Alternative music reviews

July 25, 2005

Heartache & Pain: An Introduction to the Alternative Country of Jamtland by Various Artists

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After such a long winded album title, this is essentially a compilation of Swedish Country bands; four artists, two songs per artist (that makes eight songs in total mathematic fans). The artists are: Former Beauty Queen, who play ragged reflective country-fried odes to pain; Six Figure Transatlantic, influenced by seventies era Bob Dylan and Neil Young; Grande Roses, who must have Johnny Cash on heavy rotation and finally The Celophane Flower, more light-hearted with twang guitars.

Since The Celophane Flower was the very first band I reviewed for my promo page, they are not a band I could easily forget. So when this compilation dropped on my doorstep, it was time to re-evaluate the Swedish Country scene in a broader sense. I still don’t consider myself as a Country Music fan; some early seventies Dylan goes down nicely and a handful of others are on steady rotation – but that it.

Former Beauty Queen is disappointingly not a Beauty Queen, former or otherwise. Once I got over the fact I wasn’t listening to some hot chick, the two songs ‘Our Private Mardi Gras’ and ‘A Typical Syndrome pt 2’ are of very high standard – enjoyable, melodic, dark atmosphere and a decent singing voice. Former Beauty Queen is probably my favourite artist on the disc, which is a high compliment.

‘I don’t want to get back on that horse again’ – no, not my fear of horses but the title of Six Figure Transatlantic’s immensely catchy song, the most immediate chorus on the disc. Imagine the song title being repeated a few times in a decent singing voice and you get the picture. The Celophane Flower’s ‘2 a.m.’ is gentle with a soft singing voice – very calming with steel guitars. Their second offering ‘What Can This Bring’ which closes the album is an unusual choice with deliberately tinny production, harking back to decades past. It’s an old fashioned Country N’ Western poignant number which would be apt around a camp fire in the American wilderness.

Bottom Line: A handy, compact overview of a musical scene, showcasing some captivating artists. Over the course of the compilation, the four artists do sound similar to one another, a uniform sound becoming apparent. Tales of regret, loss and most likely heavy drinking are driven by carefully structured Country guitar songs.

And in reference to my original Celophane Flower review, I’m still off to listen to some Slayer.

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Review By Nick Collings

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