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Helldorado | Lost Highway (CCAP)
From the ashes of Norway's very own Irish folk rockers, The Tramps, come another anomaly - gothic Americana in the shape of, um, Helldorado. And against all odds, it's actually rather splendid. Somewhat reminiscent of fellow Norwegian folk goths Madrugada and Emmerhoff & The Melancholy Babies, Helldorado even bring to mind more internationally recognized acts ranging from Jeff Buckley to 16 Horsepower. High on drama, then, but Helldorado have the chops to back up their sound. The title track is a fair enough cover version/re-write of the Hank Williams classic, and elsewhere we get a brave if somewhat unrealised take on the Bad Seeds' Jack the Ripper and a fine version of Emmylou Harris' All My Tears. However, Helldorado sound far more comfortable playing their own original material, and the band really show their widescreen approach on the twangy country pop of The Snake Girl Song and the stunning live version of Roadhouse - both of them mesmerizing and surprisingly crafted, full-sounding Southern country rockers. Vocalist and songwriter Dag S. Vagle may not be a Julie Miller or a Nick Cave just yet, but it'd probably be a wise move to drop the cover versions and go for original material exclusively on an upcoming full-length album - from which we should clearly expect a lot.

Stein Haukland
December 2002