For years country music was a second rate form of music in Norway. There were a lot of reasons behind this, but mostly it came down to the artists presenting what people assumed was country music. Which it wasn’t.
Some time in the 90s some clever person who had access to music that wasn’t on the big labels decided to play real country music with a touch of what we now know as alt.country and americana, and call it “Roots”. As it turned out, people seemed to have been waiting for something like that – and the music released in that time-period sold like never before.
You also have to remember that a lot of Norwegians have a very romanticized relationship with the US, and still long for life like the scenes from the 50’s and 60’s movies we watched and cherished. There are people dedicating their lives to the style from those days, driving old cars and wearing the correct clothes from the era.
A lot of new artists emerged, and a lot of artists jumped on the “Roots wave” to make a quick buck.
But among the usual crap some real gems were released. And now that Spotify is available in the US, I’m planning to present a few albums from that time, and also newer albums that probably wouldn’t have existed hadn’t it been for the change in peoples minds to accept that country music actually can be cool.
The first album is my favourite from that time period.
The band was called Bretteville, and the album In Time came out in 1996.
Bretteville formed in 1995, and disappeared without a trace in 1997. The band consisted of front man Alf Bretteville-Jensen, who wrote all the songs and also played guitar. Hans Graasvold on guitar and banjo, Knut Hem on drums and dobro and Bjørn Holm on bass.
Everyone except Bretteville-Jensen were at the time well known musicians, and have kept very active in the recent years. And after a long period of silence Bretteville-Jensen surfaced a few years back as part of the cast putting on the show “Jailhouse Rock” in the garden at an old derelict prison. Currently he’s even resurrected Bretteville, with a new single out and a new album on the way.
But that’s current events, this being a history lesson I’ll get back to the point.
Bretteville was probably my first meeting with Americana. Remember that this was 1996, before everyone had access to the Internet, and long long before music was available. The first 5-6 years the only thing you could find was porn. Imagine my success when trying to find information on a song I heard on the radio; “Earthquake Song” by the band “Little Girls” some time in the late 90’s.
The only music the general public got from the US was what the big record companies wanted us to hear. So anything outside mainstream country was out of the question. Which would explain the fact that the “Roots” genre took off when bands started mixing it up with parts of rock and blues. The album in question, “In Time” is a gem in my record collection, and thankfully I ripped it to FLAC before I wore it out. Bretteville-Jensens lyrics and his voice is the real key to the albums quality, and even though it’s produced in the late 90’s, and on a big label – it’s not too polished or blemished by the general sound of that era.
He sings with feeling and a presence that brings the songs to life, and the guitarplaying on the album is exquisit. The mood that’s created is perfectly suited for these songs, and you get that “America is the promised land” feeling that we foreigner used to believe in before Internet and commercial television hit our shores. So if you want to check out one of the best albums ever released in our tiny country, this is the album to Spotify!