DARLING WEST – While I Was Asleep (JANSEN 097CD)

While I Was AsleepDarling West released their third album, While I Was Asleep, in February. The band are from Norway and have been played on that country’s mainstream radio channels and at its biggest festivals. Their previous album won a ‘Norwegian Grammy’ (a Spellemann Award). While I Was Asleep (sung in English) sits fairly squarely at the crossroads between country music and delicate pop – splendid gentle melodies with a country-ish band arrangement.

The album opens with the title song, a reflection on death after life and what that sense of mortality means for us, lively drums and harmonica capturing the attention. It’s also the first chance to hear Mari Kreken’s voice, gentle enough to make you relax to its melody, strong enough to keep you listening. ‘Rolling On’ has some lovely picking to keep you captured and moves into the more Americana feel of ‘Loneliness’ and its neat refrain “If this is what heartbreak feel like/I’ve never been broken before”.

‘Better Than Gold’ continues the album’s Americana feel. ‘Always Around’ (“I am the woman who’s always around…..Unlike the good old times, tonight I’ll drink slow”) has a bewitching vocal as the singer reflects on how a relationship has developed, her thinking sparked by a song on the jukebox from the relationship’s early days. ‘Traveller’ is another lovely vocal and finger-picked song, Kreken’s vocal soaring against guitars and strings on a song she describes as “the story of a restless soul, who made some choices in the past and are still haunted by them. Most of us entertain that thought sometimes, ‘What would have happened if…?’ But for some it turns out to be a moment that they will always carry with them” – what if she’d accepted the second dance and not become a traveller? – “The road back to you/Is taking me a lifetime”. The link below takes you to a lovely acoustic version of the song. You only have to watch this song in the traditional echo chamber of a stairwell to imagine how good they’d be in a concert venue.

‘Traveller’ is followed by ‘Ballad Of An Outlaw’. The title alone tells you it’s another Americana flavoured song (though based on the tale of Norwegian outlaw) and again there is a theme of a life unsettled contrasted with what might have been “Will they all weep when they hear I am dead/Or will they salute a killer instead/I know I’ll rest when they lower me down”. The album closes with the driving ‘Don’t I Know You’ and the banjo-inflected ‘How I Wish’.

Darling West have spread their reach from their home country having recently played in Germany and at festivals such as South by South-West in Texas and Americanafest in Nashville. As the video shows, the songs are melodic and easy to listen to, gentle vocals set, predominantly, against finger-picked guitar and banjo. They are currently on tour in Germany and Norway.

Mike Wistow

If you would like to order a copy of an album (CD or Vinyl format), download a copy or just listen to snippets of selected tracks then click below to be taken to our associated partner Amazon’s website (use the left and right arrows below to scroll along or back to see the full selection).

Buying through Amazon on folking.com helps us to recover a small part of our running costs, so please order anything you need as every little purchase helps us.

Artist’s website: https://darlingwest.no/english/

‘While I Was Asleep’ – official:

Video Wall 5

We just realised that the backlog of videos has built up again – it must be something to do with the summer weather bringing them out of hiding – so here is Video Wall 5.

We begin with Davey Dodds, formerly of Red Jasper, live at The Fleece in Bristol with ‘Kick Of Your Shoes’ from his new album Kernowcopia. This song features Martin Solomon on fiddle, Keven Taylor on harmonica and Bradders Bluesinger on bodhran.

DARLING WEST are Norwegian but you wouldn’t know that from listening to their brand of Americana/Folk. ‘After My Time’ is one of their newest songs.

Our friends MERRY HELL have a new EP out next week. The title track is ‘Come On, England!’ taken from their album, Bloodlines, as is the second track, ‘We Need Each Other Now’. Also on the disc are a preview of the forthcoming live album and a live track from the full band recorded in Clitheroe. The official video is still under wraps but here’s a live cut to be going on with.


This is the title track from the debut album from Chicago-based bluegrass-old-timey quartet, BIG SADIE. It’s called ‘Keep Me Waiting’.

Not quite so subtle are JO CARLEY AND THE OLD DRY SKULLS. ‘Dance ‘Til You’re Dead’ is from their new album, Them Old Bones.


A round-up of recent EPs and singles

Singles Bar 23SAILING STONES is the name by which Irish born, London-based Jenny Lindfors plies her trade, the digital self-produced, self-released ‘Telescopes’ her second release, piano, brass and mellotron coming together for an atmospheric five-minute electro-folk reflective ballad about learning what love is and means that seems sure to garner yet more Laura Marling comparisons.

Singles Bar 23‘Opium Of The Masses’ is the new single from SHARON LAZIBYRD. Sharon plays ukulele which gives the song a deceptively light opening but which is quickly overtaken by a much bigger arrangement, including a gorgeous piano passage, featuring Damon and Kate Bridge and Tom Cory. This is a powerful song about consumerism and pressure to conform to market forces. And no, Sharon, it’s not just you.

Singles Bar 23A Norwegian Americana trio comprising Mari Sandvaer Kreken, husband Tor and Kjetil Steennaes, DARLING WEST lay the ground for next year’s new album with two singles, ‘After My Time’ and ‘While I Was Asleep’ (Ja), the first a strong combination of psychedelic folk, pop and swirling Appalachian influences, while the other foregrounds mellotron, harmonica and mandolin for a mid-tempo folk pop number that perhaps suggests a middle ground between First Aid Kit and Lady Antebellum. The respective B-sides, the dreamier ‘Someone Like You’ and the banjo accompanied, and to my mind, catchiest number, ‘The Sweetest Tune’ both easy on the ear, melodic mid tempo ballads that should raise anticipation for the album.

Singles Bar 23There’s some nice finger-picking and slide guitar on You’ve Been Away So Long, the new EP from ALICE HOWE. A lot of the guitar work is down to Jeff Fielder but the songs are all Alice’s. The opener, ‘Homeland Blues’, is a catchy song with a heavy country vibe belying the fact that Alice is from Boston and the record was made in Seattle. ‘Make A Fool Out Of Me’ is a country waltz with contrasting hard-bitten lyrics and the title track is a lovely atmospheric piece.

Singles Bar 23Although curiously not mentioned in the press release, MARK OLSON was, alongside Gary Louris, co-founder of seminal 80s Americana outfit The Jayhawks, quitting in 1995 to join then wife Victoria Williams in The Original Harmony Ridge Creekdippers, subsequently reuniting with Louris for their duo album Ready For The Flood and, eventually a Jayhawks reunion. Since 2007, he’s also had a solo career and now he and wife Ingunn Ringvold, the Norwegian multi-instrumentalist, are readying their second album together. As a taster, he’s releasing the jangling, chords cascading ‘Dear Elizabeth(Glitterhouse) paired with the equally tumbling backwoods folksy ‘You Are All’. If the rest of the album matches these, it should be a real treat.

Singles Bar 23More country-pop comes from JESSICA LYNN’s EP Crazy Idea which was produced by Patrick Hamilton at Globe Studios in Belgium. She’s been dubbed ‘the new Shania Twain’ and she sure has a powerful voice and big band behind her – that must be Steven Wright-Mark playing the screaming lead guitar on ‘After Party’.

Singles Bar 23Where do bands get their names from these days? THE ANATOMY OF FRANK are a trio from Charlottesville, Virginia and, ahead of their latest album South America, they release a single ‘Holy Mountain’. Nice finger-style guitar and ethereal voices: it is a song about death and loss.

Singles Bar 23Neil Wardleworth used to be in Steel Threads, a band we rather liked. Now he’s teamed up with Harriet Brooke McDonnell in HARRIET! who have a debut double-A side single on both CD and vinyl. ‘Just Sign’ is heavy without being overwhelming and features Harriet’s lead vocals while ‘Those Three Words’ presents a (slightly) more acoustic duet. Nice one.

Singles Bar 23SEÁN KEANE sings ‘The Coast Of Labrador’ composed by Brendan Graham and Denis Carey as part of the celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary and now available from iTunes. The song is set during the period of Irish emigration and tells of a young man who finds a new life with an Inuit girl and eventually teaches his son to play hurling on the ice. Who knows what that might lead to?