Posts filed under: Latest Reviews

“This one should be chasing it down the awards road, as it’s a cracker. There isn’t a duff track on offer, so blues rockers need to be checking this out quickly”

Off to Finland for some blues now.  And it’s the sixth album from Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip, even if they are a new name to me.  But blow me down with a big blowy thing, but they’re good. I should have known that because when they travelled to Rockfield Studios in Wales to record this, it was to work with multi Grammy award winning producer, John Porter.  Now he may have spent time working with shite like Billy Bragg and the Smiths, but it was his later work with the likes of Buddy Guy, B.B King, Taj Mahal, Keb Mo and Santana that has filled his mantelpiece with awards.  And I assume he doesn’t have to wrok with rubbish nowadays. And so to Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip who have been playing the blues across Scandinavia for over 20 years, with their last record “After The Flood” voted as best Finnish blues album of the year on Radio Suomi ( I take it Erja Lyytinen didn’t have a record that year).  And this one should be chasing it down the awards road, as it’s a cracker.  Musically it veers from Chicago to ZZ Top, to mainstream blues rock with some slide guitar from Lefty Leyeppanen that lifts every song it appears on. There isn’t a duff track on offer, so blues rockers need to be checking this out quickly.  No, quicker than that.
-Stuart A. Hamilton, The Rocker

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“A band with a rolling, boiling electric sound and a tight, controlled cohesion…Pace and variety blend perfectly here to produce an album of solid quality musicianship and interest.”
-Iain Patience, Cashbox Canada
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 “”Blues Ambassadors from Finland – Keepin‘ The Spirit Of The Blues Alive”

Finland is one of the scandinavian, nothern countries with beautiful landscapes  in summer and specially in winter when covered by snow and exciting polar lights appear in the skies. It is the kingdom of the elks! It has a rich musical culture. There is not only the Leningrad Cowboys, but there is a damn hot blues-scene. Yeah, damn right – The Blues. One of the leading bands by this style is Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip. Their music is hot-blooded and not northern coolish at all. If you do not know from which country  they origin and you listen to their sounds without any information you would immediately tipp the South Of The U.S.A! So get in heat and in the mood for Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip and their adventure „Ain’t Bad Yet“!
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“Ain’t Bad Yet is an album of great masculine sensitivity but with that hugely desired effect in Blues, one of sheer guts and magnitude, enough of the former to deliver yet another sharply focused piece of writing, more than plenty in the latter to hold the responsibility along with many of the bands Nordic neighbours of keeping the Scandinavian music renaissance of the last decade going and in style.”
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“Bluesdoodles gives this CD TEN doodle paws out of TEN ….”
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“Ali priča o ovom albumu započinje još tamo u jesen 2012., kad se krenulo u njegovu realizaciju; krajnji rezultat bio je proglašenje ovog albuma za najbolji blues album u Finskoj 2013. Album je za finsko tržište objavljen 2013., dok je svoju internacionalizaciju doživio prošle godine, što je i pravi povod za ovaj osvrt.”
-Mladen Loncar
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“De trip van Micke Bjorklof & “Blue Strip” naar New Orléans, is te horen aan het groovy resultaat, was de moeite meer dan waard! Als dit album aangeeft wat deze band nog meer in zijn bereik heeft, dan is het laatste woord over deze interessante Finse blues formatie zeker nog niet gezegd of geschreven.

MB & zijn Finnen openen met 1”House For The Blues” zoals voorspeld, met groovy blues rock (zowat in de stijl van de “Delta Saints”) en met de nadruk op funky ritmewisselingen, mondharmonica en slimme percussie.  2”Jack The Black Hat” is een erg fascinerend maar, zeker gezien de tekst, luguber nummer over een eigenzinnige, ongeluk brengende man met de zwarte hoed. Door de zang wordt het angstgevoel aangescherpt en de portie voodoo verdubbeld.  3”Water From Your Shoe”is een liefdesverklaring met een funky jazzy aanbod van de man, die alles wil doen om haar te behagen. “I’ll come back to you, I drink water from your shoe”. En de solo op het einde, dat is de max.  In 4”Woogie Or Die” en 5”Understanding” horen we waarom Lefty Leppänen gecatalogeerd wordt als een van de beste slide en steel gitaristen in Europa. Met, en je hoor ze niet alleen in deze tracks, een pluim op de hoed van backings Michaela Harrison & Alexis Marceaux! Ze klinken als engelen. Interessant is te horen hoe de moraal in 6”King Alcohol” met een minimum aan middelen, maarsubliem aan de luisteraar overgedragen wordt.  Een eerbetoon aan New Orléans, na de overstroming mag op dit album zeker niet ontbreken. De titelsong 11”After The Flood” drijft op een Santana ritme rustig door de stad en de herinneringen, nadat de chaos verdwenen is.  De afsluiter 12”Open Up Open” is een kreet, een rustige smeekbede. “Should I stay, should I go…”  De overige tracks zijn: 7”Sometimes”, een kreet voor aandacht in Chicago blues stijl – 8”Gumbo Mama”, een nummer waar ook producer Mark Bingham aan mee schreef, is voodoo uit de swamps van New Orléans  – 9”Jezebel”, een funky dame die je avond en je hoofd dooreen haalt…  – 10”Ramblified”, een nummer in Seasick Steve stijl dat bewijst dat de roots muziek nog een toekomst heeft. “Oh, let the bluesman sing!”…
-Eric Schuurmans
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Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip
Three Times Seven Is …
(BLR 3387-2)
Review Date: December 2008

by John Taylor

The blues as we know ‘em may have originated in America, but bands from around the world have proven the twelve-bar form is a genuinely universal language. It’s interesting to hear how well groups nail a musical language that’s far from native. It’s even more interesting to hear how the blues has influenced and shaped original music in a culture far removed from the music’s birthplace.Case in point, “Three Times Seven is …”, by Finns Micke Bjorklof & Blue Strip. They’re clearly influenced by tradition, but don’t let it stand in the way of innovation; their music borrows from rather than imitates the blues, for the most part with excellent results.

Listeners might wonder what they’re in for, however, with the opening track, “Ray Needs A Mojo Hand.” Sounding for all the world like the Temptations’ old chestnut, “Papa Was A Rolling Stone,” the song soon finds it’s own groove, but it shows composer (and the band’s guitarist) Ville Leppanen has eclectic tastes and open ears. Things are considerably rootsier with the second track here, “5-10-15 Hours,” with Leppanen’s mandolin and intricate percussion creating a driving rhythm that renders this one a highlight. “Miss Bluecap” shows the band can swing like mad while negotiating tricky changes. The use of vibes along with siren sound effects raise the fun quotient on an already jaunty tune right through the roof.

“Good Light” is a hypnotic, chant-like number with atmospheric percussion and an all-too-brief taste of Bjorklof’s harmonica, but within its relatively simple structure there’s enough going on to sustain interest. “Mapman” features funky guitar and punchy horns and a mid-tune break that’s musically satisfying on a song that’s lyrically lightweight (a homage to road maps?). Lyrics prove a bit of a problem on “Let My Love Shine Over You” as well – there’s a bit too much space on this pleading ballad to get away with awkwardly constructed phrasing, although the guitar solo is exceptional.

“Lowland Girl” is another delight, though, riding a voodoo vibe straight from the swamp that builds in power and intensity to hypnotic effect, while “Rocket To The City Moon” is another joyously jazzy romp again enhanced by judicious vibraphone and fleet acoustic guitar. Dave Bartholemew’s “Love No More” is jaunty and bouncy, though Bjorklof’s accent proves a bit distracting, if only because the template for jump tunes like this is so firmly fixed. “Morning Train” is forgettable, here showing best intentions and grand ambitions don’t always result in solid lyrics – best to skip over this one and go straight to “Red Lightening Mama,’ a delta blues with several twists that gives Leppanen another opportunity to exhibit some dazzling fretwork. Things come to a close with “Wheel Of Fortune,” another jazzy number that would be hard not to like.

Production here is first-rate throughout, as are performances. Leppanen’s guitar work is consistently compelling, and Bjorklof does a good job on vocals, even if his accent is just a little distracting at times. All in all, though, this one’s distinctive enough to stand out, and delightful enough to recommend to those interested in how the blues has branched out in distant lands.

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