A pedal steel player and singer-songwriter from Copenhagen, Maggie Björklund has a wide-ranging background in country, indie and film-music and was most recently to be found playing on Jack White’s Lazaretto album. That her debut album featured Mark Lanegan and Calexico’s Joey Burns and John Convertino was a good indication of where she was coming from musically and her follow-up titled ‘Shaken’ reinforces and expands the picture with a band that comprises Convertino, cellist Barb Hunter, PJ Harvey alumni John Parish on guitars, Jim Barr from Portishead on upright bass and a guest vocal by Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner.
Fuelled by visiting her dying mother in hospital, it frequently has a strong cinematic feel and texture, strikingly so on the opening instrumental, Dark Side Of The Heart, which evokes the same sparse desert noir as Giant Sand, Thin White Rope and, of course, Calexico. Similar moods inform the heady The Road To Samarkand which follows an instrumental caravan trail from spooked Egyptian reggae clop to a skeletally forlorn acoustic guitar, the spectral keening Amador with its Morricone hints and the dark brooding sonic waves of The Unlucky.
With the delicately sung, low key rhythmic pulse of The Walking, the breathy defiance (“I’m a warrior who lost the war, but still I wanna fight”) of the hushed, metronomic Bottom Of the Well and the pop inflections of Name In The Sand, the vocal tracks are generally a little lighter, but the parched desolation of Wagner’s tones duetting on the haunted Fro Fro Heart, the cello and steel melancholy of Ashes and the closing, waltzing lament Teach Me How To Say Goodbye ensure the album’s bittersweet genesis remains at the heart of its musical and emotional being.
Whilst not a particularly strong or distinctive voice, the playing and cumulative impression are more than compensation.
Review by: Mike Davies
Released on Bloodshot Records 14th October.