Saturday, October 25, 2014

Maggie Bjorklund: Shaken AND Stirred

Ever hear of Rusty Willoughby?  Neither had I until good buddy Howie Wahlen linked me to a video a few years ago, saying that he, somehow, as talented as he was, was buried in the indie woodpile.  I followed the link because Howie seldom passed along such recommendations unless there was something there.  When I got there, I understood.  Willoughby had something beyond the norm, part of which was a band full of Pac Northwest names of distinction, though I did not know it at the time.

Ensconced in that band, I found out, were four musicians who had previously and would turn my head---  Barrett Martin I knew from his work with a personal favorite, Screaming TreesRachel Flotard, whom I had heard of but never heard (I dug her for the name alone);  Barb Antonio, whom I found out is a mover and shaker as a cellist;  and a pedal steel player who was beginning to make her way into the consciousness of those of us who embraced those swimming beneath the surface of musicdom--- Maggie Bjorklund

Indeed, just the combination of gender and instrument was enough to pique my interest, but even at that early date, I was late to the party.  Bjorklund was already gaining speed as both a session player and an artist in her own right.  She released her first album, Coming Home, in 2011.  Shaken is her second.

If pedal steel conjures up thoughts of country music or even Americana, you can tuck that idea away.  I love that kind of stuff, true, and have my collection of  Cindy Cashdollar to prove it.  It's just that Cashdollar Bjorklund is not, in any way, shape or form.  Whereas Cashdollar pushes the envelope with the instrument, Bjorklund pushes the envelope with the music.  Whatever strikes her is where the action begins and sometimes it begins in somewhat uncharted waters, as it does in Bottom of the Well or Missing At Sea.  She can be downright spooky.

Still, there is enough of the mainstream in her to bring in roots, whether they be country or early rock 'n' roll and pop.  Her voice fits nicely in whatever she does, but don't expect melodic Taylor Swift riffs here.  There is a hint of Grimm's Fairy Tales with a smidgeon of Three Billy Goats Gruff, though, and a whole lot of not-so-horrible music horror stories.  Oh, I suppose it isn't all that grim, but it sure as hell isn't the norm.  Although I have a sneaky feeling it could become so.

The videos here should give you a decent idea of Maggie Bjorklund and her approach to music.  The question is whether you have the chutzpah to dive in.  That is the question these days, isn't it?  To listen to the mundane or look for something beyond the norm?  This certainly is not the norm that I'm hearing these days.  Thank the gods. 

Frank O. Gutch Jr.

(Frank Gutch Jr. writes and has written for numerous magazines and websites, presently including this blog, his own website and the prestigious Don't Believe A Word I Say site put together by musician and music pundit Bob Segarini, out of Toronto. He specializes in the Indies, having fought hand-to-hand combat with major record labels for decades (talk about zombies). He believes music should be the core of the music business, though business it mostly be, and denies the accepted reality in the stead of the artistic one. Seldom does he receive pay for articles and/or reviews and believes that there is no place for negatives in a world in which one cannot keep up with the positives. He is, in a sense, a lost soul in a sea of music, drowning, but drowning gratefully.)