With our thriving traditional / acoustic music scene here in the UK, it’s easy to forget that in Continental Europe a large number of our home grown artists enjoy a devoted following. Consequently, their music can have a strong influence on European musicians. Dutch singer / songwriter Linde Nijland exemplifies the influence that both UK and US music and song writing can have. After more than a decade as part of folk music duo Ygdrassil, Linde followed her own path and has toured extensively in Europe and the East; released albums of her own songs and a Sandy Denny tribute album (Linde Nijland sings Sandy Denny) that, in 2009, prompted Joe Boyd to invite her to perform at the Fairport Convention reunion concert in the Barbican Hall.
This May, Linde releases her latest solo album I Am Here, a well-balanced mix of her own work and songs from artists that have clearly had a major influence on her music. Driven mainly by her acoustic guitar and vocals, the album was co-produced by multi-instrumentalist Bert Ridderbos, who also contributes guitars, banjo, cittern, bass, accordion and mandolin to the mix.
Linde has a distinctive vocal style that’s reminiscent of Christina ‘Licorice’ McKechnie, fondly remembered by fans of The Incredible String Band. Her own compositions are observant and introspective – Life Incomplete is a soothing, carefully structured opening; before the gently up-beat Bye, Bye Diddley-Dye introduces American flavours with the help of Joost van Es on fiddle. Later in the album It Sure Feels Better continues in a similar vein with a song of awakening. In High Under Skies Linde’s talent for producing her own harmonies shines through. The title track, I Am Here, contrasts – with a single, strident vocal in a sorrowful plea.
The album also includes a number of very well chosen covers. The quiet, acoustic version of Ocean Gypsy is far removed from the keyboard-laden original of ’70s prog rockers Renaissance. Leaving London is faithful to Tom Paxton’s original – Linde’s own harmonies provide added depth, and the occasional bass notes, presumably provided by Bert Ridderbos, act as a gentle and welcome compliment to the guitar’s bass line. There are no male vocals credited in the sleeve notes, but their occasional inclusion adds an extra, subtle texture to the overall sound that’s very effective. The tributes to 70s folk icons continue with Mimi And Richard Farina’s Pack Up Your Sorrows, with Bert Ridderbos’s bass and the gentle bluegrass fiddle of Joost van Es adding to its Trans-Atlantic credentials.
Cyral Tawney’s love song to the sea, The Grey Funnel Line, has been sung by a multitude of artists on both sides of the Atlantic; most of them taking full advantage of the harmonies it offers. Interesting, then, that someone so adept at producing her own harmonies as Linde should keep the multi-layered vocals that are very much a feature of this album to a minimum. It’s a refreshing approach to the song – and brings more of a sea breeze to the melody than any rendition I’ve heard. Its a capella opening is an attention grabbing delight. Short, straight from the heart, and possibly the finest recording on the album. The maritime theme is even stronger in So Early In The Spring with softly crashing symbols and marshal snares courtesy of Gilbert Terpstra.
The melancholy of Jackson C. Frank’s Dialogue (I Want To Be Alone) is perfectly suited to Linde’s plaintive vocal, and with the increasing intensity of Sarah Bowman’s mournful cello the song captivates. Another of Linde’s own songs, Sun And Moon, closes the album with a sleepy journey through warm summer’s day.
I Am Here is a thoroughly refreshing album. With songs driven by Linde’s acoustic guitar, delivered by her distinctive lead vocal and intricate harmonies, and bolstered by Bert Ridderbos’s contributions; there’s more to enjoy each time you listen. There’s plenty here to help turn the tide and bring some traditional / acoustic music back over the channel for us to enjoy. Linde has a string of European live dates planned throughout the year (details at http://www.lindenijland.nl/); let’s hope the release of I Am Here in the UK earns enough attention to tempt her over for some live performances.
Review by: Neil McFadyen
Released 26th May via Continental Song City
Order via our Folk Music Store