Wherever you find locals playing Irish traditional music. Sweden is no exception. Sometimes I suspect there are more Swedes playing Irish music than Swedish traditionals. But some groups around it takes it further, creating their own music using the Irish tradition as the foundation and inspiration. West of Eden from Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden is such a group.
West of Eden’s No Time Like the Past — A CollectionJenny and Martin Schaub, wife and husband, fell in love with Irish music on a trip to Dublin in the early 1990’s. Eventually they started writing their own songs and by the time their group West of Eden made their first album in 1997 the traditional songs had almost completely vanished from their repertoire.
In the early recording days they ran a risk of turning into a Swedish Corrs, with strong streaks of ABBA. It is evident on their second album ”Rollercoaster”, but a few albums later they were back on track and on the last offerings they have turned more acoustic. Theyhave also recorded a few themed albums, ”Safe Crossing” is about shipping and the last one ”Look to the West” about emigration from Sweden to the US. The latter is to my mind their best yet, with promise of even better things to come.
But to celebrate the 20 years they have put together this package. A book like cover hides two Cds and the tale of the group from the early years until now. Each album is presented together with stories about touring and their popular Christmas Concerts, a cherished tradition in their home city.
There are 25 tracks. Each album is represented, as well as one of their non-album singles. Their are also three previously unreleased tracks, including their ”jubilee single” ”20 Years of Travelling”, and a re-recording of a song from their first album.
As usual with collections like this it serves well as a reminder of the original albums and an introduction for anyone not familiar with their work. And I must say it is a fine collection. Not having had any hits the group has had the opportunity to pick tracks more freely, showing off every aspect of the band.
West of Eden have many strengths. Their songwriting is one. They can turn out wonderful ballads as well as toe tipping songs. Another is that they have two lead vocalists, both Jenny and Martin take turns at the microphone. But what I like the most is their instrumentation. Each song gets its own sound, and there are lots of beautiful instrumental interludes in the songs. Within the group they also master a large numer of instruments, and each member is a master of the ones he or she uses.
Let me just mention a few tracks.
”Glenntown” was released as a single some years ago and was a close to a hit you can get without having one. It is a celebration of the group’s home city of Gothenburg. Their was a time when almost half the starting line up of the city’s favourite soccer team listened to the name of Glenn.
”This Piece of Earth” is from their debut album. A wonderful soft song about belonging. A good showcase for Jenny’s voice.
”Wilson Line” is my favourite track from ”Look to the West”. Martin delivers a story about a man trying to emigrate. It is a powerful track,with a catchy chorus, some nice instrumental interludes and and an arrangement that makes use of the band’s multi instrumental capacity.Here you have it all, drums, bass, guitars, accordion, mandolin and fiddle.
”(I Still Remember) How to Forget” is from the second album. A beautiful ballad that slowly builds up, this time with Martin on piano and one of Jenny’s best vocal performances.
West of Eden have had their fair share of member changes over the years, but whoever has been in a band they have still sounded like West of Eden. Maybe it is because they love what they do and know how to pass that on to the listeners. As theysing in ”Twenty Years of Travelling”: ”It’s just twenty years of travelling and I wish for twenty more”.
So here it is. 20 years of music making in one package. Highly recommended. The cover and the book inside alone is worththe price of the record.
(West of Music, 2017)