Prolific Swedish song machine Sulo Karlsson – he writes and records around five albums a year, with no visible drop in quality at any time – is back with a sprawling double album choc full of late-night reveries and musings on the qualities of love, mercy, salvation and everything in between.
Karlsson is perhaps best known for his work as vocalist with Scandirock Gods Diamond Dogs, but this brace of records is largely far removed from the goodtime boogie romps purveyed by that band.
Rather, on the first album, Nightshift, Karlsson explores his dark side, conjuring up visions of a variety of down at heel characters all congregated in some sort of Last Chance Saloon. I Swear to God I Don’t Believe is quite magnificent, weaving together strands that’ll be instantly recognisable to fans of The Black Crowes and The Rolling Stones, gospel voices rising to elevate Karlsson’s cracked, world-weary croak to sublime heights.
The alt.rock noir of Nick Cave also surfaces at times, whilst I Keep Running Back Into Your Arms is the sort of song you can imagine Shane Macgowan coming up with whilst hopelessly in his cups, but Karlsson is very much his own man – a one-off, in fact – a true master of this sort of bar room balladeering. He might ‘just’ be marshalling the combined forces of lovable old drunks through the ages on Nightshift, but he does it in deeply affecting, and effective, style. Listen to the elegantly wasted grandeur of Lord Have Mercy on My Baby Tonight for further proof.
Brilliant Outsiders, the second half of the package is a reactivated set of country duets that Karlsson first released a couple of years back. Sulo has co-opted some big names here, with names like Maria McKee, Janis Ian, Chris Spedding, Terry Reid and the Bellamy Brothers all bringing their not inconsiderable talents to the party. Best track is an unlikely pairing with former eighties pop idol Paul Young and his Los Pacaminos troupe on the excellent When the Work is done, but if you love old school country with a Bakersfield twang and a Nashville swagger you’ll love all the tracks here. I know I do.
Nightshift is out now.