Maggie Bjorklund Shaken on LP + Download
Maggie Bjorklund is a pedal steel guitarist/singer/composer from Copenhagen, Denmark. She has made a name for herself as an exceptional and stylistically unique musician, combining the tastes and techniques a wide variety of music - country, indie rock, film scores, psychedelia, pop - into a seamless blend of roots music. Over the years she has landed coveted touring gigs with Jack White (and performed on his latest Lazaretto), X’s John Doe and Exene Cervenka, and Howe Gelb, and recruited big names for her debut release Coming Home in 2011: Mark Lanegan, Calexico’s Joey Burns and John Convertino, John Auer (the Posies), to name a few.
With the release of her second album Shaken, Bjorklund again puts together an A-plus band, consisting of drummer Convertino, Barb Hunter on cello, Jim Barr (Portishead) on bass, John Parish (noted for his work as a singer/songwriter with PJ Harvey, Sparklehorse) on guitars/electric bass and production, and a featured guest vocal appearance by Kurt Wagner (Lambchop). This time around, the songwriting has a dire purpose and a profound, cathartic inspiration for its timely arrangement. “The album took form in the midst of some big changes in my life,” Bjorklund said. “My mother died. I wrote a big part of the material while going to the hospital every day and helping her on her last road to the end.”
Shaken is full of potent memories and emotional outpouring, as translated into the warm but dark sonic textures. Much of the music here - whether instrumental or with vocals - flows like lucid dreams, with the listener visualizing the scenery via detailed aural talisman (e.g. the surreal warped music box feel in “The Road To Samarkand”) and sepia-tinged picturesque tchotchkes (in “Walking” Maggie delicately sings, “ice in a glass / and I held it to cool the palm of my hand” or “stones in the road / worn-out boots and street signs for shows”). At the sound’s core are the subtly dominant and defining touches of Bjorklund’s pedal steel melody lines, best heard in the distorted ghostly swells of “Bottom of the Well” and the breathy waves of “The Unlucky.”
Some of these details and lyrical themes show for a strain of melancholy throughout the album, but Bjorklund clarifies that the songs aren’t all sad. In “Walking” the singer is ready to break when she eeks out, “I was ready to fall…” but finds redeeming inspiration, “Dancing, that is all we’ve got to do / Keep on dancing right on ‘til the night is through.” Similarly, there are signs of spiritual perseverance in “Bottom of the Well”: “I’m a warrior who lost the war but still I wanna fight / I’m a drunkard at the bottom at the well.”
The experience of composing after such a weighty, emotional event surprisingly brought with it a release of creative sparks - like taking a deep breath - and an excitement that she feared was stowed away during the mourning process. Shaken takes its shape from that magic that is created when a group of musicians play together and collectively interpret a singular vision, which in this case, was mending a grieving heart.
The individual pieces of the collective jointly forge a sort of rootsy Frankenstein’s monster, stitching appendages together from the aura of Hunter’s cinematic and emotive cello bowing, Convertino’s brush-driven desert noir/jazz-orchestral drumming, Barr’s creeping upright bass lines, and the reverb-through-vintage guitars sound of Parish and Bjorklund. Essences of Broadcast, Portishead, Serge Gainesbourg, and Ennio Morricone can be felt throughout.
“Watching a human wither and die is one of the strongest things I have witnessed,” Bjorklund admits. “That little gap between the life before and the life after this event, happened by chance to be the exact time of this album taking shape. That moment holds some fundamental truths if we dare to explore them. I chose to stay with it and let it happen.”
“Spine-tingling, spectral folk-pop.” – NPR
Maggie Bjorklund Shaken Track Listing:
1. Dark Side of the Heart
3. Bottom of the Well
4. The Road to Samarkland
5. Fro Fro Heart
6. The Unlucky
7. Name in the Sand
8. Missing at Sea
11. Teach Me How to Say Goodbye