Ever heard of singer/harmonicist Peder Nande? How 'bout guitarist Carsten Larrson? Or drummer Martin Bode? Bassist Morten Burup?
I thought not. And more's the pity. 'Cause collectively the aforementioned individuals comprise Nande & The Big Difference, one of the finest jump blues outfits to hit my CD player so far this year. But they're from Denmark, and to the best of my knowledge have never made it to our shores. Again, more's the pity.
Augmented by rollicking piano and moody organ work courtesy of guest Peter Lapiki, Nande & The Big Difference have crafted a fine platter, for the most part solidly in the west coast tradition; yet, as they themselves say in the liner notes, they don't want to find themselves in the 'retro-trap.' Hence a varied playlist that borrows from what's come before, with the disc's fifteen tracks divided almost equally between covers (eight) and originals. The former include Dave Bartholomew's "I Can't Stop It," "She's A Good 'Un" from the pen of Otis Rush (which could also serve as a capsule summary of the disc), "Okie Dokie Stomp," Willie Dixon's "Good Understanding," and one from R.J. Mischo. There are a pair from Leiber/Stoller (the classic "Kansas City" and the little-known "One Bad Stud"), and Roy Brown's "Good Rockin' Tonight" provides a fitting closer.
The originals, all credited to the band as a whole, fit perfectly into the playlist, with a playful sense that shows these guys know it's all supposed to be fun - hence titles like "Don't Count Your Chickens," "Duckin' And Divin'," and the (presumably) ironic "Kiss Your Feet." Instrumental contributions are first-rate throughout; as with songwriting credits, everyone works together to create a seamless ensemble sound. Mr. Larrson displays an admirable economy and great tone, while Mr. Nande proves equally adept at both chromatic and diatonic harmonica; again, there's nothing fancy, nothing flashy in his playing, but it's always spot on.
Which brings us to the question of vocals. The blues are hard enough to sing (think of how many otherwise great discs have been irredeemably marred by weak vocals). And whether fair or not, too strong an accent can render a disc too strange for many tastes. Happily, Mr. Nande has almost no discernable trace, and is thoroughly convincing as a result.
While the West Coast influence is prominent in the band's sound, they refuse to be pigeonholed too tightly, and there's lots of Chicago in the mix as well; if one's looking for comparisons, perhaps the most apt is transplanted Minnesotan (sp?) R. J. Mischo, who, coincidentally, contributes liner notes to the project. But this isn't one of those soundalike groups unable to escape their influences; there may not be anything terribly innovative or earth shattering here, but the boys definitely have their own sound.
This one's a winner all the way - highly recommended!
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