CD reviews: Linnea Olsson, Leo Welch

  • Updated: January 27, 2014 - 3:13 PM

Linnea Olsson, “Ah!”

POP/ROCK

Linnea Olsson, “Ah!” (Gotterfunk)

This Swedish songwriter’s debut album is a thoroughly solo production. Her voice and cello are the only sounds she uses for nearly the entire album; now and then she might whistle or clap her hands. Her lone collaborator plays hand drum on just one song, the title track.

That doesn’t mean the music is austere. Using overdubs, loops and echoes, Olsson multiplies her voice — or more accurately voices, since she can sound elfin, breathy, forthright and confiding. And with the cello she constructs string orchestras, while using pizzicato, tapping the bow on the strings or knocking on the cello body to give herself a rhythm section.

Olsson sings about falling in and out of love, about bliss and longing. Musically, she rarely uses the same approach twice. She summons the Baroque chug of a Vivaldi suite in “Dinosaur,” the insistent plucking of Joanna Newsom in “Giddy Up!,” quivery tremolo chords in the whispery ballad “Fortune,” and the unswerving pulse of Minimalism under a wordless chorus in the song whose only lyric is its title, “Summer.”

And for all the studio craftsmanship that goes into the songs, they end up sounding like simple declarations of emotion, like her final words on the album, tearfully confided over elegiac chords in “Never Again”: “I have tried so many times to be a good and forgiving girl. It is through.”

With this album, Olsson joins the international ranks of loop enthusiasts — songwriters like Andrew Bird, Theresa Andersson, Ana Laan and Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards — whose ingenious methods disappear into their songs.

JON PARELES, New York Times

BLUES

Leo Welch, “Sabougla Voices” (Big Legal Mess)

Now 81 years old, Welch has spent a long life making music in his native Mississippi. “Sabougla Voices,” however, is his first record. And what a joyous blast it is.

Welch melds the church and the juke joint. The subject matter is gospel — “Praise His Name,” “You Can’t Hurry God,” “The Lord Will Make a Way” — but the vehicle for delivery almost always is the blues. The singer-guitarist (sometimes with a backing chorus) tears into full-band electric blues that can be as lowdown and dirty as the sentiments are spiritual and high-minded. In Welch’s still-vigorous hands, the gospel-blues combination reaches some ecstatic peaks (“Praying Time,” “His Holy Name”) but also takes some quieter turns (“Mother Loves Her Children,” one of the acoustic-based numbers that veer toward country-blues). Either way, the music never fails to be supremely moving.

Nick Cristiano, Philadelphia Inquirer

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