Reviews

A Beautiful Record!

Review “Sun Will Come” / Bluestown Records

BN126 – SEPTEMBER 2022

Bluesnews 27.09. 2022 / Johnny Andreassen

On her new album, Rita Engedalen appears more ardently African-American and Native American in soul, song and blues than ever. It is a powerful performance in which nothing is indifferent or “mere entertainment.” The opening song is a timeless acoustic old school blues. The simple and magical Mississippi blues formula that she has refined into her very own style over a long life. The jangle in the guitar strings, the naked nerve, giving the feeling that this has been recorded in the most honest and direct production possible. Where the strong feelings of pain and hope merge, being powerful and magical. Just put away your cell phone, the newspaper and your deck of cards. Rita Engedalen will hand out the cards for you this time. She has a lot of emotions and a lot of strong blues to share with you on a wonderfully strong album. The bare acoustic opening immediately turns into a heavily rocked voodoo priestess in “Sunshine devil.” The menacing rumble of the bass, the African-American ominous and dense drumming, the voodoo B3 Hammond and Morten Omlid’s less-is-more electric guitar riffing, together with Rita’s foreboding vocal is a high-end of exceptional. There is nowhere to hide. Here you need to be strong. This is exactly how the world feels for many of us today. After pouring out naked emotions and painting herself with war paint, everything is subdued to a lingering country beat a la Rosanne Cash. It’s the hour of reckoning, a debt is to be paid, but we need God’s strength and help to make it. The crows circle above us while the sky turns black. You can put a lot into the lyrics and mood in a country tune that feels so relaxed and laid back as this song, a bit like Chris Rea in one of his melancholy moments. The variety of song material is enormous on this album, everything is surprisingly well connected, complete and not feeling cut or pasted, but rather like a whole lived life split into several chapters. I say astonishingly, because the album didn’t feel that way right away. You need three or four listens, preferably by yourself focusing on the music and details, before you are “home” at the center of this album. The experience of the album’s Zen. And I promise you: This feels like Rita’s best album to date. The album has a live recorded feel, just hearing Rita count in the title track confirms that.  It is an album about survival, about rain and dark clouds. it is about a promise that the sun will break through one day.  It is blues to the bone in the singer/songwriter’s presentation style of her mentor Jessie Mae Hemphill and on to John Prine’s country blues. She does one of Jessie Mae Hemphill’s truly iconic blues songs in “Black Cat Bone”, where Daniel Eriksen brings out his rattlesnake guitar which, together with Rita’s heartfelt vocals and timing, makes this a moment that feels bewitching and magical. Jessie Mae Hemphill is Rita Engedalen. Rita Engedalen is Jessie Mae Hemphill. Proud and magical blues, right up there with the best you’ve heard from treasure chests up north Mississippi. When Rita delivers the song which is about exactly what we’re talking about here “North Mississippi Blues.” the guitars are sharper, more rock ‘n’ roll, more CBGB’s than the time when a young Patti Smith ravaged there with intense ferocity in the mid-’70s. Things are turned upside down, and it works. The soul and spirit of this album is unlike that of anyone else’s.

“I am Changed”, which Rita first recorded in 2008, is one of her most personal and professing songs, which is done in a completely new version with Nils Petter Molvær on trumpet. The jazz feelings really dresses this song’s personal and almost religious message, where Morten Omlid’s guitars are delightfully withdrawn and more like a 50’s backdrop. Proof that things mature, and can always be done better. It is one of Rita’s strongest songs that has been lifted to someplace new and will make an impression on many, I think. The album is entirely recorded in Juke Joint Studio at Notodden, Rita has produced herself, Margit Bakken, Tuva Syvertsen and Kari Gjærum carefully.  They are a chorus with 150 years of experience. Olaf Olsen from Bigbang delivers tasteful percussion, Notodden’s B3 magician Espen Fjelle performs on a number of songs, with Bård Gunnar Moe skilfully on bass, the foundation of Spoonful Of Blues, Eskil Aasland on drums and Morten Omlid providing guitars. Jostein Forsberg plays harmonica on “I want to feel good”. If there’s anything you feel after getting into this seventh album by Rita Engedalen, «it’s feeling good». Rita leaves the album with Native American nerve on “Wait for Me,” similar to the one she began with on “Let’s Go Down and Pray.” The mood from the introduction is there, the dark clouds, the lived life, the blues. “Time is running out now, like the water to the sea, wait for me”. No party record, no easy record, no incoherent record, but a lot of soul, blues and a Rita Engedalen who, in  Norway, there only is one of. A lovely album – almost perfect as the material is completely there!

https://bluesnews.no/musikkanmeldelser?PID=19&page=2

Dagsavisen 04.08.22

Gitte Johannessen / NTB

My Mother’s Blues ( 2015 )

Albumet er både hardt og lyrisk på samme tid

Dagbladet    

Så ekte at du sitter helt paralysert på stolen

Drammens Tidende  

Det som gjør sterkest inntrykk er hvor ektefølt Ritas blues oppleves

Fædrelandsvennen  

Ektefølt sang som bærer albumet

Telemarksavisa  

Tøft, ren blues

Varden  

Rita Engedalens stemme er en av de sterke bluesstemmene

Desibel  

Inderlig folk og blues

Bergensavisen  

Rita Engedalen viser igjen at hun behersker et vidt spekter

Hamar Arbeiderblad  

Blues Music Magazine (2015)

“Broken Soul Blues” & “My Mother’s Blues”

Blues Blast Magazine (2015)

“My Mother’s Blues”

Acoustic Blues, Mellow Ballads

What better time than frozen winter to review the fifth album from Norway’s Rita Engedalen? According to her promotional information sheet, “Rita Engedalen is Norway’s Queen of the Blues. She creates and performs her own music and is thoroughly genuine.” This may be the case, but Rita’s heavily-accented yet belting vocals are definitely an acquired taste. To be more easily accessible to English speakers, there is a lyrics booklet included with My Mother’s Blues.

The info sheet continues: “The music on My Mother’s Blues is Rita Engedalen’s personal mix of blues, roots, rock, gospel and country. The influences from [her] travels to Mississippi leave a clear mark on the music, as does her inspiration by and love for Norwegian folk music. Her songs are expertly crafted, and every song has its story to tell, all deeply rooted in Engedalen the traveling musician, as mother and in her family background. Sometimes shockingly honest, filled with realism, while at other times the lyrics are barely scratching the surface of a bigger story, leaving the listeners to interpret on their own, with imagination and fantasy adding, thus, the stories to the listener’s own personal experiences and stories. Rita Engedalen has won the Norwegian Grammy Award for the album Heaven Ain’t Ready For Me Yet, and she has numerous Norwegian Grammy nominations for previous recordings.”

With all of that said, what to make of My Mother’s Blues, and of Rita? Sometimes she sounds like a wise and haunting Native American shaman, as on her first track, “Snow Falls”. At other times her voice is almost atonal, equally balanced between singing and talking. Despite that, she plays melodic acoustic guitar alongside her band, Backbone (named in the CD liner notes).

With her are guitarist Morten Omlid; bassist Jens Olav Haugen; drummer/percussionist Eskil Aasland; fiddle player Knut Nyheim; background vocalists Kiare Robinson, Shanekqua McAbee, Gary Vincent, Margit Bakken, and Myra Turner; Gøran Grini on vocals, grand piano, and Hammond organ; guitarist Geir Sunstøl; and Espen Fjelle on Hammond organ.

Die-hard fans of Rita Engedalen should definitely purchase her fifth release to supplement their Scandinavian blues collection; others should be cautious!

https://www.bluesblastmagazine.com/rita-engedalen-my-mothers-blues-album-review/

Klassekampen (2015)

“My Mother’s Blues”

Engedalens dypt kvinnelige blues!

Temperaturen i debatten om kvinnelige artisters representasjon på norske festivaler har i sommer steget merkbare hakk, som på kommando av den usedvanlige sommeren selv.

Denne helga gikk Notodden Blues av stabelen, uten at den generelle kvinneandelen av den grunn gikk signifi kant opp. Så har da også bluesen alltid vært kraftig mannsdominert. Det innebærer likevel ikke at blueshistorien ikke har hatt sine store kvinnelige artister, og fortsatt har markante feminine stemmer.

Rita Engedalen, vinner av Notodden Bluesfestivals Bluespris i 2010, er en av dem som sørger for å kaste lys over denne historien, og er samtidig Norges mest markante kvinnelige bluessanger.  Torsdag slapp Engedalen sitt femte album, som hun i sin helhet framførte på Notodden torsdag – et album som allerede i tittelen vektlegger kvinners blues, «My Mother’s Blues». Engedalen valfarter ofte til musikkens geografiske røtter i Mississippi og hun rakk å knytte tette bånd til en av bluesmusikkens opphavskvinner, Jessie Mae Hemphill (1923-2006), eksponent for såkalt Hill Country Blues. Dette er dyp blues i alle forståelser av ordet, ofte skåret ned til beinet for hva som virkelig er nødvendig for å formidle både smerten og gleden i denne formen for folkemusikk.

Engedalen og hennes partner in crime, co-produsent og gitarist, Morten Omlid (selv vinner av Bluesprisen i 2007), har laget det nye albumet i Juke Joint Studio, nå en del av det nye Bok & Blueshuset ved vannkanten på Notodden. Der sørger de for at tvers igjennom eminent musisering ikke stiller seg i veien for Engedalens myndige og store stemme.

Klassekampen: Tom Skjeklesæther – musikk@klassekampen.no

Dagbladet (2011)

“Chapels And Bars”

Bluesdronninga fra Jondalen imponerer!

Modigere Rita Engedalen på album nummer fire.

Rita Engedalen (39) fra Jondalen i Kongsberg er for lengst kronet — riktignok høyst uoffisielt — til «Norges bluesdronning». Men det er vanskelig å tenke seg hvem som skulle ta fra henne tittelen i dag.

Engedalen har autoriteten som skal til for at hun står fram som en sterk kvinnestemme, med tekster med et anstrøk av feminisme. Bluesdamer som Engedalen formidler den på sin måte, som i Irma Thomas’«Don’t Mess With My Man».

Notodden

Engedalen er en av mange norske artister som innfridde under Notodden Blues Festival sist helg. Engedalen spilte både på Folk & blues-scenen med «Damer i blues»-partner Margit Bakken og amerikanske gjester — og med eget band i det store bluesteltet. «Chapels And Bars», som ble lansert under festivalen, er hennes fjerde album — og det første på tre år.

For 2006-albumet «Heaven Ain’ Ready For Me Yet» fikk hun Spellemannpris i bluesklassen, og mange gode krefter har vært i sving for at «Chapel And Bars» også skal bli en vinner.

Gjester

Albumet er spilt inn i Notoddens Juke Joint Studio (studioets «vennlige spøkelse» skal kunne høres på «Last Talk»!). I tillegg til hennes eget band, der særlig gitarist Morten Omlid har fått en egen signatur, elektrisk eller akustisk, stiller en rekke musikervenner opp.

Svenske Sven Zetterberg er for eksempel overbevisende duettpartner i en av tre coverlåter, Big Mama Thorntons «Ball And Chain», og Bjørn Berge setter sitt stempel på tittelkuttet med sin stemme og National Steel-gitar.

Men, det er singelen «Holy Land» med Coahoma Community College Concert Choir, spilt inn i bluesens fødeby Clarksdale, Mississippi, som står for det mektigste innslaget på albumet — med Jens Haugens lett «dansende» bass og Omlids forsiktige gitar i bunnen. På samme måte står «Epilogue — Bless The Hours» fram med sin enkelthet.

Avdøde Kristin Berglund har dessuten fått en nydelig hyllest i form av Ritas egen, countryinspirerte «She Rocked The Cradle Of The Blues».

Mississippi

Engedalens hjerte banker for Mississippi, og særlig har Jessie Mae Hemphill, «the queen of hill country blues», vært ei ledestjerne.

Hun ble kjent med sangeren og gitaristen, som døde 71 år gammel i 2006, og har sunget og fortalt mye om henne.

Typisk nok har også «Chapels And Bars» en gospellåt av Jessie Mae, «Lord I Feel Better», med Tuva Livsdatter Syvertsen fra Valkyrien Allstars på vokal og hardingfele — eneste instrument i tillegg til Eskil Aaslands perkusjon. Jo da, Tuva fikser gospel også.

«Damer i Blues»

I åtte har Engedalen hatt prosjektet «Damer i blues» sammen med Margit Bakken — der de hyller de kvinnelige amerikanske bluespionerene. Bakken korer også på albumet.

På «Chapels And Bars» er Engedalen modigere enn på de første albumene, som er mer folkblues-preget. Her finner du for eksempel mer elektrisk råskap i tradisjonen etter blant andre R.L. Burnside, med Omlids snerrende gitar i front, i «My Hill Country Blues», men også gospelinspirerte sanger som «Last Talk», med Runar Bojesen på piano, og countryinspirerte sanger som «House Of Shame», med Jostein Forsberg på munnspill.

Variasjonen i uttrykket er større, og artisten Rita Engedalen mer fullkommen. «Chapels And Bars» kan spilles både i kapellet og i baren. Blir det ny Spellemannpris?

Dagbladet 9. aug. 2011 – Øyvind Rønning

På historisk grunn: Rita Engedalen utenfor legendariske Sun Studio i Memphis.

Foto: Bjørn-Owe Holmberg / Dagbladet

På Beale Street: Morten Omlid er en viktg del av lydbildet til Rita Engedalen. Her står de foran B.B. King’s Blues Club på musikkgata i Beale Street Memphis.

Foto: Bjørn-Owe Holmerg / Dagbladet

groove.no (2005)

“Hear My Song”

The strength of the blues might be found in the little nuances.

I really don’t know too much about Rita Engedalen, beside what one can read from the cover. She’s a regular at Norwegian blues festivals, and I’ve heard people compare her to Janis Joplin – she even mentions Joplin as her own favourite in the liner notes. Still, I prefer Engedalen’s control to Joplin’s screaming (just scream out loud, and it’s blues…), the way Rita modulates the power of her delivery to fit the songs proves that blues doesn’t have to be loud to be forceful.

Another big factor in this recording’s success is the presence of the “Notodden mafia”. Especially noteworthy is guitarist Morten Omlid, who deserves a place on the list of the country’s best blues guitarists. His performance, on acoustic, slide or electric, is impressive. Another essential ingredient is the organic sound that engineer Steve Wold conjures up in his Juke Jount Studio. This is a 100% analog recording, and the sound is wonderful. The blues artists seem to be leading the pack in this area – only a few rock outfits here in Norway seem to have realized the benefits of analog sound recording; Cato Salsa and Øystein Greni (Big Bang) being among the few cognoscenti that come to mind.

Now, about the album. It’s a quite cocky start, with Omlid backing Engedalen on acoustic guitar. That’s all. Still, Trouble in Mind hits bullseye. On Engedalen’s Walk On (co-written by Wold, who contributes on slide and vocals), there’s a beautiful call-and-response between the two singers. Then it’s time to rock, and I’m not talking about blues rock, but rock like the T-Birds. Omlid draws up a steaming backing, and Engedalen shows us the power of her voice. Then it’s back to Mississippi with Juke Joint Yodel, complete with Burnside-slide and a great solo by Omlid. The rhythm section, Haugen and Aasland, keeps the groove planted.

On Shine with Me, Rita does it all herself, and the result is one of the most powerful songs on the album. No wonder Engedalen and Jessie Mae Hemphill hit it off when they met in Mississippi just prior to this recording session! Sister Town is a bit more forgettable, but when What Good Can Drinkin’ Do jumps out of the speakers and transports you to a Southern porch, everything is wonderful again. Shake a Hand is delivered in a Lou Ann Barton spirit, with Omlid playing Jimmi Vaughan. Cool! Eric Andresen himself contributes on the Jon Lee Hooker-inspired duet Angel In Disguise.

Hear My Song was a positive surprise, not least because the musicians display such an understanding and love of the material. If you’re looking for Norwegian blues that’s not the standard “guys with guitars”, this record is a great alternative.

This capsule review is based on the full length, Norwegian language review by Thomas Andersen, published 06.04.2005

https://www.groove.no/anmeldelse/85574933/hear-my-song-rita-engedalen