Pa Me Fritt

Tranans Dans

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The big cities tend to get all the glory, guitarists groaning past each other by the dozens in Berlin, Nashville, Los Angeles, London. But some of the best pickers are out there in the woods somewhere, literally. To find Roger Sundstrom and company, collectively working together on this 2002 CD as Pa Me Fritt, one would have to get to a part of Sweden best accessible before the roads get too slick and icy. Several paragraphs of directions are helpful in reaching the village of Eksjo -- and as for being a non-Swede attempting to pronounce the name of said town, good luck, perhaps enrolling in one of the specialized language courses devoted to saying "Eksjo" will be necessary. And no, it isn't supposed to be like someone asking a guy named Joe to make some eggs. The diversion devoted to pronunciation may exasperate some of the flies buzzing around, attracted by the talk of hot guitar playing: they want to hear about stinging leads, lightning fast runs, delicious use of effects and the crunch of banged heads. That's all here, but blended with a blend of contrasting elements and approaches. These 11 pieces are never illogical, often courageous, and only sporadically devoid of conceptual momentum. It is one of those sets that builds perfectly, not even toying with the idea of an early and false climax. Drummer Holmgren is essential to this quality -- he sounds like he favors brushes and softer cymbals, some of which sound like they were further shrunken by a fakir in the bazaar. Holmgren flutters and putters; an additional percussionist changes the over-all direction hardly a whittle. One of the song titles here, "Go for the Groove," is the direct opposite of what is going on here, they would never do that, this is more a drummer possessed by a vision, never overwhelming, traveling headlong through the world he sees in front of him, recognizing the other musicians surrounding him as if they were all riding side by side on horses through the forest. Which, considering the location this band hangs out in, might be an accurate description of the recording session. To get back to actually providing that, the bass work of Frederik Mikalsen thickens a delicate sauce on "Tussen." In a nice compliment to the drum partner, the bassist wanders up the neck to find sounds forged by the bastard sons of the electric guitar. Through all of this, Susstrom is something of a wonder. Listening to the stream of his musical thoughts is a bit like looking through his record collection. With a different sort of rhythm section and a control freak producing the session, a detailed audit of where the guitarist is going would be simply unnerving -- a listener might want to jump out the window, but no danger, a mattress is waiting below, made entirely of guitar riffs. In the Pa Me Fritt approach, the light-handed freedom of the rhythm section makes Sundstrom's string musings seem as if they are being served with whipped cream and apple cake. In the opening "Dobro Second Mov," the guitarist plays forcefully enough to approximate the bite of a Captain Beefheart riff, vintage era. Once suggested, the idea then becomes a freer thing, almost casual. As the program unfolds the guitar sounds become lush, layered. Still it is the ninth track on the scratch pad before the lettering converts to all capital letters and goes slightly out of control, remarking on "fantastic guitar playing," inspired by Sundstrom letting loose with a new level of speed and complexity.

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