Review: Daniel Norgren rakes politely on trippy, bluesy set

Daniel Norgren, "Wooh Dang" (Superpuma)

Daniel Norgren's devotion to American roots music is undisguised on his latest work, "Wooh Dang." But the Swede with the big Scandinavian following is anything but a copycat.

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Trippy, edgy and daring, Norgren's first international release makes the case one more time that cross-cultural exploration remains the most fertile frontier in popular music.

It is fresh, rough-edged perfection.

Norgren's music, described in promotional materials as "shredding in the most polite way possible," is a raw mélange of coarsely elegant vocals, gently distorted guitar and piano set against a backdrop of unhurried bass and drumming.

The opener, "Blue Sky Moon," is a three-minute blend of one-note mood intonations, chirping birds and gentle strumming. Get past that. It might be art but there's not much to it.

The brilliance is yet to come. In its own sweet time.

As the first cut fades into "The Flow," a regal bass line and cymbals give way to gentle, chord-based piano, followed by the most restrained electric guitar. What comes next is a remarkable run of original songs filled with innovative, blues-based surprises.

Norgren sings of trains and John Wayne movies in what could have sounded trite but is somehow magical here. The lyrics almost don't matter. They are instruments in the soundscape he's creating — one more sign that Norgren has done something distinctive, different and new.

Recorded in a farmhouse in Sweden, this is the kind of low-idle Americana that calms the spirit.

Lie back. Take it in. Listen.

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