CD: 12 Songs; 38:35 Minutes
Styles: Contemporary Acoustic Blues, Mellow Ballads
What better time than frozen winter to review the fifth album from Norway’s Rita Engedalen? According to her promotional information sheet, “Rita Engedalen is Norway’s Queen of the Blues. She creates and performs her own music, and is thoroughly genuine.” This may be the case, but Rita’s heavily-accented yet belting vocals are definitely an acquired taste. To be more easily accessible to English speakers, there is a lyrics booklet included with My Mother’s Blues.
The info sheet continues: “The music on My Mother’s Blues is Rita Engedalen’s personal mix of blues, roots, rock, gospel and country. The influences from [her] travels to Mississippi leave a clear mark on the music, as does her inspiration by and love for Norwegian folk music. Her songs are expertly crafted, and every song has its story to tell, all deeply rooted in Engedalen the traveling musician, as mother and in her family background. Sometimes shockingly honest, filled with realism, while at other times the lyrics are barely scratching the surface of a bigger story, leaving the listeners to interpret on their own, with imagination and fantasy adding, thus, the stories to the listener’s own personal experiences and stories. Rita Engedalen has won the Norwegian Grammy Award for the album Heaven Ain’t Ready For Me Yet, and she has numerous Norwegian Grammy nominations for previous recordings.”
With all of that said, what to make of My Mother’s Blues, and of Rita? Sometimes she sounds like a wise and haunting Native American shaman, as on her first track, “Snow Falls”. At other times her voice is almost atonal, equally balanced between singing and talking. Despite that, she plays melodic acoustic guitar alongside her band, Backbone (named in the CD liner notes).
With her are guitarist Morten Omlid; bassist Jens Olav Haugen; drummer/percussionist Eskil Aasland; fiddle player Knut Nyheim; background vocalists Kiare Robinson, Shanekqua McAbee, Gary Vincent, Margit Bakken, and Myra Turner; Gøran Grini on vocals, grand piano, and Hammond organ; guitarist Geir Sunstøl; and Espen Fjelle on Hammond organ.
“HI FOLKS!” Rita exclaims in the CD liner notes. “My band, Backbone, and I have been rocking for 20 years – and we are still going strong. I am proud and happy to have Jens, Eskil and Morten with me on the road and on this recording. I hope you feel good when you hear us, and when you meet us on the road with the guests we have on the album, My Mother’s Blues. The album was recorded in the new location for the Juke Joint Studio in Notodden at the Book and Blues House. The album includes a live cover version [the only cover out of twelve songs] of the powerful ‘Epitaph (Black and Blue)’, written by Kris Kristofferson/Donnie Fritts for Janis Joplin after she had passed away.”
Die-hard fans of Rita Engedalen should definitely purchase her fifth release to supplement their Scandinavian blues collection; others should be cautious!