february 2009

Get Out In That Kitchen and Rattle...

By Billy Altman

Theresa Andersson
Basin Street

I'm sure everyone is familiar with the term "Everything but the kitchen sink." But on her delightful new CD Hummingbird, Go! (her second album, with an EP squeezed in between the two), Theresa Andersson works the concept not only figuratively, but literally as well. Not only does this album feature such an eclectic array of manipulated instruments and stray percussion objects that it sounds like it came out of a musicmaking utility drawer, but it was actually recorded in Andersson's own kitchen. Of course, considering that this singer-songwriter's back story goes from an upbringing on Sweden's Gotland Island in the Baltic Sea to a longtime residency in the U.S. in another tides-surrounded place—New Orleans—maybe the recording geography does makes its own kind of illogically logical sense.

Theresa Andersson performing in the film New Orleans Music In Exile, the personal stories of Crescent City musicians piecing their lives and their music back together after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina

If our thought process (not to mention our prose) seems like it's drifting a bit far from the shore here, well, that is one of the effects that Andersson's fanciful, stardust-sprinkled music can have on a listener. Performing on a variety of standard and homemade instruments (guitar, violin, saw, soda bottles), her ever-shifting frames of reference include everything from Eastern European choral music (the trancelike "Locusts are Gossiping") and ancient Celtic tones (the Irish harp-like plucked violin of "Minor Changes") to '60s Motown (the "Can't Hurry Love" drumbeat of "Birds Fly Away") and folk ("God's Highway," which channels a bit of Simon and Garfunkel). And that's just the tip of the sonic iceberg: even a little Bjork shows up in the wordless harmonies of "Clusters," a snippet paralleled by the overdubbed one-woman doo-wop group number, appropriately titled (given the aforementioned recording locale) "Introducing The Kitchenettes."

Still, if you need just one track to try and convey the disarmingly refreshing spirit of this collection, head to "Japanese Art," in which Andersson roams the globe name-checking favorite cities: "Paris at night...New York's the coolest...Barcelona makes me eat," etc. And as for her adopted home? "New Orleans makes me sing." And just so that's clear, the song moves to a rhythm straight out of Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin'."

To summarize: Hummingbird, Go! - an album recorded in a kitchen. And yes, it cooks.

Founder/Publisher/Editor: David McGee
Contributing Editors: Billy Altman, Derk Richardson
Logo Design: John Mendelsohn (www.johnmendelsohn.com)
Website Design: Kieran McGee (www.kieranmcgee.com)
Staff Photographers: Audrey Harrod (Louisville, KY; www.flickr.com/audreyharrod), Alicia Zappier (New York)
E-mail: thebluegrassspecial@gmail.com
Mailing Address: David McGee, 201 W. 85 St.—5B, New York, NY 10024