The Blues: Memphis, St. Louis, Sweet Home Chicago...and now, apparently, Dear Old Stockholm. Anybody still questioning the universal nature of the blues needs to give a listen to the Swedish blues belter Louise Hoffsten. Knackebrod Blues
is a blistering set of blues and early rock and roll from Ms. Hoffsten and a steady band of her countrymen.
The CD opens with Frank Miller's "The Seduction of Sweet Louise," a driving 12-bar number that sets the tone for the disc and gives Ms. Hoffsten an appropriately sultry theme song. Her voice is strong and clear, reaching down to a sultry grow and then back up to a hearty wail. Here and other tracks, especially "Belly Up Blues," Hoffstein proves adept at the harmonica in addition to vocals. Her style is stark and simple, putting more into one note than some players say in twenty.
Among the CD's twelve tracks are two reinterpretations of songs by Lightnin' Hopkins; his "Baby, Don't You Tear My Clothes" is given a subdued, syncopated reading with modern production touches including a touch of compression on the vocals. The bookending "Darling, Do You Remember Me" is by contrast done simply with a lone acoustic slide guitar providing accompaniment. Guitarist Staffan Astner ably manages both electric and acoustic blues, turning in some nice Hendrix-derived licks on a reimagined version of John Lee Hooker's "It Serves You Right to Suffer." The country ballad "I Guess I'm A Fool" gives Hoffsten a chance to show her tender side and has features some Clapton-esque lead from Astner.
The band's modern arrangements are interesting while remaining respectful to the tradition of the blues. If anything, the band errs perhaps a bit on the side of caution, Ms. Hoffsten aside. The rhythm section of Backa Hans Eriksson on bass and Christer Janson are never less than competent but only occasionally sound truly inspired, Janson's rapid fire playing on "I Pity the Fool" being one such instance. Another is Larry Williams' "Slow Down," a nice little rockabilly stomp that fits nicely alongside the other varieties of blues on the album, with the little hint of Zydeco syncopation in the rhythm giving the piece an extra bit of oomph. With this release Louise Hoffsten establishes herself internationally as a force to be reckoned with.
Delta Blues, Chicago Blues, British Blues, now Knackebrod Blues
. Quite a progression, all different approaches to the same tradition and all valid.