Jan Olsen – Spirit Chant
Deep resonating Americana-style vocal emanates from the Danish singer-songwriter Jan Olsen in a Buddy Miller/Captain Beefheart (“Bluejeans & Moonbeams” era) fashion. “Spirit Chant,” is almost indigenous in presentation but it’s “Here & Now Forever,” that features the contrasting vocal of Trine Lunau Sund (backing vocals) who adds color to the well-arranged & performed song. Quite gripping.
At times Olsen borders nicely on a mainstream Tom Waits, husky vocalizing style without stepping over the line into Waits’ territory. “I’m a Volcano,” is another throat-grabbing deeply refined & decorative tone. A stalking bass in the melody line is sturdy & then Peter Sund’s lead guitar whips through with gradients of notes nicely. Brass bellows surprisingly toward the coda with a jazzy touch – it’s wonderful.
Produced by musician Peter Sund Spirit Chant (Drops Oct 14–Gateway Music/Hemifran) is a set of 9 compelling tunes that border on Brecht-Weill noir in 32-minutes of enchanting, compelling tales stalked by shadows & fog. A French tune sung in English “Le Chat de la Rue du Faubourg,” has imaginative intensity. The gentle notes of the trumpet slink around the melody like mist. Superb lyrics.
Olsen has the goods, a masterful understanding of the blues, jazzy tones, classical swipes & rootsy rock displayed on songs that are never repetitive. Some are more mainstream than others – “Tonight We Are Heroes,” is simple but a serious stylistically diverse tune. At the same time, Olsen wisely injects cabaret techniques & Euro-melodic folk melodies, with melancholy drops added for atmosphere.
With Jan are – Peter Sund (acoustic/electric guitars/baritone guitar/mandolin), Palle Hjorth (piano/mellotron/synth), Peter Dombernowsky (drums/percussion), Morten Jorgensen (bass), Andy Jarosinski (trombone), Mads la Cour (trumpet/flugelhorn), Jorgen Dickmeiss (violin/viola/string arrangements) & Mathilde Helding (cello).
This is music is worth seeking out especially if you want to hear someone who doesn’t imitate Tom Waits/Captain Beefheart as much as capture a more mainstream approach to that kind of work. Songs are all accessible, inventive & memorable.
Highlights – “Spirit Chant,” “Here & Now Forever,” “I’m a Volcano,” “Le Chat de la Rue du Faubourg,” “Till Tomorrow’s Here,” “Irresistible Baby,” (very well-done Tom Waits inspired), “Mr. Lee Is Back In Town,” (bluesy) & “Last Train To Bantry.”