One falls under the genre of pop while the other lands in the folk sphere, but what they share is a love of atmospherics in their songs. Wreckless Eric has had a long and one could say storied career that began back in the 1970s as one of the original Stiff Records artists with the likes of Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe and The Damned. His biggest hit was the 1978 song “Whole Wide World” which while it never charted for him, has been covered by countless artists including alt rockers Cage the Elephant who took it to number eleven on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart in 2017. Now here some forty-plus years later, Wreckless Eric has been more creative and productive during the last decade than ever. The new Transcience, his third album since 2015, weaves pop and flickers of electronic noise into his story songs. It’s a good one. On the folk side, we have the terrific album from Swedish singer/songwriter Daniel Norgren called Wooh Dang. He too has a thing for experimenting with various organic sounds injected into his pure folk tunes. Something tells me we’ll be hearing lots about him as this album begins to make the rounds. Let’s take a look.
Southern Domestic Records
The man behind the unbelievably catchy song “Whole Wide World” and one of the original circa-1970s Stiff Records corral of punks and new wavers along with Nick Lowe, the Damned, Lene Lovich, Elvis Costello, Ian Dury and even Devo, Wreckless Eric has had a lengthy career. After leaving Stiff in 1980, things never hit those heights again for the artist whose real name is Eric Goulden, though, the much-covered “Whole Wide World” had legs to it moving Goulden into the realm of underground household name. Goulden never was about being a one-hit wonder and now in his sixties, he is arguably at the peak of his creativity what with three excellent solo albums to his credit since 2015, including his latest called Transcience. Residing in upstate New York since early in this decade where he lives with his wife, the singer/songwriter Amy Rigby, Goulden is a tinkerer and dabbler trying his hand at multiple instruments and equipment he picks up in his travels. That “curiosity” has no doubt played into the atmospherics of his albums, various electronic noises like you might hear during some crazy lab experiment. That experimentation plays large into his work, not to mention a keen pop sensibility on songs with bones to them. His 2015 album amERICa was much about his newfound life here in the States. His opinionated ways on his new surroundings set to a rocker backdrop were in full bloom. 2018’s Construction Time & Demolition was a whole other beast, a noisy affair full of clatter and churn as artful as it was listenable. In contrast, Transcience has a direct, more accessible vibe to it. The songs were constructed by pulling together snippets of thoughts and sights from the road during his heavy touring cycle last year for Construction Time & Demolition. Transcience goes for the power pop jugular in unflinching but enticing fashion. Much like four-plus decades ago with “Whole Wide World”, it is Wreckless Eric crafting catchy pop and creating collages with his lyrics. Recommended.
While he’s been releasing albums for a bunch of year on his own Superpuma record label, it wasn’t until last summer’s Newport Folk Festival that I’d ever heard the Swedish singer/songwriter Daniel Norgren. Kind of a free spirit type, he reminded me of Rayland Baxter and even a bit of fellow Swede, The Tallest Man on Earth. His set certainly piqued these ears such that when word of a new release came earlier this year, it grabbed my attention. That album is Wooh Dang and it is a great one. Possessing a pliant and likable voice to go with a sensitive lyrical style and lock-step backing band, it is folk music into which Norgren weaves woodsy atmospheric touches into songs that play off his surroundings. Birds chirp amidst light noise in odd opener “Blue Sky Moon” before next track “The Flow” lulls you in with its simple piano-based melody wrapped around Norgren’s slightly distorted vocals and a bit of scratchy whistling until electric guitar seeps in. At over six minutes in length, its builds slowly in a lo-fi way and may have you thinking some big crescendo moment is coming. It never does, but that’s okay. Perhaps it’s Norgren just easing his way in in an unhurried manner. “Dandelion Time” follows and is a scrapheap of cool sounds with a bump and grind backwoods blues vibe pulsating in its grooves. Simple melodies combined with Norgren’s likable yelp power songs like “The Power,” “Rolling Rolling Rolling,” “So Glad”, and standout “Let Love Run the Game.” Each is a keeper with press-the-repeat-button written all over them. Norgren made the album in old school style this past Fall working in a single room of a rural, 19th-century textile farmhouse near his home in Southwest Sweden and recording live on a 16-track analogue rig. “The interior looked it hadn’t been touched for the past 80 years,” he says. “I moved a lamp and it left a dark red ring on the pink tablecloth underneath…goldmine! The house was huge, full of good, inspiring mustiness, creaking wooden floors, scary old portrait paintings on the walls, and an old, black German piano which I used in all the songs.” To say the setting sparked his muse is probably putting it lightly. Wooh Dang feels like some long-lost Folkways album. A buried treasure of sorts, to these ears. Visit www.superpumarecords.com.
Daniel Norgren is scheduled to appear at the Brighton Music Hall in Brighton, MA on September 28.
It’s a holiday weekend which typically means a full plate of music in store at The Ocean Mist in Matunuck (895 Matunuck Beach Rd). This one is no exception. On Friday night, Boston-based folk rockers the Adam Ezra Group are in the house at 8:30. The weekend festivities continue Saturday afternoon at 3:30 with all-star band The Ocean Mistics playing for your listening and dancing pleasure. Later that evening, Steve Smith & the Nakeds take the Mist stage. Sunday is Sunday Funday with The Senders performing a free matinée show at 3:30.
Texas guitar slinger Chris Duarte ignites the holiday weekend at Chan’s Restaurant in Woonsocket (267 Main Street) on Friday playing a single show starting at 8 pm. The following evening, Chan’s presents the “Jimmy “2 Suits” Capone and the Chan’s Big Blues Bash All Stars Celebration” extravaganza at 8 pm.
Breweries are becoming the hot spot to hear live music and Shaidzon Brewing Company in West Kingston, (141 Fairgrounds Road) is no exception. This Saturday, Worcester-based roots rockin’ country act Hip Swayers Deluxe makes its debut at the brewhouse playing from 3-5 pm
A busy weekend is in store at the Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston (3481 Kingstown Road). Delivering the sights and sounds of the classic Pink Floyd concerts of the1970’s and 80’s, on Friday night Think Pink! -The Ultimate Pink Floyd Tribute Band is in the courthouse for an 8 pm performance. The following evening, favorites Aztec Two-Step entertain starting at 8 pm.
The singer and songwriter Sean Rowe has a voice so deep it can rattle walls, not to mention a powerful playing style on his acoustic guitar. His songs can be as potent as his voice which combined with his guitar work, is often nothing short of mesmerizing. Rowe comes to the Columbus Theatre in Providence (270 Broadway) on Saturday night for a highly recommended performance.
Dan Ferguson is a free-lance music writer and host of The Boudin Barndance, broadcast Thursday nights from 6 – 9 pm on WRIU-FM 90.3.