Sweden’s The Original Five returns with an energetic, melodic, and enjoyable follow-up to last year’s debut. Bubbling up through the 14 song cauldron of styles, one hears traditional and contemporary bluegrass, of course, but also ’60s and ’70s folk, Beatles-era pop, West Coast bluegrass, and Americana.
The Americana sound is most obvious among the five originals written and sung by guitarist Jonas Svahn. Svahn has one of those vocal deliveries that would be quite at home at any alternative-type festival. You can hear it strongly on his “Steal Your Train.” The tune in the Stanley mode hits an un-Stanley chord and shifts to a contemporary sound. Svahn enters with his warm, buzzy lead and his words of helping a friend get on the right track, and we’re in Americana. His slow, wistful “Thin Black Line” has a similar feel. On “Wrong Turn Right” and his song of emigrating to a new life, “I Will Find My Way” with its hints of Irish and Tim O’Brien, it is only his voice that hints at Americana. All four are highlights.
Equally good, though a bit different are several written and sung by bassist Dan Englund. Both “I’m Doing Fine” and “Mine” recall the West Coast bluegrass sound. “Mine” has a touch of Beatles-pop in the chorus. Both are very good tunes, well done. So is the raggy, swing stomp of “Push That Rock.” On that one, Englund seems to cast himself in the role of Sisyphus, doomed to get back at it each day. Also here are two solid resonator guitar instrumentals from Daniel Olsson, and covers of Jens Kruger’s “Carolina In The Fall” and Jimmy Webb’s “Highwayman” with a nifty intro. Together they comprise a good second effort. (www.theoriginalfive.se.)BW