Review of

Lovisa Ståhl # 2

by Robert Craven

Hailing from Malmö, SwedenLovisa Ståhl has a distinctive vocal sound that draws from such influences as Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Janis Siegel, PJ Harvey and also musically Jan Garbarek and Sidney Bechet spring to mind.
Lovisa herself plays guitar throughout with a ‘band’ supporting on various tracks. Filip Runesson: violin; Anders Djurfeldt: bass, vocal; Emil Sjunnesson: drums, percussion; Kristian Rimshult: piano; Steve Grahn: dobro, guitar, harmonica; Paddy Sherlock: trombone & Henrk Alser: keys, percussion.
The CD is produced by Lovisa Ståhl and Henrik Alser.
Track #1 ‘This day’ opens as a smooth bossa nova that has an easy sunny swing that breaks in the middle with some free-flow notes before resolving to a bright violin solo. Ståhl’s phrasing around the beat is playful and reminds me of Art Pepper’s clarinet, the way she picks notes from the air.
Track #2 ‘Shining star’ has a funky double-bass opening, building to a funk-soul groove, the horn section kicking in phrases behind them to keep the sound driving along. Ståhl’s vocals again, weave and soar around the beat, very much in the Janis Siegel vein. The song has a quiet call/response break and the band handle the dynamics in an assured manner building to the violin solo.
Track #3 ‘Mermaid days’ has a 1920‘s synchopation feel, with a mardi gras trombone kick in the background. Ståhl’s phrasing doesn’t pander to the crowd here, sounding closer to Siouxie Sioux and Debbie Harry over the Reinhardt / Grappelli vibe. Djurfeldt’s bass solo fits nicely in the vein without over complicating things.
Track #4 ‘Never meant to miss you’ opens as a bossa nova too, Ståhl’s phrasing draws from what sounds like a sax and shows restraint even when hitting the high notes, so as to not sound like she’s doing it for the sake of it. Another bass solo from Djurfeldt is short but keeps the playful jazzy atmosphere clipping along. Had to get myself another Mojito after it.
Track #5 ‘Daniel’ is a darker departure. A haunting slow ballad with a touch of Loreena McKennit about it. Ståhl is almost keening, over a mournful Celtic sound, the image of Northern grey skies and snow flurries in June. It would make a fascinating piece for a dance company to interpret.
Track #6 ‘Why do you try’ is a slow ballad with piano, vocal and harmonica. Ståhl’s vocal style has shades of early Bette Midler and she bends the notes again with a nod toward the punk, with the backing showing considerable restraint and taste throughout – a haunting, beautiful piece.
Track #7 ‘Something better’ opens on a Nina Simone / Herbie Hancock piano groove with bass and drums planting the beat firmly down which allows Ståhl’s vocals to weave and soar – in this song it’s reminiscent of a saxophone or trumpet phrasing both as she sings the note and cuts it short. A funky, grooving sexy song.
Track #8 ‘Chasing the sun’ is a twelve bar blues in the Brooker T, Muddy Waters vein, opening on a solid bass line, Ståhl gives her vocals a solid blues work-out, but keeping it sexy as the harmonica backs her. A good acoustic guitar solo, very sparse and not over the top. The song has great lyrics describing nicely lazy days in bed. A great Sunday morning read the papers all day kind of track.
Track #9 ‘Mother’s arms’ is a slow almost lullaby song; opening with a slow picked guitar that builds with a trombone in the background– reminiscent of a Burt Bacharach piece. The slide guitar adds to the mournful theme and Ståhl’s vocals have a touch of brittleness needed to convey the meaning. I would actually like to hear this one in her native tongue.
Track #10 ‘Sabina’ has a traditional folk feel and it’s hard not the shake the influence of Agnetha Fältskogin the vocals when the regimental style drums and violin come in. A sad song about an untimely death, again conveying bleak Northern skies. A haunting, beautiful song.
Track #11‘John’ has an Irish feel. There are touches of Planxty and Clannad about it, and wonderful for the fact Ståhl can squeeze the line ‘Saint Columcille’s well’ into a lyric.
Track #12 is the last one ‘Claustrophobia’ ends on a flourish; violin, bass and drums build over Ståhl’s floating vocals. It’s a strong song, full of verve and as it builds Ståhl’s vocals weave and soar. It’s a rollercoaster of a song and if given to someone like David Guetta would have a global hit on her hands.
Lovisa Ståhl #2 is a beautifully produced and packaged CD, the 12 songs are outstanding in their own way and the standard of musicianship is superb.
A great album.
Robert Craven, Musicians Together Magazine