Album Reviews – Signe Tollefsen (playing live at Adelphi April 14th)
By Michelle Dee
It has been four years since Dutch/American singer/songwriter Signe Tollefsen played live at the Lamp in Hull. That night she wowed the audience with a set overflowing with songs of sheer beauty and extraordinary vocal prowess.
Since then Signe has been awarded Best Musician at Grote Prijs van Nederland, Holland’s most prestigious New Talent competition for Alternative Music, shared a stage with Stephen Malkmus - former Pavement member- and written and recorded her eponymous debut album. Signe Tollefsen (by Signe Tollefsen) is a winning collection of folk noir, to reach for when you feel the desire to withdraw, from the rest of the world. The album, recorded in ex 4 Non Blonde Linda Perry’s studio, features Signe on vocals, guitar, banjo, harmonium, dulcimer and piano she is joined by other musicians playing an assorted array of instruments including pedal steel, slide and electric guitar, violin, mandolin, accordion, bass clarinet and trumpet. All these different sounds herald a change from the minimalist quality of previous work.
There is always a concern when an artist goes away to work with other musicians that the essence of what lured you in the first time, will be lost. I’m happy to report that this hasn’t happened to Signe’s songs. Each accompanying instrument compliments the songs adding new depths. What once was raw naked emotion, now emerges older, wiser and wrapped in intrigue, mystery, and a sense of past.
The thirteen track album opens with, “It smells of you,” a bittersweet reflection, sharing the moment when life is interrupted by lingering memories of a past love. During, “History Class,” I get a fleeting reminder of Kirsty McColl, then I’m drawn into the fragile beauty of, “You me and the brewers.” Featuring legendary violinist Jerry Goodman, and a faithful banjo sound from Signe, this one contains a harmonised refrain to soften the stoniest heart. The unmistakable, “King of the fire,” appears halfway through, along with, “Up to no good,” both are given more layers and come across sounding fuller, more complete somehow. In between sits, “My old man,” an ode about the nature of love and of learning to live by its uncertainty.
Whether storytelling with sultry smokiness or singing distinctive tones of pure devotion, Signe has long been, one of the most captivating folk artists around, she now has her first album to confirm it.
Signe Tollefsen will be touring the UK throughout April and appearing on BBC’s Raw Talent. Her debut album is to be released 7th June 2010 through Corazong Records.