DANIEL NORGREN AND BAND

AT THE TERAGRAM BALLROOM - OCTOBER 8, 9:00pm

FOLK-ROCK’S ANSWER TO INGMAR BERGMAN

By Ross Altman, PhD

DANIEL NORGREN AND BANDSwedish singer-songwriter Daniel Norgren wound up his three-week tour of North America in Los Angeles last night at the Teragram Ballroom 1234 West 7th Street downtown. The 36 year-old folk rocker and his rockin’ four-piece band gave a splendid two hour and 15 minute performance. He opened the show on piano and switched to electric guitar after three songs, then went back and forth.

Norgren’s transcendental folk music and his band— comprised of old friends Anders Grahn (bass), Erik Berntsson (drums), and Andreas Filipsson (guitar and banjo). electrified the standing room only crowd with a moving assortment of bucolic, high-energy positive-thinking original songs celebrating everything from lawn and lawnmowers, to trains and blues, to a Polish working man who put Norgren’s fellow Swedes to shame.

There are no chairs in the ballroom, except for one that a kindly gentleman provided me when he noticed I was taking notes and struggling to write while standing up. All the while I was driving toward the ballroom, thinking of what I might say of Norgren, when I knew little more than where he came from, and wondered what it meant to be from Sweden.

I knew the movies of Ingmar Bergman, and the old Swedish erotic movie I Am Curious (Yellow), which introduced me to Martin Luther King and the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Through a Glass Darkly was Bergman’s masterpiece (from 1961) and Cries and Whispers (from 1973) were dark, moody and hold nothing back atmospherically depressed pieces I associated with the tortured emotional lives of their stars Harriet Andersson and later on Liv Ullman—which made me wonder how the music of Daniel Norgren would fit in with its themes; to my pleasant surprise, not at all. His songs created a world of their own, and did not require an association with Stockholm or Bergman. Take the song Prettiest World from the album Outskirt as an example:

It's not the prettiest world

The prettiest world

The prettiest world you'll see

It's not the prettiest world

On the most part, but

It's pretty enough for me.

Well you may think I look sad

But like a rusty old car

Broke down by the side of the road

But I'm just resting my head

Upon God's big grass bed

And I play my car stood as low (Chorus)

And you may think I look bored

Tired and all

Like a creaking old tree without fruits

But I don't want to brag

I got beer in my bag

And I'm wearing a new pair of boots (Chorus)

 And you may say I'm cursed

Looking like this

Sneaking around in your parts

If I saw through your walls

God save my soul

I bet I would see

A bunch of sad hearts (Chorus)

It's not the prettiest world

The prettiest world

The prettiest world you'll see

It's not the prettiest world

Or the most wanted, but

It's pretty enough for me

Here are some random lines that moved me:

You’re the best I’ve ever seen

You’re the flower of my dreams

You’re the song I want to play

Here’s a song that might have been written by Jimmie Rodgers:

Been waiting so long for the train to come…

Waiting for a train

Sleeping in the cold…

And a twist on a classic theme:

The sound of music in my grandpa’s house

And finally, a paradox worthy of John Cage:

“I got no place to go, but I’m gonna go anyway.”

The light show is just as amazing as his music. It isn’t just I Am Curious (Yellow), but Blue, Green and Red lights that animate and fill the stage as well.

Here’s a song that embodies the power of positive thinking throughout his musical landscape:

People Are Good

[Verse 1]

People are bad, people are mean.

They take what they can, you know what I mean?

[Chorus]

Strange as it seems, I live by the dream.

That under that hood,

people are good.

[Harmonica solo]

[Verse 2]

People are bad, with hearts made of wood.

With eyes on the price, they tell you but lies.

[Chorus]

[Chorus]

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From his new (8th, and first worldwide) album Wooh Dang he closes the concert with track 2, Let Love Run the Game, showing one of his favorite themes, the pastoral conversation he enjoys having with birds. The song was inspired by Norgren's daily walks around his home in rural western Sweden:

"I’ve written the songs on Wooh Dang in the woods where I walk. I need nature to function – always been a country boy – and when I say I’ve written the songs in the woods I mean, I’ve written all the songs on a trail in the woods… haven’t added a single word outside that one trail. Songs usually come naturally out there."

The album came naturally, too, recorded in a single room of a 19th-century textile farmhouse in the woods near his home. “The interior looked it hadn’t been touched for the past 80 years,” Norgren says, via a press release. “I moved a lamp and it left a dark red ring on the pink tablecloth underneath… goldmine! The house was huge, full of good, inspiring mustiness, creaking wooden floors, scary old portrait paintings on the walls, and an old, black German piano which I used in all the songs.” (Quoted from Pickathon)

LET LOVE RUN THE GAME

One day when I was out walking

I heard a bird up in the tree

Suddenly he started talking

And this is what he said to me

I’m starting to see your ass out here everyday now

You’re looking for something don’t you?

Just put your heart-shaped glasses on boy

And something will come looking for you too

And let love run the game

Let love run the game

Or you won’t get too far

You gotta let love run the game

If you’d ever find yourself astray

Or ever lose the lust to play

I’d say for a while stay off the highway

And hear what the birdies have to say

One day when I was out walking

I heard a bird up in the tree

Suddenly he started talking

He was talking down to me

Talking down to me

You gotta let love run the game

You gotta let love run the game

Or you won’t get too far

You gotta let love run the game…

Stockholm gave the Nobel Prize for Literature to one of our own—Bob Dylan, the first musician to win it—so I have good feelings about this place, and all things associated with it. Sweden carries a noble pedigree, and we should celebrate this wonderful folk rock artist who brings Dylan’s time-honored brand from the old world to the new. He’s inescapably the best new artist I have heard from there.

And having heard him at the Teragram Ballroom I am happy to add my name to his chorus of well-wishers. Among them is PR person Devon Leger who writes: Hi Ross, so I just got back from Denmark where I saw Daniel Norgren at the Tønder Festival. Beautiful fest that's so warm and cozy, and Norgren's sets reminded me why I love his music so much. His music is built around the slow burn. It rolls over the audience, pushing people to be present and to focus. It's a powerful thing to watch and his live show has justifiably made him a breakout artist in the States. Norgren's based in Sweden, and just released his new album, Wooh Dang, this year, bringing in praise from Pitchfork, NPR, Paste, Rolling Stone, and many more. He's playing Los Angeles' Teragram Ballroom on October 8! Jake Xerxes Fussell is opening. You've probably got an email about this already, I just wanted to send a quick reminder since I saw him recently and got excited.

With thanks also to his publicist Carl-Eric Tangen for singing his praises and inviting me to his tour. And thank you to the venue for giving me an official “Ticketmaster” ticket to enter. And above all, thank you to the kind man who brought me a chair.

Ross Altman has a PhD in Modern Literature from SUNY-Binghamton, belongs to Local 47 (AFM), and is president of the Santa Monica Traditional Folk Music Club; he writes for www.folkworks.org and may be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.