Nicolai Dunger

Tranquil Isolation

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If Soul Rush brought Nicolai Dunger to America's attention (via Lakeshore's domestic release), the Swedish singer/songwriter kicks things up a notch with Tranquil Isolation. This time he actually recorded in the States -- specifically the state of Kentucky -- with such quintessentially American musicians as Will and Paul Oldham of the Palace Brothers. With all the American influences in his music -- jazz, folk, blues, and gospel -- Dunger's decision to record here makes as much sense in theory as in practice (and he's also collaborated with New York psych-rockers Mercury Rev on occasion). If nothing on the album is quite as majestic as string-laden opening track "Last Night I Dreamt of Mississippi" -- and even if Dunger's the kind of scarf-wearing gent who can sing about "mamas" and "lovers" without a lick of irony -- the relaxing spell Tranquil Isolation casts remains unbroken throughout. And Dunger's flexible voice couldn't be more distinctive; whether he's moaning, crooning, or humming, he comes across like a bolder Nick Drake (see "Cello Song") or Astral Weeks-era Van Morrison, which is to say that his record collection must surely have a few British and Irish artists sprinkled in amongst all the Tim Buckley, Miles Davis, and Mississippi John Hurt LPs.

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