Review – I’m Here – Øyvind Vågnes, Dag og Tid 2017
Cecilie Anna is a remarkably good composer, lyricist and vocalist
The past few days I’ve been walking around humming the melody of “Close to Four”, one of the tracks about halfway through I’m Here, the beautiful, new album by Cecilie Anna Rønhovde. And I’ve been thinking, “Isn’t there something familiar about this song?”
“Close to Four” could have easily been found on any record Neil Young released in the early 1970s. The song has the qualities of a true classic, like one of those timeless and powerful piano ballads that comes on the radio just when it should, and which apparently has been around forever.
It is a sign of strong artistic workmanship, and there are several songs like this on this album. Cecilie Anna – the artist’s name is an invitation to the listener to be on a first name basis – has shown herself to be a remarkably good composer, lyricist and vocalist.
This is an album which keeps itself firmly grounded right through to the end. It is more of a low key, quiet album, but clear and sharp in its execution. It is an elegantly minimalistic production, something which in itself would have been quite a risky approach had it not been for the very high-quality lyrics and vocals on this album. It is reminiscent of Nightsong (1995), the album Sidsel Endresen made together with Bugge Wesseltoft, probably because the vocals and the piano are so much at the centre of I’m Here.
Great talent from an early age
So, in other words, I am really glad I moved I’m Here out of my inbox and made time to listen to it, one stormy night, in a dark house in Sunnmøre – an atmosphere which turned out to be rather appropriate. On the track “Morning Star”, you can hear the recording of typical Western Norwegian weather (rain) in the background, with a well-placed horn sections lifting up this little melody. As with an artist like David Sylvian, this approach gives the song a worthy seriousness, thanks to Rebecca Almås (alto horn), Åge Østrem (cornet and flugelhorn) and Torstein Overweg (euphonium). Other key contributors are Vidar Vedå (backing vocals) and producer Gisle Østrem, on the island of Stord as well as at Abbey Road Studios in London, where the album was mastered earlier this autumn.
The tracks on I’m Here were composed over many years. The short instrumental “Den grøne dagen” was written by Cecilie Anna when she was ten years old, and “Baby Doll” when she was seventeen. So, we are talking about a great musical talent already from a very early age. “The Smallest Bird” was created more recently, as a tribute to the late Leonard Cohen – a bold and moving, yet unsentimental gesture, especially as the song has so many similar characteristics of Cohen’s own song writing. Cecilie Anna wrote “Morning Star” and “Old Love” in the hope that two old favourites of the paper Dag og Tid, Bill Callahan and Joe Henry, might want to perform these songs one day, and that wish isn’t as far fetched as it might sound. There is certainly no lack of ambition, and the results speak for themselves.
A “slow tempo album” – that is how Cecilie Anna herself describes I’m Here, the album dedicated to her father, Hjalmar Rønhovde, a man who loved music and played the trumpet. I sincerely hope this album reaches many listeners, and that we can look forward to more in due course.