Maggie Björklund

Coming Home

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The notion of a female alt-country star from Denmark sounds a bit like a joke, perhaps something Garrison Keillor might mention in passing on A Prairie Home Companion (perhaps referring to a CD the nephew of one of the Norwegian bachelor farmers brought home from college), but Maggie Björklund most certainly isn't kidding, and her first solo album, Coming Home, is a well-crafted, low-key delight. Björklund is a pedal steel guitarist from Copenhagen best known for her work with the Darleens, and she's also backed up a handful of American artists, including Exene Cervenka, Mark Pickerel, and Christy McWilson. Though Coming Home is Björklund's first solo effort, it sounds like the work of a seasoned professional with a clear vision and the talent to bring it to life. Björklund was able to attract some impressive names to help her out on Coming Home; Mark Lanegan duets with her on two tunes, Jon Auer of the Posies sings lead on a pair of songs, Rachel Flotard of Visqueen contributes two vocals, and Joey Burns and John Convertino of Calexico anchor the backing ensemble. While Björklund isn't afraid of sharing the spotlight on this album, her presence is clearly felt on every tune; her pedal steel work is short on needless flash, instead conjuring evocative washes of sound that add color and personality to the songs, while her melodies are richly atmospheric, with American roots music flavors seasoned by melancholy minor-key accents and spare arrangements that add to the spectral, subtly cinematic effect of this music. And despite the shuffle between instrumentals and a handful of different singers, each with distinct musical personalities, these 11 songs cohere into an album where the whole is superior to the many fine parts. Coming Home is an effective collection of late-night numbers that should serve as a calling card for a musician and songwriter with talent, style, and the know-how to make a truly memorable album.

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