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The Last Hurrah!!
Mudflowers David Keevill , August 25th, 2015 14:47

Norway's second city, Bergen, acted as a net for much of the music and culture that spilled out of America in the 60s. Similar to its west-coast counterpart in the UK, Liverpool, the Bergen music scene arrived packed onto cargo ships from the States. 70s bands like Rune Walle's Flying Norwegians looked across the Atlantic at the surf scene and the country-tinged rock of The Eagles, more in thrall to Dylan's twisted American narratives than the native folk music that had existed for centuries on the western-board of Norway.

Despite Norway's cultural output over the last two decades being dominated by the pop explosion of the 'Bergen wave', with bands like Royksopp and Kings Of Convenience gaining international recognition, Americana continues to play an important part in its landscape. HP Gundersen, the driving force behind project The Last Hurrah!!, is a self-styled keystone in the stylistic bridge between California and his native land's ice-blue fjords. A friend of Rune Walle, he is a confessed devotee to the roots sounds: "Bergen became an Americana city. That still lives today, and I'm still in the middle of it all."

These extravagant claims are backed up somewhat by Gundersen's credentials that include production credits for indie-fusion virtuoso Sondre Lerche and alt-rock band Madrugada. His third album as The Last Hurrah!! sees Gundersen almost entirely immersing himself in this sepia tinted vision of Americana; Mudflowers is a riotous celebration that transports the listener to the vibrant cultural flowering of sixties California, helped almost entirely by his collaboration with country artist Maesa Pullman.

It's all there in the album's first single, 'The Weight Of The Moon'. Pullman, daughter of actor Bill Pullman, is a rich and melancholic singer, redolent of Billie Holiday, who hides desolation in her soulful delivery. Her tales of unrequited love drip sadness over Gundersen's sleek and warm composition. Pullman's solo efforts on the standout Whippoorwill EP were stripped back and sweetly dark; Mudflowers may have a fuller backdrop, but the simplicity of Pullman's bleak swamp blues and fatal narrative remain the album's focal point.

The album has a confidence in its subject matter that didn't quite make it onto the drone experimentations of debut Spiritual Non-Believers and the cross-section of influences in The Great Gig In Disguise. It dives between melancholia – 'Okay', 'The Weight Of The Moon', 'Is It Me' – and the creeping blues slope of 'You Soothe Me', that includes John Thomas' swirling organ homage to Zeppelin's 'You Shook Me'. 'Tried To Lose You' by comparison is a fat-slab of psychedelic groove which draws Pullman's delivery towards a sultry, slinky lilt.

The ambition of the project cannot be denied. Gundersen's transatlantic fascination has seen him create an album of huge scope with a number of collaborators, including Maesa Pullman's cousin Rosa, who sings on 'You Ain't Got Nothing' and 'Those Memories'. It's sometimes in danger of overreaching though; 'Those Memories' is a fairly laborious jaunt through the Nashville country scene and doesn't really tie-in.

Any worries that Mudflowers is bordering on derivative are cast aside by the sheer workmanship that has gone into the album. Gundersen's experimentations with The Last Hurrah!! has allowed the man to push the boundaries of his creative vision. Mudflowers sees him reincarnating and embodying his city's passion for a soulful Americana that flourished half a century ago.