Skage – Procrastination Blues
8 songs – 32 minutes
Procrastination Blues is the debut solo album from Norway’s Arne Skage, who has stepped into the limelight after serving 30 years as the guitarist for Reidar Larsen, himself one of the leading lights in the Norwegian blues scene. Skage has also contributed to nearly 70 albums by a variety of different artists. And, as one might expect from someone with that kind of background, Procrastination Blues is an absolute delight, channelling a deep Louisiana vibe from the album’s opening track, “Dressed Up To Get Messed Up”. It is followed by the title track, which sounds like something JJ Cale would have produced if he had spent much time in New Orleans, with superb fiddle from Jonno Frishberg and lovely slide guitar from Skage.
The basic tracks on the album were recorded in both in New Orleans and Flekkefjord (with overdubs apparently “done all over the place”), with a wide variety of different musicians, but Procrastination Blues maintains a singular thematic uniformity thanks to Skage’s vocals and guitar, the consistently high quality of the songwriting (primarily by Skage and Leslie Blackshear Smith or by Skage alone – the sole cover on the album is Steve Conn’s “Famous”) and by the excellent engineering and mixing (again by Skage).
Skage sings in an engagingly rough and road-worn voice, hinting at a slightly cleaned-up version of Dr John on the wonderful second-line groove of “King Of The Hill”, replete with tuba from Dr. Bekken, and his guitar playing is first class throughout, turning in a series of short but tasty solos and clever licks that serve the song (and these songs are well worth serving). Skage plays standard and slide guitar, lap steel, baritone guitar, mandocaster and resonator as well as adding bass on “King Of The Hill” and percussion on various tracks.
The closing track, the instrumental “River Road” nods towards one of Skage’s primary slide influences, Sonny Landreth, while the funky “Soul Food Mama” is a co-write with the great slide guitarist, Roy Rogers.
The core band providing masterful support to Skage includes Terence Higgins on drums and percussion, John “Papa” Gros on piano, Hammond B3 and Wurlitzer and René Coman on bass. They are joined at various times by Reidar Larsen on piano, Lars Christian Narum on Hammond B3, Atle Rakvåg on bass, Jonno Frishberg on fiddle, triangle and accordion, Steve Conn and Arve Håland on accordion, Erica Fall, Leslie B Smith, Tricia Bouttè, Thale Log Skage, Joe Rusi, Inge Svege, Daniel Eriksen on background vocals, Dr. Bekken on tuba, and Knut Hem on drums. Together they create a glorious mess of sound that instantly transports the listener to the musical swamps of Louisiana.
Procrastination Blues is a relatively short album but there isn’t a wasted note on it. It works both as a standalone album and as a love letter to the region that has provided Skage with limitless inspiration over the decades. It may have taken Skage over 30 years to release his first solo album but let’s hope the next one is released more promptly. Wonderful stuff.