It’s been four years since we last heard from Leif Vollebekk, the laid back, Montreal-based old-school folk singer. His last record, North Americana, left a real impression on me, and since then I have been eager to hear word of a new release. Finally, last Friday, that day came. Twin Solitude, Leif Vollebekk’s third LP, gives his songwriting a bit of a new twist, but will feel comforting and familiar for his old fans, and might just bring in a few new appreciators looking for a relaxed and evocative set of songs.
Leif Vollebekk’s songwriting takes a structural page from Bob Dylan’s incredible work. Dylan had a way of taking a single chord progression and playing it through out the entirety of a song (for a good example, listen to “Simple Twist of Fate”). The chords never change, but the song builds through his voice and through his story. On Twin Solitude, Leif Vollebekk has borrowed this technique. Each song established a pattern, then repeats, relying on Vollebekk’s voice to give the song a sense of motion. He may add some production as the song moves on to give his music a little more gumption as it progresses, but nothing about the structure of the song moves. The interesting thing about his style is that it removes any distraction from the poetry and the story. Leif Vollebekk is able to direct the full attention of the listener to his voice. The accompaniment provides the atmosphere and mood, but all of the excitement comes from Vollebekk’s voice. The result on Twin Solitude is quite powerful indeed.
The voice and the storytelling is what Leif Vollebekk fans have come to expect, and they won’t be disappointed with Twin Solitude, but that is not what separates the album from the rest of Vollebekk’s records. To me, the biggest difference here is the use of piano and keyboards as the primary accompanying instrument instead of guitar. The resonant chords of the piano gives Twin Solitude a heavier feel, like there is a certain weight on the shoulders of each song. While his previous guitar work made Leif Vollebekk sound like more of a traditional folk musician, the use of piano gives Twin Solitude a bit of a soul vibe.
If I have one criticism of Twin Solitude, it’s that the album features songs that are all structurally and tonally similar. It’s great if you want to sink into Leif Vollebekk’s sound for a bit, but it lacks the ups and downs that a truly complete album has. That is not, however, a knock on the songs themselves.
Twin Solitude is a slow-moving, soulful, and peaceful record which would be a valuable addition to any collection. I highly recommend giving it a spin and seeing him live if you have the chance.