Richard Jäverling: Two Times Five Lullaby

Mountaineer: When the Air is Bright They Shine

Having spent time in Ireland and Glasgow playing folk music for a living, troubadour Rickard Jäverling returned to his native Sweden to lay down the his debut album with a helping hand from some Stockholm friends—and what an absolute delight its 11 songs turn out to be. Following a gorgeous harmonica-and-Rhodes overture (“Ice Princess”), Jäverling brings his acoustic guitar out onto the back porch to join his guests for a hoedown (“The Three Sisters”), with one of them banging brushes on a dusty old kit while an accordionist voices the song's joyous, sing-song theme. Blowing through the collection's open spaces are chiming acoustic guitars, plucked banjos, a glockenspiel's bright ping, the wheeze of harmonica, plus the ruminative simmer of Eric Malmberg's (Sagor & Swing) Hammond organ (a Theremin even seems to be struggling to be heard in the waltz “Brandon Bay – Out to Sea!”). A pair of banjos leads the way through “The Conner Pass” while a kalimba's exotic click helps nurture an affecting pastoral ambience in the meditative “Wind Play.” Taking its inspiration from American folk music and classic Swedish prog, Jäverling's wholly endearing music is free of cynicism and instead as clear and fresh as a mountain spring.

Primarily the brainchild of German singer and songwriter Henning Wandhoff (abetted by contributions from Katja Raine, Fiona Mckenzie, Anna Bertermann, and Alexander Rischer), Mountaineer's sunny When the Air is Bright They Shine merges folk, pop and, most provocatively, Bossa Nova. Two years in the making, the album is by no means unappealing, especially when Wandhoff and company play it straight and demonstrate an authentic and irony-free affection for the style. His low-pitched voice glides breezily over the gentle locomotive pulse of “A Town Called Ivanhoe” and the jaunty “A Line for Every Letter” (the closing song is even titled “Just a Breeze”). Female ‘Ooohs' and ‘Aaahs' crest behind his singing, with the material augmented by the enveloping warmth of electric slide guitars, piano, drum brushes, and Bossa Nova signatures like the Güiro and nylon-string classical guitar. At times, the album's vocal approach is enhanced when, on songs like “Leave it All Behind,” Wandhoff's singing is doubled by a woman's. An electric guitar adds a few dramatic moments of howling roar to “Morning Mist” but the album is otherwise restrained (sans vocals, the lovely lullaby “Company” could pass for a slide guitar showcase). Regardless of one's appetite for the Bossa Nova style, it's hard, if not impossible, to resist the bucolic charms of gently swinging cuts like “Eliza (A Day for Every Hour)” and “You Pay No Mind.” Like many releases in the Type Records catalogue, When the Air is Bright They Shine proves arresting in its pursuit of such an unexpected and unconventional direction.

November 2006