Album: Nicolai Dunger

Soul Rush, Virgin
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The Independent Culture

There's a ravaged grace to Nicolai Dunger's voice, its slurred syllables and hickory-smoked inflections bringing to mind second-generation troubadours like Rufus Wainwright and Jeff Buckley. The Swedish singer-songwriter's influences go deeper than that, though, the 12 tracks of Soul Rush revealing a pronounced affection for the unabashedly romantic worldview of late-Sixties icons such as Buckley père and Van Morrison. Virtually all these songs are poetic ruminations upon love, Dunger employing vivid and often contradictory metaphors to express the inexpressible, be it the sweet pain of long-distance love in "I'd Rather Die" ("When it gets dark, I'll leave a spark/Upon your weary sky for you to find"), the smothering love of an over-eager suitor in "Ballad Of A Relationship" ("She wants my whole soul in one drag"), or the desolate obsession of "Blue From Death" ("I believe in you 'cause you wrapped my whole life in blue"). The Van influence is decisive, thanks largely to the elegant string and horn arrangements of Björn Yttling: the swingy R&B of "Something New", for instance, recalls the good-time hustle of Tupelo Honey, while the swirling backdrop to "Dr Zhivago's Train" brings to mind the jazzier parts of Astral Weeks. It's a beautiful, warm slice of ingenuous Americana whose literal distance from its spiritual heartland allows Dunger to swoon freely, safe from the corrosive grip of irony. "I've wasted half my life with a guitar and a song," he claims in the title track, but on this evidence he's so, so wrong.

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