Sometimes in life you get a second chance. Singer/songwriter Leif Vollebekk released Inland in late 2008 on his own. As an unknown commodity, his album stood a very good chance of being completely ignored as just another singer/songwriter listed on CD Baby.
However, thanks to the strength of his songwriting and live performances, he was able to build up enough of a following to get indie label Nevado Records interested enough to re-release Inland on January 19th, with extra tracks available on the Itunes version (Buy). Not only has Leif Vollebekk been given a second chance, but so have listeners who missed his album the first time around.
Within the first seconds of opening track "In the Morning," it's apparent that Leif Vollebekk is something special. The instrumentation is sparse and muted. What carries the song, and the whole album, is Vollebekk's voice. It is delicate and slightly warbling, like Andrew Bird with a touch of Devendra Banhart's quirkiness. It's unique yet appealing, and evokes the feeling of longing mixed with joy that sets the mood for the album.
Musically, Inland is a combination of chamber pop and bedroom folk, with a little blues thrown in for good measure. Vollebekk's voice is a powerful instrument, and he flexes it on songs like "You Couldn't Lie to Me in Paris" and "Michael Robartes & the Dancer."
"Quebec" sounds like Bob Dylan's early talking blues experiments, and further cements the Devendra Banhart comparison. He follows that stripped-down song with the soaring "Northernmost Eva Maria," one of the strongest tracks on the album, with Vollebekk hurling his lines as if he is barely in control of himself. That is immediately followed by the beautiful "Don't Go to Klaksvik," a piano ballad in which he urges a lover not to return to the town in the Danish Faroe Islands.
At his best, as on "Don't Go to Klaksvik," Vollebekk perfectly juggles his quirkiness with his folk chops, creating music that is endearing without being coy. There are points on the album when he is too dear for my tastes, and he can also be too middle-of-the-road. It doesn't happen often, and proves how successful he is at striking the perfect balance on most of the album. Inland is a beautiful, unique album, and Leif Vollebekk is an exciting new talent. Don't miss your second chance to hear his debut.