Rick Danko, expatriate Canadian from the Band; Jonas Fjeld, Norwegian folk singer; and Eric Andersen, American songwriter, first joined forces in 1991. They released a stunning debut album which is now re-issued as One More Shot. Appleseed has made the package more attractive by including a raw, lo-fi live recording of the trio from the Molde International Jazz Festival, July 1991.
The studio album is beautiful. The three members play acoustic guitars and take turns singing lead and harmony vocals. They are complementary and supportive. This is truly a collaborative effort. Okay, sure, sometimes Eric Andersen’s effort sounds like an outtake from an Eric Andersen album, and from time to time Rick Danko’s feature reminds you of the Band; “Blue Hotel” is virtually a solo turn from Jonas Fjeld, but then they sing together and blend into a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts, and that’s when this disc really takes off.
“Drifting Away” starts the album with some hot electric guitar from guest Knut Reiersrud (check this guy’s solo work out!); “One More Shot” is a rollicking tune which likens the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle to that of Jesse James; and “Blaze of Glory” defines Danko’s philosophy of life even further. The quieter numbers are lovely and thoughtful. Danko’s take on Andersen’s “Blue River,” Fjeld’s “When Morning Comes to America” and Andersen’s own “Mary I’m Comin’ Back Home” are all homey ballads, each telling its own story, each wonderfully presented. The album concludes with a version of Tom Paxton’s standard “Last Thing On My Mind” that is definitive!
The trio was invited to play the Molde International Jazz Festival in the summer of 1991. Fortunately, Jonas Fjeld brought along a DAT recorder. Recorded with one Shure SM58 microphone, the second album is a historical document. Never before released in the USA, the live disc is raw and soulful. Danko starts with a version of “Mystery Train.” Liner notes list a band including Reiersrud among other Norwegian musicians, but this “Train” is Danko alone, and he “burn[s] up them tracks.” He follows this with a rather rushed rendition of “It Makes No Difference,” and “Twilight,” a Band tune he played ’til the end of his life. “Don’t put me in a frame on the mantle, memories turn dusty old and grey.” His voice strains and weaves and gives his performance added resonance.
He introduces Jonas Fjeld for “Blue Hotel.” Fjeld has a deep baritone that is particularly effective contrasted with Danko’s and Andersen’s tenors. Andersen joins them, and the sound fills out as the band accompanies them. Many of the songs from the first album are reprised, in loose renditions, marked by a sense of fraternity and professionalism. They add some hardanger fiddle (played by Hallvard T. Bjorgum); piano and accordion (Kristin Skaare); drums (Rune Arnesen) and the electric guitar of Knut Reiersrud to fully flesh out the sound.
I love recordings like this. Lost treasures, newly found, which open new vistas on special artists. Separately these three musicians make fine music, together they are almost transcendent. Thanks to Appleseed for making these recordings available.
(Appleseed Records, 2002)