Leif Vollebekk – Rough Trade NYC – December 15, 2017
Leif Vollebekk has a lot to say. At times during a snowy Friday night at Rough Trade NYC made warm by the cheer brought by the Ottawa, Ont., native’s visceral and fatty folk cuts, he seemed more eager to talk to the audience than to play the songs that framed his tangents. But this is simply because Vollebekk’s rich organ-and-guitar-laden outpouring is so effortless. Song is his first language and its communication seems like second nature. His is the kind of voice that makes you let down your guard. Once his country-boy rasp reaches you, you allow it in because it speaks of travels you’ve taken or have dreamed of taking and so many of the relatable feelings of living through them.
Vollebbekk is a torchbearer for the original soul and folk artists of the 20th century, those who we can now only listen to through earphones. This is why seeing him channel artists like young Dylan and Jeff Buckley live is such a thrill. This year’s Twin Solitude augmented Vollebbekk’s authentic, personal songwriting with a more sensual production and many of its songs filled the room on Friday. “Vancouver Time,” “All Night Sedans,” “Elegy,” “Big Sky Country,” “Michigan” and “Telluride” were played with unforced measure, inviting you into his narrative visions, moved along by the slow vibrations of bass guitar and brushed drum strokes behind him. Vollebekk’s 2014 breakout album, North Americana, was visited as well, with “Off the Main Drag” freezing people in their place.
One thing you walked away thinking, back out in the snow, slowly coming to from the trance Leif Vollebekk’s soulful potions had put you in is that he’s a good hang. His music can bring a smile and an upwelling of humanity from the stiffest and most repressed, which is why we need to keep encouraging his likes to play for us, to show us how to take a long look around and take it all in. Performances like his remind you that in the midst of the overload, earnest storytelling through sweet sound is something to slow down and stop for. —Charles Steinberg | @Challyolly
Photos courtesy of Charles Steinberg | charlesosteinberg.com