She is an expert of brutally slowing down well-known songs and standards which can be a drag, but never in her case. Solveig Slettahjell‘s voice has simply too much to offer, like the sympathetic crack in her voice on “Borrowed Time”, the opening track of her new album “Trail Of Souls”, recorded with the trio In The Country with her long-time musical partner Morten Qvenild, and guitarist Knut Reiersrud.
Knut gives the Bill Withers classic “Grandma’s Hands” a dirty, bluesy touch with his harmonica and the sparsely inserted guitar and also includes a Norwegian folk song in his arrangement. Most of the Blues, Gospel, Soul, and Pop cuts tend to be on the mellower, melancholic side. And it works well for the majority of the songs here. Peter Gabriel‘s “Mercy Street” is treated to an enthralling rendition with gloomy piano and keyboard backdrops.
Three well-known Gospel tracks have found the way onto this album and I always had my reservations about “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child” because in a lot of versions, there is simply too much bombast. In Solveig’s case, the song becomes a piano-vocal elegy, simple and effective with a beautiful, yearning ending. And actually one of the highlights of the album. The same applies to “His Eye Is On The Sparrow”, except that here, Solveig’s bitterwseet, perfectly enunciated vocal is accompanied only by a southern style blues guitar by Knut. Very beautiful, indeed. And the James Cleveland classic “I Don’t Feel Noways Tired” is another fine example for pairing gospel with Norwegian soul.
We’re also treated to a minimalist “Come Healing” (Leonard Cohen) with twangy guitar and suspense-creating keys and a thrilling version of “Is My Living In Vain”, written by Gospel singer Elbernita Clark of the Clark Sisters. There is also a song written by Knut Reiersrud himself. “Holy Joe” has some Bill Frisell-like guitar moments and lets Solveig go a more contemporary pop/rock route. But the song itself didn’t really grab me.
The deep soul of Solveig’s voice comes out best on “Trouble In Mind”, the classic Richard Jones song from the 20s which was later recorded by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Louis Armstrong, and Nina Simone, among many others. And Willie Johnson‘s “Soul Of A Man” is the rousing finale where Solveig is breaking out of her unique, soothing intonation and phrasing. And where I wanted her to go back to her slow-motion style.Follow: