Our voices are part of our genetic makeup. Sure, singers can train, practice, and exercise to improve their range and increase power. But when all's said and done, one's voice is one's voice …
Danish singer/guitarist Thorbjorn Risager is unquestionably blessed with powerful pipes. And for the most part he wields them quite effectively indeed on his studio debut, "From The Heart," a fine collection of primarily original compositions borrowing heavily from classic blues and R&B.
The leadoff track may discourage some – with crunchy guitars and snarling vocals dominating, "Love Turned Cold" is a little heavy-handed, despite beefy horns and effective organ. But track two, the bouncy "You Can Have It Your Way" is an irresistible slice of pop-blues (yes, there is such a thing!), while the slinky "Burning Up" blends the spooky sound of minor-key Otis Rush with a slippery uptown beat. The horn-heavy outfit handles slow blues very well on "Ain't Gonna Turn My Back On You," Risager stretching out with some fine fretwork on a Tin Pan Alley-type tune, and tackles Pete Johnson's "Roll ‘Em Pete" with gusto, although Risager's enthusiasm can't quite match Big Joe Turner's commanding authority.
Elsewhere there's yearning balladry ("Heart Of The Night,") and somewhat forgettable rock (Can't Get Enough," ironically, wears out its welcome and could be dropped for stronger material). "Same Old Blues," the only other cover here, is handled with suitable subtlety, while "I Don't Mind" is a jazzy jumper with lots of brassy swagger. Things come to a close with the murky acoustics of "Ain't Gonna Leave No More," an excellent cut showing a great feel for ‘post-modern' blues.
North American readers won't recognize the names but the band is excellent throughout, tempering tight grooves and a true ensemble approach with a relaxed feel that gives the music lots of life. As the band's main songwriter, Risager's compositions exhibit both craft and an obvious affection for classic forms, and he's blessed with a gritty, soulful voice, easily able to hold his own against a big brassy backdrop. There are moments when he might learn from the aforementioned Mr. Turner, and let that big voice command with a quieter authority, but that will no doubt come with experience. In the meantime, this is a delightful outing, both infectiously enthusiastic and musically accomplished.