The right band can really make all the difference sometimes. For Nicolai Dunger, each new album brings about new collaborations with varied results in sound. His early work with Ebbot Lundberg of Soundtrack of Our Lives was somewhat accessible pop fare, while his later work with Esbjörn Svenssons Trio was far more jazz-oriented. Then, his Tranquil Isolation album saw the Swedish singer-songwriter working with Will Oldham on a more folky, rustic set. And in 2004, he even sang with Calexico on a cover of “Alone Again Or” that was more Calexico than Dunger, but still made for a great pairing. Still, none of his previous albums had quite the big name backing band that Here’s My Song You Can Have It…I Don’t Want It Anymore/Yours 4-Ever (deep breath) does—Mercury Rev.
The thing with Nicolai Dunger, however, is that he, himself, has such a commanding voice and needs only minimal accompaniment to get by. Still, having Mercury Rev apply the scaffolding for your songs is never a bad thing. Yet, like the material tread on his past few albums, Here’s My Song tends to lean toward the emotional blue-eyed soul of Van Morrison, rather than stretch out into psychedelic territory, save for the occasional moment of grandiosity as on “Someone New.”
The rest of the album goes up and down through various levels of sonic density, ranging from the lush, beautiful opener “My Time is Now” to the stripped-down folk of “White Wild Horses.” On “Hunger,” Dunger is at his most Morrison-esque, as the band plays a rich, organ-fueled R&B groove. All the while, there are interesting surprises throughout, like the banjo and lap steel pairing on the clip-clopping “Tell Me,” the weeping slide guitar on “Country Lane” or the driving rock rhythms of “Way Up High.”
Just about every song on Here’s My Song is a winner, yet because of its wild swings in style and genre, the whole thing is very fragmented and a little too scattered. Still, that’s a minor argument about an album that still contains many a lovely melody to be heard.
Ryan Adams – Gold
Van Morrison – His Band and the Street Choir
Tim Buckley – Happy Sad
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.