Cookies 'N' Beans

Beg, Borrow and Steal

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Swedish pop-country isn't exactly the most established of musical styles, but Beg, Borrow and Steal does a lot to dispel possible suspicions about it, as the three members of Cookies 'N' Beans sure know their way around acoustic guitars, harmonized choruses, and the audience's heart. The album opens up on a playful note, but runs pretty low-key for most of its duration, offering a fine set of relaxed ballads with sweet, soothing melodies and clever dynamics (see the tempo switch in "Kings & Queens," for one). The output is prime Americana, not requiring any special allowance for the group's Scandinavian heritage, but perhaps it's still benefiting from that classic Northern melancholy -- at least, Cookies 'N' Beans are at their most convincing when they perform those pensive or elegiac tunes with an "it's gonna be alright" vibe. Not to say they are bad at upbeat songs -- "Watch My Tail," for example, packs plenty of the old-school town fair groove. But while the band takes care to keep the album satisfyingly diverse, just like Dolly Parton likes ‘em, they are more content to keep it quiet than to rock out. Still, there's plenty of stuff mixed in, from bluegrass to heartland rock, and it's also clear why the group tried to make its way to Eurovision with their sound. In fact, it's more puzzling that they didn't make it through the try-outs, as the music is much fresher than the shiny pop dross plaguing the contest.

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