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Monica Heldal

Boy From the North – 2014 (Warner Brothers Norway)

Reviewed by Dustin Blumhagen

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CDs by Monica Heldal

Monica Heldal is a folk artist who hails from Norway. Her debut was unveiled overseas last year, but is finally seeing a North American release. She has a haunting voice that invokes chills. There is a slightly spooky vibe, reminiscent of Lindi Ortega or Maggie Bjorklund's fantastic work.

On "Conman Coming," Heldal provides an interesting folk rock song, with roots in 1970s rock and roll, somewhere between Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin. She quiets things down on the restrained "Silly Willy," a bare folk track that always seems on the verge of breaking into something bigger, but never takes the leap, eventually fading into the next track. The echoes of the guitar and steel on "Fightin' Son" add a layer of ambience to an already beautiful track. Her closest American counterpart would be Lissie, which is most evident on tracks like "Follow You Anywhere," a rousing folk track with pop sensibilities. The blues stomp on "I Don't Mind" adds depth, providing a counter to her sweet restrained folk tracks. Pretty songs that rely heavily on her vocals ("Scarlet") are set alongside catchy tracks that bounce along ("Waiting on a Fire").

With a distinct European feel, the album is an artistic folk collection that draws on country, blues and rock and roll. The songs are definitely not for everyone and they are far from mainstream, but those who are searching for music with passion and artistic merit should give this a spin. Monica Heldal has released a pleasant surprise of a debut.