I am not sure when I first came across the writings of Olav Martin Bjørnsen, but I soon discovered we had very similar tastes in music, so I used to check out his reviews. Some years later we became friends, and he is the only other reviewer I have serious contact with, and these days we work together on a couple of sites. We are also both always seriously overloaded with material, and he is very careful what he sends my way, but when he suggests something, I always pay close attention. Last year he said, “Have you ever come across a band blending americana, country and prog - with a wee bit of AOR on the side?” With a description like that all I could say was to pass it on, and now I am listening to this 2019 album, knowing that not only was he correct in his description but also this is very much worth hearing.
I was listening to an interview with a mate of mine the other day, producer TeMatera Smith, and he was talking about music promotion and just how hard it is for an unknown band or independent label to get noticed unless there is luck or a serious influx of money. He said it was like going into the biggest library in the world, climbing ladders to the very highest shelf, and then putting the album there and waiting for someone to discover it. That this album has been out two years and I knew nothing about it until Olav sent it to me for review is not surprising given that description, but I still feel annoyed when music as good as this just does not get the appreciation it so richly deserves. What we have here is a truly progressive band, in the truest sense of the word as opposed to following a particular style of music. They mix and blend genres in a way which should never make sense, but somehow it does. They can be going along pleasantly rocking and then all of a sudden, we have a bluegrass section with wonderful banjos and then it is back again. This all happens seamlessly, and somehow makes far more sense than it does in words.
This is a concept album (see, sounds more proggy already) about the life of singer Saskia Binder, who has wonderfully clear vocals, and she is joined by guitarist/songwriter Hoyt Binder, with the rest of the music being performed by The Americana Daydream Revival Orchestra who comprise Ronald Van Deurzen (keyboards), Tollak Ollestad (harmonica), Rebecca Kleinmann (flute), Trevor Lloyd (violin), Chris Quirarte (drums), Paulo Gustavo (bass) and Bobby Albright (percussion). The music is just so honest, flowing where it needs to, and there are times when one can imagine it being played by a group of homesteaders in a small room. It has “America” stamped through it all the way, alongside the knowledge that here is a group of guys not trying to be anything they are not, and instead producing music which accurately reflects who they are which means they really do sound like no-one else at all. This is a superb album from a band who would be at home at a rock festival or a bluegrass jamboree, or maybe even The Grand Ole Opry, yet somehow, they would also not really fit in with any of the other artists, and that is just fine. Some of the percussion is evocative of native Americans, there are times when the fiddle cries or screams, others where the flute adds those high notes while the harmonica provides the depth and bluesiness.
I have just been checking out their Facebook page and have discovered to my joy (and annoyance) that this is actually their second album, which means there is another to listen to now as well. This makes me quite excited, as if it is anything like this then that will be an absolute delight. Here we have a truly progressive album which is blending together different styles and genres so that it is impossible to see the join. The songs are wonderful, with great lyrics, and Saskia’s voice is just perfect. Highly recommended.