Leif Vollebekk Inland
Published Jan 15, 2010Although he's a Montreal native, this debut album sparkles with many of the magical elements associated with Vollebekk's Scandinavian heritage. At times recalling Nick Drake's Bryter Layter in its fragility and subtle deployment of strings, but also the playfulness of fellow Montrealer Patrick Watson, Inland captivates from its first listen. Vollebekk is fully engaged with his muse throughout, and it leads him into territory that few singer-songwriters can navigate convincingly. His propulsive acoustic guitar playing is his most trusty compass, but Vollebekk's spare, jazz-inflected piano playing on tracks like "1921" sets the perfect mood for his impressionistic poetry, similar to Joe Henry's most recent solo work. In some ways, Inland's ten songs are like postcards from places outside of space and time. It's no coincidence that Vollebekk wrote much of the album while living in Iceland. The sense of utter displacement, but also of a strange contentment in that state, is at the heart of everything he's saying. An example is "Don't Go To Klaksvik" ― what waits there is not clear, but nothing is going to stop whoever is planning to make the journey. Listeners likewise willing to accompany Vollebekk on Inland will only be disappointed that its journey ends too soon.
You made Inland over a year ago. Is it strange to think that most people are only hearing it for the first time now?
Yeah, it's kind of weird. I remember thinking at the time that I was just going to make the best record I could. I feel like I did that, so I'm not about to turn my back on it. I've just finished my next record, so it's like my first child is now ready to go off to school just as my new baby is being born.
Inland has such a free-flowing feel about it. How is that translating live?
The first show was great, and then the second was a carbon copy and it sucked. Eventually I realized that I had to do a Dylan-esque thing where the songs could go in any direction on any given night. I know that kind of approach bothers some people, but I prefer seeing artists do something unexpected, especially with songs I know well.
The album sounds like a travelogue also.
I wrote over half the songs when I was in Reykjavik, but all of the songs really reflect my experiences there. It's a wonderful place, and I'm sure I'll live there again someday. My biggest regret now is that I left a month before Sigor Rós did the tour that was filmed for Heima. But I did see them in Reykjavik, and that was the best show I've ever been to. (Nevado)