A dark yet beautiful world!

It´s not often I stumble upon a female solo artist that sounds like – and write songs – that brings to mind gravel voiced artist like Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash and Nick Cave – and sirens like  Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star, PJ Harvey and Liz Phair. This sextet’s musical expression is recreated in the form of a woman of in er mid-twenties of Ethiopian origin but now residing in Finland.

The name Mirel Wagner sounds less Ethiopian and absolutely not like a name from Finland. It´s a name that seems to have a lot of dark history – and her stories is as dark as someone at least twice her age.

After name dropping Cash, Cohen, Cave, Sandoval, Harvey and Phair who is still reading – and wants to hear more about Mirel Wagner and her self titled debut album?

The Mirel Wagner record was recorded in just two days, mostly accompanied by a naked guitar. Minimalist picking the guitar. From bitter sounding melodies to more mantra-riff-o-rama – all performed solely on the guitar. Only accompanied by Mirel Wagners lonely yet strong and mellow voice

The voice and the songs need to be explained more closely; When Mirel sings, her voice is monotonous, coarse, rough, tired of life – it sounds as if each word must be forced out of her mouth. At the same time, there’s still something oddly beautiful – and she has a natural sensuality in her voice. The recording of her voice and instruments is so quiet and calm that every little strum the guitars neck can be heard. When the nails touches the guitar strings – and her fingers are being dragged up the guitar neck it makes this sliding sound. As if the guitar sighs.

You´ll hear Mirel Wagners voice deep in your ears, so close – you can almost feel the warmth of her breath. Hear the sound of her lips when she separate them and starts to sing – and you´ll even hear them touch each other again when she finishes the song. Even when Mirels tongue moves around her mouth to make this small clicking sound – and it hits the palate and her teeth in the oral cavity. Every small sigh of air she’s making as she prepare her self to sing the next line in her songs – and the sigh of relief that comes at the end of each sentence. I got a feeling that she may be laying down on either bed or on the naked concrete floor or sitting all alone in the dark while recording the album
So tight, close and without doubt very intimate.

Heres the album cover to Mirel Wagners self-titled debut album from 2011. You can hear it here; 

Click HERE to listen to the album in Spotify!

From start to end the albums steals only 35 minutes of your lifetime. The themes of the album is pitch-dark and grim stories of death, deep grief, problems and nightmarish small short stories spread over the 9 tracks.

If i should sort her albums in my record collection I sure would put her album in one of these fictional music genres; doom soul, dark folk, goth blues, minimalist folk.

If Mirel Wagner was a color – i would describe her as the non-colors black and white. As her musical world, and the album art, the pictures, the font and the liner notes and lyrics; All in rough black and white!

Only the song “No Hands”, in all of its monotone performance and simple naive text, are envisioned a tiny hope of simple childlike joy …

been riding my bicycle
all day long up and down the old
dusty dirt road
look mother no hands
see the sun filter through the trees
I am happy

…But the happines lasts only until the last open-for-interpretation and disturbing verse…

the wind and the speed
can not see the danger
look mother no hands

Maybe Mirel Wagners “No Hands” is written in a parallel world with the late Syd Barret in mind? Or at least her song is a part two of the song he wrote for his band Pink Floyd – the naive child like same-themed song “Bike”

The lyrics, music, photos
Step into Mirel Wagner
Dark, sensual world!

The sweet revenge of Tom Jones!

Introduction

Everyone knew who “the man in black” was. The late and great Johnny Cash. In his last years he hooked up with legendary producer Rick Rubin to produce his “American Recordings” album series. Rick Rubin was also the producer behind the album “21” by Adele – a album that has grown to become one of the bestselling albums the last two years. Many years before that he produced The Beastie Boys first album “Ill Communication”, Slayers “Reign In Blood” and Red Hot Chili Peppers funkiest album “Blood Sugar Sex Magic”. With the “American” albums by Johnny Cash he reinvented Johnny as one of the greatest singer-of-songs ever with sparse recordings of other artists songs mainly acoustic, raw and a naked production.
The albums covered great songs performed by artists like Depeche Mode, Tom Petty, Nine Inch Nails, Leonard Cohen and more! All inn all Johnny Cash released 6 albums produced by Rick Rubin!

In the following years we saw artist like legendary and one of worlds best songwriters Kris Kristofferson record albums in the same vein. Like his “This Old Road”. Kris Kristoffersons friend Willie Nelson has done the same thing for years, and he is also becoming better and better the older he gets, and gets more cred. His voice gets more fragile and broken and shows real soul! Another great of the grand singer-songwriters is Neil Diamond who had Rick Rubin to produce a couple of his albums. His latest albums has been replicas of the Johnny Cash formula; One legend, sparse and quite dark recordings, a large handful of cover songs, but he has not had the same success as the late man in black had. It seems like the team Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin started something they couldn´t imagine themselves!

But now – to the man this blogpost is supposed to be about – and I have to admint – a man I didn´t think I ever would write a blogpost about…

Welcome back Sir Tom Jones

Yes, you read correctly. The welch stallion did two years ago what he should have done years ago. He admitted his age – and has reinvented himself as a living legend – and he sounds better than ever!

I guess many of you fell off your chair now – or think I must be mad or something.

Am I talking about the same Tom Jones that has girls – or to sound less pervert – women’s underwear thrown onstage for as long as you and I can remember.

The same Tom Jones that worked with 80s electro-synth group The Art Of Noise on his rework of “Kiss” the Prince classic from 1986.

The same Tom Jones that made a whole album of covers on “Reload” with a bunch of young(er) musicians like Cardigans Nina Person, Lenny Kravitz, Robbie Williams, Manic Street Preachers, Portishead, Stereophonics and Cherys Matthews to name just a few.

The same Tom Jones that did a whole album “Mr Jones” with Wycleff Jean of legendary rap-group The Fugees behind the mixing- and producer table in 2002.

Tom Jones also sported a darker hair and had grown a beard during these “younger” years (thanks to a creative hairdresser one must admit) and his face seemed way smoother than other men half his age.

But back in 2004 something happened – Sir Tom Jones made an album with Jools Holland where they went back to his own roots, covering songs in genres he played in his younger years; Blues, R&B, Rockabilly songs. I haven’t heard this album so I am not going to dig too deep into to it other than I already then heard rumors about Tom Jones is doing giant leap away from dance/rock/pop he did in the late 90s – early 2000s.

Four years later, in 2008 he released “24 Hours” a album that was a again flirting with the combo of modern beats and newer retrosoul by artist like Duffy and the late Amy Winehouse. Enough about that for now!

Then the man rises again…

The welsh stallion, this time not meant sexually – but huge, strong and mighty! Tom Jones doesn´t work with young hip musicians. His hair has got a more natural color, white, gray like silver
r, so has his, new trademark, the beard. His face has started again to show natural lines and he, to be honest, Tom Jones look more natural and cooler than ever!

The year is 2010 and he works with producer Ethan Jones, who has had his magic hands on albums by artists such as Ray LaMontagne, Ryan Adams, Counting Crows, Rufus Wainwright, Joe Cocker – to name a few. Tom Jones sings in a more laid-back tone, his voice sounds deeper. He almost talks more than he sings. He sounds almost like his friend from younger years, Elvis Presley at his last recordings.

You can click here to listen to the album in Spotify

The album he releases, “Praise & Blame” is a spiritual album, where he digs into the american songbook (sic). And starts the album with a great cover of Bob Dylans “What Good Am I” and Tom Jones owns this song from now on! John Lee Hooker also gets covered, country legend Billy Joe Shaver and a great collection of other blues/gospel/soul songs. The four last songs is written by Tom Jones and Ethan Jones and fits perfectly into the great mix of mainly acoustic, sparse recordings – with focus on the voice and naked production and telling the spiritual stories. The album lasts for only 38 great minutes.

It seems like record companies has understood that a album does´t have to fill up all 80 minutes that is possible to push into a single CD. The next, and until now last, Tom Jones album “Spirit In The Room” was released earlier this year, in the first half of 2012 and includes only 37 minutes of music. The albums includes more of the same, as on “Praise & Blame” – and is a great album full of new and old classics songs – no fillers!

You can click here to listen the albums in Spotify

Tom Jones shows the listener that the older he gets, the better he gets. Ethan Jones is still producing his albums and the comparison with Rick Rubins American series of Tom Jones starts to show. The main difference between “Praise & Plame” and “Spirit In The Room” is on “Praise” did Tom Jones mainly do versions of classic blues and R&B songs by long gone legends within the genre – and on “Spirit” he revisits more contemporary songs by artists like the album opener Leonard Cohens “Tower Of Song”. Paul Simons “Love & Blessings” and Paul McCartneys “(I Want To) Come Home”, Richard & Linda Thompsons “Dimming of the Lights” and Tom Waits “Bad As Me” – there is also a cover of a even younger band, The Low Anthem song and some blues covers on this album. Tom Jones has become a laid-back – and a really cool artist – his artistic change can be compared with Johnny Cash´ transformation.

Tom Jones, now being in his 72nd year, shows the listeners that it´s to late to stop now! Instead he has finally started to be what he is – a great performer, that no longer try to be being hip and follows all the newest trends. Instead he has finally found his form – his genre, even though he walks in trails that already has been pawed up by other artists.
He still has courage to do what he does – and proves that he is – a man that is in his last part of life, but he still has the coolness to get on stage – and perform and doing songs the way only he can!

Tom Jones; if your friend the King of Rock&Roll, Elvis Presley, still had lived he would have been proud of you.

I like to think that Elvis looks at Sir Tom Jones from heaven up above with Johnny Cash by his side smiling and they agree…

…Sir Tom Jones – you won at last!