NINA ÅKERBLOM NIELSEN – Nobody Knows This Little Rose (Kakafon Records)

Nobody Knows This Little RoseIn recent years, there has been quite a swell of artists setting to music the work of celebrated poets. Among these, those of Emily Dickinson have loomed large, both as individual numbers or full albums. The latest, Nobody Knows This Little Rose, comes from the Swedish songstress and composer who, variously accompanied by violin, piano, cello, flute, cornett, baritone, double bass and even a children’s choir, has opted for eight poems on the themes of faith and doubt, transience and eternal hope, loneliness and longing.

Her warbling voice conjuring a cocktail of Baez and Griffith, the music folksy Americana or classically informed, it opens, swathed in strings, in gorgeous form with ‘Better Than Music’, written in 1862 after one of her transcendental experiences and speaking of a heavenly sound that surpassed that of the birds and which would take someone like Mozart to recreate. One of her most famous and most uplifting works, ‘Hope Is The Thing With Feathers’ is arranged for piano, the vocals soaring over the gatheringly triumphant melody before the strings and woodwinds arrive, followed by ‘This World Is Not Conclusion’, the piano melody here more lively with a sort of cabaret feel, a lesser-known poem musing on attitudes to death and the afterlife.

Again featuring her on piano around which hover cello and violin, with vocals by Sofie Urebrant, ‘We Grow Accustomed To The Dark’ speaks about how we adapt to difficult situations, initially fumbling round until we get used to things and can then walk confidently ahead.. At first we fumble a little in the dark. Then our eyes get used to it and we walk straight ahead.

Opening with and underpinned by drone, ‘Because I Could Not Stop For Death’, arguably Dickinson’s best known poem, is otherwise unaccompanied, another meditation on mortality and what follows, death and immortality personified as a they take her on a carriage ride. Another sparse arrangement, just hesitant piano notes. ‘If You Were Coming In The Fall’ is one of Dickinson’s love poems, showing constancy in awaiting the return/arrival of her true love, the word ‘if’ carrying with it the weight of doubt. Church reed organ lends a hymnal note to the pure vocals of ‘Will There Really Be A Morning’, (“Has it feet like Water lilies?/Has it feathers like a Bird?/Is it brought from famous countries/Of which I have never heard?”) one of Dickinson’s more existential works as she addresses her relationship with meaning itself and with God, and how abstract concepts relate to the lived experience, violin dancing and the children’s choir taking up the vocals as it draws to a close and the distant tolling of a carillon.

The gently jogging title track with its acoustic guitar and harmonica, returns to the prairie Americana of the opening, a bittersweet four line reminder that life is fragile and short and that we should appreciate the beauty of the little things around us while they are here. Which seems a highly appropriate summation for seeking out this truly lovely album.

Mike Davies

Artist’s website:

‘Because I Could Not Stop For Death’:

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