Lasse Stefanz

Rallarsvang

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Something Americans often don't know about Europeans -- and are shocked when they learn -- is that many Europeans are mad for country music. (Remember, Ringo Starr almost didn't get a chance to join the Beatles because in the early '60s, he attempted to emigrate to Houston, TX, and he chose his stage name because it sounded kinda cowboy to him.) Lasse Stefanz is a fine example of the European strain of middle of the road country music: as one can see from the cover image, the clothes are absolutely atrocious, but musically, this is an entirely convincing approximation of vintage Nashville sound countrypolitan from before the Urban Cowboy era, all strings and shuffle beats and weepy pedal steel guitar, only with lyrics in Swedish instead of Texan. (Well, mostly: there is one English-language cover, a horn-driven take on Jim Reeves' "He'll Have to Go." The singing is flawless, of course: for all those urban legends that ABBA sang all their hits phonetically, Swedish schoolchildren start learning English around the age of five, and most Swedes speak better English than many Americans.) The ironic thing is, for all the catcalls that know-nothing nativist Americans might throw at this album, Rallarsvang sounds more like real country music than most of what's on the country charts these days. (Seriously, Sugarland is country?) Rallarsvang is a delight, whether listened to straight or with a small twist of irony.

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