks in the mid-’60s. If nothing else – it’s a daring style — pulled off with some success, though it’s not for everyone.
Track 3 is a kicker – “Dandelion Time,” with all its necessary ingredients to hook a fan of Tom Waits-Chuck E Weiss-Captain Beefheart. It’s catchy, bluesy, Bertolt Brecht-Kurt Weill noir style. Musicians Anders Grahn (upright bass), Erik Berntsson (drums), Anders Filipsson (guitar & banjo) and Daniel (vocals, old black German piano & other implements) are quirky and delicious. I can’t make out the name of the sax player (sorry), but he/she turned in some good hoots.
Norgren doesn’t push the Waits-Beefheart style long. “The Power,” is melodic and though his voice may not appeal commercially to many, he has a special quality of someone who tries to achieve something beyond mere singing. Norgren is — interesting.
“Rolling, Rolling, Rolling,” is a surprise. Daniel injects soulful backup voices and the tune has an old-fashion energy/fluency. Daniel recorded these songs in an old farmhouse in Southwest Sweden, yet this is Americana soulful. You’d have thought he recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
“So Glad,” is quite excellent. Recorded too tinny, it isn’t diminished by that flaw. It’s saturated with wonderful moody, atmospheric sound. It just needs a little warmer production and it will purr. This would’ve been a song I’d bring to Elvis Presley or Brook Benton. Any number of soul-stirring baritone singers of the past.
Daniel’s stripped-down sound style may have been intentional and primal. “Let Love Run the Game,” is a J.J. Cale type grungy country guitar workout with barrelhouse piano doodling. This is what makes Norgren’s performance grit ring true and maybe, it was recorded intentionally with a rural, live sound, and analog instrumentation. It’s what adds to Daniel’s home-grown resonance. I only suggest a warmer production sound next time.
The music, lyrics, and performances are stellar. Songs have wonderful harmonica, piano, and guitar exchanges. Daniel knows the recipe well. The Spanish-flavored “When I Hold You in My Arms,” confirms Daniel understands this genre more than most cookie-cutter American artists. He avoids slang, clichés, and garnishes his diverse country-flavored blends. His voice may not be easy for all – but the tone is genuine. This is not music meant to be sung by glossy, pitch-perfect voices. It must have mud in it.
The 10-track, 38-minute LP was written & produced by Daniel. The colorful package has a handwritten lyric sheet and can be purchased at Bandcamp & Spotify.