Studio perfection is replaced by live perfection with a touch more soul.
Leif Vollebekk is a Canadian folk artist of French and Norwegian descent who has been steadily building his career, releasing his fourth album ‘New Ways’ in 2019. In 2017 Vollebekk’s ‘Twin Solitude’ was shortlisted for a Polaris Music Award and in 2018 for a Juno award and this represented a career breakthrough. Vollebekk’s music is noted for its folk pop and folk jazz perfectionism and 2019’s ‘New Ways’ was written as a companion piece to ‘Twin Solitude’, reflecting a maturing artist and was longlisted for a Polaris Music Award. So far so good, but like many artists, Vollebekk’s career momentum was interrupted by the pandemic though he did manage to play a number of concerts at venues and various media shows. ‘New Waves (Live Recordings ’19 – ’21)’ is a six-track EP from those concerts and includes 5 tracks originally on ‘New Ways’ and a version of Vollebekk’s 2020 single, ‘Long Blue Light’.
The first track, ‘I’m Not Your Lover’, was recorded at the Troubadour in 2020 and the accompanying video makes it clear that nature is important to Vollebakk’s music with the inward-looking lyrics. Next, Vollebekk demonstrates his skills as a pianist as he plays Canadian classical pianist Glenn Gould’s piano at Toronto’s Roy Thomson Hall on ‘Transatlantic Flight’ which was inspired by the films of Terence Malick and Richard Linklater and has lush strings. We are then treated to a performance of ‘Long Blue Light’ from a performance at Starling Farm that features Vollebekk on keyboards. As implied by the title, ‘Apalachee Plain’ ups the country quota with a performance recorded for Los Angeles’ KCRW. ‘Blood Brother’, again from KCRW, counts as an up-tempo number in Vollebekk’s oeuvre. The last track, ‘Hot Tears’, features some vocal gymnastics but not so much to destroy the overall mood of the song.
While there is nothing wrong with the recordings on ‘New Waves (Live Recordings ’19 – ’21)’ and they are generally more vibrant than their studio versions, it is difficult to image Leif Vollebekk releasing the EP if he wasn’t starting a four-month world tour taking in Canada, US, UK, and Europe and feeling the need to reignite the momentum for ‘New Ways’ which is still his latest studio recording. The perfectionism that Vollebekk brings to his writing and recordings is present quite naturally in his live performances, and while these performances are not note-for-note reproductions of the album versions, they are not drastic reinterpretations of the album tracks. If you are a fan of Leif Vollebekk and are planning to catch any of his tour dates the EP gives a hint of what you can expect and I suspect that they will get numerous plays on streaming platforms from committed fans. However, there is nothing here that is significantly different to the existing versions to attract new listeners or interest only casual fans. ‘New Waves (Live Recordings ’19 – ’21)’ may contain new live recordings but it is primarily for old fans, not new ones.