Elin Ruth filled Fasching with her bluesy and soulful voice, and the Stockholm crowd was treated to strong emotions and special guest appearances.
Elin Ruth (who has previously released albums both as Elin Sigvardsson and Elin Ruth Sigvarsson) made waves already with her debut album Saturday Light Naive in 2003 gaining best newcomer nominations. But my own first encounter with her live presence was at a radio broadcast (Musikplats Stockholm), in connection with the release of her album Cookatoo Friends in 2009. The album included the song Bang that had caught my ear on the radio already earlier. I have a strong recollection of the first impression of those tattoos and the piercing giving her an edge of coolness I really liked visually, but it was that distinctive voice and the pure emotion in her performance that made me fall for her music there and then.
Elin’s road led her away to New York in 2011, marrying an American. So she has been away from these shores and the few times she had played in Stockholm, I have sadly not been able to attend. So many long years had passed until I finally had the chance to see her live again. First off there was a short gig back at Musikplats Stockholm, where the radio show got a preview of new material ahead of her tour. And then this much awaited show at the legendary jazz club Fasching, as part of the Stockholm Jazz Festival.
The club was full of people and the air was thick with anticipation. The expectations were high, as Elin’s latest album Here Comes the Storm has got a very positive reception from Swedish critics. Her musical direction has been moving more and more towards American influences – blues, soul and gospel – and that timeless style of music feels just about perfect on this new album. It has been recorded live the old-fashioned way with analogue equipment at the legendary Daptone Records House of Soul in New York with her Swedish band, who are joining her on this tour as well. It just feels like she and her voice are completely at home with this type of music.
Elin finally came on in her vintage style clothing including that wide-brimmed hat and started strongly with “I don’t need your religion, I’ve got my own…” in her smoky and personal voice. That voice of hers sounded pretty amazing, even though she soon after told she had had throat problems and had therefore avoided talking the whole day. Maybe that made the rasp in her voice a bit more raspy and the soul even more soulful… Elin told Stockholm still felt like her home crowd, which cranked up her nervousness. If that nerve showed in her performance, it was all for the good making her performance strongly emotional, and at times beautifully fragile.
Elin went on to bring out a horn section, who gave extra swing to the bluesy title track of the new album The Storm and the soul beats of Something in the Water. Elin had promised guest stars as we were in Stockholm, and the first one to enter the stage was Carl Ekerstam, who had been playing with Elin for years in the earlier stages of her career. He and his guitar joined for wonderful renditions of Cookatoo Friends favorites Bang and Higher.
The next guest appearance was from two members of the amazing Swedish country trio Cookies’n’Beans – Frida Öhrn and Charlotte Centervall. They went on to sing my personal favorite from the new album, Over the Moon – and that’s exactly what I was watching and listening to these wonderful women singing together. Elin said she was overwhelmed with the response from the audience, and basically just glad to be there, since it hadn’t been certain if she would be able to sing that evening. That overwhelming sense of happiness was contagious as Elin went on to play another personal favorite of mine, Love.
The guests kept on coming, as Elin announced the song Sad Melissa by telling she wrote the song about Melissa Horn before knowing her personally (and finding out she’s not always sad, but actually has a sick sense of humour…). “Sad Melissa, sing me a sad sad song…” is what Elin then sang, backed up by the sad voice of Sad Melissa herself.
Elin told the audience about her love-hate relationship with New York and sang a song about it – You Were Right, NY. Returning for the compulsory encores, Elin sang Song for Anna with strong emotion. And to top off the whole evening, she introduced what she said was her slowest song ever and the most difficult to sing – Volcano. She took a chance on that one having had throat problems, but it really paid off as the audience was treated to such an emotional masterpiece with so much fragility in her voice no one was left untouched.
Elin Ruth truly has one of the most remarkable voices in Swedish music and here’s hoping she gets the success she deserves – she has already won the critics on her side, now it’s time for the music loving masses to take notice.
Photos: Nina Uddin