Helene Blum & Harald Haugaard Band
It’s been several years since Denmark’s Blum-Haugaard band released their last album. Life and a global pandemic intervened, but they began performing again, and they’ve finally returned to the studio, with the old crew still together, alongside a few guests. This time the sound is pared back, with a focus on original material from Blum and husband Haugaard, with a couple of traditional pieces and covers in there, like an aching version of Tim O’Brien’s lilting “The Garden.” Even singing in English, her voice has that outer tender fragility and inner steel core.
With several instrumentals as well as songs, the band gets its chance to shine, too – Haugaard is a world-class violinist, and Blum is no slouch on the instrument, either, as she proves on the title track. These days, Haugaard has pulled back a lot from the pyrotechnics of earlier years to concentrate on adding to the sound and the melody, as his playing on “Anna Læser” proves. The outings demonstrate just how much the band had become a tight unit where every voice is important, rather than backing for the two front people.
But ultimately, it’s the songs that catch the ear. The sumptuous “Blandt De Skygger Der Falder” is simple and wonderful, a heartfelt duet between Blum and cittern player Esbjorn Hazelius. But those sparest moments are often the most sublime, like the traditional “Jeg Gik Mig Ud En Sommerdag/Sommerdaen,” where the tune at the end gives Haugaard a brief moment in the sun, bow flying wildly.
It all closes, aptly perhaps, with just Blum and Haugaard together on a Carl Nielsen lullaby, “Son Sødt, Du Lille Sonja.” It is a sweet, soft ending to a very welcome return.