Lief Sorbye

Across the Borders

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For his solo venture, Sorbye takes a mellower turn that his hard-edged folk-rock with Tempest. No mad jigs or reels, and the songs and tunes, which paint a picture of his traveling as a busker -- which he did for a few years -- are mostly his own (although his favorites, the Incredible String Band, get a look in, with a tune each from Mike Heron and Robin Williamson), with "Fatima's Garden" a particular standout. What's quickly evident is that the instrumentals are more enjoyable, perhaps because his lyrics tend toward the glib, with personal revelation and depth of emotion held back to a minimum, although whether that does him any favors as a songsmith is debatable. But there's nothing fatuous about the Middle Eastern-flavored "Ya Amar," where his mandola and mandolin playing are a delight (although the flute seems to take it close to Jethro Tull terrirory), or the traditional "Krivo Sadovsko Horo," which offers more of the range of his talents. "Underhill," with its didgeridu samples, is darker, and "The Nexus" has a lovely Celtic touch. It's notable, too, that the instrumentals need less backing, and the stripped-down element lets Sorbye shine in a way the songs don't, although the emphases are different between the two, of course. That's not to criticize the musicians working with him, since Brian Willis, in particular, proves to be a resourceful drummer, and they fill things out well. It's perhaps that ultimately Sorbye sounds more at home, and therefore more himself, when playing rather than singing. And when he plays this well, that's fine.

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