Villingsberg is the second album of the unlikely Norwegian duo of jazz pianist Helge Lien and dobro player and Weissenborn guitarist player Knut Hem, following Hummingbird (Ozella, 2018). Hem discovered the «psychedelic maximalism» of folk icon guitarist David Lindley in the eighties when a country craze hit Norway. Lien grew up with traditional folk music, but later discovered a sense of kinship with Keith Jarrett and Bill Evans.
This duo managed to create an untimely blend of jazz and country and bluegrass that conjures American images of endless planes, a feeling of freedom and comforting nostalgia, one that feels natural also in chilly Norway. Villingsberg, even more than the duo’s debut album, offers music for inner and peaceful wandering, a cosmos of solitude, in which the silence behind the notes is as important as the actual sounds made.
This duo was initiated by Hem who composed music for the unique combination of dobro and piano. After hearing Lien’s music, he knew he found the right pianist. Hem composed most of the music, but its loose spirit guarantees balanced dynamics and enough room for individual improvisations. This unique matching of dobro and piano sounds completely natural and the playful, conversational interplay is as seamless as before.
Villingsberg suggests a journey through timeless, constantly changing sceneries. «Ephemera Danica» sounds like a Baroque dance, now crossing generations and continents. The title piece and Lien’s only composition «Konkylien» employ the form of a gospel song or a hymn with a touch of nordic melancholy, while «Haunting Memories» and «Sildrebekken» play with country-jazz blues. «Two Good Friends» captures faithfully the essence of this musical meeting. The only nonoriginal piece, American banjo icon Bela Fleck’s «Big Country» cements this kind of evolving Nordicana But, most importantly, this album radiates the great, uplifting fun Lien and Hem had while creating and playing this music.
Helge Lien (p), Knut Hem (dobro)