Recording a guitar-and-rhythm trio can be a tricky proposition. First, the guitarist, who carries almost every melody, must be well-spoken and easy on the ears. Second, the bass and drums, if that is the format, must be supportive but not intrusive. Third, the music must be for the most part bright and engaging. And finally, the recording itself must be sufficiently clear and well-balanced that none of its members overshadows the others. Beyond Rivers, by the Swedish-based BEL Trio, checks all those boxes in a congenial session that consists of half a dozen original compositions by bassist Robert Erlandsson and three more by guitarist Gustav Lundgren. Drummer Niklas Bodin rounds out the trio.
The group's name, as seems to be the fashion in Europe these days, combines the first initials of the participants' last names Bodin, Erlandsson, Lundgrento form the acronym BEL, thus further reinforcing the trio's collaborative nature. While Lundgren's guitar is the melodic touchstone, he relies heavily on Erlandsson's unwavering pulse for rhythmic guidance. Bodin, meanwhile, does exactly as he should, seldom setting aside his brushes to use sticks for overblown emphasis. What the listener perceivesor shouldis a trio that eschews egos and works remarkably well together.
Lundgren ensconces his guitar in a mellow tone most of the way, the lone exception being Erlandsson's rocking "Digi Digi Digi Ding," wherein he uses a "wah wah" style and other irksome mannerisms to underscore the ruckus while Bodin brings out the sticks and Erlandsson solos with his usual assurance. The gentle "Country Waltz," which follows, sounds almost like an apology for the preceding number. The session opens on a buoyant note with Erlandsson's "In the Desert" and "Beyond Rivers," which lead to Lundgren's more even-tempered "May First" and Erlandsson's lively and limber "Wait for It." Lundgren's lyrical "Gonja" and pensive "October Song" ring down the curtain.
While the songs on Beyond Rivers will almost surely be new to most listeners, the BEL Trio brings out the best in them. As Italians might say, the trio is BEL-a BEL-a, and its premiere recording is a treat for the receptive ear and heart.
In the Desert; Beyond Rivers; May First; Wait for It; Digi Digi Digi Ding; Country Waltz;
Adios Amigos; Gonja; October Song.