Sunday, November 08, 2009

Music Decade List #21: Nicolai Dunger - Soul Rush (2002)

A while back, Allmusic used to have a feature on their homepage that would flip through their album picks for a certain period of time. The cover art on Soul Rush is what was initially intriguing about it, because I had never heard of Nicolai Dunger before. So I clicked to find out more and the first sentence of the review mentions Van Morrison and Astral Weeks. From that, there was no doubt that I was going to like this album. The Van Morrison comparisons are exactly correct as the similarities not just to Astral Weeks but also albums like Moondance and Saint Dominic's Preview are all over this. Dunger mixes in so many various elements, from jazz and country elements to more outright Morrison impressions like 'Something New.' Dunger's vocals have the same timbre as Morrison especially when he handles bluesier, more emotive material like the title track or 'Ballad of a Relationship.' But it's 'Doctor Zhivago's Train' that is the cornerstone of the album, throwing jazz drums and horns, a bluesy vocal and almost inscrutable lyrics into a mixture that was practically stunning. It was amazing to hear something like this come out of an act that even something of a cult act in his native Sweden. Dunger hasn't made quite as an impressionable album since, even though his American profile has been raised by working with Will Oldham and members of Mercury Rev on those albums. The blue eyed soul, blues and country combination that made Soul Rush so impressive should be enough for more people to take notice of Nicolai Dunger.

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